A dream…is a product of the total psyche. Hence, we may expect to find in dreams everything that has ever been of significance in the life of humanity – Carl Jung
In my last post for Soul Quest Gateway, I suggested that to reawaken our sense of self we must grow our presence and awareness to the animate world around us – and the vital interior world of our psyche. In this way, we can create the conditions in which our life is not merely the outward expression of our ego’s wants, but a manifestation of our soul’s deepest longing. I further noted that working with dreams is an especially powerful gateway to self and soul because the images and symbols in our dreams are something of a personalized “map” that can guide us to self-discovery, personal growth, healing and integration. If we learn to work with our dreams in this way we can start to see ourselves more clearly and to identify and heal wounded aspects of ourselves – leading to greater wholeness and maturity. In this post, I’d like to focus in a bit more detail on the process of working with dreams. In particular, I want to talk about soulcentric dreamwork.
Dreamwork can take many forms, and I suspect many readers will be familiar with the popular approach of “interpreting” dreams; an enjoyable – if questionable – practice in which images and symbols are taken literally and drawn into the everyday life of the dreamer to (largely) assuage the ego. Soulcentric dreamwork is different. Firstly, it is a key arrow in the quiver of soulcraft practices, and as such, is part of a nature-based approach to soul encounter. Bill Plotkin, author of Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche, and the guides at the Animas Valley Institute, put it nicely:
Soulcentric dreamwork has the distinguishing purpose of initiating the ego into its soul path through a familiarization with the nightworld or underworld.
Thus, a central feature of soulcentric dreamwork is letting go of the reigns of dream interpretation and focusing instead on the atmosphere and landscape of the dream. Think of it as taking a vacation in the landscape of the dream. What does it feel like? What do you see, or hear? Is there a kinesthetic sensation – a felt sensation – in your body as you dwell in the landscape of the dream? By lingering in and with the dream, and resisting the urge to interpret it, you allow the dream to have its way with you. Every image, every symbol, every felt sensation is a coded message meant only for you. The dream maker has delivered this dream to you at precisely this moment. Are you going to rush past its deeper meanings in your quest for literal interpretation? Or might you commit to a numinous or spiritual dialog with one or more characters from your dream? This can be especially powerful if you do so while in nature, learning from “greater nature” as well as your own human nature.
When we approach dreams as an opportunity to engage with soul, we are crossing an important threshold; we are apprenticing ourselves to the mystery held within our dreams. The results can be life-changing. Toward the end of his life, Carl Jung reflected on certain dreams that visited him in his youth and said:
My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream…Everything later was merely the outer classification, the scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.
Indeed. The essence of the dreamwork we do at Soul Quest Canada is rooted in the tradition of Jung’s depth psychology. We don’t ask “what does the dream mean?” Rather, we ask “in what ways does the dream want to change or shift me?” This is important because those changes or shifts are an opportunity to draw what was previously “hidden” in our unconscious into conscious awareness. And when we do that, we are better able to heal ourselves, integrate our woundings into a more psychically complete and mature persona, and touch the bottom of the pool that contains our unique gifts – the gifts that we were born with but which have been lying dormant in our unconscious.
Our ego has an insatiable appetite for meaning, which is useful in navigating dayworld concerns, but it can get in the way of deep nightworld learning. We’re interested in guiding people deeper into their dreams, and in doing so, helping them step across the underworld thresholds that mark the trail to soul.