Dreaming Your Way to Rebirth and Transformation in the New Year
The New Year has long been associated with renewal and rebirth. In a number of North American Indian languages, the term “world” means “cosmos” and is also used to describe a new year. The Yokuts (native to Central California) might say that “the world has passed,” meaning “a year has gone by.” The cosmos is seen as a living entity that is born, evolves, then dies on the last day of the year, only to be reborn on New Year’s Day.
This time of the year has always been very special for me since my birthday falls at the beginning of the year. As December unfolds, I harness my strongest manifesting skills by paying particularly close attention to my night-time dreams. Working with my dreams creates a powerful space for change and transformation to occur in the New Year.
This winter I am working with a dream that has been most compelling. It is a snake-dream. The same snake has appeared in three different dreams the past few months. Because I’ve always been afraid of snakes, the first one was troubling and frightening, and this makes sense considering that through the ages, “snake” has received a very bad rap. In fact, the snake is one of the least understood Biblical symbols. Snake has frequently been depicted as evil and the cause for our human desires and temptations. For heaven’s sake, the snake was even blamed for tempting Eve which led to the downfall of paradise! Unfortunately, the shadow aspects of sexual repression, temptation and sexual guilt have tainted the deeper meaning of this amazing creature.
Because my Dream Tending™ teacher, Dr. Stephen Aizenstat, Co-Founder and Chancellor of Pacifica Graduate Institute, taught me to always ask the dream image: “Who is visiting now?” I felt drawn to inquire the snake about its presence. This charged question implies a familiarity with the dream image, as though it has appeared myriad times, dressed in different forms, with a similar assignment: Something very important is about to happen—or—is happening so WAKE UP!
Taking this urgency to heart, I journaled about the snake, my snake, which wasn’t just some boring brown common snake, but the green diamond back rattle snake. I thought to myself: Good grief, are you “visiting” me because of repressed sexual desires or fears, some generational sexual wounds that several women in my family have suffered from, or, are you here to reveal the plight of the unresolved sexual issues of the collective unconscious? Isn’t everyone in our culture suffering from some form of Puritanical sexual guilt?
As my confusion escalated, I recalled that some ancient cultures frequently refer to the serpent as being the most universal and auspicious archetype, one that symbolizes rebirth and transformation. I found solace in reading Mary Ellen O’Hare-Lavin’s review of The Practice of Dream Healing: Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries into Modern Medicine, where she discusses the healing, light-filled image of the snake:
The chthonic serpent image is an ancient one, utilized even earlier than Asklepius. Our healing ancestors were less interested in a “Higher Power.” The serpent image was used to represent a connection with both the upper world and the underworld. The serpent is a shape shifter and it journeys below the earth’s surface (a.k.a. underworld) as well as bathes in the sunlight of the upper world. In the Asklepian tradition it represented the healing and shedding of old skins for new ones.
As I continue to delve into the snake dream image via journaling, drawing the image, and through a process called Embodied Dream Tending™, my snake dreams are evolving. The snake has shape-shifted itself from scarily circulating itself around my shoulders (Dream number 1), to sliding up next to me and laying still as I rest my hand against its head (Dream number 2), to transforming itself into a beautiful, verdant plant (Dream number 3).
Just as we are familiar with the serpent wrapped around the staff carried by the ancient Greek healer, Asklepius, snake now appears in my dreams symbolizing light and dark, spirit and soul, rebirth and transformation. Gone is the old fear based on some much distorted Biblical and societal perceptions.
In fact, Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian-American archeologist, excavated hundreds of figurines from around the world and discovered a snake goddess figurine from the Palm of Knossos, Crete that dates back to 1,500 B.C.E. This powerful female figure holds a snake in each hand demonstrating healing traits: fertility, rebirth and transformation. Such a positive perspective can be seen throughout the ancient Greek’s view of how they regarded snakes as sacred. Instead of fearing them, they were used in restorative rituals and even the venom was used for healing. Not to mention the way snake represents Kundalini, a Sanskrit word meaning “coiling like a snake.” Kundalini or “serpent power” can rise during deep meditation, up through the chakras, bringing a devotee to full spiritual awakening.
It’s not surprising that the snake has been visiting me lately during dream-time. I started a doctoral program in the field of Depth Psychology and Somatic Studies a few months ago and to say it’s been life-changing is putting it mildly. It’s been forcing me to face all aspects of myself, especially my shadow-side. And like the snake, I see how all images—like all people—possess both dark and light. Dream images are gifts that our psyche is offering us. Marion Woodman, a mytho-poetic author, women’s movement figure and Jungian analyst reminds us that honoring our dreams and their images creates a life-changing relationship with the unconscious and our psyches.
Dream images have the capacity to pave the way to your transformation. As you create a vision for the New Year, your dreams can reveal beliefs and perceptions that are limiting you. These may appear as “shadow” dream images, yet they are meant to help you, not frighten you. The snarling dog or fanged snake is calling for your attention. In fact, the more disturbing the dream images may appear, the more powerful they are. James Hillman, in his book Dream Animals once wrote:
Our dreams recover what the world forgets…The dream animal shows us that the imagination has jaws and paws, that it can wake us in the night with panic and terror or move us to tears…and see their living forms so that we respond to them with the gift of intelligence.
Further, not only do dream images possess the power to help us grow and transform, they have the ability to be our “daimon,” an ancient Greek word for “protective spirit.” In his book The Dream and the Underworld, Hillman states: “Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As the force of fate, this image acts as a personal daimon, an accompanying guide who remembers your calling.”
As I continue to connect with the snake during dream-time, my fear is transforming into trust and faith. The snake who now visits has shifted from something disturbing and scary, to being my daimon, a protective escort who is more than happy to guide me on my journey. This hasn’t happened easily nor has it happened over night. It has taken months of committed effort to embrace the snake and open myself to its deeper meaning. True growth and transformation requires persistence and patience and dream work entails the same stamina. But it’s worth it, it’s worth every bit.
What might your night-time dreams be telling you? Are there any specific images that call to you? Dreams unfold in what is called the “imaginal” realm. The Sufis speak of the imaginal realm as alam al-mithal. In Hebrew, it is called the olam hamashal. It is the realm of imagination, archetypes and dreams.
May you find soulful guidance from your dreams as you journey through the New Year. In Numerology, the year 2014 reduces to “7” which represents spirituality, science and solitude. It’s a wonderful time to reflect on what matters the most to your soul, psyche and spirit. It’s also the perfect time to set your intention to remember your dreams, to write them down and allow them to reveal their gifts of wisdom.
Happy New Year to you. Soulful guidance from my dreams are wonderful. I do reflect what matters to my soul. Thank you for the above wisdom trust and faith. I really do look forward to my dreams and they do help me connect with visits that are sometimes scary too. Dreams do help me grow and transform. I will start writing down my dreams this New Year. I remember them as soon as I awake but after a few minutes my dreams become faded. So When I first awake I will need to remember to try and write them down as soon as possible. Thanks again for all your great guidance and wisdom. May God bless you in the year 2014. Take care.
Love and hope,
Happy Belated New Year Gary!
I really appreciate that you take the time to respond to my blogs. You express yourself so well and I deeply admire your commitment to your path of growth. Since you are interested in experiencing dream recall, I would like to share a few steps that I teach my students in my dream courses. I hope they are helpful. May 2014 be filled with many soul-moments of fulfillment and joy. Laura
Easy Steps for Dream Recall
(1) Set your intention to remember your dreams before falling asleep. Tell your higher self that you are willing to remember your dreams, even if it’s only a small “snippet”. Showing interest in your dreams increases dream recall; the more you talk about them, think about them, the more recall you will experience (like spiritual growth).
(2) Keep a dream journal near your bed (or a tape recorder). The more you record your dreams, the more dream recall you will experience. The other important reason for recording your dreams is that you will have clearer recall upon awakening. The longer you wait to write it down, the more clarity of the dream you will lose, including feelings while having the dream. Before falling asleep, repeat 3 times: “Tonight I’m going to remember my dreams.”
(3) “Dream Night School”: Pose a question to your dream psyche before falling asleep. It may pertain to any area of your life in which you’d like more guidance. Allow any issues you are working on, or answers you are seeking, to come into your awareness as you fall asleep. Ask one question about a situation you are dealing with and have trust that your dreams will give you the answer(s).
(4) In the morning, before rising, hold a dream or any “snippet” of a dream in your mind…lay still and focus on it. Do not allow yourself to become distracted about the upcoming day’s events. Write down anything you remember in your dream journal.
(5) Record your dreams as soon as possible, even if it’s during the night. Try not to turn on any bright lights or anything that makes noise. Doing so will often bring you out of a state of dream awareness and cause you to lose the dream completely. Record even the smallest bits and pieces of your dream. Often, they will be the catalysts for remembering the rest of it later in the day.
(6) Focus on dream images, symbols and feelings while recording your dream. Recall the feelings you had during the dream and upon awakening, but be careful not to judge your dream. Remember that the majority of dreams are metaphoric, not literal. People tend to think the worst about their dreams, which blocks their ability to understand them. Dreams are given to us to help us.
(7) Make a commitment to remember your dreams and learn your own “dream language” for several months. As you do so, your dreams will become easier to remember and understand.
Please keep in mind that you’re dreaming every night even if you cannot remember them. Assuming you are getting a full night’s sleep, you are having at least three to four dreams each night. Dreams are recalled within seconds upon waking, and you have maybe 20 seconds to “upload” a dream into your long-term memory banks. Your dream journal will become a value tool as you proceed in this course.
Thank you so much for the dream recall tips. I will start using these right away. I will keep you posted. Thanks again and happy dreams to you. Take care and God Bless.
Love and hope,