Recently I shared a dream from many years ago (Seeing Through the Mist) of a sacred garden where a puppy playfully grabbed my hand as if inviting me to follow him. Who was this puppy named Prince? What was he doing in my dream? Where did he want to take me? In those days I had only a vague inkling of what this sweet symbol had to do with me. But the sweetness has spread a hundred-fold since then and I thought you might be interested in knowing why.
Animals in dreams usually represent our physical, animal natures. In Jungian psychology dogs are often seen as psychopomps, i.e. spiritual initiators and guides who direct the transformation of souls. For example, in Greek mythology, Cerberus is the three-headed dog who guards the river Styx, the place of transition between physical life and the underworld afterlife. Psychologically, the upper world represents our conscious selves and the underworld represents the unconscious: our unknown depths.
So how did this symbol relate to the transformation occurring in my soul? I found a clue in the writing of Thomas Moore. In his book, Care of the Soul, he says that during the Middle Ages, many wise people considered the body to be a physical manifestation of the soul. Deepak Chopra addresses the same theme in Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul. Both write about the loss of soul that comes from neglecting the sacred life in our bodies.
Was I attuned to the sacredness of the life in my physical body? Did I treat it like a spiritual vessel for my soul? Did I respect the messages it sent me through emotions and physical sensations? Absolutely not. And here’s why. At the age of 11 I learned the most devastating lesson anyone can have: the reality and inevitability of death. When my father died, my unconscious response was to escape physical vulnerability and pain by strengthening my mind and spirit.
From then on, I was a stoic little Warrior. I refused novacaine when the dentist drilled my teeth. If my eyes filled with tears, I simply wiped them away and pressed on. If I felt physically drained, instead of noticing what was sapping my energy I criticized myself for wimping out. If someone said something cruel or nobody asked me to dance at the Jr. High cotillion, I refused to feel hurt. So for the grown-up me, the puppy represented an inner soul guide whose appearance signaled my readiness to become better acquainted with my physical, instinctual, emotional self.
What about his name: Prince? Did that mean something too? Of course it did. Everything in our dreams has meaning for us. Consider this association for “prince” from The Herder Symbol Dictionary: “Psychoanalytically he can be understood as the representative of victorious ego powers.” This innocuous little puppy symbolized a profound spiritual truth: The success of our journey is a function of our (our ego’s) willingness to acquire as much reverence for the unconscious life in our bodies as we have for the conscious life of the mind.
That this puppy was a Prince and not a fully adult King suggested I had a lot of growing up to do. But the fact that he was being fed by unconscious aspects of my psyche (the unknown people in the dream who gave him food) was enormously reassuring because it said parts of me were beginning to heed this wisdom so beautifully expressed by Jungian analyst, Dr. Cara Barker: “Take the time to feed what is hungry in your soul, and rest what is weary in your heart.” Today I realize that receiving Prince’s affirmation from the sacred depths was when I stopped trying to escape my life and started falling back in love with it.
Click here to see a video of my first interview for my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide.
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave