Dreaming is a powerful connective conduit to the creative process.
I was exposed, early in my training, to indigenous ways of knowing and shamanic dreaming traditions within Native American, Hawaiian, Saami, and Celtic tribes which are aligned with gathering and interpreting messages, symbols and healing stories over time.
Based on my own experience, and my work with others, dreaming is powerful way we work with image and symbol. Art making, in the tradition of art as process, transformative or expressive art, offers another potent access point for meeting the symbolic language. Like the dream or the beat of the drum where we may fall into an altered state, a kind of reverie where time gets lost and we travel with the symbols, images colors as if we are riding the wind back to a deeper place of knowing.
My creative path emerging through layers of working with my own material of life, while being exposed to dream work as a form of remembrance and healing, connecting with deep inner knowing and ancestral memories. This period of time was filled with exciting energies and new ways of accessing information, linked and cross-pollinated with learned, intuited and felt experience.
Remembering myself was met with a sense of touching past lifetimes, as I began to honor the deep and sacred relationship with symbols, I became more and more aware of living energies, the seasonal cycles, the elements, the reflective surface of the moon, whispering winds, thirsty earth and patterns held in the starry sky. The messages informed me of things that I already knew, but had forgotten. Stories surfaced, and I started to follow them.
Awakening from dreamtime, I would listen to the rhythm of the rain and feel the heartbeat of the earth. I was being given a language, a frame of reference, a tool to organize around in this time of awakened dreaming, and I found that the language of dreaming carried forward into my life. These dreams were a narrative of remembrance and I invited the ancestors to help me to journey and remember. I wrote the words and made the marks to remember slivers of quicksilver details, flickers of light showing me the way, as I danced with my deep history and myriad mythologies.
At this time I had a series of sleeping dreams that became important as I developed and explored my personal myths. Rather than a complete dream chronology I will share a few details that are relevant to my unfolding journey, then and now.
Dream #1: I am a small child and am rescued from a flooded land by a large lion that is my guardian. I ride on my lion’s back to visit my family but not to stay with them. My lion is protective and possessive, while at times exhibiting jealousy. My interaction with him is familiar and playful, even when he is jealous. I am directive and bossy, shaking his mane in both hands him as he growls and I trust him, even knowing that he watches over me with his own purpose.
My lion became a very powerful presence. That dream was a point of departure for me—I didn’t understand it or make sense of it for a number of years but the child aspect of this dream returned to me in several incarnations, developing as she matured. I also incorporated the lion in multiples ways, exploring the big cat and top predator energies (both masculine and feminine) through totem mountain lion raising her cubs, a journey guardian as the masculine Mer-Lion, and finally in the integrated form of Sehkmet, the Egyptian lion goddess.
Dream #2: I arrive at a compound in Italy. My lion is with me as we arrive. The compound is owned by an extended family of circus performers. In a clearing between the homes there are three small giraffes that do tricks. There are three houses in the center of the land around a main house where the families all come together.
The essence of place, purpose and family was very strong in this second dream, the giraffes and the performers were focused on practice and playfulness. It was a dream of joyful belonging, connection and purpose.
Years later I bring together my family past, present and future (parents/adoptive family, ex husband, children and grand girls, new love with a rekindled romance as I reconnected with a 30 year lost love and married my very Italian husband, light of heart and spirit he connects me home to the heart of joy.
Dream #3: I am in a cave in southern Italy. Within the depths resides a red queen. She is an ancestor. Color, texture and place are important in this landscape, The cryptic dream thrummed with the heartbeat of the earth, as the voice of this statuesque woman stated, “You belong to me, you are of me.”
This was heard as an ancestral message. It reverberated with recognition as I encountered other ‘wise women’ who came through my art and journey work, showing me unrecognized aspects of my deep history and the matrilineal magic that was lost in the past, knowledge of my birth family limited to a disembodied paragraph about “them” from an adoption worker.
The sense that I got from the third dream was the resonance of the cave as womb. It was great mother’s space, recalling the essence of the early goddess in Europe, before my people moved into the northern islands, the ancient root line into Africa.
The themes of these linked dreams informed me in an intuitive and deeply understood way, illuminating and enriching my life-path backwards and forwards. As I remember them in detail years later I continue to see more within them that seem presentient , details that were unrecognized at that time continue to activate in my life, connecting and linking me to myself.
The unfolding purpose of dream language is ever present and active. Dreaming is a form of consciousness, considered to be held within deep states of unconscious sleeping. The act of dreaming happens at all layers of awareness and although it cannot always be accessed it is always active. There are sleeping dreams and waking dreams, dreams that happen in twilight time, and in slightly altered state during visioning practices.
Developing the conscious connections within these many layers of dreaming is always potent and powerful, whether traveling in dreamtime, tending, unpacking, amplifying or awakening your dreams through their symbolic language and image clues. Dreaming that happens through time and space can activate deep healing and offer visionary direction for self and others. When translated into any form of expressive art, these dream clues help to bring deep messages, meanings, symbols and connections to the surface of ones ever awakening consciousness.
My dreams showed me the universal through the archetypal and collective imagery, yet they were very personal within their cryptic and veiled nature. I was translating my own experiences into imaged experience, a distinctive form of living art. In that same way reflective art-making was a necessary process to deepen, explore and expand the dream material.
As in lucid dreaming, it is a way to dream the dream forward. Dreaming the dream forward, or conscious dreaming, can also activate living into life in ways that may not have been experienced, as of yet.
Indigenous dreamer Apela Colorado shares this about the information that comes through dreaming, ” Ordinary reality is not real at all [within the dream] it is only an instant but in that moment we experience something timeless and real – our own truth. Truth, according to native thought, is meant to be lived. When a dream comes, work of a transformative nature is sure to follow.”
My dreams and the emerging information was becoming more powerful and meaningful to me as lived experience, and moving beyond me into a living and active emerging energy. Shaman in many cultures means the one who dreams strong, strong dreaming serves the community as a conduit between the spirit realm, or the collective, and the community. The Shaman Dreamer, or the Artist Dreamer, in modern cultures, serves as a healer and a traveler.
Powerful dreamers access dreaming states, layers of consciousness through night dreams and induced altered states from ritual and meditation during creative process, art-making, prayer, dance, meditation, drumming and guided entering.
The dreamer shape shifts, time travels, connects events through time and space, creating new meaning in the patterns of the universal language of symbol and image. This language can be worked with intentionally by following your own dreams into visual art, unpacking them and deepening your understanding of the messages that are guiding you further into life.
Bring one dream image to the surface of your consciousness in art-making and see where it begins to guide you forward.