Category Archives: Spirituality

A dream of darkness

A few days after I last blogged, way back in May, I went to Iceland. I’d always been drawn to the North, so Iceland had been on my must-see list for decades, but what made me actually go this year was a series of dreams I had around the time of my mother’s death last November. They were ‘big dreams’ – dreams that had a momentous quality, a deep sense of mystery and meaning.

They were a call to ancestors, to the place beyond death and, specifically, to Iceland. So like all dreamers, who have learnt how and when to listen, I followed the call of my dreams.

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Being in Iceland felt, to me, like being in a dream. I had completely underestimated the size of the island, and the sparseness of the population; I had not expected the vast tracts of volcanic deserts and inaccessible mountains. I hadn’t noticed that the key on my map had only three kinds of terrain – places where something’s growing, places where not much is growing, and places where basically nothing is growing at all, which was about 40 percent of the land.

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Ice, water – and fire too. In Iceland, the hot water in your shower smells of sulphur, because it’s piped straight out of the volcanic ground, and when you’re walking in some places, you can hear the gurgle of water boiling and bubbling, breathing out wafts of sulphurous steam, and then the earth feels like a living being. You can absolutely understand why Icelandic people believe in earth spirits – you can believe it yourself.

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Land of fire and ice, and of light and darkness too. I visited several art exhibitions which explored the creative sensibility of the peoples of the North, shaped by long dark winters and summer months of continuous light. They made explicit how this environment can drive a psychological rhythm between extremes of celebration and isolation, of joy and depression.

I felt these extremes in myself, the whole time I was there. On the surface, excited and enchanted by everything I saw and everyone I met, but sensing all the time, the darkness moving underneath. A few days in, I had this dream:

The car is packed for the next stage of my journey and I’m having a last cup of tea with my hosts. Looking out over Rekjavik through their big window, I see a sudden darkness coming across the sky – clouds?

I see black clouds rising along the edge of town, pouring up into the air from the ground, and as I watch, a sudden column of sparkling fire shoots up, exploding in a great shower of sparks, orange and red, filling the thick black cloud that’s covering everything.

‘What is that?’ I gasp.

‘The volcano’s erupting.’

Black soot is falling everywhere, covering everything, but it doesn’t matter. This is what I’ve come for. The darkness. Not just fun and distraction. I always knew it.

It was the beginning of what has been, for me, a difficult summer. I went to Iceland following the kind of dreams that will take you deep into your own darkness, as well as bringing you, eventually, to wonder and light.

I had expected to meet the black dog, but black dogs come in different shapes and sizes. This one turned out to be huge and hungry, feral and strong, and he was never going to settle for living in my house like a sad old labrador for just a few weeks or months.

It’s been a long and exhausting trek through his cold darkness but, last week, I woke one morning with a great sense of relief, after my first full night’s sleep for months, and a bright thought filled my mind like a sunrise, ‘It’s over now.’

I’m sorry I was away so long, but very happy to be back. 

 

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The glimpse is the gift

Last night, I had a dream about the rewards of writing, and when I woke I thought, I can blog about that. When I turned on my computer in the morning, I discovered this quotation in my Facebook timeline, which was a delightful synchronicity to start the day.

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Because this was my dream.

I am in a wild, upland place, being taken to see a wonderful plant. I’m given just the briefest glimpse of tall stems with early blooms of the most intense purple, and I realise it’s the colour that I’ve been brought to see. Usually, I am brought to see the indescribable aqua, but this time it’s this purple.

I’ve been writing something, and it’s a test – if I pass, I can come back and see this purple in all its intensity, in full flower. But this time, I have not passed and I will have to go back and start again, and try with another piece of writing.

This is the work, and I’m grateful for it. I don’t feel disheartened by failure, because the work itself is my reward.

It was always like this. I look back at all my writing, so many books I poured my heart and self into that never saw the light of day – real work, hard work – and I never achieved any kind of fame or recognition, but I don’t regret any of it.

Like the family years. I remember the sense of pride I took in the tasks of the household and childcare, which felt important, and a privilege, to be able to live in service to the work. I never felt bored or resentful, or that what I did was unimportant.

I had work, and I wanted to do it as well as I could. Not everybody is given that sense of purpose. I’ve glimpsed the colour, and one day I might see it in full flower, but the glimpse is the gift.

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Dreaming purple

 

‘Use your dreams to grow your soul’ – Patti Allen in the House of Dreams

Today, I’m delighted to welcome dream teacher and author Patti Allen MA in the House of Dreams. Patti served on the teaching staff of Seneca College in Toronto in the field of Holistic Health for ten years and currently serves as a mentor for Denise Linn’s online courses for Hay House.

With a specialty in facilitating dream groups, and a frequent guest on radio and TV, she presents lectures and workshops on the topic of dreams and how to work with them. Her dream healing oracle deck, The Abaton Keys® combines creativity, wisdom and dream knowledge to help dreamers access their own wisdom.

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Patti Allen

Patti, when did you first begin to remember and explore your dreams?

The first dream I interpreted was in 1980 after hearing an interview with Gayle Delaney on the radio. It helped me with a decision that was weighing on me. But I didn’t start exploring my dreams deeply until I didn’t my training in the Rubenfeld Synergy Method® in 1991, a technique for integrating body, mind, emotions and spirit. Part of the requirement was to go through the work myself and my dreams became quite vivid and intense. It began my search for meaning and a life-long love of dream exploration.

How do you use dreams in your own life?

Dreams have advised me on relationships, helped me problem-solve and given me access to Source and creative possibilities. They amuse me, educate me, help me learn about myself and those in my life. Quite simply, I am enlightened by my dreams and I am bereft without them.

What is the relationship between dreams and creativity?

I believe that we are created in the image of the Creator and embedded in that is creativity! Dreams provide inspiration in the emotions they convey, the colours they feature and in the stories they tell and visual images they show us. They are just waiting to be mined and used to create our lives… whether we use them in a “creative” project or not.

I’m particularly drawn to your website page on the Abaton Keys. What was your process in creating them?

Thank you! I did my master’s degree on the role of dreams and healing in ancient Greece and I loved the healing practices associated with dreams and the healing temples of Asklepios. Then, Denise Linn, the founder of the Soul Coaching Institute and my teacher in Soul Coaching®, created a course for Hay House on oracle card readings. I served as a mentor for that group and was inspired by the course material to actually create my own deck. It was a creative birthing that couldn’t have happened without the amazing work of collage artist Julia Still. As much as I organized the project, there was something bigger than myself, organizing me! To this day, when I do a reading for a client, I check the book that explains each card. The work came through me but didn’t necessarily lodge in the part of my brain that I can access. An interesting process to say the least!

Is there anything else you would like to say about dreams?

Yes! Explore your dreams, play with them and use them to grow your soul. There is no right or wrong way to start. We spend a 1/3 of our lives sleeping and through dream work, we can be 100% awake!Patti Allen

To learn more or contact Patti, go to www.pattiallen.com

Can a dream really change your life?

When you tell acquaintances and strangers that you write and teach about dreams an interesting thing happens – the polite, interested look disappears, their faces light up and they straight away tell you about a dream they’ve had…

This is the first sentence of Writing in the House of Dreams and I wanted to tell you about recent example, when a complete stranger told me this story.

He said that as a young man in his teens he had experienced intense suicidal feelings, and he happened to be going out with a girl who felt the same way.

They talked very seriously about suicide and he was in no doubt that they would indeed end up killing themselves.

Then one night he dreamt they were waiting for the last bus near a roundabout on the edge of town, after an evening out. Everything looked orange under the street lights and there was no-one else around.

When the bus finally arrived, the dreamer saw through the windows that all the passengers were skeletons.

‘Don’t get on the bus!’ he said, grabbing his girlfriend’s arm. ‘We don’t want to get on that bus!’

When he woke up, he thought the dream had been about her, and that he should tell her not to think about killing herself any more, but then he realised it was actually about both of them.

He thought, ‘If we’re not getting on that bus, we need to think of good reasons for living. We need to find out what we want to live for.’

From that day, the dreamer stopped obsessing about suicide and started to live purposefully, and at times in later life when things felt hard, he remembered that dream, and stayed off the bus.

As I write this, I’m struck by the curious fact that decades after the dreamer had this dream, there’s now a website for people considering suicide that uses the term ‘catching the bus’ to mean killing yourself.

I’ve heard lots of stories about people who have had a life-changing dream at a time of crisis, like this man, but sometimes a not-at-all epic-seeming dream can change the way we see the day-to-day things we’re going through, and help us over a hurdle.

For example, I had a dream that coloured balls were pouring from the sky as if someone was emptying a giant ball-pool. They were bouncing off the ground and landing all over everything.

I thought, ‘This isn’t right! The balls all belong in one place. They should all be landing in one box.’ When I woke, I knew it was about a situation that had been making me feel annoyed (it was ‘a load of balls’) and realised I had been  judging everyone according to one person’s behaviour.

That dream didn’t change my whole life forever, but it did change the way I was handling a passing situation. Big changes, little changes – dreams can provide an opportunity to consider things from a different angle when our conscious mind is going round and round, stuck in the same groove.

There’s another great story of a life-changing dream on Tzivia Gover’s blog 

Have you had a life-changing dream, or has someone else told you about theirs?

The dark place, sad dreams, antidepressants and creativity…

Looking back over my blog stats for 2014, I discovered the three posts that got by far the most views were:

  1. Do antidepressants help or hinder creativity?
  2. The dark place where talent leads
  3. How can a really sad dream be a really good thing?

This surprised me at first, but when I thought about it, it seemed less surprising. The people who call by the House of Dreams are almost all dreamers and writers, and dreamers and writers are acquainted with their own inner darkness, and know how powerful it can be.

When you first engage with the darkness, it can be terrifying, and you may look for reassurance that you will not come to harm.

As you explore further, you find the darkness is full of meaning, and then you may look for other explorers who will understand your experience.

Carl Jung said that he stopped trying to cure people of depression when he realised that the way to make your darkness less dark was to accept it and inhabit it.

When creative people and depressives, and dreamers like me, are called to the darkness, that is a gift of opportunity, even though it is a gift nobody wants.

The sick man has not to learn how to get rid of his neurosis, but how to bear it. For the illness is not a superfluous and senseless burden, it is himself.

CG Jung

The darkness holds the keys to the self, and more. On the other side of meaning, where both the dark and the light are dissolved, all is energy and possibility, and we can experience pure creative freedom.

I believe in this journey. It can be long, and bewildering; it can feel unbearable. But if we can learn to bear the darkness, there is treasure to be found.

I hesitate to write about depression because it may sound as if I don’t understand how terrible it can be. I do. I suffered from  depression for many years before I stopped fighting it and, paradoxically, began to win.

These three posts about the darkness brought a wealth of wisdom and experience in the comments, which I hope you will take the time to read.

Has depression or the creative journey ever brought healing and insights for you? 

 

Dreaming, daydreaming and telepathy

Talking to a friend on the phone yesterday, I asked if she’d heard from a mutual friend who had just got back from a trip up-country to visit her family.

‘I dreamt about her while she was away,’ she said. ‘It was just a glimpse, but she was really happy and smiling. I rang her to say welcome home and how did it go, and she said she’d had a wonderful time.’

Last week, I had a similarly short, vivid dream about one of my children, only he wasn’t happy and smiling, so I phoned the next day to touch base with him.

If you dream about close family or friends, it’s always good to follow up that dream with a phone call, visit or email. You don’t have to say why, but just that you’ve been thinking about them. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find your dream has exactly conveyed to you their emotional frame of mind.

Experienced dreamers know that there’s a telepathic connection on the unconscious level, but it doesn’t only work with dreams. Daydreams and random thoughts that pop into your head come from the same source in the self, and can carry the same information.

So if you have a vivid thought about somebody close to you during the daytime, follow it up with a quick call. Something will be happening that means this person wants to make a connection.

Telepathy works on the instinctual level; it isn’t logical, but emotional. It’s a natural ability in all of us which, especially in the developed world, is virtually unused.

The more you use it, the stronger it gets, in the same way that training your rational thinking processes increases your ability to reason.

You aren’t creating connections but simply becoming aware of them, because on the unconscious level we are all connected to our loved ones, swimming in the same streams of consciousness and emotions.

These connections are most obvious and easy to find between family members and close friends, but everything is connected, and being sensitive to the connections makes for a much more joined-up way of living.

Are you aware of telepathic connections between yourself and the people close to you? I’d love to hear your stories.

 

When your to-do list is freaking you out

Five posts to publication, five dreams – here’s the second. It came when I’d made some decisions and started the ball rolling with self-publishing Writing in the House of Dreams, and was worried about the enormity of the task I was taking on.

Sat 8th Feb, 2014

I’m in a cafe with my grown-up son. It’s a formica tables and plastic chairs kind of place, and he looks completely incongruous in a wide-shouldered, pale-coloured overcoat which makes him look like a cross between a fat-cat businessman and a mafia godfather.

I’m talking about Writing in the House of Dreams. ‘There have been times,’ I say, ‘when I would have loved to just give up and, if I hadn’t loved it so much, I would have done.’

He says, ‘What you need to do is pray!’ I see he’s also a preacher of some kind now. Before I can say, ‘I do pray. That’s how I’ve got this far,’ he whips a little music machine out of his pocket, puts on some loud gospel music and yells ‘Halleluyah!’ Everyone in the café jumps up and joins in, dancing, clapping and singing along.

This is one of those dreams that feels like a gift when you’ve gone to bed feeling anxious, because it wakes you up in the morning with a smile on your face. That, in itself, puts your anxieties in perspective, even before you get to the sense of the dream.

As an author who has always been traditionally published, one of the things that surprised me about self-publishing was how challenging it could be to keep up my stamina and confidence without the back-up of a hard-working and confident publisher.

Normally, I don’t have to think about the book once it’s with the publisher – I just get on with writing the next thing. But when you’re self-publishing, you have to go on working with the manuscript long after the decision to publish is made. You have a massive to-do list, and doubts can start to set in.

Have you got enough time and energy to see it through? Is the book actually worth all that time and energy? Are you capable anyway of doing a good enough job?

One way to get past worry is by lifting your focus from every individual problem to the bigger picture; from what you’ve got to do to why you want to do it; from yourself to what is bigger than yourself.

You can call it what you like, it doesn’t have to be God. You can call it Love. Whatever you love is bigger than yourself. It lifts you above selfishness and laziness and bends you to its work. The reason I write is because I love writing. I want to be better for writing. I’m willing to give up other things I’d like to do for the love of writing.

Prayer is perspective. My dream reminded me that I couldn’t give up, because of that love.

Laughter is perspective too. My dream told me not to take it all so seriously. I could only do my best, and the rest was down to luck, or grace, and out of my control. O happy day!

What helps you get a sense of perspective when your to-do list is freaking you out?

 

 

Conquering death through writing and dreaming

I’ve recently been having a chat in a linkedin writers’ group about why we write, and someone said the point for him was to leave something of himself behind after he dies.

I said I wasn’t concerned at all about people reading my books after I’m gone, and someone else said surely there’s no point in writing if we don’t want readers. Which was going off the point a bit, I felt. I mean, of course writers want to find readers.

Knowing your work will be read enhances the experience of writing, but for me it’s about enhancing it now; I don’t think it’ll do much for me after I’m dead.

And yet I do feel that writing gives us a kind of immortality, in that it expands our experience of living beyond the here-and-now limitations of ordinary life. Where am I when I’m writing? I still exist, but I’m not entirely here. My soul is going walkabout among different lives and times.

Dreaming is the same, an experience that is mine yet goes beyond ‘me.’ In dreams, even more deeply than in writing, the dreamer lives on after consciousness is gone.

Writing and dreaming are experiences of soul, which is conscious immortality rather than the kind that might or might not happen after we die, through people reading our books.

Do you think of writing as a way of leaving something of yourself behind after you die?

 

 

Do we dream about past lives?

Babies in the womb display all the physical characteristics of dreaming, which begs the question, what could they possibly be dreaming about? With no experience at all in this life, could they be dreaming about lives they have had before?

I’ve believed in past lives since I was eleven or twelve years old because when I started learning French at school I just knew how to speak it. It felt familiar. I had never been to France, but I was certain I must have been a French person, once upon a time. The belief in past lives has become common in recent decades but back in the early sixties it was something you kept to yourself.

When I visited France for the first time, with an older cousin and her friends, it was not a good experience. I put that down to me being sixteen and them in their twenties. My second visit was also really bad, and my third, but again, there seemed to be logical reasons why I didn’t enjoy them.

It was only in my thirties that I realised this was not to do with individual visits but fundamental to my relationship with France. Every four or five years, driven by our friends’ huge enthusiasm for France, we would take the family across the channel for a few weeks in the summer, and whenever we did that, as the boat pulled out of Plymouth I would start to feel agitated and depressed.

In France, my head said, ‘This is nice. It’s warm and sunny. I like these al fresco cafes, and wonderful patisserie!’ but I felt a great tension inside me, as if I was holding my breath. I felt darkness like a cloud that only lifted when we came in sight of the English coast and I could start to breathe again.

By then, the New Age had arrived in Cornwall, and I saw a palm reader who told me I had lived in France in a previous life. I knew that – but how did she? I asked her for more information and she told me she saw me on the steps of a grand house, in a long blue dress. It was the eighteenth century and I was the lady of the manor.

This felt very disappointing. People always seemed to think that in past lives they had been royalty or had the kind of lives that are the stuff of historical fiction, but I couldn’t personally relate to the scene she described at all.

However, the fact that she had said I’d had a past life in France piqued my curiosity, and I went to see a past life therapist. She took me back to a dusty ditch in the North of France, during the last war. Immediately, I remembered a very vivid dream I had had as a small child, in which I was lying in a dry ditch, with ants crawling all over me.

But I was born less than a decade after the end of the war, and weren’t past lives supposed to be centuries ago? I did some research and discovered a theory that souls rebirthed more quickly after a massive and violent loss of life in war.

That’s as far as I’d taken it. Interesting ideas, thoughts, feelings, about past life possibilities. Then a few weeks ago an astrologer friend, the astro life coach, mentioned she had discovered how to find the date of your most recent past life in your birth chart. We had never spoken about past lives and she certainly didn’t know what I had been thinking about mine, so I was astonished when she told me I had died in 1941.

It’s all just musings and possibilities, but I like the intriguing idea that when we are very young some of our dreams may come from memories of forgotten worlds we lived in once before.

Do you believe in past lives? Have you had vivid dreams about places you’ve never been to in this life but feel you know really well?

If you enjoyed this you might also enjoy What’s the explanation for ‘deja vu’?

 

Christmas archetypes – the dark intruder and the wondrous baby

I think of them as the nameless or faceless one – archetypal images which carry the pure power of a universal human experience. In pantheistic cultures they may be represented by gods and goddesses. In our secular world, we encounter them most directly in dreams.

A few weeks ago, I had a series of nightmares about an intruder in my house. I never saw his face because fear woke me up, but rather than feeling disturbed, I felt attentive, because like the Death card in tarot or the Tower, the dark intruder is a messenger of change.

Major changes are always unsettling and being unsettled is always unwelcome. Even if we’re actively seeking new ways of being and want to move forward into new areas of experience, there will still be resistance because change involves letting go of the familiar, and the outcome is never certain. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.

These dark intruder dreams were swiftly followed by a series of dreams about babies. Like the dark intruder, the archetypal baby provokes a powerful emotional response, but rather than fear and anxiety, it’s an outpouring of love, hope and happiness.

It occurred to me to wonder whether baby dreams often follow dark intruders; they kind of should, because they are both aspects of change, the one full of initial fears and the other moving forward into joyfully anticipation.

Our major Christmas archetypes are Santa Claus, the intruder who brings gifts, and the Christian symbol of the wondrous baby who brings redemption, light after darkness at the turning of the year.

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Happy Christmas everyone, and may all your challenges in 2014 bring blessed new beginnings.