[An ASKLEPIA FOUNDATION Book]
DREAMHEALING: THE HEART OF DREAMS
...Why are the [dreams] not understandable?...The answer must be that the dream is a natural occurrence, and that nature shows no inclination to offer her fruits gratis or according to human expectations.
-- C.G. Jung
The paranormal dream that seems to transcend time and space remains no less controversial today than it was in the days of Cicero, the great Roman orator...
According to Joseph Campbell, "Dream is the personalized myth. Myth is the depersonalized dream." With the popularization of his work, and more recently that of David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner, many people are becoming more aware of the importance of myth and dream in our daily lives.
Awareness of personal mythology is enriching and adds to our self-knowledge. It gives us a deeper meaning to our lives, now that the major myths of our culture and religions no longer form the glue to bind our psychic life and profane experience together.
The growing awareness of the value of myth, dreams, and ritual has produced a resurgence of interest in ancient practices and ceremonies to express our modern selves and invoke the aid of higher forces for our pursuits.
Myth, dream, and ritual meet in sacred psychology. This infintely expanded and extraordinary consciousness introduces us to a culture of the depths, a larger framework of reality. It is transformative. This experience is substantively real, and has consequences in daily life. It is the source of poetry, music, science, and art which we can tap for inspiration, sanctuary, or healing.
Jean Houston cites some physical changes which result from engaging in sacred psychology in THE SEARCH FOR THE BELOVED, pg. 33, (1987):
"Part of the work of sacred psychology is to reeducate the brain and nervous system for reception of this nested reality. As you do this work regularly, you may notice some curious physiological phenomena such as energy rushes or perhaps signficant mood changes. Such occurences often indicate a change in your brain and nervous system, the creation of new electrochemical connections, and more dentdritic growth than usual. These changes provide the necessary increase in complexity in your biological equipment, permitting you clearer access to larger realities without going into overload and feeling blown out. Thus this work deconditions you from old habit structures of mind and body and reeducates and refines your biological structures."
For many reasons--spiritual hunger, curiosity, and our natural tendency toward structure and ritual in our lives--people are tuning into the wisdom of ancient cultures and healing traditions. It is within this fabric of mythic awareness that dreamhealing is practiced. Sacred psychology helps us promote growth and transformation. We learn to orchestrate and integrate different states of consciousness, build greater sensory awareness, tap the vast riches of the imaginal realm, incorporate multiple realities, and recognize our spiritual genesis.
The history of dreams is longer than that of humanity itself. Science now tells us that dream may reflect a fundamental aspect of mammalian memory processing. Crucial information acquired during the waking state may be reprocessed during sleep.
Humans have always sought to understand the meaning of dreams, and indeed science verifies that they are meaningful. Throughout the centuries there have been many approaches to the dream. Some of these approaches focused on the individual, others on society at large.
The shamanic practice of travelling in dreamtime through non-ordinary states of consciousness is perhaps our oldest lore about dreamlife. Through their dream journeys, shamans garnered the personal power and knowledge to help and heal the members of their societies.
The ancient Egyptians believed that dreams possessed oracular power. In the Bible, for example, Joseph elucidates Pharoah's dreams and averts seven years of famine.
Possibly the first recorded "dreamwork" was known as Egyptian "temple sleep," in which the participants entered a trance state. Hypnotic in nature, it probably was the prototype of practices re-iterated in Greece in the Asklepian dream healing temples.
Modern dreamwork employs various techniques, but trance is common to all the experiential methods. Mostly "natural trance" is employed rather than formal induction. Natural trance is induced simply by focusing inward, taking a few deep breaths, and relaxing the body.
Modern dreamwork draws together these two threads of our heritage (dream and trance) in the relationship between therapist and client. This type of work creates a co-consciousness of the dreamworld shared by both participants.
In the early 1900s, Freud proposed that dreams were the "royal road" to the unconscious. He rediscovered an ancient truth known to many cultures who valued dreams as inspirational, curative, or alternative realities. Together, therapist and client create a shared reality, an altered state of consciousness, using the dream as a doorway to enter on a journey into the unknown depths of the imagination.
Allan Hobson of Harvard Medical School had maintained for years that dreams were just responses to random nerve firings in the primitive brain, without purpose or meaning. He has recently revised his theories, acknowledging the deep psychological significance of dreams.
The sense or plot of dream results from order that is imposed on the chaos of neural signals, according to Hobson's current view. "That order is a function of our own personal view of the world, our remote memories." In other words, he is saying, the individual's emotional vocabulary could be relevant to dreams, and that brain stem activation may simply function to switch from one dream episode to another.
Jonathan Winson (SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, Nov. 1990) has suggested that theta rhythm "reflected a neural process whereby information essential to the survival of a species--gathered during the day--was reprocessed into memory during REM sleep."
Theta rhythm has been linked to spatial memory and survival behavior that is not genetically encoded, a response to changing environmental information. Theta is also sometimes associated with meditation states and the regeneration of body tissue.
Today our culture is learning more and more respect for the nightly dramas that are so much a part of the fabric of our lives. This has not always been the case. Over the centuries the dream has been feared and maligned, ignored or distorted. Some have dreaded its portentous message, while others refused the notions it contained any meaning at all.
Dreams present us with a seemingly chaotic jumble of imagery which all agree is difficult to grasp with the rational mind. In primitive times, people took it for granted that dreams were related to the world of the supernatural beings in which they believed. Dreams served a special service: they predicted the future.
As humans evolved out of their more intuitive-instinctual relationship with nature and became more rationally-oriented, dreams came to be interpreted in many ways. The phenomena always remains the same, but theories come and theories go.
The extraordinary variations in the concept of dreams and in the impressions they produced on the dreamer made it difficult to formulate a coherent conception of them. The value and reliability of information processed as dreams has gone through as many changes as our culture.
To Aristotle, arguably the grandfather of logical thought, the dream constituted a problem of psychology. He alleged that the dream is of daemonic origin, not god-sent. The ancient Greeks believed that nature is daemonic, not divine; that is to say, the dream is not a supernatural revelation, but is subject to the laws of the human spirit, which of course has a kinship with the divine.
The dream is defined as the psychic activity of the sleeper, inasmuch as he is asleep. Aristotle knew that a dream converts the slightest sensation perceived in sleep into intense sensations. The dream exaggerates and distorts.
Nevertheless, he concluded that dreams might easily betray to the physician the first indications of an incipient physical change which had escaped observation by daytime consciousness. We shut our focus on the inner world of visions, hunches, etc. because we have to tune ourselves into the physical world. In that action we filter out much valuable input.
Earlier Greeks realized the inherent healing power within dreams and deified this force as the Olympian god, Apollo, and his son the healer Asklepios (known later in Rome as Aesculapius). When the potions and practices of medicine failed, one sought healing in the sacred dream.
There were many dream temples throughout the countryside devoted to this very mission. Here one could end one's pilgrimage with purifications in the sacred spring in hopes that the god Asklepios would visit on his nightly sojourn.
Priests attended these temples and the worshippers, but never interfered with the pure healing energy of the god by offering their own rational interpretations. This ancient approach to the dream grounds modern non-interpretive, experiential dreamwork in a rich cultural heritage.
Because they have an archetypal quality, these images emerge again and again through the centuries and their dynamic is as relevant for us today as it ever was. There is an archetypal timeless quality, something which transcends both space and time, to both dreams and dreamhealing.
None of this means that there is no value in dream analysis or interpretation, but the dream's power is not limited to that. It is the ego, not the larger self, which forms and desires interpretation to give "meaning" to a dream. On the other hand, the meaning of dreams is inherent in the experience, much like the purpose of being IS being.
There are many ways the dream symbols help us gain conscious self-knowledge. However, in the last century perhaps too much emphasis was put on the rational side. So today, a lot of people who are interested in growth and healing, emphasize feeling and the heart over the head. They seem to wish to reject anything mental or especially intellectual. Again, this seems one-sided.
The mind has its rightful place as an ally. It takes heart and mind to be whole. The proper role of the rational mind in dreamhealing is to surrender to the autonomous flow of the stream of consciousness, and to suspend any analysis of dream material until after the dreamjourney has revealed its unique qualities. After that, the mind may integrate the gut reactions with "what it knows."
It matters little if we take the Freudian approach and reduce most of the dream material to repressed sexuality and instinct, or grasp a broader concept of our movement toward the higher self, as the Jungians allege.
We can even form Gestalt relationships with various dream aspects and become involved with our myriad of inner parts. There are several systems for accessing a feeling-identification with dream images, but they rarely lead to whole healing of the psyche and body.
Some people feel they really "get" a dream when they experience the moment of "a-ha" or integration. The problem here is that stops the process of relating to the dream image by substituting some sort of intellectual inner "click" which may or may not be "right."
Dreams have many levels of reality, so no single interpretation can encompass that. A myriad of interpretations contain useful self-knowledge. Even a single dream can continue to unfold over the years since it contains an unfathomable depth of information.
Beyond the symbols, beyond the "click," beyond "a-ha" is a healing state. It is a gift from your dream in the form of a healing state--a place which is without dialogue, which is about vision, which is about healing inside, and which is beyond mere psychological understanding. This is Mystery.
So much of our time and energy is invested in building up models allowing us to formulate our ego view of the world of relationships and preferences. Where the most profound healing comes in is in the holistic (body/mind) experience of the dream.
When you re-enter a dream in therapy, both the conscious mind and subconscious cooperate in a new and wonderful way that you may never have experienced before. Unpleasant seeming dream imagery often transforms into a peaceful, healing place, if you allow the imagery to take your consciousness down into deeper, less structured awareness. The healing comes from simply "being there."
This is a far cry from the scientific understanding of dreams. However, Freud was not wrong when he postulated that the dream was the result of the conflict or cooperation of psychic forces. The process that underlies dreams, when studied, can elucidate the nature of these psychic forces.
One of the main focuses in modern dreamhealing is on actualizing the healing power within dreams and other visionary consciousness states. There are many things you can do with a dream. One popular pastime now is the development of lucid dreaming, where you become conscious within the dream and direct your activities as in waking life. This may produce an increased sense of personal power and control. However, there is a chance that this is an invasive intrusion on natural corrective forces by an over-active ego. The point of dreamwork is not to take the ego into the dreamworld. We need to bring the dream images into our conscious awareness and waking life.
Since the dream state arises from beyond the ego, anything can happen, and natural laws of physical reality do not apply. Unbounded by any physical limits and laws, dream realities broaden awareness so that we can begin to experience our full range of humanness. Virtually anything is possible in the dream reality -- death, rebirth, time travel, out-of-body journeys, enhanced physical or mental powers, even extraordinary effects like healing and balancing.
Yet, there is a voice in most of us that wants to discount the dream experience as a less important, inconsequential reality than our waking experience. For example, a parent tells a child, "Go back to sleep; it was only a dream!", after the child has just awakened from a terrifying dream and still experiences the physiological consequences, which are very real.
Disregarding the nightmare is one way to ignore the power of the dream as if it did not have impact or validity in the conscious awareness and experience of the child. The truth is that the experience of a nightmare is just as threatening and dreadful as any waking situation that evokes extreme fear and bodily contraction.
In fact, the nightmare may usher in an even stiffer fright because it may be drawing on the fantastic and other-worldly aspects of the psyche. What is important to observe is that, in both cases, the fear experience causes bodily feelings and reactions.
Our natural reaction to a fearful situation like a nightmare is to turn away and avoid the experience entirely. This avoidance (a version of "out of sight, out of mind") sets our system off-balance and triggers the fight/flight syndrome.
To re-establish the balance and harmony, it is usually necessary to stop avoiding the fear and turn around and move toward it, accepting it and owning it as a valid part of our reality. The monsters of our dreams are only alienated parts of ourselves, vying for attention. If we can embrace the fear, we no longer need to run away, and we can experience the peace that comes from having "let go" of the fear.
Pain, either physical or emotional, is a marker that indicates where healing is needed within us; but we usually surround our pain with fear to protect us from experiencing it. The fear is usually a base for our anger, or any of the other numerous denial and avoidance strategies we use.
The nightmare makes us a gift of the fear and its underlying pain. It leads us to the inner places that need healing, and provides the healing as we experience expansion within of our "stuck", blocked, lifeless parts.
At the heart of our approach is the notion that because dreams affect us on our primary experience level -- the body -- and can stir intense multi-sensual feelings and reactions in us, dreams can be used to enter a bodily place of dis-ease and restore the natural flow and balance to that place.
In honoring the dream we draw from the ancient healing tradition of the past, and the best of modern psychotherapeutic technique. The ancient word for therapy, therapeuin, originally meant "service to the gods." In this case therapy facilitates the healing process of the Greek god Asklepios. He was god of both dreams and healing.
The content of the dreams -- the characters, the inanimate objects, the activities, the feelings, the colors -- can all be doorways into the infinite inner territory of our myriad inner selves. They are states of consciousness that facilitate healing on mental, physical and spiritual levels.
If we can go deeply into the experience of a dream such as the nightmare, for example, we can bring a healing to the dis-ease that caused the nightmare. Dreams and nightmares are a unique way to move our awareness into our inner feelings and bodily places of flow and blockage. With a remembered dream, we already have in our grasp a good start at an inner resolution of the process.
Borrowing from C.G. Jung, we propose the idea that dream symbols arise from the psychic energies that create us and bind us together with all other life forces, the collective unconscious. However, moving beyond analytical and interpretive methods of treating dreams, it is possible for us to experience directly the timeless and dimensionless primal force that creates dreams.
To do so we have to use dreamhealing to travel beyond the symbols to their very source. We call these experiences dream journeys, in the old shamanic sense. The therapist functions as a guide to take the client deeper than the surface symbolism.
Symbols are merely a means of capturing our attention -- of attracting, appeasing, or scarring our ego's conscious waking awareness. Any illness or disease, as the name itself suggests, has at its source a state of dis-ease or out-of-balance energies.
Like the shamans of old, Jung noted that the onset of any serious disease was reflected in dreamlife. In addition to leading to the source of our dis-ease, dreams and nightmares also have within them the potential for expansive experiences which can heal and bring us back to a state of balance and health. They are both diagnostic and prescriptive, in that sense. They reveal both problem and solution, if we only learn how to attend to their clarion call.
On the surface and analytical level, dream symbols usually relate to the ego's particular concerns. Some "big dreams" carry a more mysterious, archetypal or collective value. However, each symbol is actually of equal value. They are doorways opening into the formless, chaotic energy underneath it which gave rise to it.
Interpreting the symbol gives us a more detailed description and picture of the doorway, but does not give us the experience of going beyond that doorway and exploring experientially what is on the other side over the threshold in those primal energies.
Dreamhealing centers around the idea that by going into and then past the experience of the symbols, we can experience the consciousness that created them. This creative state is a source of healing and re-creation. Some symbols offer access to memories of the past, some reveal future events, others can lead us to our inner healer -- the part of us that can provide the energy we need to restore balance and harmony within ourselves.
Much work has been done lately with imagery and healing, usually importing symbols or images into the client's visualization. The healing tale or teaching tale is used in both spiritual and secular counseling. The "imported metaphor" is part of the stock-in-trade repertoire of Ericksonian hypnosis.
The results are inherently stronger when the individual produces their own imagery while the therapist unobtrusively helps the client avoid the pitfalls of self-indulgent fantasy. The client is guided to stick with the metaphors that arise from within to describe what his state of being and experience is like.
You can experiment with this yourself, simply by asking yourself a few simple questions: What would you like to have happen? When it isn't happening, how do you know its not? And where do you feel that in your body? And what's it like? By this means you create your own metaphor for your personal experience, whether it comes from dreamlife or some problem, or a childhood trauma.
The therapist functions solely as a guide to the inner realms, since it is familiar territory to the practitioner. We can use the well-known map analogy, noting that the map can only be a partial representation or symbol of the actual terrain.
For example, looking at any map of the countryside we can see lines that mark rivers, hills, and other topological features; however, to walk through an actual old growth forest with a compass, climb the hills and pitch camp under the protective canopy of the trees, and listen to one of those rivers imprints a much deeper impression of the forest than the map ever could. It is a full experience of what is behind the map.
Trying to experience the terrain through the map is like interpreting the symbol, while the experience of going into and beyond the symbols is as everchanging and alive as an excursion deep into the forest and the mysteries of nature. Another example of the distinction is the difference between reading a recipe and tasting the dish. The savor certainly isn't the same.
A dream guide, like a river guide, takes the person through the turbulent (chaotic) waters of the psyche, past the rocks and boulders of their fear, to find the safe passage where the river flows easily into the calm beyond the rapids. The therapist's approach evolves in the moment to keep pace with the flow of the client's process deep in the heart of the dream.
Consequently, the client has an active part in the healing process and learns psychological self-care. Flowing with the experience through the progression of multi-sensory images provides the pathway to healing. The experience of finding an inner healing state is invaluable, as it teaches firsthand that the healer is within. The outer healers are only representations or mirrors of what is already inside.
The healing process and myth are deeply engrained in our lives, as individuals and societies. Each culture evolves its own variations on health and disease, and those able to aid in recovery from physical and mental distress. The problem with the old western healing paradigm is that the perception is that healing comes from without. In our culture now we are developing many alternatives to mechanistic medical and psychological practices.
One of those alternatives is awareness of personal mythology. Jung suggested that each individual life is based on a particular myth. By discovering that myth, we can live it consciously and adapt ourselves to our destiny, thus harmonizing inner and outer experience, and allowing our true individuality to emerge.
But mythic living doesn't necessarily mean living one myth, since the patterns of all god/dess forms are within us. The myth does not provide us with a blueprint for daily living concerning what we should or ought to do. Instead, it helps us in the process of discovering who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. They spark our sense of discovery and urge us to question and go deeper.
There is a chaotic assortment of mythical images within each of us, but sometimes certain themes emerge and assert their priority on a life. So, an individual life seems to strongly parallel a specific myth theme. One way this can manifest is through an uncanny series of synchronistic events, wherein a particular myth becomes the paradigmatic model of a life. The quest for actualization of this myth motivates a variation on the age-old journey of the hero.
In ancient Greece, if you wanted to ensure success in some undertaking you invoked the god who oversaw your particular endeavor with prayers and offerings. As stated before, Asklepios was the Greek god of healing and dream. He was the son of Apollo and the mortal Coronis who was slain by Apollo for infidelity before the child was born.
Taken prematurely from his mother, Asklepios was raised by the centaur Chiron, who was a master of the healing arts. Asklepios was an able student who soon surpassed his teacher and incurred both the wrath and blessings of the various gods and goddesses. To protect him from these whims, Zeus immortalized him as the Divine Healer.
An entire healing tradition developed in ancient Greece based on this myth. The medical physicians became known as Asklepiads; however, the Asklepian dream healing temple was the place to go if their medicines and treatments failed.
At the Asklepian temple, the god himself visited mortals in their dreams to bring Divine healing. At the temple, Asklepian priests oversaw the rites and procedures which brought the sick mortal into direct contact with the god. These temples were located at great distances from the cities and populated areas in Greece so that to reach one a pilgrimage was necessary.
Having arrived at the temple, one was received by the temple priests who began the sometimes lengthy process of determining whether or not the god had summoned one for healing. The priests did have a therapeutic function in the temple, but they were not in any way therapists, nor did they interpret any of the supplicant's dreams.
The priests determined whether or not one had been summoned by Asklepios by making discreet inquiries about the god's appearance in their dreamlife. An appearance by the god signified that one had indeed been invited and was ready to enter the temple. The form which Asklepios assumed in dreams was either a snake, or less commonly a dog (or wolf).
The next steps of bodily and mind purification were begun. Another interview with a priest was held because it was recognized that unless a person was conscious and accepting of his present life condition he could not expect a healing from the god. After the interview, the patient's body went through cleansing in the springs or streams around which the temples were always constructed. And at last, the supplicant was prepared to approach the god.
Since Asklepios visited the sick in their dreams, a special chamber, called the abaton (a Greek word meaning "a place not to be entered into uninvited"), was provided where the person would remain alone and asleep. The couch inside where the patient lay was known as the kline. This period of waiting for the god was called the incubation.
After dreaming the patient was interviewed by the priests who, without interpreting the dream, would instruct the patient as to whether or not the god had brought the healing. Sometimes many sessions in the abaton on the kline were necessary to come into contact with the god and the sick did not leave the temple until they were healed.
As far as interpreting the dream, the belief was that the experience of the dream and not an interpretation was how the healing came to the sick. The healing was accomplished through the direct intervention of the god himself with the patient's soul through the dream.
As a final part of the healing process, a fee was paid to the temple priests as an offering for the ongoing maintenance and work of the Temple. It was said that a failure to do so would result in a relapse of the dis-eased condition.
Testimonies were inscribed on the temple walls attesting to the miraculous and powerful healing which went on in the temples, including cures for afflictions like blindness. In this way the Asklepian dreamhealing went on for hundreds of years.
This tradition is continued in dreamhealing. The eight phases of dreamhealing reflect an archetypal healing process. This healing myth is reiterated in the techniques ("ceremonies") of many disciplines.
These steps form the real sequence of inner healing no matter what the outer form, including traditional medical practice. These phases include: 1) the pilgrimage; 2) the confession; 3) purification; 4) the offering; 5) dream quest; 6) dreamhealing; 7) work on dreams; 8) re-entry or integration.
The entire process is contingent on a healing sanctuary, whether that refuge can be found without or within. Processing is the principle of assisting an individual to look at his own existence, and improve his ability to confront what he is and where he is for greater adaptability, wholeness, and health.
The pilgrimage satisfies the necessary first step in healing. It is important because one commits one's energies and resources to healing. It is a notice of intent. The outcome of the process is directly proportional to the personal energy put into it, as well as the intent.
As in ancient times, the refuge, retreat, or sanctuary is a place where the seeker can devote all of their energy to their dreams and healing without worry about the outer world. That sense of safety is a key factor in healing, because healing is an act of trust. Sanctuary is being in a state of total safety which supports trust.
Healing involves pushing past old boundaries and negating old confining belief systems and that too is best done in trust and safety. Disease is a state of deep inner fear and pain, and it is easier to face fears and pain from a base of safety. Most therapists know this, but generally conceive of it as a pleasant office, confidentiality and being game and script free.
But it takes more--a deep respect and honoring of the natural healing process from within, rather than egotistically claiming to be "the healer." This is why we jokingly call Doctors -- M.D.s -- "Minor Deities." Dreams and visions seem so fragile, so whimsical, and insubstantial in our pragmatic, materially oriented society. When the substantial and concrete is valued more than the mystical and insubstantial it is more difficult to validate one's own inner life.
This is perhaps one reason the retreats were located a distance from any city. To live and survive in the civilized world requires a well-structured, strong ego and intellect just to deal with its technological complexity and its threat to our sense of self.
But the ego, in defending itself often feels and acts directly opposite to our deeper wisdom. In a word, we go against ourselves, a case of ego vs. higher self. This creates a state of tension or dis-ease which eventually manifests throughout our whole organism as mental and physical diseases that assume the shape of this inner conflict.
For example, most of us have a deep and basic fear and unease over how we are impacting our planet's ecosystems. We may or may not be aware of it, depending on our vested interests and whether or not we identify as environmentalists, but it is there.
Yet, in our daily battle to survive we burn fossil fuel driving to work in automobiles that deplete resources and generate pollution. We support hundreds of other activities daily that similarly degenerate the ecosystem. This deeply distresses, puts part of us out of ease with ourselves.
We are torn in opposite directions by the pulls of our survival instincts. It may be out of our awareness but we are distressed by it. Similarly, a person may continue to smoke cigarettes fully aware of the building health risks incurred. The fear of cancer may remain subconscious, but it exists, nevertheless.
Most degenerative diseases reflect this state of distress. Degenerative is also a word that characterizes what is happening to the ecosystem. For example, cancer is both a symbol and a physical manifestation of our existential conflict.
We could describe cancer as living cells in a state of uncontrollable growth destroying their host organism. This is a perfect metaphor for our relationship as a species to the ecosystem. Aerial photographs of cities bear a remarkable likeness to photographs of microscope slides of cancer cells. The outer disease assumes the shape of the inner state of dis-ease.
Nature and wilderness, however, invite flow and merging of the spirit and soul with the ego. Nature's threats are not to the ego or self alone, but to the entire organism. They require instinctual or intuitive responses involving the whole organism. This allows the ego self and the deeper instinctual self to cooperate in a dynamic balance and that fosters ease.
That, plus the beauty and serenity of wilderness, takes us back to our grounding-founding state. Nothing has the ability to return harmony to soul and ego so readily as nature. The nature-mystic experience is one of the most easily accessed non-ordinary states. Untainted wilderness is possibly one of the least realized yet most valuable healing resources that we have. Water, in particular, was important to the dream temples, and there was always a healing spring within the precinct.
The confession helps you target where in your life you have missed the mark. The word "sin" is simply an old Greek archery term (hamartia) for "missing the mark." So if you miss, you simply try again. This self-analysis goes beyond an intellectual review of wrongs, should and ought-tos. It is a special form of in-sight. It signifies attention is turning inward, and becoming reflective.
Dreamhealing begins with the premise that each feature of the dream is a part of the dreamer. One can enter a symbol and speak as if one were that symbol and learn a lot about perspectives other than the ego. It is a way to experience the multiplicity of consciousness within each of us.
Many ego parts exist in states of conflict or dis-ease with each other, and by experiencing or becoming the symbols in a dream, and exploring the relationships among them, one eventually can resolve, or move beyond the rifts to a 'gestalt' or inner merging. This signifies the unification of conflicting parts into a state of wholeness or integrity.
This is a very healing experience for the ego. Occasionally in Gestalt dreamwork, the therapist-client team slips past the experience of the symbol to some deeper state of consciousness. These are confusing initially, because they don't compute with traditional training or experience, but they are intriguing.
If you merely forage deeper into the dreams, following the dream symbols through and beyond the surface features, they function as doorways into profound states of consciousness, very healing states of consciousness. There are apparently extremely powerful energies or forces within dreams. Just getting to them and experiencing them leads to profound healings.
What is really amazing is that they seem to have effects on physical levels, resulting in physical as well as mental restructuring of self image. Perhaps someday we can devise experiments to track these processes with biofeedback. It may eventually become possible to monitor physiology and feedback the unique pattern of mental and physical states that promote healing on an individualized level.
The confession is an extremely important part of the healing and letting-go process. The Asklepians believed that you couldn't be healed or visited by the god Asklepios until you were at ease with your own soul. Paralleling that practice, the confessional during a retreat is more a case of exploring the state of disease at many levels and from many perspectives.
It usually ends up looking more like psychotherapy. The physical and emotional diseases reflect or manifest inner states of dis-ease between ego-personal self and the deeper soul-self, or among the separate parts of the ego.
Identifying these out-of-ease states is the purpose of the psychotherapy-like confessional. It is a process of becoming more aware of and intimately acquainted with the disease and one's relationship to it on a very personal level.
Harking back to the meaning of sin as simply missing the mark, you have missed where you have sinned. So if you sin, try again with another arrow to reach your target. This is a closed-loop feedback system. It is important for the individual to actually hear their own voice identifying the problem area.
Another aspect of a psychotherapeutic confessional is that you also have the opportunity to declare and validate out loud, to yourself and others, what you have done right. Often in life this simple validation is unavailable or overlooked.
We all need a pat on the back once in a while for our growth and well being. Willingly taking time to self-reflect on one's positive and negative aspects promotes being honest with yourself. It implies taking personal responsibility in the sense of recognizing your personal ability to respond.
The dream guide functions in a manner similar to that of the ancient dream priest who oversaw the dream temples. A guide helps you make a trip through unfamiliar territory. They help you prepare for the trip and guide you to the best routes, but they don't take the trip for you -- they just provide the guidance.
The therapist's role, like the shaman of old, is to lead people on journeys deep into the unfamiliar terrain of the self and to the balancing states of consciousness that ease or heal. This is likely what the dream priests did. The word "priest" had different connotations to the Greeks than us.
The role of the Asklepian priest was to prepare, and guide the seekers to meet the healing god in the dream. They don't claim to be, or to speak for (channel), or interpret (analyst) the god. They simply guide each individual to their own personal encounter.
Purification prior to entry into sacred ground or sacred space has always been a priority in all forms of magic. And, make no mistake, the ancient technique was a form of magic with its own protocols. Today we can use a sweatlodge or sauna to purify through sweat and heat, a spa for water purification, and a healthy diet of natural foods. Most of these are easily available.
If dreamhealing is used in a traditional setting, the client may take a ritual bath, perhaps with herbs, before arriving for the session. It is a symbolic gesture of intent, and sets the tone that one is on a sacred mission with a higher aim in mind. Both purification and confession imply relieving oneself of sin. These practices also help reduce the stress of modern life. Purification of mind and spirit can be an important symbolic part of the process, preparing one for transformative challenge and change.
When it comes to purifying the body, the cleansing needs to be literal. Most people's bodies are filled with poisons, pesticides, preservatives and other anti-life chemicals in food. Nearly all meat is full of steroids and antibiotics, and even amphetamine residues used in chicken-raising.
A more natural diet cleans up the body chemistry. As you truly come to love yourself, you desire only the best for yourself both inside as well as outside. Some people use exercise, music, or drumming, and dancing partly as catharsis to clear out old emotional baggage. What is most important is not the form of the purification but letting the creative process flow to take whatever form is appropriate for the individual.
The dreamhealing offering may also take many forms. The most surface level, of course, involves dealing with paying fees for your therapeutic sanctuary. It has ever been so, since the days of the temples. In fact, the Greeks believed that stinting on this offering could jeopardize the healing.
Ceremonial offerings invoke a deeper and more personal commitment. Sometimes we create a more formal personal offering ceremony for individuals on retreat. But the offering happens at many levels, ceremonial or not.
During a ceremony, the seeker at some point is asked to offer something of themselves to help induce a healing dream. It is another personal energy commitment to healing, like the pilgrimage. For example, one might offer to devote time to working with the homeless, or commit to picking up three pieces of litter everyday, or some other form of community service. This offering is committing to give some form of service beyond one's self for the collective good.
The offering places even more value on the healing. It helps satisfy or ease the soul-ego conflicts. Further, following through on the offering puts ongoing energy into the healing process to prevent the dis-ease creeping back. Healing is a mind or mindful journey and so you have to help the mind to prepare and execute it. The offering helps invoke that state of mind.
A "dream journey" uses the mind, in the broader concept of mind, to enter one's healing states. States of mind or consciousness can manifest, for example, as the "placebo effect" in medical terminology -- or in the evangelist's terms, faith healing.
It is a journey to our ultimate creative state of mind which is the source of our dreams and imagination. If you are so minded you might even consider this state to be "the Creator," "Higher Power," or "God force" within. In Jungian terms it would mean an experience of the healing power of the Self.
Healing is an act of creation, and that part of us, our creative spirit or the god within, speaks most vividly through dreams and imagination. Even Einstein considered imagination more important than knowledge. It is not an anti-scientific approach to dream.
A dream is a mystical expression of imagination and creative mind which is what ritual and ceremony help invoke. There is safety in ritual and ceremony--secureness in it. It is another symbolic act of commitment to an inner faith.
Ceremony by-passes the mind or intellect; it boggles it. It is a way of opening to a state of grace or faith, and these are integral aspects of mystical healing. Ceremony reminds you of something you already have within you, but don't usually notice. It brings it to surface awareness.
Because ceremonies are not rational, they confuse the rational mind. They appeal to the senses and take us outside of our usual ego experiences and beyond the experience of the rational or intellectual ego mind. This is where you find these healing states of consciousness, beyond the rational ego mind, in the mystic.
Any time you turn your attention within and become receptive to yourself you enter a whole new world of experience, which is just as real in effects as the outer world. You can facilitate change within yourself and cooperate with your personal growth or evolution. The only problem is getting around the habitual ego identity with its resistances to change.
Many techniques of hypnotherapy have been used for years to accomplish this. One of the more famous, the "confusion" technique was popularized by therapist Milton Erickson, a pioneer in modern hypnotic therapy. Any momentary disequilibrium of either the mind or body can induce a trance state which by-passes the conscious censoring ego and creates receptivity in the subconscious.
The ego mind is formed from the sum accumulation of our life's experiences and our reactions to them. It sets the limits or boundaries of our usual thing-feeling-behaving patterns. Based on our experiences, at deep levels of mind we form multi-sensory images of self and world -- images that capture their essence and shape our belief systems which in turn shape our ego and personality.
Not only do these primal sensory energy images and beliefs limits us, they also contain the "psychic" distortions which form the nuclei of our dis-eases. This structure is the ego-mind. It is limited, but what lies beyond is infinite mind or consciousness. It is our source of energy for re-imagining ourselves and healing.
New or unfamiliar experiences, irrational ones like ancient dream rituals that don't compute or match with your normal experiences cause confusion and disorientation in the ego-mind, and can even turn it off. In fact, most of the techniques used in dream guiding are based on fooling this part of the mind.
In ceremony, the ego either automatically or voluntarily steps aside and becomes willing to relinquish its fantasy of "control." It becomes more vulnerable and open, particularly if the environment is safe and supportive. This is when the deep wisdom, the collective infinite consciousness tapped into through dreams and visions helps transform the old beliefs and images into more ease-ful, less limiting ones. Then one opens to free and easy states of mind.
A healing retreat creates a different world image, one in which the inner mystical experiences, dreams and visions, are held to be equally, if not more important than outer processes. With sanctuary one is free to explore them -- the permission is there in the environment.
Virtually all religious traditions throughout recorded history held that the deities communicated with mortals through dreams and visions. Yet, direct communication with deity is a new, unsettling thought for many people. These experiences are neither encouraged nor allowed in our culture by its healing and religious institutions.
Healing doesn't happen with a one or two time workshop, nor will one dream accomplish it entirely. Great progress comes in the initial stages occasionally, but it is not probable and most likely will only be symptomatic healing. Deep healing or restructuring takes a full commitment of self, time, and energy.
Most disease has taken years, perhaps a lifetime to develop and permeate all levels of our organism. By the time it takes on physical or emotional symptoms, it has been around for awhile and involves the whole person and most of their life patterns.
There is a momentum to each life and that is not usually changed overnight. It might not take three months, or it may take longer. Still, a retreat gives a person time and sanctuary and a better chance to explore themselves thoroughly to make deep physical and mental changes, to change the momentum.
In ancient Greece, the dream priest would look for a sign of the god in dreams. If they saw a sign of the god, then that was a sign that the healing had already occurred. Then you simply paid your fee for the upkeep of the temple, and left. As therapists, we can't say, "Oh, there is a snake in your dream--you've been healed--see you later." The ancient healings may have been conducted in this manner, but it is not necessarily enough for the modern ego, because it is a surrender of personal power to an external force which only visits in certain dreams.
Dreamhealing participants learn to realize that they are really the power behind their healing, not the therapist. That is much more empowering, and real healing is an empowering process, an opportunity for personal evolution. Knowledge of self-healing capacities goes back over the millennia.
That is a fundamental way dreamhealing differs from the ancient technique, or for that matter, most modern medical or new age healing practice. Common to shamanism, psychology, and the medical approaches are their implications that the healing power is outside of the person seeking healing. Somehow it is the doctor or his medicines and techniques, the shaman or the God -- someone, something, or somepower outside of the self who provides the healing. That disempowers.
WORK ON DREAMS
Bringing the awareness or senses of the inner healing process from the dream into the conscious or rational mind, which is what a dream journey does, helps us to realize the healing in the outer world also. It draws the ego-mind into a partnership of cooperation to make outer changes in lifestyle and behavior that compliment or support the inner ones. The individual is empowered and takes a more active -- pro-active -- role. The pattern is learn, commit, do.
Dream therapy often triggers surprising changes in life patterns without intellectual awareness of how the change of attitude occurs. For example, some dreamhealing participants find they are simply unable to eat certain foods, or lose the desire to smoke after a dream session, even though the work didn't touch on that at all.
It often takes the mind weeks or months to finally understand the depths and changes in personal dynamics that the dream therapy initiates. But it is still an inner process. We could describe it as intellect catching up to wisdom.
So, dreamhealing incorporates and expands on Asklepian dreamhealing. It was not derived from or contrived to fit this archetypal model. It emerges spontaneously, reiterating the same themes, loud and clear. It is a new paradigm for healing, a model that incorporates the old but only as part. It integrates science and mysticism yielding a view beyond the capabilities of either system alone.
Dreams themselves, as the long-forgotten healers, do this. From the scientific side, there has been much research and acknowledgement that dreams are necessary to health. They are believed to exert a balancing effect, and without them we soon show signs of mental and physical deterioration.
For example, studies have shown that sleep deprivation within days results in extreme nervousness and anxiety, hallucinations, or delusions. Freud, Jung, and Fritz Perls were among the earliest contemporary scientists who recognized the healing potential in dreams and used them as therapeutic tools, but they did so more from the superficial ego and interpretive levels.
Jung hinted at much deeper aspects of dreams, but still remained interpretive in his dream therapy. Perls recognized that it was the experiences in the dream that were healing, but limited it to the ego. Most "in depth" psychotherapies include dream therapy. And, of course, from the mystical perspective dreams come from the deities, and give us the gifts of prophecy, wisdom, and their unique perspective.
By and large, dreams are the forgotten healer. When healing is needed, very few people think of turning to their dreams.
Dreams provide a missing feminine element as contrasted with the characteristically masculine approach in the medical healing model. It is an intuitive one where the person needing healing is acted on from the outside by therapists, chemicals, surgery, or technology. Dreams, on the other hand, are a personal inner healing, a non-intrusive one that arises from within, a creative healing of faith.
Modern medicine is practiced in bright lights and technically outfitted hospitals. Dreams are the night's creations from the soul and sleep. The contrast is that of a masculine quality, with a feminine quality.
This doesn't mean dreams should necessarily replace allopathic healing; they provide a balance and wholeness it is missing -- the yin and yang complementing the whole. It is a marriage between dreamhealing and medical science that seems most appropriate.
Dream therapy in hospitals might speed recovery rates from surgery and other medical techniques and treatments. It would certainly empower patients with a sense of personal and deep participation in the healing process.
For the skeptic, who wonders how ancient practices like Aesculapian mythology could play a role in our lives today, we suggest an open-mindedness about dreams. We can learn from them without having to become "true believers."
A new paradigm for healing has to incorporate all the models, but not be bound or limited to them. This includes the old and new medical technology, psychology, Aesculapian dreamhealing, shamanism, and anything else with something to offer. But it needs to be much more than just the sum of all of them.
The old models are incomplete and inadequate, too limited and narrowly focused. They are entrenched in dogma and habitual ways of viewing reality, and the patient.
Contemporary medical or psychological therapies, perhaps even more so than the ancient practices, are biased belief systems. Immediate change is imperative because, for starters, we need to heal our species' relationship with its environment. It is one of dis-ease.
None of the old models motivates us or shows us how to heal it--creativity will be required. Healers cannot just focus on only healing parts of the individual any more, the issues are much broader. The survival of our species is at stake.
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CHAPTER 3 of DREAMHEALING
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