Several years ago, I received a call from a dear friend encouraging me to check out a form of dream work she had come to love. She knew the passion I embodied for the role dreams played in my life and was certain this new type of dream work would be the spark that ignited a transformation in me. I was intrigued and that night I had a dream….
I dreamt of an outdoor recycling center in the future. It was a place where people brought their old stuff to store and possibly be taken by someone who needed them. I remember seeing myself in an old trench coat sifting through the recycling hoping to discover something of use. I was also taking items from pockets sewn in my coat and placing them on shelves for others. The feeling in the dream and that moment felt familiar to my life in general. I wasn’t sure how but knew it was time to explore the content of my dreams using a different approach.
During the next few years working with archetypal dream work I began to sift through old behaviors, emotions and thoughts even putting some on the shelf in that recycling center. I began to heal. Yet what intrigued me even more was I began to imagine a link between my own desire to heal and my evolving relationship with the earth. This insight was triggered by my work with several dreams about snakes of which I was extremely terrified of. Using an adapted form of archetypal dream work for personal healing I also notice changes in my relationship with snakes.
To put into context my work with the land, from childhood on I have explore relationship with the natural world through outdoor activities and then as an adult through earth-based experiences such as rites of passage and soul development. I studied outdoor recreation, ecotherapy and ecopsychology. I felt a calling, no a yearning to feel a love or connection with the land. I think maybe I was hearing her call to me to be in kinship. Yet with all the time and effort I put into the process something was missing in cultivating an earth-minded lifestyle. Years later I discovered I was only skimming the surface of a deeper kinship I deeply desire with the earth and unknowingly with myself.
It was during a walk in between sessions at a dream work retreat that a light went off within me. Has anyone ever combined earth centered work with dream work? No, I don’t mean working the dream as an earth dream but instead working the dream as a path to personal and ecological wholeness. A path of remembering our deepest awareness of self and kinship with other. It was in that moment that waves of tears found their place among remembered stories of all the blocks that had kept me from awakening to the wonder and potency of my life in relationship to the world around me.
Of course, stand alone dream work is amazing and life transforming yet as a member of a western focused culture I had been experiencing an embedded sense of separation from life. Yes of course I had a place to live, plenty to eat, access to the world wide web, and some forms of privilege based on my identity. (Of note here is that many cultures don’t even have this.) And still I was stricken by the impact of trauma and loss on a personal and community level. I felt a sense of exile, emptiness and detachment from my life. Dissociation reflected in a lack of ability to feel any type of love from anyone. And these feelings manifested in me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I was miserable. I was miserable. Many years were spent searching for fulfillment unachieved until I realized that dream work could be a path to my soul rooted connection to earth. Those tears felt at the dream work retreat brought me to attention demanding that I wake up to my desire for healing through the power of relationship to life. In that insight I realized what I had been searching for is connection, love, kinship and the ability to feel this in my body and spirit. This is what was missing in my life. This is what was needed to fill the emptiness in me.
It would take a few more years of uncertainty, yearning and wandering before the idea of Dreaming Back to the Earth was envision with the assistance of another dear friend. And then it would take a bit of time to wrestle through the confusion and self-doubt that surrounded my daily life before I would commit to the work that needed to be shared. That call from my friend, the years of dream work and earth work were tethered to my soul on that day at that mountain dream work retreat. A voice was awakened in me that could not be silence. Webs were weaved among neurons and brain waves that flowed within and without my body and consciousness. An alignment with something internal and external was seeded in me. The egg that nurtured the seed or light of a knowing within me was burst open and there was no going back unless I was willing to exist in pain and/or numbness.
My life had changed forever.
And Dreaming Back to the Earth was born. And the type of dream work I now work with is a weaving of relational which I am developing and Embodied the work of Sue Scavo and Bill St. Cyr. What I have come to believe and want to share with the world about our dreams is that they can be a guide to personal wholeness wrapped in the arms of the earth. And the more intimately we observe the dream and its narrative we discover that it also speaks to the collective experience that is the Earth’s dream, dreaming us awake to Her.
There is a remarkable parallel between the ecological destruction that has ravaged the earth and the human capacity for suffering spiritually, physically, and emotionally. As we continue to be a part of, and/or witness to, the persistent devastation of the land, we feel the perseverance of our own alienation, disenfranchisement, and exile from soul self and spirit. This exile provokes the illusion of separation not only from our inner soul self but also from the environment and its cycles. This illusion of a split expresses itself internally through physical illness, depression, constant anxiety, unfulfilled desires, and spiritual numbness, to name a few. Outwardly it can manifest through isolation, reckless behaviors, over consumerism, a fear of the natural world, deep denial of the ecological crisis, or an overwhelming grief for our role in this crisis.
Many people who yearn to fill the emptiness caused by this separation either search for guidance from healing modalities that address the personal self or the ecological but not always both consciously. Theologian Thomas Berry reminds us that, “A degraded habitat will produce a degraded human,” and in turn a human who degrades the environment will become degraded. We cannot heal our personal story unless we also are healing our ecological story. I suggest that the narrative of our dreams show us the places where we are separate and/or connected not only with self but also with the cycles of the landscape around us? And we can journey to the dream as an encounter with the soul of the earth.
The way this is undertaken is by working with the dream as a reflect of our personal story and our story in relationship to the earth. I also suggest that the role of earth-centered practices such as playing outside, gardening, swimming, rites of passage, meditating outside, nature-based observation and talking to a tree to name a few activities is necessary in to supporting and enhancing the work of healing. Because to heal is to come into relationship with all of who we are including our spirit, body, mind as well as our kinship to humans in our communities and other beings in the environment we live in.
What does this all look like and how is it practiced within the dream work and earthwork? In the next year I will engage in a daily practice which brings to life what I am speaking to. In my blog Standing Stones, Dancing Waters, I will share a dream moment and how I work a dream from a relational and embodied perspective linking the personal and the ecological. This process will bring to life my personal work with dreams and earth mirroring how I work with dreams and how they work with me. How my personal journey is influenced by daily earth-focused practices and in what ways the dream and the earth dance with each other.
Along the way we will tip toe through the tulips, run with the lions, scream with a volcano, make love on a bed of soft warm white sand and be initiated into a profound relationship with Earth and ones’ primal, wild self.
I will present a way that encourages and awakens us to take a path to reclaiming our role in acting on the earth’s behalf.