Two women on a road trip. Hardly Thelma and Louise, although it did feel a bit like driving off a cliff as we headed towards a dream retreat.
I’d been in, and loved, Jungian dream analysis but the idea of talking about dreams with a bunch of strangers was new. However, since we’d raised the idea of morphing our Jungian book group into a dream group, we had to do our research.
Entering new spaces or groups always brings on fear and anxiety for me so I dreamt up a few prejudices and held them out in front like a talisman to ward off evil. From behind the shield I wondered about the dream I’d had a few days before where I’d been coming down the stone steps of an ancient temple that was a bit like the Latin American pyramids. I was terrified and felt physically ill. The dream made me think about the fear I experience when trying new things. It can be immobilising, tie me down, stop life happening. This retreat was a way of engaging with the fear instead of walking away.
Everything coalesced for me on the second day when I was in a small group of people exploring, drawing and talking about dreams they were prepared to share. Each dream was individual, unique, to be entertained and gently probed but not trifled with. Our facilitator, who reckoned she was a novice though I’m finding that hard to believe, held the group together with sensitivity, respect, gentle curiosity and humour. There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t feel safe. Despite my initial reservations, I leapt into the deep waters of the unconscious with delight. The process was sound, and it enabled enthusiastic engagement.
Late in the day we got to my dream, a rambling story about a dilapidated house, a dead and skinned pig, fire, water, fake fur and various disconnected people. Once the drawing was up on the whiteboard, and fear not, the quality of your drawing doesn’t matter, we added the context and a few emotions. But, after an initial rush of discussion there was silence. I accepted that the group might be as bemused as I had been about this dream.
Then someone asked a quiet question and suddenly another internal door opened in me and connections spilled out. Ideas flowed from the group. No-one told me what to think but offered more questions, observations and perspectives that built into a treasure trove to take away and ponder about in my own time and the privacy of my soul.
As we watched the sun set over the lake that night, I thought about my dream library as a unique sacred text that has arisen from deep within me. It’s never complete, always a work in progress, open to new discoveries and definitely not an authorised version for others to follow. It has slowly grown into a taonga (a treasure, a highly prized natural resource) that can benefit from careful sharing with others who are clued up enough to see it as sacred and who are willing to gracefully contribute to its wisdom from their own experience.
‘I don’t suppose all our book group will be interested in this,’ I mused on the way home. ‘Probably not,’ said my friend. How wrong can you be? Everyone wants to have a crack at driving over the cliff.
Thanks to Margaret Bowater who has been a dreamworker for many years. Click the link for her courses and books. I’m signed up for Dreams of death, grief and healing in March 2019.
Also check out Sacred Dream Circles: A Guide to Facilitating Jungian Dream Groups by Tess Castleman and Jungian analyst in the United States. As excellent resource to help people run safe and enriching groups. We’ll be using this book as a resource for our group.