Donna Ippolito's Dream Scoop

Understanding dreams is easy and fun...Dreams are the voice of your soul. If you're looking for answers, look within.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Intelligence of the Heart

Dreaming is one of the most intimate experiences of our time as human beings, at once particular to each individual and yet universal. As Jung said, it’s a natural function. Dreams are facts of nature, an organic expression of the psyche. Dreams are not servants of our minds, our intentions, or our personalities.

But what are dreams composed of? Are they thoughts? Are they ideas? Are they concepts? Are they little phosphorescent bits of good advice? Do they consist of words and sentences? Do they tell us something we already know but simply say it in an unusual way? Are they another form of language, like French or Spanish or Arabic or Chinese, that we must learn to speak by memorizing vast quantities of information and then practicing, practicing, practicing?

Ask me, and I would answer, “None of the above.”

No, the fabric of dreams is woven from images. Images are alive, not to be confused with symbols. Symbols are ideas. A symbol stands in for the real thing. An octagonal red sign isn’t the same as actually slamming on the brakes.

To understand this, try an experiment. Take even a moment to stop reading and contemplate the image of water. Let yourself see or feel or hear or sense whatever comes. How about rain? Or the image of wind? What about fire? Even if you do this for only an instant, you’ll experience the nature of image. Images move and breathe—perhaps wind came on a sibilant whisper or a shiver of cold, perhaps rain pattered with a sensation of peace, perhaps fire came with the quickening of excitement or fear.

This is what Jung meant when he said we must approach dreams with “the intelligence of the heart.” It’s not “thinking” that connects us to them.

Here's another example. A few years back, one group member dreamed she went to the refrigerator for a midnight snack and found the refrigerator stuffed with purple towels instead. Her conscious thought was that the dream was a forewarning of Alzheimer's, which ran in her family. It was a constant fear.

I noted that she already knew about the fear, but what if we looked at the dream to see what she didn’t know? We began by circling in and in on the images. As we talked, I learned that purple as a color was special for her. It gave her a feeling of richness, of lushness, of beauty. As for the towels, she described them as big, thick, and luxurious, perhaps associated with the pleasure of a long, hot bath. It also came out that she rarely allowed herself such solitary pleasures. She did, however, often turn to food as a source of comfort.

Going back to the dream, we looked again at the big, thick, luxurious towels. Where were they? In the refrigerator—in cold storage, so to speak. And what were they doing there? This super-busy woman believed pleasure had to wait until all her tasks and obligations were complete. Needless to say, her to-do list was endless and self-fulfilling.

Like all dreams, this one was healing. Did it offer a single psychobabblistic concept? Did it address the dreamer’s inner conflict in terms of “issues”? No, it came in concrete, specific images of taking time to care for, even to pamper, herself. Wordlessly, it showed that we must step out of time, put aside the everyday, if we’re ever going to feel whole. The beauty we long for is there for the taking, but it is within. It won't do us much good, though, if we've stuffed it into cold storage. See, though, how even an action as simple and down to earth as a long, hot bath may be the first step.

Our dreams don’t really care about our to-do lists. They spring from the part of us that takes a longer view, a larger view. They answer two questions. Why are we here? And what have we come here to do?

Copyright © 2005 Donna Ippolito. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Heart of the Matter

When it comes to dreams, we have to remember two important points. Everything in dreamtime is unconscious, and our dream-selves meet up with what we don't know—not with what we already know. The conscious mind is limited, but the psyche is vast and eternal.

No matter how small or how big, how glamorous or how plain, every dream is a gift. But if we don't open it because we think we already know what's there, how can we receive this gift?

I first came to dreams via my own therapy in the tradition of Jung. Later, I also read piles of books on the subject—my bookshelves are still full of them. I also attended many lectures, classes, and workshops. I began, and still keep, an ongoing journal of my dreams. As a choreographer, I drew on my dreams to make dances. I studied Reiki and became interested in hypnosis. As an editor, I worked on books by people deeply engaged in the transformative energies of our time. I also did a lot of writing, which made me feel very at home in the world of images. Even teaching yoga has revealed to me something about dreams.

All of which was good, but things only really started to cook when I began to work with the dreams of others. Listening deeply as they spoke, I was in awe of this realm so fertile, so rich that it could produce mystery and power out of thin air. Even the briefest little dream fragment could yield a whole treasure chest. You'll hear people talk about big dreams and little dreams, archetypal dreams and personal dreams, but I have yet to see a dream—long or short, plain or intricate—that was not a magical piece of the soul.

It's also important to remember that we don't have dreams. Dreams have us. And if we can learn to roll with that—to ride the wave—we can glimpse who and what we are and why we are here.

I'm speaking now as a witness. I've seen it happen in the lives of others. I've experienced it in my own life. To illustrate, let me tell you a true story.

Despite the hundreds of books on dreams that already exist, one day, a couple of years ago, I got the idea that I should write one too. Or at least try. So many of the books seemed to go in the wrong direction. They were full of talk about the meaning of symbols, about the categories of dreams, about dream dictionaries, and what not. I wanted to speak up for dreams, for the way I saw dreams working on us, rather than the other way around.

Time passed, and I occasionally published some of these writings on my website, but it didn't go much further than that. I kept on like this for maybe six months. Then one night, I had a dream. Actually, it was a nightmare.

In it, I'm sitting and writing my book by hand, not on the computer, but very obsessed and anxious and tied up in knots. I start to write something and then crumple up the paper and throw it away. Then I write something else, but don't get very far before I'm thinking this is no good either. Again. . .crumple up the paper and throw it away. I'm condemned, doomed to an endless, futile task. I can't stop, but I can't succeed.

In the dream, I obsess over how I would ever find words soulful enough to be worthy of dreams but that would also do justice to the depth, the beauty, and the power of the actual experience of dreamwork. The dream goes on and on and on while I struggle, wracking my brain, my thoughts going in circles. If I say it this way, I tell myself, it will be too simplistic. If I say it that way, it will trample the mystery of dreams. And on and on and on. It's a true nightmare—I'm trapped, helpless, unable to get free.

Then, all of a sudden, a flash cuts through my angst and confusion, and my mind just splits open. I get it—it's so simple and so right. I don't have to struggle. I can say and think and write anything I want about dreams, but it doesn't matter if people understand or if I get it right. If I only will remember one thing, I can never go astray.

And this is what it is. The only thing I or anybody needs to know about dreams is that they come for the "soul" purpose of opening our hearts.

Nothing more. . .And certainly nothing less.

Then I woke up, so relieved and happy. Of course, I thought. How silly I was to get into such a snit. Why else are we born but to learn to open our hearts?

Copyright © 2005 Donna Ippolito. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Soul Food

As I write, it is winter. Each day is shorter, the light that burns and beats with such power in summer but a flicker against the cold. The winter solstice draws near. When it comes, dark will overcome light in the longest night of the year.

In tune with the rhythm of nature, we too might turn inward in this season. In doing so, we begin to see that dark and light are not opposites, but only a continuum. As the solstice teaches, it is at the moment of greatest darkness that light is reborn. From that instant on, the light grows stronger, the days grow longer, and the whole cycle begins anew.

Now is an especially good time to pay attention to our dreams. Not so much for what they say about our everyday concerns, but for the life-giving connection to an inner light. Following nature, we can draw our attention away from the outer world, perhaps glimpsing a direction we hadn’t noticed before. In our dreams, we find ourselves following a winding path into a dark wood. We may wander for a time, feeling lost. We fear we will die in the wilderness. Or perhaps our dreams take us to some unknown part of town, seedy, run-down, and dangerous-looking. Threatening characters appear from out of nowhere. They come after us, and we run for our lives. Yet, we only get more lost. We can’t escape. Perhaps we awake in panic from one of these heart-pounding dreams.

But wait. These dreams aren’t innately scary. They only seem so to the part of ourselves we know as “I”—our personal identity. This “I” believes it is in control, and when it encounters something vaster, it flees in terror. It fears and denies the unknown, as if to banish it. The unknown, however, is the mother of existence. It is also home to whatever we may need at any given moment.

That dark wood that frightens us so much may be filled with rich, lush growth. If we find ourselves wandering there, perhaps something new is beckoning from within. It wants our attention. And that seedy, scary side of town is only that way because we have neglected it. Perhaps the terrifying characters that pursue us through its dangerous streets are the vital energies we need for some new step, some fateful decision.

Rather than running away, we can look in wonder at what is trying to come forth. We can honor these powerful energies that are trying to wake us to a greater reality. Perhaps it’s time to let yourself get lost in something new and strange—any daring experience, big or small. Have you wanted to dance but never dared? Have you longed to climb some height but thought you’d never make it? Have you feared eating alone in a restaurant or going to a movie by yourself?

Our souls do not live by bread alone. In dreams, we learn to feed them.

Copyright © 2005 Donna Ippolito. All rights reserved.