I’ve never been particularly drawn to spoken therapies across all the years I’ve pursued various hands-on and energetic ones. Any useful dialogue that has taken place has tended to be with myself though, I admit, there have been times when energy healings have loosened my tongue, leading me to deeper understanding of places where my energy had got stuck over this and other lifetimes.
As for dreaming, I know there have been times in my life when I was able to plunge the deep pool and enjoy a rich dreamlife, rendering me all the more eager to return the next night for yet another dive into those bottomless waters (I mostly recall such sleep luxuriant times occurring during the longer school holidays, when I was unbothered enough by outside life to go there and let loose). As I said, those experiences tended to be in my younger days and would alternate with times when dreams became darker and more troubled or so spartan I felt more like I was erratically playing back fragments of the previous day’s events or even television programs or what other people had shared with me, rather than making sense of anything profound. Either way, I have never been a great rememberer of the “plot line” of dreams the next morning and this has only frustrated me all the more when I’ve heard about others’ propensity to dream epic, coherent experiences or make regular, helpful, use of their insight in their daily life. Most recently, I have either remembered very little from my dreams or come out with minuscule bits and pieces of remembrance, patched together with lasting feelings of confusion or even foreboding, but perhaps this simply bespoke how erratic my sleep patterns have become, as I know, from various forums I take part in and other conversations I have had, is the case for a lot of people this year. We all have a lot on our minds!
On that note, I want to add that, as an empath, I have become aware, over the years, how much the quality and content of my dreams is affected by proximity to other people and my propensity to tune into what they are dreaming instead of, or as well as, my own stuff. Point in case, when my daughter is at home, I often remember fragments of dream that are colourful, bewildering, or even quite disturbing and we later realise from conversation that we had almost the same dream in the same portion of the night; the bewildering factor being because I have dreamed fragments of her deep psyche and plotlines that have nothing to do with my own direct experience, being set in her own personal landscape. This has raised a lot of curiosity in me as to the role dreams play in telepathy and our individual contributions to unity consciousness or the quantum field.
If proximity whilst asleep is a factor then imagine how much more we cross pollinate, or pollute, each other’s dreams in, say, a hotel or block of apartments. I live in a house which is fairly tightly positioned to some old cottages next door, with yet another house just the width of a modest garden away. I really noticed, this year, how clear I felt when both sets of neighbours were away for the same week or so; not that I dreamed different content (since I wasn’t remembering) but that I woke without the pervading sense of feeling heavy or beset with worries I couldn’t place, as had been building for weeks beforehand. One night, completely unable to sleep as though my head was on fire, having had the briefest dream where my neighbour actually walked through my storyline as though passing casually through the room of my head, I got up and just stretched in the window frame to try and clear my head and noticed full lights on in my other neighbours’ house (it must have been 3am). My conclusion was that both sets of neighbours were either having disturbed / worried sleep or wide awake and I was caught in their sandwich, so when they were all away it was relative bliss to hit the pillow. Then, abruptly, the heavy feeling came back and, lo, the nearest neighbours had returned in the night. Is this really so far fetched given, when measured in feet, their heads must be pretty close to mine through the two sets of walls of our closely adjacent houses? I can certainly experience disturbed sleep when my husband has a lot on his mind to do with work, even when he seems to sleep like a baby.
Other environmental / energetic factors come into it. I have certainly been able to track differences in dream colourfulness or quantity / quality in line with patterns of the moon or solar cycles and, assuming I am able to stay asleep through such a thing, can experience much more powerful and activating or informative dreams when there is a solar storm in the night (as there was last night and the night before; we are headed that way for the next few years as the solar minimum is now at its end). I strongly suspect I will be able to work far better with, and remain more physically robust during, this coming solar cycle if my sleep patterns become healthier, so that I can lift-off on the cosmic energy currents during sleep rather than my over-tired body reacting as though they are a threat!
Recently, I began reading Dr Judith Orloff’s Book “Emotional Freedom” , having got so much out of her “Empath’s Survival Guide” and her “Second Sense” book, in which I recognised great portions of myself and my early-life experiences. From her own bio, Dr Orloff is “a psychiatrist, an empath and intuitive healer on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty” who “synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality” and I am relating very much to her material. It was less of an active choice to read a book that is largely about how to use dreams as a potent life tool, than it was a continuation of my reading of all her various books that made me pick this one up and I had no idea it was going to be so dreams-oriented but, I have to say, I am starting to get a lot out of it, even to the point it is starting to feel like its having on an affect on dream coherence and my ability to recall them. Part of that could be down to the, perhaps obvious (but how many of us do it?), advice she offers to ask for whatever insight or information you want to gain from your dreams before you go to sleep which, more so than usual, I have been remembering to do.
However, reading this has also happened to coincide with the nights getting longer as autumn begins and with my purchasing a sleep spray that caught my attention for claiming incredible results for people fed up with poor quality or broken sleep. I had been going through a particularly lean patch and saw the advert when I was starting to become a little desperate to gain for myself some prolonged, quality sleep without the endless wake-ups that turn into rumination just before dawn.
This spray is a simple cocktail of three essential oils that I have used before – lavender, vetiver and chamomile – only it is in a formula designed to slow-release the aroma during the course of the night as you move around in the bed sheets. This, in theory, means that, just at the point I might normally rise to the surface just before dawn (my usual time), only to remain there for the rest of the unsettled night, I quickly receive a further olfactory dose as I turn over and go back to sleep again.
As with all such target-audience advertising, I remained cynical until the spray arrived but, by night two, both of us were commenting that it seemed to be working some magic. My husband, who normally gets up at least once to go to the bathroom (which then triggers off my sleeplessness, even after he has effortlessly gone back to sleep) was sleeping right through and so this was having a positive effect on me and I was getting past my “danger-zone” pre dawn patch where, if my mind got to thinking about anything, I would be lost to several hours rumination or forced to listen to music or audios to shut my mind off.
So this was the prime benefit of this new bedtime routine, but there came a second one and it was that I started to remember my dreams! Now, this couldn’t be better timing as I had just got to the part of Dr Orloffs book where she recommends starting a dream diary to write down, without overthinking or interpretation, what you remember of your dreams before you forget them. I have considered, or tried, this several times in my life, to varying degrees of seriousness and success but never got very far. My daughter even made me a beautiful dream diary for christmas one year but, partly because I was loath to spoil it with my half-asleep scribbles, it remained largely empty…or, I would reach for my usual notebook if something interesting came up, but fall into the trap of allowing my left brain in to interpret what I recalled before it had a chance to work its own magic.
Then there’s the timing involved because, if you don’t capture the dream straightaway before anyone talks at you, the light goes on and normal day time routines resume, you might as well not bother but I tend not to be very compos mentis first thing in the day so that seeing the page, through snowstorm blurred vision, or wielding a pen is the next tricky problem. As soon as I have to think through practicalities too hard or that lamp goes on (even a minuscule source of light, such as a book clip light)…as I know all too well from trying to capture my early morning blogging inspiration…the pure waft of inspiration tends to have flown out the window, like Tinkerbell, in a cloud of stardust. That just -after-awakening state, by the way, the one where I have milked so much inspiration for my writing over the years (on days when I have managed to tread carefully enough and avoid all the clatter of family life for just long enough to get something down) is called the hypnagogic state and its hallowed land for gathering profound insights. Its why we can wake suddenly in the night with such a deep understanding or the feeling that whatever earth shattering thing we just realised is so massive it will surely still be there for us in the morning; yet, by the time we get up and dressed, we haven’t got a clue what it was, its evaporated…quite untraceable by our usual logical steps of following the thought associations…which is why capturing the essence of your dreams, like holding a butterfly for a few moments, can be so powerful.
The hypnagogic state after a really good night’s sleep is one of my favourite things and such rich ground for profound inspiration that I am quite addicted to it; oh irony, since it can prove so elusive. Its also, I find, a natural pain reliever so perhaps no coincidence that, in the early years of chronic pain, I would milk it for all it was worth, making my way from bed to sofa to continue the state as long as possible (it also set in motion my spiritual awakening, connecting me back with the vast universe within, from which I had become so seperate) and perhaps, in hindsight, catching up on all the years it was stolen from my by an alarm going off!
Yet, somehow, I have managed to get down a handful of dreams since these slightly more robust dreams have been happening and, this is big for me, I have managed to remain the purist when I jot them down…as in, capturing the essence without diving straight into my own wordy interpretation except, perhaps, to jot down some one-word cues to do with first impressions with question marks at the end if I must. Above all, I have resisted all urges to “turn it into something”, such as a blog post, which has been a long running habit of several years but then the post takes over the authentic content of the dream and becomes something else entirely, geared for an external audience but not for inner enlightenment!
This “soft” process has allowed me to return to the dream and let its wisdom unfold hours or even days later, often continuing the following night(s) and it feels as though I am really getting somewhere, like taking a tour of my inner sanctum. Perhaps this being the ideal timing in my life (and the collective life) to take such a review is a factor, plus the start of an active solar cycle, the darker autumn mornings, a degree of quiet in my house that simply wasn’t there when we had children at home, the linen spray, the readiness of my psyche to unload…etc., all conspired together to allow these treasures up through the deep shaft of the well of me, in order to see daylight and where I can then use them to do healing work that feels like getting right to the core of some pretty meaty issues that sit there like ballast in my health state.
What has been surprising, so far, is just how existential some of the themes have been and I don’t mean about survival in times of famine, disaster or war or even century-old feminist themes but about social and emotional survival as someone who is cut from fairly different cloth to the mainstream type of human being. My dreams have repeatedly shown me scenarios where I felt forced to bury the very deepest and most profound kinds of frustration or even fury at having to be other than I really am in order to fit in and survive in this world. So far, the need to suppress or subserve unique qualities and gifts, to bury and hide them away, to become “what is expected” of me or deemed “normal” in order to avoid danger and loneliness, has been a repeatedly illuminated theme across different eras and settings across my dream life, but most potently in a childhood setting or with that feeling of being too small or dependent to have it any other way (school, family gatherings in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood trying to fit in with peers, etc and of course my first marriage), often situations where I felt heavily scrutinised and where one foot different would be to expose myself or flag some secret cue that I was not in conformance with everyone else. Familiar old storylines yet, what I find is that, inside, I was often stoutly defiant and nonconformist…..to start with…but then, of course, increasingly wounded or traumatised as adult scenarios such as trying to make a living or avoid loneliness came heavily into the mix. Of course, dreams can effortlessly mix these different time layers as though they are all simultaneous which, in a very real sense, they actually are…as the “us” that stands here today, carrying all those influences and wounds as who we have now become.
In recent days, I have located nuggets of pain, contraction or intense heat in my dreams associated with actual body parts that, via their dream context, go a long way to revealing how I have locked away an inner sanctum in which a part of me that is in excruciating emotional pain and, yes, fury prowls around still refusing to let daylight or anyone else in, and this tells me huge things about the state of my health. At some point, it had clearly had enough and retreated there full time whereas, once, it was an intermittent safe refuge from the fray; but while it remains in there, feeling like that, it means that there is a state of emotional barrage or bombardment being perpetuated, even when nothing of that sort is “happening” in my here and now. Of course, when your emotional state is under constant stress, your whole system burns out…so here’s the chronic thing behind that word “chronic” in all my descriptors. Getting a handle on this is the start of all change because its a reminder that all emotional reactions are a choice; all the way down to the very core or sourcepoint (initiating event) of those emotions…but it really helps to see where they are coming from, how did they originate, why are they so barricaded in.
The thing is, as I have touched upon in many other posts, when you do not conform to some societal idea of what “normal” is meant to look like, fitting in can become an existential challenge or even source of post traumatic stress for the course of your lifetime. Realising my Asperger’s traits, last year, and all the deep reading I did around that topic, shed a huge amount of light on how impacted I have been by that for the longest time. Realising I am simply wired differently to many other people, and not considered “the norm” by the prevailing culture, that these traits are valid and often a profound gift, but that saying so out loud still might not make me popular in certain quarters, was one hell of a breakthrough for me. It took some serious steering to avoid interpretations of neurodiversity that suggest it is in some way faulty and needs to be eradicated (but, from this, I could see that my instincts were right-on as a child…thus why I felt so protective of my traits and loathe to reveal them to anyone for fear of being excluded, labeled, written-off or mishandled; my best chance of survival, or so I thought, was to pretend to be other than how I was and bend over backwards to conform).
Some of the accounts I dived into from other women Apie’s (see my resources section above), many of whom had been unaware of the trait until well into adulthood as happened to me, helped unleash all kinds of new understandings to do with how I had struggled so much to dutifully become what others expected of me, tantamount to making a perfectly round peg grow corners to become a square, and yet I gave it my all, at the expense of huge portions of myself (which is what female Aspie’s tend to do much more than males, in order to fit in and please others, thus survive, given all their other gender-related challenges). Each time I did that, yet another part of myself became buried or traumatised by the self-betrayal that it felt like and, even though self-love has been my mantra for several years now, those original parts of me are still bent out of shape and curled up on themselves, hidden deep in places that haven’t seen daylight for many decades…because how do you even start?
You start in your dreams! It’s early days yet but I can already feel its potency. These nighttime dives are like walking into a good therapist’s office to settle onto the most comfortable couch, only this is no therapist I was ever likely to meet in this lifetime (except, maybe Judith Orloff, who is one, for the record…but in the UK, unlikely and, honestly, I suspect it would take someone with a personal experience of Asperger’s to truly relate). For the record, I looked into this kind of approach to adult autism but found only therapists geared at working with children, or with adults to help them “fit in better”, in order to cope with practical life; but what about not wanting to have to fit in any longer or deny my unique traits? What if that is the sticking point, the perpetual rebellion inside of me? What about, along with my deep introversion, my high-sensitivity, my empathy, my psychic abilities and all those other quirky traits that make me unique and a little bit “fringe”, absolutely NOT agreeing to bend and coerce and so-called normalise those traits (which isn’t possible anyway…) or make do any more but embracing and running with and exploring them to their fullest capacity, in a setting that I am able to vouch for being throughly safe, supportive and nurturing enough for me to do so?
And if the general world “out there” can’t provide that for me yet, can’t quite make space for me to thrive unless I force or distort myself into being a different way to what feels natural (and yes, there will come a time when those of us with differences to the popular majority are left some room to be thoroughly themselves on this planet, all the way through life from the moment they are born, not deemed “wrong”, just “different”, but we are still a way off that…), creating my own space is the only option and I am onto it. This is a space in which it is thoroughly OK for me to unpeel myself from the metal stake, at the centre of my being, to which I am apparently still clinging for dear life, whilst spitting fire and growling on a bad day, and just let myself go and be me, across all my layers. In my dreams, I am practicing just that!
Originally posted on Living Whole
Helen, this is an eye-opening post! I will have to read some of Judith Orloff’s books but for now, this post clarifies some things for me.
I write short seasonal verses known as hokku, not haiku, and so I try to observe everything that reflects or picks up on autumn and the seasonal cycle. What you have exposed here is my ignorance of the solar cycle. Your post comes at a magical moment for me; when I opened the curtains and the window in the study this morning before doing a meditation (6.00 am) there was Venus! Magical, wonderful! I have not looked at the sky in this way since I was a small child.
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I’m not doing too well replying to your comment…I thought I had a long time ago (but apparently I hadn’t) so I replied again and WP seemed to promptly loose it. Third time lucky! Thank you for your lovely comment, I’m so glad your childhood fascination with the sky has been stirred, I seem to be gathering more and more of my childhood sensibilities all the time these days, such a magical way of looking at the world. I also keep meaning to give hokku a try…it would be a different means to photography for keeping me paying attention to the minutiae. Yes, I found Judith Orloff most relatable, have been reading her books on and off for several months now (finally taking a break to read a totally fascinating book about fungi – Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake), I highly recommend (both). Apologies again for the late response.
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Not a problem Helen! What a name, Merlin Sheldrake! Yes I discovered his website only the other week when I was looking up something about mycorrhizal fungi. A long time ago I read a book called ‘The Story of Yew’ by Guido Mina di Sospiro (Findhorn Press). Trees have always fascinated me but what goes on underground is truly amazing!
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Have you come across Merlin Shedrake’s father’s books – Rupert Sheldrake? I read those years ago but they’ve always stayed with me, not least his work on the telepathy between humans and dogs (“Dogs that know when their owners are coming home”), it opened me up to a whole world of self-evident connectivity and I’ve noticed so much more since. If you are interested in fungi, I heartily recommend the film Fantastic Fungi (2019) available to stream on Amazon, its unforgettably thought provoking, also (if you haven’t already read it) the book “The Hidden Life of Trees: What they feel, how they communicate” by Peter Wohlleben, its astonishing and, again, it will likely alter the way you look at everything going on beneath our feet.
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