Soul Dreams

IMG_0962Every night, your soul sings to you.  Are you listening?

Dreams can be tricky things.  Our souls do not speak in clear, logical language; they speak through symbols.  Some symbols are universal, but most are far more personal, and cannot be interpreted by anyone but the dreamer.  This is work we have to do for ourselves, if we are to learn what our unconscious minds are trying to tell us.

Sometimes dreams burst into consciousness, with night after night of vivid nightmares.  Other times, you may find that you don’t seem to be remembering your dreams at all.  Whether your dreams are trying to get your attention or you’re looking for a closer connection with the voice of your soul, there are some simple tools that can be useful when decoding your dreams. My favorite method was originally developed by Carl Jung, and is discussed by Martha Beck in her book Steering by Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny

To begin, keep a dream journal.  Immediately after waking, write down whatever you can remember, no matter how small or insignificant it seems. The more you do this, the more likely it is that you’ll remember your dreams.

Next, identify the symbols in your dream.  For example, say you dream that you are boarding an airplane with many other people, while carrying a red bag. You might identify the symbols as “airplane,” “many people,” “red bag.”  You can also identify verbs as symbols:  “boarding;” “carrying.”

One at a time, pretend that you have become the symbol.  Say to yourself, “I am the airplane.”  Go on to list three words to describe yourself (“I am large, silver, empty”), and then describe what your purpose as the airplane is (“to carry people to their destination”) and how you’re here to help the dreamer (“I’m taking her to the next stage in her journey”).  Go through each symbol this way, then go back and look over the dream as a whole, with this deeper understanding of its individual parts.

This technique can only be fully appreciated through practicing it, because what comes up may be entirely unexpected.  The way that your symbols speak to you, and interact with one another, will be nothing short of a mosaic of personal messages.  It is not always immediately clear–sometimes you have to sit with a symbol or its message for hours or even days–but often there is deep wisdom to be found here.

For the best results, either go through this exercise with another person (I often lead my coaching clients through this process), or write it out.  This is much more powerful than simply thinking your way through it, although even that can be invaluable in a pinch.

Wishing you sweet dreams~

Athena & The Olive Tree

The Greek goddess Athena, wise and fair, was born from the head of her father, Zeus.  This came to pass because of a prophecy that any child born of Metis, goddess of wisdom, and Zeus, first among gods, would grow to be even more powerful than its father.  Fearing such a fate, Zeus swallowed Metis before she could bear him a child.

Some time later, Zeus began to suffer pounding headaches, which were remedied only when his head was cleaved open by a mighty ax.  Athena leapt forth, fully grown and fully armed, from her father’s head.  She became his favorite daughter, a patroness of the arts and a counselor of heroes.

At the time that the great city of Athens was founded, Poseidon, god of the seas, and Athena each coveted the city.  To determine which god would be granted the city, the citizens decided that both Poseidon and Athena would give the new city a gift; the giver of the best gift would be awarded the city as his or her own.

Poseidon struck the earth with his triton, causing a salt water spring to appear on the dry land.  Although beautiful and impressive, the salty water was of little use to the people.  Athena’s gift was more subtle–an olive tree.  But although the tree was small and delicate, its gifts were great:  shade, olives, oil, wood.  The city was given to, and named for, Athena.

The simplest gifts are often the greatest.  They may be hidden, they may seem mundane, yet these are the things that nourish our lives and give them meaning.

And speaking of beautiful goddesses born fully grown (and armed) from their father’s head… today is Father’s Day and my sister’s birthday.  So this post is both for my father (first among gods, but never afraid of his children’s potential) and my sister (a goddess of fire, passion and creativity if there ever was one).  I love you both.

The Nature Of Obstacles

The Hindu god Ganesha, the god with the elephant’s head, is beloved by millions as the remover of obstacles.  His name is often invoked at the beginning of a new venture; he is thought to bring his followers good luck and fortune.

He bears the head of an elephant because one day his mother, the goddess Parvati, asked him to guard the door while she bathed.  He did so faithfully, denying even his father, Shiva, entrance.  Shiva was not pleased that Ganesha was standing between him and Shiva’s wife, and so he cut off Ganesha’s head.  Feeling contrite almost immediately, Shiva ordered his servants to find a replacement head for Ganesha–they returned with the head of an elephant, and Ganesha has been known as the Elephant God ever since.

Elephants represent wisdom, and not just any wisdom, but that of your higher self, the self that exists before and beyond what you think of as your life.  This wisdom is what counsels us to choose love, to create beauty, to forgive, to seek, to trust.  This wisdom is what teaches us that all of our obstacles exist only in our minds.

Ganesha is the Remover of Obstacles, but in this well-known story, he is himself the obstacle, standing between mother and father.  It is his head that is removed, and then transformed into a symbol of higher truth.  This is the greatest teaching of the story:  we are our obstacles.  What stands between us and the love and light we seek are our thoughts, our fears, our resentments.  To be free, we must replace the thoughts that stand between us and joy with the thoughts of our higher selves, our true wisdom.  Only then may we be transformed into all we are capable of becoming.

Only you can remove your obstacles.  Only you are the chosen hero of your story.  You have the power to transform darkness into light, because darkness is nothing but the shadows of empty thoughts.  Trust in your own wisdom, and allow your obstacles to be transformed.

Beauty & The Beast

Once upon a time, a woman so kind, so pure, so lovely that her very name was Beauty was taken prisoner by a hideous Beast.  Through time, Beauty grew to love the Beast, and her love transformed him into a prince.

Like all true stories, the tale of Beauty and the Beast may be understood various ways.  The first, the most common reading, is that the love of a good woman can turn even a beast into a prince.  This is the secret gift of love–that its presence awakens all of us, brings us from darkness into light.  When we know we are loved, we know we are free to be our true selves, our most authentic, most wise, most lovable selves.  When we feel the touch of love, we are transformed.

Another reading of the story is that the Beast represents a part of Beauty herself, the unknown and denied animal nature within, the subconscious, the primal.  To be fully whole and free, Beauty must learn to accept this part of herself, her darkness as well as her light, as we all must.  Only by accepting and loving the darker parts of herself can Beauty come into her true power and grace.

But I see an ever greater lesson hidden within this story.  As I see it, the Beast represents the whole world, the whole universe.

At the beginning of the tale, Beauty finds herself in a strange world governed, she thinks, by a monster.  Everyone else–her family, the townspeople–tells her that the Beast is a monster and that she is not safe with him.  When she looks at him, she sees what she expects to see, what everyone has told her to see–a Beast.  And yet, the Beast is kind to her.  Gentle.  He gives her everything she could ever wish for, every comfort, every pleasure.  Even, when she asks for it, her freedom.  The reality of the Beast is far from Beauty’s expectation, far from the claims of the outside world.

When Beauty finally sees with her own eyes and heart the reality of the Beast’s love, she sees the truth that was there all along–that the Beast is a handsome prince, and that she is his beloved.

Life is much like this.  We come into the world terrified, and we learn from our family and friends that the world is a cruel place full of suffering.  We are afraid, we think ourselves alone.  And yet, if we only open our eyes and our hearts, what do we see?  We see trees, oceans, flowers–beauty spread across the earth.  We feel the warmth of the sun and feel the arms of our loved ones.  We hear the birds sing and children laughing.  If we look deeper, trust in love rather than in fear, we see there is no end to the beauty and the love that surround us.  We see that even freedom is ours, if we choose it, for the ultimate freedom, the freedom to be our true and authentic selves, has never been denied us.  We see the beauty of the world, and we know ourselves beloved, just as Beauty did.

This is the secret:  We are Beauty.  We are Beloved.  But we can only see what we are.  We must find the beauty within before we can find it without.

Good Luck, Bad Luck

There is a Chinese proverb about a farmer whose horse escaped into the hills. His neighbors sympathized with the farmer over his bad luck, but the farmer said “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?” A week later, the horse returned, and brought with him a herd of wild horses. The neighbors now said: “What good luck!” But the farmer replied: “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

The next week, the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, fell off the horse, and broke his leg. “What bad luck!” said the neighbors. But a week later, an army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied young man they found into service. “What good luck!”

We can never judge good luck from bad until the tale is complete. And what tale is ever finished?

Cracked

There was once a crack in the mirror of a powerful and beautiful queen.  When she looked into the glass, seeking confirmation of her beauty, she saw instead the image of another:  Snow White.  Because of the crack in the mirror–a crack in her own soul–she did not understand what she saw.  She did not realize that what we see in others is a reflection of ourselves.

We doubt our power when we forget to use it.  We doubt our beauty when we look for it outside of ourselves.  And so the queen believed that her youth and beauty were gone to another, and determined to kill the young Snow White.  But Snow White was the image the queen saw when she looked into the glass–how could she kill Snow White without killing a part of herself?

As for Snow White, the queen’s pursuit sent her on a journey of discovery.  She began as a victim, alone and hunted through a dark forest, and emerged a queen in her own right, sure of her own strength and power.  Two faces in the glass; two journeys of discovery.  Both are two sides of the same coin.  We all have power and beauty within us.  When we see the gifts of others as a part of our own light, our power and beauty grow.  When we see others as separate, as a threat, an enemy to be destroyed, we can only destroy ourselves.

We are surrounded by mirrors, constantly reminded of who we are and what we have within us.  The beauty you see in others is a reflection of the beauty that is within you.  The power you see in others is a reflection of the power that lies within you.  The whole world is your mirror.  Instead of asking who is the fairest of them all, ask instead to understand that the fairest is the one who sees beauty in others as well as in his or herself.

Of Dragons & Sirens

Peace is not freedom from pain, but transcendence.

Pain can be an invitation, a call to adventure, an opportunity to forgive and to heal.  No one lives free from pain; no one can help but cause pain.  We all must, at times, play the muse to another’s story, whether we intend to or not.  Think of them–the evil stepmothers, the dragons, the sirens.  They are the ones who send the call, who propel the heroes and heroines into the realm of adventure and possibility.  They are the ones who open the door to the bright, messy world we call life.  They are the fire of change.  Why fear playing the part of fire?

Play your part as openly and truthfully as you know how, choose love over fear and be quick to forgive.

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