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Dec 03 2015

Ancient, Nature-Based Style of Dream Work

by My Inner Space


If you look at ancient and indigenous cultures across the globe, there are many things in common... including, but not limited to: collaborative communities, rituals and rites of passage, celebration and ceremony, art and storytelling, cooking over fire and communion with nature.

Before there was "an app for that" or the magical interwebs, humans everywherenaturally and instinctively emphasized and revered community, connection, natural healing, emotional/spiritual health... and dreams. Dreams were considered a reality of equal importance as waking life and there were many practices for accessing the dream state and using the innate wisdom of dreams to heal, make decisions, gain direction and move forward.

When there was less stimuli than we experience in our hectic world today and when the act of meeting basic needs was more demanding than it is for many of us today, a connection to the Earth and something greater than the individual was seen as one of those needs.

There was a greater reliance on, immersion in and respect for nature. There was an understanding that we are nature. Nature mirrors us or we mirror nature and there is much that can be learned from this greater intelligence that resides outside of the brain and cognitive thought. It was necessary.

I propose that it still is necessary, this connection to nature. The more removed we are from it, the more important it is to get back to it... and in doing so, get back to ourselves, to our natural state.

It makes sense then, that this ancient way of dream work involved letting go of the physical world and diving back into the dream state. Shamans and healers would go into a trance or deeply meditative state where they could then embody the dream images and interact with them at a much deeper level.

The embodiment piece is essential for making manifest the dream image and messages that it brings. It is simply not enough to think about it or make a mental connection. It is fully feeling it and then taking action where the dream is fully realized and alive as intended.

With this premise and after much reflection and research, I decided to embark on a modern day vision quest. The idea was to create an environment to connect with my innermost self through immersion in nature and practices that help balance and enhance a mental, spiritual, emotional and physical state. The goal was to discover my true nature.

I went with a group to the mountains in Southwest Colorado and after some preparation days, I spent 4 days fasting and alone under the wide open sky, with nothing but nature around me and within me. The fasting helped to slow me down, heighten my sensations and take me away from any physical attachments.

Not surprisingly, dream work was a focal point of this transformative experience meant to connect us to the ancient roots of our infinite human potential. The type of dream work we did mirrored that of our ancestors and took us deep into the emotional, embodied state. We used individual and group techniques to work with our dreams.

As individuals we would close our eyes and focus on creating stillness inside ourselves, slowing our breath, drawing our awareness within. Once in a relaxed and aware state, we would visualize our dream, going through it slowly and consciously, recalling all details and emotions, noticing where we could feel it in our bodies. We would explore the dream as a guest invited into a special place... and simply notice everything about it.

You can stay in this place until you begin to experience your dream within your body, and then go deeper. Pay attention to every sensation. Find the physical counterpart within for every emotion that arises and exaggerate the feeling of it.

We would then witness the dream unfolding further, again focusing on slow and steady breath and letting things flow naturally, trusting whatever showed up as the dream continued. This is a practice that we need to work at and it is available to all of us as dreamers.

We also did group dream work, where we would enact the dream. The dreamer would enact the various roles and images in the dream. As the group asked clarifying questions, the dreamer would add more depth and nuances to their enactment and in doing so, would reach further depths and territories of the dream not previously accessible.

Another way to do it is for the dreamer to assign roles to others to do a group enactment of the dream. As the dreamer provides direction to the others and offers more information and details, the dream begins to blossom and reveal itself at a deeper level. This helps the dreamer make new discoveries and also allows them to witness their dream come alive. It also allows the entire group to have a collective experience from which everyone benefits.

I had a very potent dream that I worked on throughout these two weeks. It was very simple, but profoundly triggering. The entirety of the dream involved me choking on and puking up a thick, sticky black substance. In using these dream techniques, I was able to see the dis-ease inside of me that needed to come out. I was able to look at my blood line through many generations and how it has influenced my life, including the positives and what I needed to let go of. I was able to see that there was much I needed to let go of at that time in my life, to create space for newness.

If you wish to pursue dream work from a nature-based perspective, you can use these techniques or even start by wandering in nature while holding a dream in your awareness. Walk slowly. Notice your breath. What scents, sounds and sensations do you perceive? What creatures show up? What is a question the dream has for you and what clues can you find in nature that help you to answer it?

Dreams always have messages for us that are at the archetypal level, meaning they are about our unique journey through the collective human experience. Nature facilitates this conversation by connecting us with our own true nature.

*Check out the work of author Bill Plotkin and the Animas Valley Institute for nature-based, transformative programs, such as vision quests, working with your shadow, meeting your muse and other deep soul work.

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