The holidays can be hard. They can be beautiful and rich. Joyous. Sad. Stressful. Peaceful. Whatever your experience is and whatever your traditions are, I invite you to practice caring for the kid in you. What do the younger parts of you want to tell you? What do they need?Read More
To start, I want to share a poem, "The Journey" by Mary Oliver. Years ago I came across these words when I needed to hear them. I was grieving and feeling lost, unsure what the next step of my life would be. It felt stressful and scary at times. This poem helped me know I was not alone and I was not the only one who struggled with finding my way.Read More
I had a rough summer this year. I was treated for Lyme disease and the whole process had a significant impact on my ability to do the things that I like to do. It took a toll on my body. There were days I did not want to do anything and would have been happy to stay in bed all day.
I experienced swelling in my joints and other physical complications. There were several weeks during which I was rarely outside and could not walk around much.
In the midst of all this, I experienced a lot of worry and fear. For some of my symptoms, it was hard to know if they were related to the Lyme or if something else was going on. I felt uncertain about the future and unsure how, when and if I would feel better. When would I feel more like myself again?
How many of us have been there? It can feel scary when our bodies experience pain, injury or illness. For those of us that have a history of previous or chronic illness, it can also touch old feelings about how we were treated in the past or old fears that we will not be okay.
There were times over the last few months when I wondered if this was my new reality. Would I have to give up hiking and dancing? I had memories of when I learned I could not tolerate gluten, even in the smallest amounts, and how fundamentally life-changing that was. Was this like that or would it pass?
For me, this time, it did pass, by and large. I went for my first significant hike since August last weekend. I was still cautious, especially when going down hill, and I was so pleased to be out and about, hiking in the woods. I walked for hours, pausing and resting here and there. As I hiked, I felt more confident in my body again. "I can do this," I thought. I found comfort in knowing I did not have to give this up.
As I hiked, I reflected on how far-fetched this reality had seemed only a few weeks prior. I touched on another feeling as well, the feeling that healing is possible. It takes time - it can feel like it takes forever - and, eventually, things change and something shifts, one way or the other.
We are not static beings. The world around us continues to move, grow and decay. When I was stuck in my apartment for days on end with little movement, it was easy to forget that life continues to change, always. It is not always for the better, but sometimes it is. And sometimes there is grace and okayness even in the center of something that feels awfully not okay.
Recently, I was reading Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. In one chapter, she describes an experience she had with her son when he was ten and nervous about sleeping so far away from her in their new home. She set him up with a sleeping bag and pillow on the floor next to her bed. Over the course of several nights, he was able to move farther and farther away, scootching his bag down the hall, through the living room, and, finally, into his new bedroom. A few times, he had to move his sleeping bag backwards to be closer to her.
Lamott writes that grace is like that, "scootch, stall, catastrophic reversal; bog, bog, scootch." That captures how life feels to me, too. We scootch along, doing our best, get stuck, backtrack and eventually end up at a new place. Then we do it all over again. We can fight the whole thing - sometimes I am completely committed to the fight. Or, we can ride the waves, knowing that there will be peaks and valleys, scootches and stalls, and that life keeps happening, changing and shifting.
Over the last several weeks, I have been working with my dreams. As I spend more time with them and get to know them, I notice I feel less anxious about having a "bad" dream. I am learning to appreciate the gifts that can be found within even the most unpleasant dreams.
So it is with our bodies, as well. When we experience pain, we can move away from it, or we can move toward it. There are many parallels between exploring the pains in our physical body and exploring the meaning of our dreams.
What yet unknown information is held deep within the unexplored parts of our being? Like the messages in our bodies, these messages from the night are worthy of our attention.
"As the mind explores the symbol, it is led to ideas that lie beyond the grasp of reason." -Carl Jung
Unitarian Universalist minister and dream explorer, Jeremy Taylor, believes that "all dreams come in the service of health and wholeness." He argues that we dream about things we are ready to see and the fact that we are dreaming a dream means we have the capacity to work through it in some way.
This matches my experience. Dreams often point to the issues we are wrestling with in our waking lives. Having a dream about these scenarios gives us the opportunity to explore them in a different way. Dreams are full of metaphor and symbol, which invites us to tap into the non-linear parts of ourselves. We "get out of our head," so to speak.
As I have been delving into my dreams, one of my favorite questions to ask has been, "what is the question this dream wants me to be conscious of?" Another similar approach is to ask "what is the gift in this dream?" These both allow me to open into the possibility that there is something in my dream that wants to be seen or known.
There are many different approaches to dream work. As a starting point, I like Jeremy Taylor's Dream Work Toolkit. He describes "Six Basic Hints for Dream Work," including "No dreams come just to tell you what you already know."
Another way to begin is to give your dream a title. This can be a way to capture the essence of a dream. The title may be a simple description of the focal point. What stands out to you in your dream?
Whenever we have unpleasant dreams, we have a choice about how we respond. If we want to, we can explore the meaning in the dream. For example, we can imagine facing the scary creature coming at us. By engaging with this creature and seeing it, does it become more or less scary? What does it have to tell us? If something feels too scary to face, can we imagine an alternative ending where we get away from the scary thing or where something or someone comes in and protects us?
There are many creative ways that we can work with the images and characters of our dreams and find resolution. In my experience, dreams show me parts of myself that are hidden in the shadows. Working with our dreams is a chance to bring these parts of ourselves into the light.