In this holiday season it is well to remember that dreams have inspired our world's great spiritual traditions. To name but a very few: Buddha told of five dreams that caused his spiritual awakening. Mohamed received his own spiritual calling from a dream that inspired the sacred Moslem holy book --the Qur'an. The Old Testament emphasized the importance of dreams when God spoke to Moses saying," If there be a prophet among you I will… speak to him in a dream". Jacob of course, dreamed of a ladder to heaven on top of which God stood and promised that Jacob's offspring would spread throughout the world. In the Christian tradition Joseph is told of the source of Mary's pregnancy in a dream and instructed to name the child Jesus. In Native American and many other indigenous cultures dreams have always been an integral part of the spiritual life of the community, used to teach, guide, heal, and prophesy.
What of us regular people though? Can we all have what Carl Jung called 'Big Dreams' that deepen our sense of the spiritual in life? The answer is most certainly--yes. Did you know that it is common especially for those who keep a dream journal and closely follow their dreams to have an increasing number of inspirational dreams that they describe as changing the course of their lives? Such dreams are always experienced by the dreamer as deeply healing. We awaken feeling transformed and aware of an intelligence and wisdom in the universe much greater than our waking life identity can comprehend on it's own.
I'll share with permission just a few of the many inspiring dreams that friends, clients, and recently, a reader of this column have told me.
A friend of mine was feeling intense guilt about leaving his marriage because he knew the large share of responsibility he carried for its demise. He dreamed that he found himself alone on a beautiful beach walking along the edge of the shore in the embrace of a warm sun and gentle breeze: "For some reason I feel compelled to look back over my shoulder and when I do I see my footsteps dissolving in the waves behind me. I begin to feel completely releasd of my guilt with total calm and peace in my body."
In the next few days after the dream my friend became aware of a new energy of resolve in his body having experienced within the dream itself his own healing. Whether he decided to leave his marriage or stay, he could begin to live without the anxiety and disabling guilt he had been feeling. He could feel forgiveness for himself, release the past and move on with his life.
Actually his dream experience is better described as a past that is absolved rather than forgiven. By absolved I mean the awareness in the dream that our mistakes in life have been a necessary part of our growth and not a reason to ever condemn ourselves. In these dreams there is a deep experience of compassion felt for ourselves and others, a feeling at our physical core of loving and being loved unconditionally without judgement. Such dreams seem again and again to remind us that we are OK as we are—mistakes and all.
They also seem to be saying to us: "Never forget that you are deserving of a full and abundant life." For example, a client of mine hoped to focus upon fulfilling her own needs for the first time in her life and to be less exclusively centered on caretaking her husband and family. She frequently expressed her wish for a sign from God that this new path in life was a correct one and not simply a selfish wish. Praying for an answer to this question, she first dreamed that she was walking into a churchyard, whereupon the hand of God—gigantic in proportion-–appeared before her. On God's finger stood an angel with white light radiating out and all around her. The woman came to me with her dream, but after describing it in detail, lamented, " If only I could have a sign from God that I'm doing the right thing." I laughed but she was quite serious and it was then that I realized what she intuitively understood. It was only about a week or two later that she returned with a second dream:
"I'm alone in my house playing my favorite music. I get up and start to dance. My body is suddenly filled with joyful, ecstatic energy from head to toe. Then I hear a powerful voice calling me by name and saying: "Continue what you are doing and you will be healed".
Beaming with resolve, she told me, "Now I have my sign!" However, she was not simply referring to the words she heard spoken, but rather to the direct experience of joyful knowing and energy felt throughout her body--the knowing that transcends words and which is missing from her first dream—despite its powerful encouragement.
Here is another example of that spiritually healing energy at work in our body. A friend of mine dreamed:
In my dream I’ve completed a sad and painful divorce, just as I had in waking life. In the dream I wonder about the decision I’ve made and how I ever gave up the childhood values I cherished. I feel like it’s taken everything out of me. Then I hear the bells of a church tolling in the distance and as the chimes get louder an ecstasy builds in my chest until I’m going to explode with joy. I realize in the dream that this is the joy of liberation - I’ve liberated my soul not from my marriage but from the prison of deadening rules I had made for myself all my life. I feel no more of that agonizing doubt and now know in my heart that I have done the right thing.
Finally, a reader of this column kindly sent the following dream last month, which refers again to the infusion of this same inspiring and life changing energy. She wrote to me that before her dream she had been particularly depressed in the realization that she would have to leave her marriage and face an ugly custody battle and divorce. At the time of the dream she was working two jobs and was experiencing extreme stress and physical exhaustion. In her dream the sun's light is veiled by a depressing gloom that shrouds the entire landscape. It is as if she says, her neighborhood has been bombed, the walls of the homes and the grass around them blackened and burnt. Nowhere can be seen any children or adults. Suddenly her cousin appears from within one of the houses and points to a nearby tree, charred, twisted and blackened like its surroundings. The following are her own words:
"I looked and saw the tiniest sign of color at the base of the tree. I bent over and moved some burnt leaves aside. Beneath the leaves was a tiny, fresh, pink rosebud. I picked it up and placed it in my palm to admire it. As I did so, it suddenly bloomed into a beautiful rose. As it bloomed, something truly miraculous happened!
The blackness disappeared, replaced by a blazing blue sky and a bright sun, warm against my skin. The houses became whole and bright white again, children were laughing and playing everywhere, adults stood around laughing and talking, the grass turned green and the trees sprouted green leaves and became whole again.
But the most incredible thing was the way I felt when the rose blossomed. My soul blossomed along with it and there were rays of bright, golden light, spilling out of my chest, and warmth from the sun radiating into me and lighting me up. I was glowing, feeling unbearably happy and blessed.
As I have faced adversity since then, friends have often commented on how positive I am. I can trace my permanent change in attitude to that dream."
This inspiring dream energy is what we each seek in life—an energy known and celebrated by all the great spiritual traditions of the world and one given many names: the Grail, Satori, Holy Spirit, and Kundalini to mention a few. Whether received in meditation, prayer, waking vision or dreams, this is a loving, compassionate, healing energy—one which calls us to embrace our mistakes as learning opportunities, to experience self-love as our birthright and to share this wisdom with others on our Journey.
Happy Holidays and may your dreams guide you swiftly and well along your path.