Dreamwork as a Spiritual Methodology

In each of us there is another whom we do not know.

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Dreams are all about soul and spirit.  It is no wonder that Freud called dreams the “Royal Road to the Unconscious,” the Unconscious being that realm which includes the soul.  So it should be no wonder that working with dreams is a great way to get to know one’s soul: its yearnings, its growth and transformation.

Our deepening relationship with our own souls is an extremely important part of the spiritual journey, which also includes a deepening relationship with others and God.  Meditation and intuitive training are also important tools to get to know our spiritual selves better.

We Cannot Ultimately Control the Results of Dreamwork

Dreamwork, unlike most meditative and intuitive practices, is a very spiritual endeavor because it is beyond the control of our ego, which is often at odds with our soul, our “higher self.”  The only way to “control” a dream is not remember it, or forget it or discount it—the ways most of us use for not dealing with something we might find frightfully beyond us.  Usually this behavior then results in anxiety, depression, neurosis or worse.  Some people like to claim that they can “control” what is in their dreams.  It is true that one can be awake in the dream, and make decisions in a dream but the ultimate outcome or result is beyond our control, just as reality is ultimately beyond our control—much as we might like to think otherwise.

Perhaps this is one reason why psychologists and others in the medical profession are leery of relying on dreams as a healing treatment: they cannot predict the outcome or guarantee a specific result.  It is not like taking a pill and knowing what the effects or side effects will be.  The ultimate outcome of a dream, especially its healing gifts, ultimately resides with God.  However, when it comes to dreams, we can sometimes speak in generalities such as: when you do consistent dreamwork, you will see that many dreams do predict the future, or that dreams can reflect the progress or stages of a serious illness. These observations have been determined to be true by doctors and scientists.

One Role of the Dream is to Challenge Ego

Because dreams are beyond the control of ego when we work with them, they offer us support and insight as we try to deal with and overcome the limitations of our often fear-driven egos.  Dreams can point out safety when our egos sense danger; they can tell us when our egos have led us astray from our true purpose in life; and they can tell us when we are on the right path.  So dreams are a great way that the soul speaks to us, especially when our egos want to do something that is counter to the desires of our souls.

If you have seriously chosen to follow a spiritual path, consider dreamwork as a spiritual methodology.   Next time, I will discuss how dreamwork can be used within the framework of a religious practice.

Aligning Yourself to Your Soul’s True Purpose

Your True Self: Who God Created You to Be

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One of the first steps in the call to deeper spirituality is recognizing the need to realign ourselves in a different and more authentic direction, one that feels in tune with who we really are as persons. Quite often this involves going against conventional pressures such as parental approval or peer pressure. It may also go against societal and even religious expectations.

The call can put stress on anyone when it is heard, but it can be especially challenging for young people of limited means who aren’t already independent and able to make their own decisions.

We see this in Jesus when at the age of twelve he separated from his parents to remain in Jerusalem. When his astonished and anxious parents finally found him teaching in the temple, they asked him why he did this to his parents. According to Luke 2:49 (The New Oxford Annotated Bible-NRSV) Jesus replied, “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” The 21st Century King James Version (KVJ21) has Jesus replying, “Knew ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”

Both translations indicate that even at a young age, Jesus was well aware that his true purpose was to be found in God’s house, teaching and preaching, and not in his earthly family’s house. He was willing to make his family upset to show his understanding, his coming of age, in knowing who he was and what he was about in his life.

The need to realign our direction happens more than once. The ego’s plans are often quite different from the soul’s wishes, so much so that the ego will often be challenged by the demands made by the soul.  In fact, in any lifetime there can be numerous times when one has to re-calibrate one’s direction.  Even on any given day, on making an important decision, one needs to ask, “Is this in keeping with the wishes of my deepest self?”

Points to Ponder:

Looking back, have you done something that indicated to you and others that you had realigned your purpose and began moving in a new spiritual direction? If not, what calls you to move in another direction more in keeping with your highest ideal? What are the obstacles and impediments?

Spirituality Adds Depth and Authenticity to Religious Belief

All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain.

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The three women at Jesus’ tomb, Mary Magdalen, Joanna and Mary the mother of James, had experienced something overwhelming that touched the depths of their pain and replaced it with such a profound joy that their fellow disciples found hard to believe. They had literally been through a hell and then a heaven that was for them deeply personal, yet like all rich human experiences, has much to tell us.

An Old Adage

It reminds me of the old adage, Religion is for those who believe in heaven and hell, and Spirituality is for those who have been there. The three women at Jesus’ tomb had been both places, no doubt about it. They stayed by Jesus at the foot of the cross in the depths of their pain, unlike the apostles who ran away. They endured the death of their beloved teacher, Jesus, and perhaps it was for this reason they were meant to be at the tomb to be the first to receive and witness the great news of his resurrection. In being with Jesus through it all, they went through a kind of death and resurrection of their own.

I think this adage and the story of the three women have much to say about faith, the levels of belief and how spirituality gives depth and substance to religious belief.

A belief may be a teaching or concept one accepts to be true but can’t prove such as believing in heaven and hell. While this kind of teaching prepares us for the possibilities life-altering reality beyond our current lived experience, one can accept the teaching without a great deal of conviction or commitment on the part of the believer. Just accepting the belief, being a believer, does not usually bring one into a real relationship with heaven or hell, and these can remain concepts held in the head. There may be no change in the energy held in the heart. I think this is one reason why some people can be religious without being spiritual. Religion for these people is a set of mental constructs, thoughts which might be wise, beautiful and comfort the heart but may not call the heart to inner growth and deeper belief.

Pain brings with it powerful energy that has the power to shape the heart, and will at some point touch us all. What we do with our pain, how and for whom we suffer, and why we suffer—or the refusal to suffer altogether either by denial, running away or the passing on that suffering to others—are our choices to make. While none us wants pain or seeks it out, the need to be “in control,” being able to always avoid dealing with pain, actually hinders the development of spirituality.

The three women at the tomb knew how to deal with their suffering. They did not run away. They possessed a faith that went way beyond admiring the words of Jesus; they were willing to take on hell in all its horror, with only the slightest intuitive understanding that this was not all there was. Their depth of spirituality was the first fuel to spread the fire of Christianity, challenging despair and kindling hope where there was disbelief until the time Jesus showed himself to his apostles. Their experience brought an authenticity that went beyond just accepting a set of beliefs, and was later proven to be true as Jesus appeared among the disciples. Their spirituality heralded a new reality, as does all true spirituality.

Likewise, spirituality can add depth and authenticity to any Christian organization. Like the three women at the tomb, spiritual people may be thought hysterical, overly sensitive or odd, but the truth of what has been experienced will shine through and show itself in the end, as truth always does. A spiritual person may not need a religious organization, but Christianity definitely needs spiritual people to give it authenticity, depth and life.