Monday, December 15, 2014

belonging




“I have dream of belonging for an eternity……my dreams call out let me guide you to that place”

In the beginning there was a dream, the eternal night that was my life. In the sleeping the dreaming was a place of possibility, an escape from the darkness of my waking life. The stories of the dreaming world seem a place of belonging and clarity. They were an active theater where I experienced the story of me in a multitude of ways. And even in the trauma and perceived nightmares of my dreams I found a venture worth taking.

You see my dreams were guiding me even as I struggled to hide in them. And when my waking life took a greater hold on me the dreams continued to express their guidance. They spoke of desire and showed me how I kept myself straddled in discontent. That desire held a deep yearning to belong, a longing to find my place in the landscape of the universe and in the world of my waking life.

I believe to be human is to belong. And we spend our life from birth to death searching for and/or experiencing that sense of belonging. To belong is to be embraced in the circle of everything experiencing the awareness of that connection. It is not just about our connection to people, places, and things. It is about the longing of our soul’s presence in us. We yearn to experience its love and intimacy. To belong is to experience the longing of our being.  And true belonging is gracious receptivity in its pure form. This does not mean that I belong to something or someone but instead it is to experience being with the other. This awareness reaches to the depths of our soul connection. And that soul connection is also the soul of the earth. This yearning to belong strives for wholeness and harmony of the inner and outer in us.

Through trauma to us and to nature we have become disconnected from our belonging. That disconnection leads to the denial of our longing, which then causes isolation and emptiness. We become separated and therefore exiled from self, each other and nature.

As a Pagan and Druid my journey is to rediscover that longing and feel into the awareness that is offered to me. Mountains, streams, stones and animals know they belong. Through trauma I have experienced a separation from that awareness. My Dreamwork and Druid practice have offered the guidance and path to reawakening that desire to belong.  

As the dreams offered solace in my days of emotional darkness they now offer me the guidance to belonging. The story my dreams offer is the truth of who I am and the barriers that have kept me from awakening to this knowing. The practice of the Dreamwork to feel into aspects of the dreams draws me closer to the divine/soul, to that belonging.

As a Druid I have a daily practice of being in relationship with the landscape that surrounds me. Quiet steps through a forest of ancient birch trees, fire gazing on Beltane, or balancing stones in mediation bring me closer to lifting the veil that has closed me off from that experience of belonging.

My sacred journey is to let myself be guided by the dreams while walking a path in relationship with the earth. This awakens an ancient longing in me that is the soul calling to know me. Calling me to belong.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dreaming back to the earth



The darkness holds me
As I dive into the landscape of the dream
The forest calls
Voices carried in the wind
Do you know us?
Have you loved us?
Will you try before we die?

Most of my life I have heard the whispers of the earth call in some way. To know me, to know my story is to understand that my journey of healing to the divine love has also been a path to the soul of the earth.
I have lived a life yearning for the intimate and visceral feeling of the earth’s love. My ancestors held a deep reverence for the earth and handed this down from generation to generation. As a young child I spend part of my summers with my grandparents who lived in the heart of the Adirondacks of NY, wilderness country, God’s country. I remember their backyard as a gateway to a mysterious land that I wanted to explore. My meme taught me to fish and be safe in the wild. My father taught me to shoot a rifle. But it was the time in the natural world that meant the most to me. Small trails along the forest became the path to a magical kingdom, butterflies taught me their language while the deep forest in the distance became an adventure to seek out treasures and meet beings from other lands. I felt safe, at home in this wilderness of place. There were no boundaries of self and the wild. This was my true nature and a glimpse into my soul.
 
And then at some point in those early years the veil was pulled over my eyes and the darkness yanked me into a world of trauma, a place where the memories of the wild were forgotten. During the coming years trauma created feelings that would replaced any sense of self that might have existed and fear became the motivating factor in all the decisions I made. And it was very clear that I was afraid to go in the woods and this fear carried into my adulthood. 

It wasn’t until I found the courage to face my fear that the path to my soul and to her was revealed.

Morning comes too soon as she prepares her backpack for the coming journey. Rain has found its way to canyon country in October, a rare event. There is no escape from the wetness that soaked her to the bone adding a challenge she had not expected. But determination demanded that she step into the stone circle, the threshold of her commitment. Tears held back from embarrassment still find a way to release as the terror she has denied makes its way to the surface. Fear has been her guide and protector keeping her hidden from the world, from the earth and herself. And the grief that holds the knowing that she is separate from her true self and from the earth sits in the belly of the body stirring.

Here in this wet desert canyon she fights the call to retreat as the vision quest guide smudges her and sings a prayer of release. The sky opens up again with tears that drench her in the pain that has been her life. There is no healing in denial. She has spent a lifetime preparing for this moment as her nightly dreams beckon her to walk this path. She knows nothing can prepare you for leaving everything behind and going out into the wild to face your demons. The only comfort she carries is the knowledge that beyond this circle death calls to her old life and hope nourishes a new one. A feeling held true in her dreams that holds a promise in her waking life. She bows with gratitude to her guide and steps out of the circle and into the darkness that has been her life.

Fifteen years ago my dreams and the nudging of a therapist convinced me to go on my first vision fast, a time out in the wild fasting alone. This decision was born out of my struggle for relief from a shatter life of hopelessness and despair. But more realistically I suffered from the pain of a struggling relationship and a job that was unfulfilling. My dreams at the time had been nightmares of turmoil painted in the faces of the natural world. I didn’t understand them but I knew I needed to step out of my waking struggle and into an environment that was unfamiliar in the hope that my bardo state would be shaken free.

But what I didn’t realize at the time was that I needed more then a vision quest to touch the fear that had driven my life. I needed an on-going conversation with the soul of the earth, and the true me. It would take another 12 years of searching before my dreams would open the door to this place.

I recently had this dream 
I go into the woods to check on something and come to a large brook that becomes a river. Across the river the woods move into darkness. I decide to cross the river and put wading boots on. The water comes up to my knees but I get across, the wading boots didn’t keep the water out. Then someone tells me (I don't see anyone) that they want to make a submarine for hunters to cross the river. I realize this would not be needed. The darkness of night starts to fill the landscape and I decide it is time to get home. In the distance I can hear a grizzly bear coming from across the river. I am afraid and don’t want the grizzly to attack me. Then I remember there are people are out in the woods and they can’t get back. They need someone to help them navigate the darkness.  I have to help but that means I need to turn around and confront the bear. I am scared.

In the dream I go into the woods, which, is the landscape of my life. The story asks me to step into the water but I don’t want to get wet and yet I do. I find out the water will not harm me so I speak this truth to others. The dream challenges me to face my fear of the unknown by facing the grizzly bear. I don’t need to find the people I must dive into the darkness of the woods the next path in finding my true self. The dream knows I have this thing about helping people so it tricks me into facing my own unknown. This dream holds the layers of the story that can guide me to feeling into the fear that has kept me from my path to self.  What if the dream was also talking to me about who I am in relation to the earth?

For 25 years my dreams have held a sacred place in my life. I have always known that they offered guidance.  Yet I was never able to gain the insight that I now experience through Archetypal Dreamwork. Within the framework of Archetypal Dreamwork I have journey through the maze that is the battleground of my life to uncover the hidden beauty of who I am. The dreams have taken me to the deepest aspects of what has kept me from my true self. I have felt into the fear that has been a corner stone to my paralyzed life and have gained insight into the shadows that have ruled my behaviors. I am waking up not having realized I was asleep.

Yet an unexpected gift was discovered in this process. Hidden within the layers of the dream was what had been lost as a child and feared as an adult. It was the story of my relationship with the earth. She was also calling me to re-awaken to her, to my true nature.

As I have wandered the landscape of my dreams I have begun to ponder whether our dreams can show us the path to our true nature. Do our dreams hold the story of our ecological self and if they do can we work the dreams in a way that would open us to this self? Could we heal our grief that is so deeply connected to what is happening to the earth, thus opening our willingness to change our relationship with her? If we felt this love would we acknowledge and act on the responsibility we have to fight for her? For me I believe the answer is yes.

Ecopsychology an emerging field of study that bridges psychology and ecology believes that as a human species especially in western civilization we have lost our ecological connection that is directly weaved into our oneness with everything. We have become radically alienated from the natural world and at the same time blind to the value that it holds. Our desires and fears have driven us to take from the natural world at a rate that is now impacting our survival as a species. If you believe that our inner and outer worlds are connected this current ecological crisis also has a deep impact on our emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.  

Yet in all of this there is hope. Ecopsychology offers us the tools to re-awaken that ecological self through engaging the earth again. And when we remember the love of the earth’s soul we change how we interact with her. There are many paths to this remembering and I believe working with my dreams can be one of those paths. And I am not talking about just seeing that the bear has come to visit me in the dreams. I am suggesting that as we are working the dreams in Archetypal Dreamwork as the way to the true self we are also working to open to the soul of nature that we have also forgotten.

How would that look you ask?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece I believe I lost my connection to the natural world at a very young age due to trauma, which caused fear to become my companion. As I have grown older this fear has intensified. In that fear is distrust, which has isolated me from people and the natural world. I am afraid of getting hurt everywhere. Examples of this fear as it relates to the natural world is being alone in the woods at night, certain species of animals such as snakes, just laying out on the grass outside or taking a walk in the woods alone. Increasingly I found it difficult to even sit on the porch for fear a spider would crawl up my leg. I have also experienced the grief inherent in the realization of what we have done to the earth.

You might ask the question, but you are a Druid how could you be afraid of the wild. I am a Druid because I don’t want to be afraid of the wild, because I have felt into that deep yearning to reconnect with what I had as a young child. I have spent the last half of my adulthood trying to remember the feeling of love from the earth. I have done everything from vision quests, to outdoor recreation and just spending time out side. In every case the fear embraced me with even my vigor.  Then when I started Druid training I notice something about my dreams I hadn’t before. They were talking to me and then when I began Archetypal Dreamwork I got it.

There is a shifting dance that occurs in the dreams and it tells a story of who we are in the world. The dreams provide profound encounters that challenge me to see into my trauma, my shadow and where I can step in to discover who I am. When I look closely at those stories my relationship to the natural world becomes visible. I often experience the landscape of my dreams as the natural world. The actors are snakes, frogs, bears and trees, the stage the forest, oceans, and sky.  The interplay could be set in a snowstorm, tornado, or landslide. The associations I have with these aspects of the dream reflect the intimacy of my life and how I interact with the wild.
A dream
I am sleeping a bed and wake up to find a snake wrapped around my leg. I reach down to slap it away but it bites me. I grab it, pull it off and throw it to the ground. I run out of the room.

For me the dreams become a mirror showing me my relationship to the fear I experience in the natural world. Through Archetypal Dreamwork the story’s interaction suggests that I feel into this fear to see what is associated with it. The snake is a true and real terror for me. So of course the snake comes in my dreams persistently trying to bite me. From a mystical perspective the snake is about the alchemy of self and in my life the alchemy of my relationship with snake. I have worked the snake in my Dreamwork through homework that asks me to feel into the bite, to welcome the bite, to welcome the snake in my life. As I have done this I have noticed a change in my waking relationship with snake. About 6 months ago I was walking along a path with my sister and we looked down to see a small garter snake. My sister knew my fear and asked me to pick up the snake. Usually I would say no and walk away, this time I leaned down and lightly caress the snake feeling its rough skin, my rough skin. This was a big for me. I believe the dreams and my work started healing my relationship to snake.

As I reflect on other places that I am afraid to be with the natural world I notices difference. I can go out in the darkness of the woods, I am lying on the grass and a few years ago I went for a hike by myself. The most profound of these changes that has been healed is my fear of dying.  In each instance I can observe where the dreams have offered the path to see where the healing can lead.

What is most remarkable is that the dreams are now showing me the gifts the earth has to offer. I had this dream a few weeks ago and it continues to stay with me daily.

I am with my sister Theresa and she needs her medicine, which is part of a birch tree. We need to find the biggest birch tree around. She starts to feel sick so I hurry and drive down the road looking for a tree. We come to a house owned by some wealthy people and I see a huge birch tree. I mean the biggest ancient birch tree I have ever seen. We get out and Theresa goes up to the houses owner to ask permission to take some of the tree. I hang out with the tree, talking to it, connecting and I then realize I need to make a tree essence from this birch. Theresa comes out with the owner and starts to take a piece of the tree for her medicine. I whisper to the women I am a druid. She is interested. She is drinking a tan liquid. There is something important about what she is drinking to me. I want to taste it. I don't know what it is. I tell her that I know this tree and that it was involved in a great battle. I tell her the history of the tree. I tell her she is now connected to all of us and that this tree builds community.

In working the dreams I am healing my fear of the natural world enough so that something new has arisen. The earth along with the support of the archetypes show me the gift of knowing her more deeply, knowing the earths love. In the above dream I am shown the birch, the tree of new beginnings with the scars of all the battles she has survived, I have survived. The dream through my soul and the earths’ offer the tree of life and I can taste from her essence whenever I need healing.

I believe the dreams close the circle between awakening to my soul and to the soul of the earth. There is a braid that interlaces here weaving an opening to all the love the universe has to give.  No matter who we are if we are receptive to stepping into the dream, to risk the pain of our lost ecological self, we can awaken to and heal that self. If we let ourselves feel the grief and pain of our impact on the earth as Joanna Macy speaks to, our relationship with the earth will heal and evolved. We will once again feel her love and take a path to reclaiming our role in acting on her behalf.

The dreams have guided me to understand my life and death, love and pain.
Maybe if I am lucky enough some day the dreams will teach me the language of the butterflies.












Monday, March 3, 2014

Deeper


Dream: There is an explosion up on a hill where some type of temple is. the military are rushing to see what happened. I am watching from a distance. I am told by a couple of people near by to get out of here because we don't know who the enemy is anymore. As I walk down the street I see a black car crash into a building, but I don't see anymore get out. Then in a few minutes another car drives by and a Navy admiral gets out. He is a psychiatrist. He walks into the building where the crash occurred. I know the person in the crashed was drunk and another high-ranking officer. The military is trying to keep this a secret. There are two anima standing across the street, they tell me because of the explosion everyone is moving away, that I won't have any friends anymore and I will be alone. I too must leave. They walk away and I can't go with them. I am devastated and feel so much grief I just want to die. I walk over to a bar and go in because I need to get drunk. When inside these guys come up to me and tell they don't want me here. They kick me out. I stand outside and realize I have nowhere to go.
 
And after a year and a day of cooking, the cauldron’s brew, suddenly bowls over. In responding to the spills Gwion finger touches the liquid.  And in an effort to address the pain he tastes the alchemy of awen. Those three drops then change his life forever. And we would think yes these three drops; this taste of the alchemy that brings transformation would fill him with the light of everything that is wonderful, enlightening and peaceful. But oh no. That is when all hell breaks loose; this is when the cauldron breaks in two, spilling the entire contents on the ground, denying ceredewn her wish of the alchemy of awen for her son. This is when Gwion believes he must run for his life.
 
One of the ironies of stepping into a spiritual journey is that the path of transformation, of seeking the true self does not come with a cast of the wand, a change in one’s environment, or meditating every day. I remember when I first began my journey, doing vision quests, studying ecopsychology, reading about and practicing journeying. I truly believed this is all I had to do to achieve enlightenment, to find peace and clarity in my life. I had spent most of my life in therapy working on those personal issues that I thought were important and felt relief when I believed the battled with my demons was won.
 
But like Gwion when I sat with the cauldron, watching over the mixture of my life, waiting to experience my enlightenment I had no idea what the taste would provoke in me. What crisis would arise? I am feeling that now. And like Gwion I took flight, but escape led me back to the realization that in order to find what I was looking for I had to step deeper into the crisis of my own darkness. My personal work was far from complete.
 
And even though my journey can be a frightening one I know it will also be a journey of love that will open me to a new awareness, it will open me to my soul who has been waiting patiently all this time.What I have discovered is that the personal work I have done for years has been on the edge of illumination. It has only been in the last few years of doing Archetypal Dreamwork that the taste of alchemy has been offered. I am not someone who could speak deeply to the philosophy or depth of what the Archetypal Dreamwork is. I can only speak to how I experience this work opening me up.
 
Marie Louise Von Franz who was a student of Carl Jung talks about the shadow as little known attributes or qualities of the ego. The shadows in me have been born out of trauma in this life and others. They are impulses, ways I act, responses to the world that can be a defense to perceived harm or just reactions to the behaviors in others that I struggle with. Some of which I see in myself. They have been the way I felt I needed to survive. But at the same time they have kept me from the truth of me, from my soul.

The dreams as worked through the archetypal dream process provide guidance by inviting me to feel into the experiences that are the stories of the dream. And those stories reflect what my deepest being is trying to tell me. Lately my dreams have been intense, but as I remember the dreams of past and the homework of feeling into them have prepared me for now. The snake bites, throwing up frogs, falling buildings and natural disasters all an ending and an ending to an old life.

The last four weeks have asked me to look into the dark corners of my life on a deep level. The dream above is the explosion of my life, the death of me and in the devastation the loss of everything including a feeling of belonging. I am rejected by the old life and not allowed to drink my loneliness away. And there it is, this notion of belonging which rips at the very fabric of my being. It feels like such a core feeling, belief for me. So here it is a confrontation brought on by my dreams to feel into that place where I deeply desire love and belonging. The dreams started something and my life continued it with situations and experiences that tapped into those desires, that bit at me, saying feel this and I did.  And it hurt, ache in a way I had not experienced before. I became angry, demanding, wanting to quit the very thing that I wanted.  And from this came a deeper place with more terror, grief and anger and even more wanting without an understanding of what or how to achieve. Complete and udder confusion and loss of what had been.
 
And in the wanting, in the journey comes the challenges, the struggles. Old ways that have served me, the structures that I have built to sustain me are falling down, giving way. I feel raw, my body sore and sense of self is struggling. I am tired. I don’t even know what is underneath anymore that will protect me.

Dream: I am in a classroom in a high school studying religion when the principle comes in. He is investigating the murder of a young woman. He wants to question me. He asks me to close my eyes and remember what happened. Then I realize I am Stiles in the MTV show teen wolf. When I close my eyes I see a man come through my bedroom and walk to another room where the young woman was killed. He is cloaked so no one can see who he is. I see him and know he is one of the teachers at the high school. He is half human and half animal, but not a wolf. He is covered in mud. Then I see a woman in her 20's walk behind him. I don't know who she is. I tell the principle what I see, but he doesn't believe me. I get up from my seat and yell to him I am going to the police and tell them what I know.

I enjoy this show because each character struggles with their darkness every week. They have to face who they are and find the good, the light in themselves. That they can face the darkness but not it overcome and drive them. As Stiles I am not heard in this dream, yet I decide my voice is important and I tell them I will speak anyway. I will share my truth. Just because as Stiles I am not a wolf or shapeshifter I still have something to offer to say. I must tell them who the murder is because I know. This dream opens me to the silence of my voice, how I must speak my truth even in the fear. How I do know. Another challenge, another crisis to face. Speaking my truth is big for me. There are two sides to not speaking, one is the silence I experience and the fear of not belonging if I speak and other a darker form is that at times it is easier to bitch about an issue then to speak about it. Some how it is safer but sets me up to continue feeling anger or grief. I am still alone in my judgements.
Even in the pain I believe my soul demands this greater commitment, authenticity, truth and willingness to peal more and step further. I must have a willingness to shape shift into the seed of grain if I desire freedom.
 
For me the edge is surrendering to spirit’s plan and not my own. This is where the fear becomes terror and the trust in the love of the archetypes, in my analyst and spirit is critical to my journey and opening to self. 
 
As a Druid I am required to step into the darkness so the light of who I am is to be brought forth. 
The alchemy has been reveal, the drops tasted, the process started. The chase has begun. 
Maybe a new myth will be written.