About five years ago I had a dream where I was in my car driving away from a man sitting on a curb playing guitar. Simple dream. The feeling was familiar: I was busy and had places to go. This looked like a homeless man, what would he have to say to me?
It took me years (and many further dreams) to recognize that here was my guide inviting me to make music and there was I, driving away.
What I could feel in the dream was the sadness of leaving, my tight grip on the steering wheel, and the longing way that he looked at me as I sped away. Something or someone was calling to me, but I wasn’t ready to listen until I could notice what a tight grip of control I had on my life, to feel the sadness of that and the yearning for something more.
Your dreams will always show you how you are NOT letting in guidance. And for a while, that’s what you have to work with.
It also often happens that we don’t even notice the guidance in our dreams.
A few years after that dream, I had this dream. “I am standing on a stage next to a man playing the piano. I am gazing into his eyes and feeling intensely loved. There are over a hundred people in the audience but, on the brightly lit stage, I only have eyes for him.” To this moment I can feel the joy and connection with this man, the sense that he loved me completely and without reservation.
This is a feeling I have never had in waking life. I’ve always felt like I had to work for love, to earn it. I could only be loved if I acted the right way, if I took care of the other.
But now that I have felt that deep connection I felt with the man on the stage, I will never be the same. I know that it is possible for me to be loved unconditionally, but more importantly, it is possible for me to feel that kind of love for another.
By this point in my life I had been doing dreamwork sessions for some time. I took this dream to my practitioner and she encouraged me to revel in the joy of the moment. This was an intensely healing feeling for me. Even now that feeling of deep connection that I felt in that dream can bring me to tears.
Then slowly my dreamwork practitioner drew my attention to something I hadn’t noticed. “Step back,” she said, “Look at the scene. You are standing on stage with a man playing piano. What’s that all about?” But I still couldn’t see it. My therapist had to point out that it looked like I was being invited to sing.
This rocked me back on my heels. It went through me with a shock. I was being invited to sing! He still loved me whether I would sing or not, but there he was “setting the stage” for me, so to speak.
The dreams did provide a nudge for me in a literal way to start writing songs again and to be vulnerable and sing them for others, things I hadn’t done since I was a teenager.
But I think the more important thing that the dreams were pointing to was a metaphorical aspect of singing: the expression of what is inside me, the joy and soaring feeling that comes both from singing and from sharing what is deep inside me.
Another dream, which could be looked at as a nightmare, points to that. “I am standing in a cage suspended over emptiness. It’s familiar and I’m comfortable and I sing and sing. It feels tender and sweet. Suddenly I hear a click and flames leap up around me. Terror! In a leap, I am out of my body fleeing up and away.”
Somehow along the way, sharing myself became extremely unsafe. I am waiting for the click, for the flames. I’ve already left my body trying to preempt the pain. After this dream, I started to become aware of how hard it is for me to share what is really happening for me and how vulnerable I feel. The guidance here was to learn to have compassion for myself. To feel how afraid I have been to share myself and yet to take a chance and share anyway.
So sometimes we are blocked from the guidance in our dreams, and sometimes we don’t even notice it. Sometimes, what we feel in our dreams IS the guidance.
It is widely held that dreams will provide guidance to us in crucial moments, they will help us decide what to chose and how to handle a difficult situation. They help us understand and come to terms with who we are. The plea, “Give me a sign!” is often supposed to be answered in dreams.
So why don’t we have access to that guidance more often? Why can’t I connect to my inner guides?
In Natural Dreamwork, we teach that each and every dream is an opportunity for a sacred encounter. In my own terms, either we meet the guide within or we avoid that presence.
In my nearly 20 years of working with dreams, I and my colleagues have come to recognize some of the ways that we block ourselves from stepping into that sacred encounter.
The short answer is that we avoid the divine within because we are wounded. From the elementary school teacher saying, “Now sit down and be quiet,” to experiences of abuse and trauma, we have all been trained to suppress our inner instincts. Being social animals, we have learned to look outside ourselves for answers. We have learned to control ourselves to get our parents’ love, to make friends, or to avoid the attention of the abuser. Many of us learn to guess what our loved ones want and then do that. This directs our attention away from our own experience and especially our own inner experience, our relationship to the divine.
So I believe that help DOES come to us every night in our dreams, but we have trained ourselves not to hear it. This often shows up in dreams as running away from the very figures who would help us or even believing that they are trying to hurt us.
Another way that we can miss the guidance in our dreams is because the suggested action is shown as already accomplished.
About four years ago I had this dream, “I’m at a dream retreat and I go tell my mentor, ‘I don’t know what to say to my client.’” At that time I had taken many dreamwork classes but hadn’t considered (at least not consciously) becoming a practitioner in my own right.
The feeling in the dream was of frustration with not knowing what to say to my client but then a sense of relief that my mentor or guide would be able to help me with it. Just this feeling alone was new: a feeling that I could actually ask for help and get it. Wow! I could definitely soak in that feeling! It’s a common theme in dreams (and perhaps in life) that we get into situations that could be easily solved if we would just ask for help. So to actually ask for help was a blessing and a relief.
But notice this: in the dream I HAVE A CLIENT! I did start to think seriously about becoming a practitioner after this dream and within a few months had attracted my first regular client.
As I have opened up to my dreaming self, I am finding that my intuitive self is becoming easier to read too. But it doesn’t feel like I am deciding to do things, it feels more like ideas are coming through me and it becomes something I can’t NOT do.
Like hosting dream retreats in Santa Cruz. I’m having my third annual retreat in February. The first year it felt like a freight train in my life: no stopping it! I found myself announcing the retreat and picking a date before I was even sure I wanted to take it on. That sense of the freight train sustained me through all the complicated logistical and financial headaches that led to actually bringing the retreat to reality.
This year the things I couldn’t NOT do include giving a talk at this psychic fair. I have never spoken formally to an audience about this work that I love so much. Yikes! What an amazing experience!
And finally in February, I am hosting a dream festival in Santa Cruz, the Dream Caravan. This is a complicated public event with presenters, a raffle, merchandise, an art table, food sales…I am also organizing maybe 12 practitioners to give thirty minute dream consultations to all participants… It’s an incredibly complicated event, and I think I must be crazy to take it on, but I just can’t NOT do it. Besides, I think it’ll be a blast.
In every night, in every dream we are offered an opportunity for Sacred Encounter. We have an opportunity to access our higher wisdom. Whether we remember them or not, dreams and dream guides work their magic of nudging us along a path of growth and healing. But if we can bring the dreams to consciousness and feel into the ways we are blocked from our guides and the ways that we meet them, we can enhance this growth. This is similar to how breathing is an unconscious process, but by making it conscious through yoga or meditation, its healing power is magnified.
I invite you to remember your dreams. When you first wake up, just lay there and feel what feelings are in your dreams. Notice who you relate to and who you run away from. Step back and look at the bigger picture. What is being offered here? What are you being shown? Your guides are ready. Are you?
–Katherine Bell For m
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