Dreaming Your Way to Rebirth and Transformation in the New Year

Dreaming Your Way to Rebirth and Transformation in the New Year

Butterfly emerging from the planetThe 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: asclepius-god-of-medicine-thiras-art

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 010transformation.  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.

Letting Go

LETTING GO

All endings are inexorably tied to new beginnings. That’s the nature of the journey. It continues to unfold. It builds on itself. It can’t help itself from doing that. Cherish the moments, all of them. You have seen and felt much in life so far. But still, the best is yet to come. -Melody Beattie

indexLetting go is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges we face. Our egos easily and all too eagerly attach to things, people, and outcome. Letting go of these attachments can be painful, particularly when we can’t see what’s ahead. Throughout the years, many clients have shared how they have a “back-up person” waiting in the wings just in case their current relationship ends. The fear of the unknown (and being alone), for some, creates feelings that are intolerable. Having “plan B” in place may mitigate some of the fear, but it doesn’t address the real fear: letting go.

I have always found the metaphor of a closed fist and open hand helpful; a closed fist represents our resistance to letting go, while an open hand symbolizes our willingness to embrace the present and future. Moving from a closed fist to an open hand is a process. It requires patience and the willingness to release what no longer serves us. The choice to let go allows us to follow the pathway to our soul.

Life is a series of things to let go of–our friends and loved ones, our children as they grow, our youth, our perceptions of ourselves. In my own life, I have found myself having to let go more these past few years than ever before. In the last year, I have been faced with letting go of my daughter, yet again. The first time was when she graduated from high school and moved away on her 18th birthday, the second time was when I moved from Michigan to California, and then last year, after having moved to California and only living 5 hours away, she relocated back to Michigan. I’ve also faced other losses including the death of my father and letting go of a very beloved pet more recently. Was any of this easy? No. In fact, I’m still working my way through some of it. But, I’m discovering that as long as I keep an open hand (and heart), my experience of letting go is much less stressful. In fact, I remain inspired to let go, knowing that I’m clearing the pathway for my soul to continue its journey and fulfill its destiny.

What do you need to let go of? Perhaps there is a self-limiting or destructive pattern that needs to be released, or maybe you feel compelled to pursue a dream that requires letting go of the work you’re currently performing. The important thing to remember is that no matter how daunting it may feel, you possess an inner strength and courage that is greater than any situation. Courage is about letting go and moving forward, not in the absence of fear, but in the presence of it. When you realize the inner power you possess, you can let go of your attachments. This doesn’t mean that you don’t work your hardest for the highest outcome, but rather, that you do your best and leave the rest to Spirit.

What is it time to release? You have two choices; you can either try to hold onto the past with a closed fist, or you can choose to embrace today with an open hand. As you already know, the former will cause you (and others) unnecessary pain and suffering, while the latter might trigger some fear of the unknown, yet provide rich, new experiences for your heart and soul. Which will you choose?

Affirmations for Letting Go

The past is over; I plan for tomorrow and live for today.

All my experiences are allowing me to become a stronger and wiser person.

As I let go of attachments, I create room for fulfilling and soulful experiences.

I let go easily for I trust that new and exciting opportunities are on their way.

Soulfully,

Laura

Copyright Laura Grace. All Rights Reserved

GROW OR DIE: Reinventing Ourselves as We Evolve

Grow or Die: Reinventing Ourselves as We Evolve culs119369

As I concluded my interview at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, I walked around the campus and saw how the buildings sat uniquely between the mountains and the sea. When I commented on this, the faculty member replied, “Yes, healing sanctuaries are called Asclepions, dedicated to Asclepius, the god of healing and medicine. They were established throughout Greece, usually in settings of awe-inspiring natural beauty and scenic grandeur, and the ideal settings were between the mountains and the ocean just like our campus.”

That was the end of March, 2013. Today, I am less than two weeks away from beginning a doctoral program in Depth Psychology and Somatic Studies that will take me roughly five years to complete. After devoting myself to providing spiritual direction and healing the past twenty years, I am now adding another potent layer to that foundation which almost feels like a reinvention: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, even physically.

Recent research shows the amount of women entering their “second act” and/or reinventing themselves is on the rise, especially for women over forty-five. Why? There are many reasons, from women who have experienced a significant change in their job, income or marriage, to women who are ready to stop taking care of others and ready to fulfill their soul’s deeper purpose.

And then, for others, like me, it’s quite simply: GROW OR DIE. It is said that an organism at a steady state is never closer to death. It’s the ultimate stagnation for our mind, body, spirit and soul. The definition of stagnant is “Not moving or flowing; motionless. Foul or stale from standing as in a stagnant pond. Showing little or no sign of activity or advancement; not developing or progressing.”

We either grow or we die.

Some people have questioned why I would make such a big commitment at this point in my life. And my response is: “I have years of life lessons that provide a strong foundation, and at this age, ‘If not now, when?’  Besides, the journey required to get there is what excites me the most. It will be soulful, demanding and spiritual—qualities that have always appealed to my deeper self. Yes, I’ll be 5 years older by the time I graduate, but I’m going to be 5 years older anyway, so why not pursue something I’m passionate about and attain my Ph.D. along the way?

Carrying unfulfilled dreams in our soul can be very painful. If you’re feeling stagnant or at a place where you are considering reinventing yourself, here are some thoughts to consider:

• After all of the life experiences you’ve had so far, what do you want more than anything right now? It may help to imagine fast forwarding to the end of your life and looking back. What does your soul need to feel that you lived life fully, richly, deeply? The trick is to release the opinions of others and identify what you truly want.

• Do you need to forgive yourself and others for the past? Resentments way us down and prevent us from moving forward. Take time to release yourself from regrets and past mistakes as well as what you perceive others have done to you.

• Accept that change is scary. Whether it’s “good” change or “bad” change, all change affects our nervous system and can be very challenging. Allow yourself to feel the fear, and then take action. Taking a step forward often alleviates the anxiety.

• Surround yourself with people who support your growth. “Wet blankets” dampen our spirit as much as our enthusiasm. When we are in a mode of change, we need all of the positive energy and support possible. Like a newborn, our new beginnings need to be protected and nurtured.

• Engage in self-care. During the process of reinvention, it is important to care for one’s self and to be compassionate during the transformation.

• Re-invent, Re-vitalize, Re-launch and keep going!