Early one morning, as we drove from suburbs into farmland, my friend’s dashboard emitted a worrisome DING and this warning appeared on the GPS screen:
Unverified area ahead.
Exercise caution while driving in these areas.
Use dotted lines for guidance.
Unverified Area? Like Brigadoon, Narnia, and wormholes? How can I be cautious but not fearful? And where are the dotted lines?
This all sounds a lot like dream guidance.
So – how does dream guidance work? How do you actually let a dream help guide you in your waking life?
Perhaps the surprise GPS haiku will help: let’s take it line by line:
Of what? Only the present moment, in which almost everything that is going on is unknowable. We center down, breathe deeply, ground ourselves here. As the poet, David Wagoner writes,
“Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.”
Unverified area ahead
Every second we inhabit the threshold between a world that seems recognizable, even predictable or controllable — and complete bewilderment, utter mystery, complete unknowing. We can call aspects of this unverified area the “unconscious.” It is forever supporting and informing our waking world.
Exercise caution while driving in these areas
It isn’t easy to become more conscious of the unconscious. Dreams and synchronicities are just two ways we begin to see the action of our unconscious. We also encounter challenges like eruptions of shadow, archetypal identification, and living in the grip of a complex. In “these areas” we learn to expect the bog, the fog, the both/and, the neither-here-nor-there. To navigate, we’re going to need something besides a GPS. The GPS is good at direction when we are on the map, but when we’re stuck in a persona or trying to integrate a shadow, we need something different. Dreams can help.
Use dotted lines for guidance
Dream guidance is more like discernment than direction. It’s not “turn left, go two miles.” Discernment is about alignment.
It’s intuitive and intelligent, instinctive and imaginative.
Just as a compass helps us align our position with the cardinal points and a destination beyond the horizon, a dream can help us align feelings, thoughts, will, bodily presence, soul – with the vaster reaches of inner experience and outer reality.
What are our dotted lines?
Dotted lines are the practices that help keep us both grounded in the moment and aligned to the beyond. Here are some examples and of course, all practices affect all parts of ourselves:
- In our bodies – walking, yoga, breathing, gardening, working with our hands
- In our spirits – prayer, ritual, creating, play
- In our minds – learning, thinking, writing, innovating
- With others – eating, dancing, singing, serving, taking action
In Dreamwork we have dotted lines too: basic practices that help us receive and respond to the healing and wholeness that the dreams continually offer us.
- cultivating receptivity and journaling our dreams.
- remembering that every part of the dream pictures a part of ourselves.
- trusting that the dream shows us both the problems we face and creative responses to them.
- knowing dreams can picture us where we are right now in our lives and in society.
- watching for ways a dream will balance out our habitual waking attitudes with a richer, more inclusive vision we could integrate.
- trusting that even the nightmares and demons are here to help us see something we need to understand about ourselves.
- risking the richness of sharing our dreams with others by telling them to a trusted friend or opening them up in a dream group.
- and knowing that it is more important to receive and relate to a dream than to work out an interpretation. Dreams help us in the moment, but even more so over time. Dream guidance can be very slow. Feelings, images, repeated themes, and characters show up, shape us, change as we do.
For example, once the threatening man in my dream gets my attention, he begins to show me why he’s here and offers me the energies I need to take on intentionally. These days there’s a very serious young man with a plan and a big horse. So I am taking my time to know him – his careful intelligence, his deep purpose, his altruism, and his strength of will – before charging off to accomplish my big ideas. He’s a helper, and I appreciate him.
Once the GPS tells me I’m in unverified territory, I smile because I love this place so much. This place where the invisible informs the visible – just as the wind bends the grasses in the field, rustles the new leaves on the trees, lifts the roadside trash, and brings the fragrances of spring through the car window, greening my heart and soul.
Let this be a beginning and a reminder that dreams can help us be both alert and at peace, lost and never really so.
Here’s a poem that says it all:
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven,
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
By David Wagoner From, Travelling Light, Collected and New Poems, 1999
And for our YouTube Children’s Book this month:
The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
Here is a little miracle of a picture book (Carl Jung isn’t the only one who wrote a Red Book). This one includes maps, plus a whole different kind of global positioning imagination. No words, just music. Enjoy.