Have you ever had a dream you can’t forget? That startles you? That seems so odd or scary it’s hard to decipher?
I’m a Dream Traveler. I not only like to dream up my next story, adventure, trip or project but I love to keep learning! So, I said to myself, why not learn about DREAMS?
Recently, a friend talked me into going to what to me was a very unusual workshop: “Dream Tending,” led by Stephen Aizenstat. I spent an unforgettable 4-day weekend at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California. It was an amazing experience!
So what exactly is dream tending, you ask? I wasn’t sure myself, but I soon found out it was a practical approach to deciphering the meaning of our dreams. Using Carl Jung’s foundational principles and his 40+ years of psychological study and counseling, Stephen Aizenstat led us all in a step-by-step approach to try to uncover the mysteries of our unconscious.
We’ve all had dreams we can’t forget. We spend days trying to figure them out. We ask ourselves: What is our unconscious trying to say? Stephen Aizenstat says the unconscious is the voice of our soul, trying to penetrate our conscious mind through the dream figures and images we experience. Uncovering their important actions, colors, and moods is also part of solving this mysterious puzzle. “These are real inhabitants of our psychic reality,” he told us. Then he advised us to select one special dream, write it down and then freely draw pictures of it.
From there we began to “work the dream” by watching Stephen unravel the dreams of five different attendees throughout the weekend. In front of an audience of @120 people, they revealed their dream aloud and tried to relate it to details, incidents or people in their lives, prompted by Stephan’s sensitive questions. Some dreamt of white whales or flowers that turned into monsters. Others were on a journey, climbing a mountain or traversing the sea. Others wandered through a forgotten factory or witnessed a strange, enigmatic parade. By the end of Stephen’s session though, each dreamer was enlightened, relieved and even elated by their discoveries.
The dream I chose “to tend” was very odd and, because I dreamt it the first night of that weekend and it actually woke me up, I felt it was a special message from that “Other World” of my mysterious psyche. So, when we first broke into groups, I threw worry to the winds and decided to reveal it to the three other wonderful ladies in my Kiva, (the name Stephen gave to our small groups). Working together, we were told to seek out associations in the dream and in our lives, plus look for ancient story figures (archetypes) as well as animated dream figures who often visit our dreams.
My unusual dream: I was in a New York subway car alone. Suddenly the car swerved from the underground to a carnival place much like the county fair, and it stopped. Through the windows I could see crowds having fun. Vendors were selling cotton candy and hawking their prizes and teddy bears, asking people to try their hand at different games. I sat inside the subway car though, suddenly realizing I’d sat there for two whole days. Then I leaned over and noticed a hole in the bottom of the subway car’s floor. For some inexplicable reason, I reached down into the hole, which turned out to be a heavy black pipe full of yucky slime. I had to yank my hand to get it out, but then when I looked down at it, the diamonds in my engagement ring as well as the small one in my wedding ring were gone! I was shocked and wished I’d never done it!
We’ve all had dreams like this. They etch themselves into our conscious mind for days. So, I eagerly listened to the clues my Kiva group drew out of me with their questions in our private session. They gave me lots to think about. In the end I decided to put this dream into my notebook and continue to “work it” in the days ahead, as Stephan suggested. Some conclusions I did come away with were:
Maybe my unconscious was telling me that in life I can choose not to reach down into the mucky, dark/negative parts of life and people, but rather I can seek out happiness instead by “opening the subway door and enjoying life’s carnival!” That way I won’t lose the precious parts of life, “my diamonds,” which, to me, mean the love and “twinkle” in each day.
I’d like to share a few more of Stephen Aizenstat’s insights with you, though I can’t possible summarize all that I learned at his workshop. Some very important advice he stressed was to look for the thing most unusual and repugnant in our dream and look at carefully, befriend it, instead of allowing it to frighten us.
Regarding common images and their meanings in dreams, he said:
- Trying to climb up but never arriving: Ask yourself what is the transition or obstacle you’re facing. Be curious about that impediment and find out who is living in it that you can befriend.
- Houses and renovating them are very important: They are structures of the past or dream houses. Perhaps a personality structure or body condition needs repair or a belonging issue is surfacing. Pay close attention to what needs repair in the house–it may be a part of your body that needs medical help.
- Problematic people from our past: Try to befriend who is visiting and pay attention to their activity. They can become our guides.
- Going back to a place in our past, i.e. college: What are the feelings attached to it? Notice where it takes you related to your life now.
- Animals in our dreams: Follow the animal–Are these symbols related to your relatives? Or cultural ideas? Notice what the animal is doing in the landscape of the dream. How do the animal’s prominent qualities relate to you?
Many of you are probably more experienced than I about dream tending and interpretation. What are your ideas about figuring out the meaning of your dreams? Do you have a recurring dream and wonder why? I’d love to hear from you. Please share…
Here is Stephen Aizenstat’s amazing short film about dreams.