Weeding Your Soul’s Garden


Your ego is a key player in your soul’s journey to wholeness. A strong and courageous ego aids your psycho-spiritual growth; a weak and fearful one holds you back. To gain a better understanding of your ego’s status you can track your dreams. Your ego shows up every night as you, the dreamer: the one climbing the mountain, driving too fast down the dark road, running from the stranger, forgetting to feed the baby, standing naked in a crowd.

The Elephant in the Cave was the name of one of the very first dreams I recorded after I fell in love with Jungian psychology. An elephant was trying to get out of a cave and I was trying to shut a wooden door to keep it in. The “I” trying to keep the elephant in was my ego. The cave symbolized a dark, unconscious cavern in my psyche. The elephant represented a strong inner force I didn’t want to acknowledge. For many, elephants symbolize power and wisdom. Now I realize I was afraid of these parts of myself, afraid of how letting my true power out might upset my safe and familiar life. But I didn’t know that then.

Several months later, a dream I called Going Against the Current confirmed that my dreamwork was paying off. I was daring to challenge conformity. But was I finished? Had my ego grown open, strong, and brave? Not by a long shot. A few months after that I dreamed Hiding from the Enemy. There was the fear again. Even though I (my ego) was taking my inner life seriously, the dream said I was still afraid of aspects of my unconscious, still trying to hide from my truths. Still rigid and one-sided. But I still couldn’t understand how these messages related to my waking life.

Fast forward about a year when along came a dream I called Killing the Weeds:

I’m carrying a container of weed killer with a thin tube coming out of the top. I’m careful not to touch the tip of the tube because I don’t want to get poison on my fingers. I walk along a patterned brick path adjoining the foundation of a large house and let the point of the tube fall on two large weeds that have sprouted up in the cement joint between the path and the house.

This was confusing. Weeds are nature, and although most of us want to get rid of weeds, they’re not always bad. A weed in one part of the world is a greenhouse plant in another. What if I was trying to kill something in myself that was actually good? It was only when I put the dream into the context of my waking life that I saw what it could mean. A few days earlier I had made an uncharacteristically outspoken speech to a group of Episcopalians and two priests had mildly disagreed with something I said. To my surprise, I was devastated by their implied criticism.

My dream explained my discomfort. Until that point in my life, pleasing and impressing conventional authorities had been fundamental to my personality (the foundation of the house). This trait had served me so well that I had achieved a certain amount of success in the eyes of the world. But I had come to see my need for society’s approval as a pesky, unwanted trait (weeds) that had forced its way through the sturdy foundation of my spiritual journey (patterned brick path). Realizing that my strong tendency to conform marred my prospects for continued growth, I had chosen to rid myself of it by pursuing self-knowledge (my dream ego was killing the weeds), but this felt subversive and I was afraid of being punished (poisoned).

Now I know why I resisted my soul’s flowering for so long. I still thought the male God I grew up believing in might punish me if I dared to question the beliefs of His religious authorities. The ego’s fear of retribution is a soul-killer! We feel so much safer trusting authority figures than challenging them. Isn’t this the message we were sent as children? But there comes a time in the life of every individual when you need to trust your inner messages and develop your own authority. When that time comes, it’s up to your ego to enter the soul’s garden, take a look around, and start weeding.

What unwanted weeds plague your soul’s garden and prevent you from becoming the person you were born to be? What’s the worst that would happen if you took steps to get rid of them? What’s the best?

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched by Schiffer Publishing this October.

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8 Responses

  1. I could so resonate with this post. Thanks for sharing, your ongoing posts are very helpful to me in my development. Even though I have also been recording my dreams for years, I haven’t been giving them titles. Do you find that very helpful? Must be much easier in review and probably helpful on first look?

    1. Hi Shannon. I’m glad this resonates with you. I suspect it does with a lot of people. I do find titles helpful. Sometimes I have a dream with a theme or symbol or emotion that’s similar to an older dream and I want to re-read the previous one to see if can help me better understand both of them. Or maybe something happens in waking life that reminds me of a dream and I want to read it again. Having titles to skim through helps me find previous dreams faster. Titles also help me summarize the essence of dreams. They’re just another way to explore dreams from as many directions as I can to extract more meaning from them.

  2. I just have to chuckle at the synchronicity of your posts with what is happening in my life right now….After years of conforming to self-“inflicted” need and “concept of obligation” to please, (and I am not even Catholic) and watching yearly as the weeds proliferate in my garden, I am taking action during this pandemic. I am finding myself obsessed with taking Georgia OKeeffe-like photos of flowers. Cropping close ups is allowing me to fill the frames with exquisite form, color, line and more. Slowly weeding, (editing) out what no longe serves my envisioning. Thanks Jean. I love your eloquent writing and rich content.

    1. Hi Jo, thank you. I appreciate your kind words about my writing. I love the synchronicity of this! Flowers and weeds! Cropping really is like weeding or pruning, isn’t it? Having a creative outlet like your art is another wonderful way to get in touch with your unconscious. Writing does the same thing for me. I read everything I’m working on several times to remove unhelpful words and find better ones. I’m thinking I may want to write more about gardens. They’re such a lovely metaphor for inner work!

  3. Thanks Jeanie so much. Your dreams portray precisely what they were meant to. I’m reminded of many years ago when I was creating a secret garden and the work that was involved in that. The weeding that was necessary to clear out the space I needed. When I thought I’d surely cleared them all, another look showed more I’d overlooked and still needed to be pulled out. Which made me think about weeding as a psychological metaphor – never mind the physical labour – for clearing out (my own) worn and one-sided attitudes to life. A way of clearing which allows for new energy …

    Keep well and safe, Love, Susan

    1. Hi Susan. A secret garden! I always wanted one. I’m sure you probably read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved it and read it to my daughter. And yes to your observation about metaphors. As without, so within. Everything we do in life can be a metaphor for a psychological reality. Just as everything we do and think and feel in our dreams can be a metaphor for a reality in our outer life. Metaphors can tie together all the threads of our lives if we ponder them. I think exploring the symbols and metaphors is what I love so much about dreamwork….that and the fact that they teach me so much about myself. Love, Jeanie

  4. Thanks so much for sharing powerful dreams and how they guide you to the next step. It’s heartening and helpful to see how one dream connects to another. I love putting my dreams in a big computer file along with a short note about what was happening in my life at the time so I can find those big dreams–my elephant and white bear and tree goddess and Green Man. I remember your elephant dream and love it still. The unstoppable gift of the God Ganesh (God of Writers and New Beginnings) breaking out of the unconscious cave.

    I assume the weeds will always be there, at least for me. I won’t ever eradicate the shadow, my doubts, my confusions, my shame, as much as I might try. I love Pema Chodron because she laughs at her efforts and mine to push the weedy parts of ourselves under and hide them from view. I loved Marion Woodman for that, too. She laughed at herself for eating too many pastries at a workshop and feeling dull-witted because of it. She admitted it and turned to humor. For me, that’s the best way. I can just imagine organic gardener Elaine blasting the weeds with Round-Up.

    1. “The unstoppable gift of the God Ganesh (God of Writers and New Beginnings) breaking out of the unconscious cave.” Of course! I’m slapping my forehead in amazement and disbelief that I never connected Ganesh with this dream before! I’ve always thought of him as a Hindu God, and I knew he was the god of writing, but somehow I never paid attention to the fact that he was an elephant! How could I not have gotten that? Talk about dull-witted! Because that was exactly what was wanting to break out of my unconscious at the time: a new beginning as a writer. That blows my mind and makes this dream far more meaningful than ever before. Thank you for this tremendous insight, Elaine. Well there you go. Another example of how slow the conscious mind can be to make connections between waking life and dream symbolism.

      I know that the weeds will always be there for me too. I’m still discovering aspects of my shadow, still trying to stay aware of them, still struggling with guilt, shame, and all the rest. But what I do have now that I didn’t have in the early days is a fundamental trust in my dreams and their guidance. That makes me feel known and loved, and that’s enough for me.

      Hahaha. Yeah, I don’t see you blasting your weeds with Round-Up!

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