Archives for November 2012

The Dream Connection

Do you remember your dreams? Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Earlier this year I was going through a period when I knew that I had dreamt yet had no specific memories when I woke up.

I wanted to recall my dreams again so I signed up for a dreamwork group with Trevor Simpson. The last session in the series of four was last week. Sessions were both interesting and helpful. Before they started I only recalled three or four dreams a month, but over the three months of the group I recalled over 50 dreams, and was able to explore a number of them in depth.

Remembering and exploring my dreams helped me clarify ideas, and provided new perspective on decisions. It also helped me remember that the parts of ourselves we don’t have conscious access to can be amazing, creative and funny.

Your dreams are gifts that you may not know how to open.

In the past I kept a dream journal for several years, using Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal Method, and the genesis of my novel-in-progress came from a vivid dream I had during a nap one afternoon in 1974, so dreams have been a powerful source of creativity and self-development for me already.

Carl Jung’s work on dreams has also shaped my personal work. Dream Moods has a good overview of Jung’s theories about dreams. Active Imagination is Carl Jung’s tool for expanding dream work and creative work. This article by Lawrence Staples of the Jung Society of Washington, D. C., gives a good explanation and an example of the connection between dreams, active imagination, and creative work.

The list of articles on the International Association for the Study of Dreams website shows the extent of worldwide interest in dreams and some of the research currently being done. The list includes articles on a broad list of topics from the usefulness of problem-solving dreams to dreams of the blind.

Want to know more? Wikipedia has a good overview of Dreams.

Here’s the first description I wrote of the dream that is the seed for my novel:

A young girl wakes from an afternoon nap in the dormitory above the great hall of a dancing school. She is wearing a dancer’s top and practice skirt wrinkled from sleeping. She jumps up and begins to move immediately in response to a call from the hall below. She moves from the dormitory to the balcony above the hall and is dazzled by the light flooding the hall rotunda as the sun sets. The light gives everything warmth: the floor tiles, the fountain, the lush foliage in pots round the interior of the hall, and the small group of dancers waiting to perform the traditional grace dance before the meal.

The girl is suddenly filled with joyousness, with a tingling awareness of life, feeling, and the need to communicate the inexplicable. She runs down the stairs to the rotunda space where a fountain is at the centre of the circle the dancers are forming for the evening thanks dance. She doesn’t wait for the dance leader, simply steps into the circle and gives the signal for all to join hands.

 As the dancers join hands, she feels the circle form and the joy she feels begin to move through everyone in the circle. She has a vision of thanks for the day, gratitude that acknowledges each moment that brought the evening’s meal to them: earth, plowed, then planted, moistened by rain, warmed by sun, fronds of wheat waving gracefully, harvested and ground by the mill, brought in sacks loaded on a patient donkey to the school kitchens where it was mixed, baked, and set by the side of the fountain waiting to be blessed.

The energy she felt and her connection with the dancers let the scenes she saw be seen by others, covered the dancers bodies with a vision of the journey from seed to bread, but she didn’t have either the strength or skill to maintain the vision. She was suddenly returned to the hall, and and sound of water from fountain, as dancers broke from the circle.

She falls, crying, to the tile floor. The other students whisper, waiting to see what would happen to her. She broke the first rule for a student, that a student never leads a dance; only dance masters may lead.

 She overhears two kitchen servants called to the hall by the disturbance, “Ah, she’ll have to leave. She’s forgotten she creates the dance. The illusion took her and she broke down.”

The dance master approaches her, lifts her gently to her feet, and tells her to pack her clothes and prepare to leave immediately. She must wait by the gate for further instructions.

I am still working on unfolding the story and continue to be astonished by the amount of information packed into the dream, and the freshness of it so many years later. The novel is now 30,000 words and still growing.

Join the discussion: Have dreams ever played a part in your writing? Have you tried using active imagination?


Astonishment and Joy

When I think of Thanksgiving I think of Mary Oliver’s phrase,

your one wild and precious life

and how life itself is grace, and how being present to your life and the wild and unpredictable colors and feelings it offers you moment by moment is a great adventure far beyond what we have or what we do.

When I first began reflecting on what I was grateful for I made a list; this list was often full of people and things I loved or experiences I loved having. Over the years I became aware of the joy in simply being; being there to make the list, being there with the possibilities of the moment, being there and thus being connected to so many people and so much else.

I am astonished by how much a moment can deliver if I am only present, and astonished that it’s there whenever I manage to show up regardless of what is happening in that moment.

If you are gathering for a Thanksgiving Celebration tomorrow, here is another Mary Oliver poem:

Instructions for Living a Life

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.


A Thanksgiving Wish

May the day bring you a quiet moment, may you dive below the list of things you are grateful for and go deeper; feel the warmth of your heart and the quiet light it shines on your life; receive the abundance and possibility that rises from the centre of your being. May you experience the grace of your life, and  may sharing moments of astonishment and joy be a part of your Thanksgiving.

 Join the conversation: What astonishes you and brings you joy? What are you thankful for?


Three Tools to Explore Resistance

I missed posting last week. Have you ever experienced a time when everything that was simple seems complicated? When finishing regular tasks takes three times as long? When every thought seems to veer off the straight path and into some other very fuzzy train of thought? That was my week last week. Despite many hours at my desk nothing worth writing about emerged and all my draft posts seemed totally unworthy. I was deep in a huge feeling of resistance.

The first thing that began to create some movement was Trevor Simpson’s SoulClarity Newsletter where he shared an auto-responder message:

Resistance Autoreply: From the desk of ….. “Thank you for your e-mail. I will be in resistance until Monday February 23, but will return your message once I am back from the state of denial.”

Trevor’s correspondent was feeling some resistance too. Funny how comforting it was, finding out that someone shared my state.

Then there were some helpful posts from folks I follow. Lissa Rankin wrote about being more “eggy”, more receptive and less inclined to push your way through on her blog and Marie Forleo interviewed Steven Pressfield about his new book, Turning Pro. Steven wrote the The War of Art and Do the Work about resistance, and had been helpful in the past. The interview sowed some useful seeds.

And then I worked with these guidance tools. Before using the tools I reflected on the question I wanted to ask for guidance in getting through my resistance and came to “What do I need to do to redeem my shadow and clear the way forward for my creative and spiritual work?”

The Tools

1. Susan Seddon Boulet and Michael Babcock’s Goddesses Knowledge Cards

I first used these cards in Atum O’Kane’s Spiritual Guidance course. The art by Boulet is inspiring and the text by Babcock straightforward. Locally they are available from Banyen Books. I received the card for Hathor, an Egyptian Goddess. The card notes, in part, Hathor reminds us that we too must acknowledge all parts of ourselves, that what we call destructive is sometimes necessary to allow creativity and compassion to flourish.

2. The I Ching

It had been years since I consulted the oracle, but I thought it would be interesting to discover how I felt about it now. I received hexagram 31 Influence changing to hexagram 13 Fellowship with Men. The direction that perseverance furthers, encouraging approach by being willing to receive, and waiting until being impelled to action by real influence seemed remarkably apt, particularly with the direction from the second hexagram about both the power of peaceful union with others and the injunction to remember that joining with others is an ideal and the actuality may involve more down to earth considerations bringing people together. Clarity of intention is critical.

3. Consulting a book as an oracle

The practice of using a book as an oracle or guide is one I have found useful before. Sometimes I’ve used the library, walking around until I felt called to a book. This time Roger Housden’s Ten Poems to Set You Free was the one that presented itself. The book fell open to David Whyte’s poem, Self-Portrait. The poem asks a series of questions. One,

“I want to know if you know how to melt into that fierce heat of living falling toward the center of your longing”,

seems to be the exact question for my issue this time. Housden’s essay on his experience of the poem was helpful too.

Readers in the United States — I wish you a happy, delicious, heartful holiday.

Join the conversation: What tools have you found helpful when working with your resistance to work or moving forward?


10 Questions to Explore Self-Support

When we work with others we get used to the incidental support that comes from having colleagues down the hall and a network of expectations from those we work with that pull us through the day. When I switched to being self-employed and working on my own it took some time to understand what behavior supported me. Here are some questions to help you explore your self-support habits. Each one of us needs something slightly different for support so it helps to do a review of your current habits first.

1. What do you need to start your day off right?

Even though we’re different some things are simply true. Breakfast is one of them; eat something, preferably more than just a muffin. Get enough sleep.  Have a means of capturing your daily commitments and tasks.

Establishing a routine that prepares you for more engaged work, a warm-up, is useful too. My writing warm-up consists of Morning Pages, and a 10-Minute writing session with a short story prompt. Once I am warmed-up, I am ready to dig into work for clients, work on stories, polishing a blog post, or more work on my novel.

For some, exercise fits into getting the day started. For me this comes later on, as a break. Finding the right spot for exercise can help you establish it as part of your day.

2. How often do you need a break?

Some research suggests every hour; workshop leaders and trainers know that learners need a break at least every 90 minutes.

Writing, and other work on the computer is sedentary. Making sure you get up and move will increase your productivity and is better for your health.

If you know you’re not going to get to the gym, try developing some ten minute workouts that you can do throughout the day.

In addition to work breaks during the day, think about a weekly break. If you can give yourself a longer break once or twice a week, say lunch plus a walk, it can help renew your efforts.

Be aware of work tasks, projects, or social events that take recovery time and build that time into your schedule.

3. What do you need to fuel your work?

This is about eating to work (and enjoying it). Basically you use more energy thinking than plowing fields and the sharpness and clarity start to fade between three and four hours after you’ve eaten. Pay attention to see what refueling interval works best for you. Small meals work well, or a meal-healthy snack-meal pattern can work.

Remembering to drink enough water during the day is a challenge, but makes a big difference. Dehydration affects both thinking and energy.

If you are doing creative work it’s good to stay aware of what boosts your creativity (music, play with colours, seeing/hearing other’s work, meditation, movement). Build in time to replenish the inner resources that feed your creative output.

4. When do you need an outside opinion?

Once you’ve pulled things together and you feel you’re ready to share it with the world or your best client, you may want someone to provide some feedback. Identifying safe, confidential resources for this can provide help for your blind spots (we all have them) and give you a sense of whether or not you stayed on track and kept the work on target.

Develop some criteria for whom to ask and think about how you can develop reciprocity. You’re still out there on your own, but you will have ideas from outside your own patterns of thinking, and some folks who are already interested in the final result.

5. Where in your work will finding a mentor help?

Look for the area where you feel most challenged; where you know you need to grow; where you lack confidence; where you aren’t making the best use of your strengths and then look at the people you admire and whose work exemplifies where you want to go. Then ask. Suggest a framework for the mentoring work, and think about how you could make a contribution to what they’re doing. Take the time to build the relationship before you ask.

6. How do you network most effectively?

As an introvert my idea of a good time is time alone with a book. That said I love sharing information that will be helpful (my friends tell me I have the instincts of a librarian). My best networking happens when I have information to share with the group I am going to have an opportunity to meet. I am a flop when I don’t feel I have anything to give. I’ve found I need to do the research to make it worth my while. Even for an extrovert, it super-charges networking results if you do the research and prepare ahead of time.

A solid network is a huge asset when working on your own.

7. What administrative work keeps you in touch and what should be delegated?

When you start out you tend to do everything yourself. While you’re in the start-up phase it’s a good idea to log your reaction to tasks and note how you feel about them.

For some, doing the invoices helps keep you touch with what you’ve accomplished, for others it’s always on the bottom of the list and the accounting piece just makes you antsy. After a short while you’ll have a good idea of what you want to keep doing to stay in touch with key aspects of your business, and what to outsource once you have the cash.

8. What’s on your YES and NO Lists?

Your YES list has opportunities that connect with your goals, your joy, and your learning. Your NO list has the things you do that drag you down or suck time from what you really want to do.

As you become more successful you need to stay aware of both lists to give yourself support for saying NO to things that aren’t the best use of your energy and time.

9. Who is in your cheering section?

These folks can be real people you know (family, friends, mentors) or public figures you admire and want to emulate; even characters from books or movies (Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web).

10. What’s your celebration plan?

When you reach your goals, hit your targets, land the work of your dreams, you need to celebrate and share the good news. Have a plan, develop a ritual and enjoy your success.

You can also plan to share success by thinking about the group or organization you want to donate to when you reach your financial goals.

Once you know about what supports you, you’ll find even when you work alone you are connected.

Join the discussion: What activities support your work? How do you stay connected?