When you can’t get a dream out of your mind it’s a sign you need to spend time on it. Let’s assume I apply my usual techniques to my early worrisome tree dreams without gaining much understanding. Then one day at the bookstore I pick up a book on symbols and open it to a random page and there is a dream similar to mine with a psychological interpretation that hits me like a lightning bolt. Aha! I get it! I’m not sick. I’m not going to die! I just need a firmer grounding in the unconscious and what can be more helpful than persevering in dreamwork? I’m stunned and relieved and filled with gratitude. This synchronistic experience feels like a message from the Sacred and I don’t ever want to forget it.
So what do I do? I like to create original rituals for special dreams. I might buy a little bonsai tree and make a private ceremony of putting it on my desk and vowing to feed and water and prune it properly. I could prepare and bless a plot of ground in my yard and plant a new tree there, or replant a sickly one to this new location. I could buy a painting or sculpture of a healthy tree or create one myself. I could take a walk in the woods or park, noting how different trees make me feel and photographing those that touch me in some way. I could wear tree earrings or a tree pin; meditate before my private altar on which I’ve arranged a picture of a tree, a bowl of water, a bowl of earth, sandalwood incense and a lit candle; act out my dream and the emotions it brings up; write a tree poem; sing a tree song; do a tree dance…
You get the idea. Dreams that move you in some vital way are important milestones in your soul’s journey. Involving your whole self in rituals that bring them into the outer world helps you integrate your new insights. Religions use sacraments for the same reason: because the body retains images, smells, sounds, tastes and tactile experiences long after the ego forgets. You could have left your religion 40 years ago and forgotten all about its power to move your spirit and then one day you step into a church and are hit with a wave of smells and music and imagery and all the old emotions and spiritual awareness come flooding right back.
Medieval philosophers (and many moderns) believed the body is the visible manifestation of the soul. If so, this means your body has as much to do with your psycho-spiritual growth as your mind. In her groundbreaking book, Molecules of Emotion, Candace Pert, Ph.D. offers convincing evidence that the body functions as an important part of the mind. Your body is likewise an important aspect of spirit, for as the medieval mystic Mother Julian of Norwich taught, God indwells our souls. If your body is a manifestation of your soul and your soul contains God, then how could your body not be spiritual?
Using body work to honor important dreams partners your ego with your soul in sacred work. Why do I call this work sacred? Consider these words from Thomas Moore: “Spiritual life does not truly advance by being separated either from the soul or from its intimacy with life. God, as well as man, is fulfilled when God humbles himself [sic] to take on human flesh….The ultimate marriage of spirit and soul, animus and anima, is the wedding of heaven and earth.”
May your dreams lead you toward this sacred marriage.
You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.
Jeanie, this concept of ritual as bringing our dream life out into the waking world (or vice versa, perhaps: it could be, I suppose, that we are carrying our body back into the dreaming world) seems most important to me. Creating personal rituals in order to commemorate, and act out, the power of significant dreams has always played an important part in establsihing order and meaning in my life.
Mircea Eliade, according to WikiQuotes: “His most enduring and influential contribution to religious studies was possibly his theory of Eternal Return, which holds that myths and rituals do not simply record or imitate hierophanies, but, at least to the minds of the religious, actually participate in them.”
As I recall, Eliade held that ritual was an act whereby we return to the Act of Creation. I have always found this statement to resonate with me strongly.
And it was Linji, the great Zen monk, who stated: “It is the body that awakens.” This is perfect Zen logic, since the mind is already awakened, already the enlightened buddha-nature. Logical, to be sure, but none-the-less startling upon first consideration…..
Thank you for another wonderful article full of insights and unraveling of symbols and re-tying of the threads that bind our lives into coherent wholes!
All the Best,
Thank you, William; especially for the info about Eliade, one of my heroes. I love this thought and it feels very right: that rituals are so much more than ways of remembering, and are, in fact, creative acts in which we participate with the Sacred. I have found this to be so as well, but never realized it until I read your comment.
I also agree that it is the body that awakens; that, too, has been utterly true for me.You have such a wonderful gift of giving words to my experience and expanding my consciousness in so many unexpected ways. Your thoughtful presence is much appreciated.
And I would like to direct my readers to your latest article on Huffington Post, which I think is your very best. I will provide a link to it in the following comment.
With gratitude and many blessings,
I hope you’ll read this excellent and very important piece by William Horden. He summarizes so much of what I’m trying to say here as it pertains to the polarization occurring in our current culture:
Oh, I’m liking these archives being brought up by twitter…
Thank you! It’s good to hear that. I’m enjoying re-posting them and getting new comments!