When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk.
-Herman Hesse, Trees: Reflections and Poems
Although I wrote this essay two years ago, inspired by a dream from ten years ago, it feels relevant for me now, and for a world that has been brought to its knees by the coronavirus. Could the effects of this virus be like an intense dream, coming to wake us up out of the life we have been accustomed to living? Could this be starting us on a path towards experiencing our lives in a new way? Sometimes the things that devastate us bring us to a new awareness. And from that awareness can come hope. The green shoot in my dream offered me hope amidst my grief. I believe we can find hope in the difficult situation that we humans find ourselves in now.
My dreams began waking me up about eight years ago. It started with a man, chainsaw in hand, cutting into the base of a beautiful tree in my yard. Energy of devastation and panic filled me as I ran out of my house screaming for him to stop. But it was no use. Only a stump remained. I stood in grief staring down at it when I noticed a tiny green shoot coming up from the roots.
In the next moment, I was abruptly awakened out of this dream. I bolted up out of bed with enormous energy rushing through my entire body. Never in my life had I felt this kind of feeling. The dream ignited something new within me that night. It showed me a capacity of feeling that I did not know I had. It started me on a path that would teach me how to experience my life in a new way.
In the years leading up to this dream I gradually began to sense that something wasn’t quite right within me. Although I had everything that I believed a person could ask for in life – a loving husband, two amazing daughters, a beautiful home, and so much more, I realized that I was living my life with a sense of flatness; with a kind of malaise that seemed to envelop me. A growing feeling of unease urged me to search for some sense of meaning. I read tons of personal development books and listened to podcast after podcast looking for answers.
Although the authors and speakers had much wisdom to offer, it was not these outside sources that ultimately helped me to find meaning. It was my dreams. Each of us has access to this amazing resource within us. It contains wisdom that is tailored just for us. Dreams come knocking on our door to teach us each night. For me, it took a man with a chainsaw to get me to really pay attention. It wasn’t so much the symbolism or the story that awakened me to the power of my dreams, it was the intense feeling that it provoked in me.
That night, as I sat with the feeling of devastation that the dream had left behind, I vowed to take action. I knew that there was something profound reaching out from inside of me. Within a week I began the journey of delving deeper into dreams through a wonderful and mysterious experience of dreamwork. I learned that each dream is a door that can lead to hidden aspects within ourselves. I also learned that many of the characters in our dreams are there to provoke us, poke fun at us, wake us up and to love us. They can help us connect to our feelings again when we have forgotten how to feel. The man with the chainsaw came to jumpstart me out of the flat, dispirited life I was living. By cutting down the tree, he was showing me how completely cut off I was from my vitality and my soul. He wanted me to feel the devastation of that truth. And although it was a feeling of deep pain, I was grateful that the dream was able to cut though the layers of numbness that had been keeping me in a fog for so long.
With the help of my dream teacher Rodger Kamenetz, I began the process of working through hundreds of dreams. I came to find that every dream contained the exact message that was needed for me at the time. This was not always easy to accept. Dreams came to show me ways that I had been living my life. There were dreams of deceiving loved ones, of staying silent instead of saying what was on my mind, of choosing isolation over connection and much more. Becoming aware of these places of soullessness within me was painful but essential for the growth that was to happen.
Other dreams gave me the opportunity to feel deep feelings that I was unable to access in waking life. Feelings of sadness, loss, fear, excitement, joy and connection. Dreams teach experientially. The visceral feelings that were coming alive during my dream state began to spill over into my waking life. This felt like a miracle to me. Bit by bit, dreams were literally teaching me how to feel again.
What became clear to me was that this kind of “learning” was not something you did. It was something that happened. An organic sort of unfolding that cannot be hurried or forced. I see it like grace. If one is willing to be open to what dreams have to offer, things change naturally; from the inside out.
That is not to say that it is an easy process. Dreamwork can sometimes reveal depths of despair and incredible fear. These can be places that are emerging up though layers and layers of defenses that we have built for ourselves. Unconsciously, many of us create these barriers to protect ourselves from pain. But the pain is still there. We just put off feeling it and instead live with a kind of constant low-grade depression.
Sometimes a painful dream can create a little crack in our layers of protection. That is when we can feel the truth of what we are holding in our deep places. The miracle is that when we allow ourselves to feel this pain, we are also creating an opening to feel amazing love. I want to be able to feel it all and with the help of dreams I can. I am the green shoot, pressing up from the depths of my soul roots. This growth is sometimes painful, and at other times incredibly amazing. It began with the man and his chainsaw, cutting down my tree, the tree that was me.
Painting by Kat Samworth
Kat Samworth PT, NBC-HWC, is a Certified Natural Dreamwork Practitioner and Certified Health Coach living in Wilmington, Delaware. Kat works with clients and their dreams in person, over the phone or Skype. To learn more about services and to read Kat’s dream blog, please visit www.dreamforyourlife.com. You can contact Kat at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about her work on the About Us page.
In honor of Earth Day on April 22, you can also enjoy reading Kat’s earlier post The Dream as Compost: A Special Dream Essay for Earth Day.
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