We are among several generations that have been inundated with self help books and workshops, all encouraging us to make ourselves into a better version of ourselves…our best selves…our perfect selves.
What if life’s journey isn’t about becoming a better version of ourselves?
What if instead, through the very act of living and conditioning, we forgot who it is we are?
What if we already are that which we seek, someone precious and eternal?
We simply forgot.
What if as our life unfolds we find a way to start remembering?
We remember we aren’t bad, undeserving, unworthy or shameful beings.
We don’t have to do or be anything other than who we truly are.
What a radical idea to consider that who we already are is loved and treasured, in all our beauty, our messiness, our conditioning…our woundedness.
How do we do start to remember?
One way is through our dreams.
Our dreams help us through anamnesis…a kind of unforgetting.
We unforget who we are…
And we begin to remember…and we begin to heal.
In a recent dream:
I’m in a room with 3-4 other people and a large delicious looking homemade pizza is on the table. Suddenly, the room is now filled with 10-12 people. There is no way this pizza will feed that many people. My dad comes in and I say, “There’s more people than pizza.” He nods slowly and thoughtfully and I somehow know there is going to be enough pizza to go around.
Such a seemingly simple dream, isn’t it…and yet it isn’t. It’s a dream that has come after so much inner work, so much willingness to feel my pain and my fear, to question the story I’ve been told about who I am…the story I believed and so then told about myself. This dream reveals an inner healing that is taking place in me, the remembering of who I am and whose I am.
There was a day this dream would have included my being upset and feeling isolated that I can’t eat the delicious pizza because I have celiac disease and I can’t eat wheat gluten and there’s nothing for me…a sense of deprivation.
In this dream I remember who I am. There is no celiac disease or gluten intolerance in the dream realm…there is only the invitation of the delicious looking pizza that is there for me and I couldn’t wait to dive in.
There was a day this dream would have included me panicking and running out to the store for more supplies, to make more pizza, to caretake everyone and make sure their needs were met…everyone’s needs but mine.
In this dream I remember who I am. I don’t try to fix the problem. Caretaking and meeting everyone’s else’s needs…other than our own…is a wound, a misunderstanding that our needs and wants don’t matter. It took a long time for me to remember that I belong and that not only is there room at the table for me…the table is incomplete unless I (all of us) am there.
There was a day in this dream I would have felt terror that someone (usually me) made a mistake and was going to be in trouble for not having/being/doing enough.
In this dream I remember who I am. There is no terror that a mistake was made…worse that I’m the one who made it. For many of us, when something seemingly goes wrong, we take full responsibility for it, even when it’s not our responsibility to take on. Here, even something as basic as not enough pizza can feel like life and death…because for many of us it was life and death. It was the difference between belonging and being loved versus being ostracized…annihilated. And we learned to be great fixers, pleasers, anticipators, placaters, and caretakers…and then maybe we could stay…we would belong…be safe.
There was a day in this dream that in my compulsion to get this pizza situation fixed…because it was all on me…I wouldn’t have taken the time to be with my father and that would have been such a loss…
In this dream I remember who I am. My dad comes in. In this dream he is both my outer father and my inner father…this large and gentle presence. I say four words, “More people than pizza.” This is such a simple statement of fact, no explaining, no story, no blaming, no shaming, no fixing. My father responds without words…this wordless place…a simple thoughtful nod, no words necessary. I trust him. I know…not in my rational mind…but a kind of gnosis…in my body and my heart…that there will be enough. In the dream I don’t ask him how; I don’t need to know how. I get to not be the one to feed everyone. I get to be the one fed….
This dream is so meaningful to me. It is showing me how much is being healed in me. There is more to heal…so much more. Subsequent dreams will, of course, show me again trying to fix and caretake. It takes a long time to heal all the way through…but its grip is lessened.
As we remember we become allergic to these conditioned ways of being. We no longer want to be clever, the smartest one in the room, the best student, the fixer, the solutioner. All of these were trade offs, a poor exchange, for who it is we really are. We want something more because we remember we are something more.
Each and every dream invites us into this remembering. When we do the scary and challenging work that comes through our willingness to lay down the conditioned patterns that reveal themselves in our dreams…
we begin to remember who we truly are…
Image by greenmarta
Mary Jo Heyen, M.Ed., was an author, founding member and certified practitioner of Natural Dreamwork until her death in 2022. She had a diverse private practice working with dream clients of all ages and backgrounds. Her practice included her volunteer work with the dreams and visions of those in hospice, their families and grief groups, honoring the gift of their dreams at this most important threshold. Her experiences in this area have been published in The Journal of Palliative Medicine and the 2021 release of her book, Dreaming into the Mystery: Explorations into Being with the Dreams and Visions of the Dying. Mary Jo was a featured teacher as part of the Shift Network’s Dreamwork Summit. Her work with dreams has been published in Dream Time, a publication of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) and she was also a Regional Representative of the IASD.
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