It’s not easy to define in a few words. Let me tell you a story.
“Where were you camping?” asked Lynn, our host at the King George Inn Bed and Breakfast. She filled the door to our room while she surveyed the suitcases and mound of Wegman’s shopping bags filled with shoes and books.
“Asheville,” I said, offering a familiar landmark. “Well, actually, Hendersonville.” I corrected myself. “Kanuga Conference Center.”
“Is that run by a church?” Lynn probed, peering over her reading glasses.
“Episcopal.” I nodded.
“Jim and I attended a conference there once.” Our host glanced at her husband who was standing behind her smiling at no one in particular. “I thought it looked like a beautiful place, maybe a nice vacation.” She rolled her eyes and leaned into the room. “Turned out it was for people whose marriages were in REAL TROUBLE. Mar-riage En-coun-ter,” she drawled. She shook her head. “We didn’t stay the whole time.” She glanced back at Jim, who was no longer smiling, then back to me and David. “So what conference were YOU attending?”
“I was tagging along,” David laughed. “Leah was there to work.”
Lynn studied him, then me. Is she looking for signs of trouble before she hands over the key?
“I’m in a two-year Dream Leader program,” I said.
Lynn squinted her eyes, opened her mouth like she was going to speak, but didn’t.
“We meet at Kanuga three times a year,” I continued.
“I don’t ever dream,” Lynn stated emphatically.
“Everyone dreams,” I teased. “Six or seven times a night. You just don’t remember them.”
Lynn stood up straighter. Not the response she wanted.
“It helps to keep a notebook by your bed. . .”
“I kept a notebook by my bed for years – to write down all the things I needed to do that I remembered during the night. When I sold real estate I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to see my name at the top of the sales list every week. I’m very competitive.”
I nodded. Not hard to imagine that. Another miscue. I had just spent five days with people who were mostly introverted, intuitive feelers — like me– and had used up all my social reserves. All I wanted was to soak in the bathtub with a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I shifted backwards toward my suitcase.
“Well, enjoy your stay in Roanoke.” Lynn handed David the keys and shut the door.
The next morning as we descended the stairs to breakfast, David pointed out all the watercolor pieces hanging on the wall that Lynn had created: flowers, historical buildings, antique furniture. Impressive. Who would have thought? When we sat down at the dining room table, I felt immediately nourished by the fresh lilies and hydrangea, the attention to detail in the table setting of antique serving pieces, and then the remarkable shirred eggs, rosemary scones, blueberry preserves, and crisp hash browns and sausage; every bite, delightful.
After we had eaten and the dishes were removed, Lynn joined us at the table. “Do you interpret dreams?” she asked, without hesitation.
“Well, not exactly,” I said, pleased that she seemed interested in something I felt passionate about. “Only the dreamer truly knows what the dream means. My job is to ask questions to help facilitate the process.”
Once again Lynn looked puzzled. “Since we opened this place three years ago, I’ve slept like a baby. I never remember my dreams.”
“Sleeping through the night can be a sweet gift.”
In all fairness I wasn’t ready for the question. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been thinking about it.
I had spent the past year reading voraciously, writing papers, and attending weekend intensives. This particular weekend had been especially rich. My head and heart were so full.
Bob Haden, the director, had begun our time together with a chant called “Hidden Things” and spoke of how dreams show us what is “hidden” and yet, quite real. A lovely introduction!
Diana McKendree had spoken about group process. She said as facilitators we create a container for soul work by modeling it, by creating a safe “relational atmosphere.” The soul is like a bird, she said. If we are too zealous the bird flies away. If we are bored, the bird is crushed. Being present is the goal.
Bob Hoss had spoken about dreams as being like a computer hooked up to the Internet: what Jung called the objective psyche. This source of vast information contains a pattern of our whole self. When accepted, this independent source widens our consciousness. It connects us to nature, humanity, and the divine. He also spoke of the language of dreams: metaphor, color, symbol, and emotion. He taught us how to give the archetypal energies a voice, a hand, but making the experience concrete. He ended by quoting Marsha Norman, “Dreams are illustrations that your soul is writing about you.”
Jerry Wright had spoken eloquently about how to have an “archetypal attitude” toward dreams. He presented a vision of the “Cosmic Calendar” which parallels the 14 billion year old history of the universe with an annual calendar. Thus, we had become self-conscious creatures on December 31 at 11:53 pm. At 11: 59 pm Hinduism, our oldest “religion” was born. 11:55 pm, Buddhism. 11:59 pm, Christianity. Our attempt to give expression to the numinosity at the heart of creation is very new. Only in the last ¼ second of cosmic time have we known about the unconscious. As dream workers, we are the new kids on the block.
Wright presented Dr. Carl Jung’s myth of consciousness: Psyche is rooted in nature. “Dream work is to better know that which originated all that is, and to allow creation to continue,” he said. “As we become agents of consciousness, we allow the power at the heart of matter to continue to manifest. As we participate in incarnation: the invisible becomes visible.”
David and I had been reading aloud to each other, The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy, while we drove, an author who insists that any writing that ignores death and suffering is dishonest. This created a necessary tension between the talk of numinosity in nature and the harsh, amoral world McCarthy portrays so eloquently.
There was so much I was still processing!
How could I talk about “hidden things” to this practical, sensate business woman? Where was that “elevator speech” – that quick definition you give someone in an elevator before the doors open — all marketing gurus tell you to have in your back pocket?
All the way home from Roanoke, VA to Rochester, NY I thought about what I wished I had said to Lynn and Jim.
Soul work manifests in many ways. Lynn sees what is right in front of her and is able to paint it, knows what ingredients work together to create a meal that is pleasing to the eye as well as the palate, and shops for antiques that are hand crafted, distinctive. She and Jim have a good business sense and were able to change careers when the economy shifted. These are admirable skills. And I told them so.
What is hard to communicate well is something concrete about the work I am drawn to.
John Sanford says it as well as anyone I know:
Suppose someone told you that there was something that spoke to you every night, that always presented you with a truth about your own life and soul that was tailor-made to your individual needs and particular life-story, and that offered to guide you throughout your lifetime and connect you with a source of wisdom far beyond yourself. And, furthermore, suppose that all of this was absolutely free. Naturally you would be astonished that something like this existed. Yet, this is exactly the way it is with our dreams.” (Dreams and Healing by John A. Sanford.)
∞ ∞ ∞
If you would like to connect with this vast source of wisdom which is continually seeking to relate to you, there are a couple of options.
I will be starting a new dream circle soon.
Please join me!
6 Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 12
Sept. 14 through Oct. 19
We will meet in my home.
The cost is $90.
Call 585-329-9833 for more information and to register.
I will also be offering a class at Writers & Books Literary Center in Rochester, NY, called Getting Personal With Dreams.
Is it possible that dreams and synchronicities are examples of the universe “getting personal”? What would happen if we took the images, metaphors, symbols, and puns of our dreams and turned them into art? In a safe place, we will dare to return the favor and get personal – and poetic – with dreams. We will tap into the power of dreams, coincidence and imagination and write back with poems, stories, essays, or dialog.
7 Tuesdays, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Oct. 1 through Nov. 12
$175 W&B members, $185 general public
140 University Avenue.
To register call 473-2590, or visit www.wab.org.