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Integrating Dream Medicine

In waking life, I recoil from scorpions. Their shiny, segmented bodies and barbed tails quickly instill fear in me. But this year, I befriended a scorpion, one that came to me in the Dreamtime.

This past February I had surgery to remove a cyst from my left ovary, the second such surgery I’d had in six months. It was the optimal time to include dreams in my healing and, luckily, I’d gotten Dream Tending by Stephen Aizenstat, which includes a chapter on dreams and healing. Within his book I discovered a technique that helped me foster a new relationship with Scorpion.

The Dream Tending technique draws from Jungian dreamwork. One of Aizenstat’s main tenants is to see dream characters as alive and having their own agency. This means using active imagination, a Jungian technique for bringing forth images and characters from the unconscious.

The important piece of the Dream Tending technique is to imagine the dream character and allow it to do what it will. If it wants to sit and stare at you, allow that. If it has something to say, listen. If it wants to dance around the room, watch. The dreamer’s role is to be a passive and receptive audience to what the dream figure wants to convey.

The point is cultivating a relationship rather than taking something from the character. So often in dreamwork practitioners only see dream images as one-dimensional representations of metaphor. Aizenstat’s method recognizes that the dream image is a vital, living force of the unconscious that one can have live interaction with.

To bring about healing, Aizenstat adds a step to active imagination. He asks dreamers to create an imagined, or dream-time elixir, salve, or other healing medium to apply to the character and themselves, an act which spreads the healing throughout the psyche.

During my recovery from surgery, I decided to work with a particularly vile character from a recent dream I’d had, a character I called spider-scorpion.

Spider-Scorpion

I’m in a house that belongs to a woman. The front door and entryway, which is somehow both inside and outside, is covered with sticky yellow cobwebs. On the cobwebs are bats and creatures that look like a cross between spiders and scorpions. The spider-scorpions have purple-black bodies and pale yellow legs.

I am horrified and grossed out by them, but I don’t run away or hide. I ask the woman if they are spiders or scorpions, but she doesn’t answer. It seems like they’re there to scare away any men that might come calling. I go into the kitchen to get food. When I walk back into the living room, I see a giant web sack and in it are a mother spider-scorpion and many babies. I yell to the woman that she has to get rid of it and take care of it now.

To work with the dream, I got into a meditative state and asked the spider-scorpion to come forward. I saw it in all its alien glory. It sat before me and I focused on allowing it to be there with me. After getting more comfortable with the character, I gradually attempted more contact with it over several days, and I created a healing elixir to apply to it.

Following Aizenstat’s recommendation, while in meditation I put the elixir on the spider-scorpion and then on myself. After a few days, the spider-scorpion morphed into what looked like a waking-world scorpion. It wanted to crawl into my lap. I let it, and I continued to apply the elixir.

After a time, the scorpion grew larger and eventually became the same size as myself. I watched as it stepped into me, our energies merging. I’d integrated the scorpion and its medicine.

And, you’re asking, what exactly is Scorpion medicine? Darkness, sex, death, rebirth, passion, and transformation, according to Ted Andrews in his book Animal-Wise. He sums up the medicine by saying it is “dynamic transformation through secret passions and desires.”

Without bearing too much of my soul here, I’ll say that I’ve definitely harbored several secret desires and passions for much of my life. As soon as Scorpion merged with me it became more difficult to hide and suppress them until eventually many of them burst out of me.

I went through one of the most challenging periods in my life between April and October, only weeks after integrating the Scorpion medicine. Structures and ideas I’d held tightly collapsed, and I was left with an immense amount of space. Scorpion gave me the tools to navigate with grace both the collapse and the void left behind In fact, she told me her name was Mother of Grace, a fitting title.

Now I am in an active period of exploration and I’m allowing my desires and passions to come forth in a healthy way. I’m grateful for the role Aizenstat’s method had in facilitating my healing.

photo by mikebaird

About the Author:

Katrina's work involves illuminating the soul and reconnecting with nature through her artistry with a camera, talent with words, expertise in dreamwork, compassionate teaching style, and ability as a clairvoyant. Visit her here: KatrinaDreamer.com

On Spiders, Painting, and the Power of Story

Last August I spent a few hours prepping my hallway for painting. The color had been chosen the year before, the paint bought back in December, but for some reason I had not yet gotten around to the project.

It is a small T-shaped hallway, no bigger than a closet really, with a total of four doorways leading off in different directions, and an entire wall taken up with cupboards that were not going to be painted.

Why the job had filled me with such dread and lethargy for months was beyond me; why suddenly I had the energy to tackle it was equally mysterious. But in my better moments I remember to just follow the energy and do the next thing, no matter what it is. That is a lesson a teacher taught me years ago, and though it seemed painfully obvious at the time I have found it to be one of the most subtle, easily forgotten, and demanding principles to follow.

Paint prep in a hallway is not difficult: swab down the walls and baseboards with a wet cloth, spackle the holes and rough spots, then do the detail work of taping off everything you don’t want to get paint on. I needed a chair to stand on, so I reached around the corner for an old wooden chair that was the right height, and that was so beat up a little paint wouldn’t hurt it. Then I got to work.

The cleaning and spackling was easy, but all the doorways and tight corners made the taping a very painstaking job—so much so that after five minutes of surveying the territory I still could not decide where to begin. The task felt endless and overwhelming, and I could barely force my fingers to tug loose the end of the tape roll.

Finally I picked an imperfect starting point, one that didn’t seem right at all, and just focused on putting down one piece of tape at a time. In that very narrow-focused state of mind, I got back on the chair again to reach the top of a doorjamb, and it occurred to me how long I had had that chair.

With each slow tug of the blue tape I went a little farther back in time, to when it was an extra dining room chair, and before that the years it served as my son’s desk chair. At one point it had been my desk chair in college; and way back before that even, I remembered being 11 years old in my bedroom sitting in that chair at my little desk, and staring out the window into the night sky.

Back then I had had a nightmare involving this chair, in which I was sitting just so, looking out the window, and glancing down noticed a big black spider crawling toward me on the floor. I got spooked by it, and lifted one of the back legs of my chair to squash the spider. But to my horror it regenerated before my eyes, and where I had squashed one leg now ten legs emerged.

I tried again, and saw that there was no way to contain this spider whose legs were multiplying before my eyes. I knew it would soon devour me, so with growing dread I jumped from my desk chair right onto the bed and hid under the covers, waiting for the inevitable.

Spiders in Dreams

On the subject of spiders in dreams Freud is insistent: they represent the devouring mother. Artemidorus, the famous Greek dream interpreter of the 2nd century, says that spiders ”indicate small, contemptible men who are, however, in a position to harm one badly.”

The late Jungian analyst Don Sandner speaks of Spider Woman, symbol of Fate, who is friendly yet not to be taken lightly. Other dream books variously speak of good luck, bad luck, cosmic energy, money, traps, reality and illusion.

None of this helps me with my interminable taping task. Nor does it answer either of my two questions: Why did I have this dream? And why should I remember it now, standing on the same chair, battling another overwhelming dread?

Remembering Old Dreams

What would I have been thinking about back then, staring out at the night? I was probably reading there at my desk—the shelves above me were filled with books—and after a while my mind had no doubt drifted off onto some tangent. Knowing me, it had to do with imagining writing a story like that: what would the author have to know in order to write it, what did she believe, what might be going through her mind as she wrote, and was she trying to say something in the story beyond what I could comprehend?

Suddenly the whole book, and the experience of reading it, turned into a complicated morass of my own curious, striving nature combined with insecurities about becoming an adult. How could I ever hope to function in such a complex world? And how perfectly spider-like my scary, ever-expanding thoughts had become!

If that dream had been a mirror of my own mental processes, then no wonder it was coming back to me now. Sometimes I still have to remind myself that I am not that 11-year-old, looking into the abyss of the unknowable future. I was not rendered unconscious by puberty; I did not get annihilated on the road to adulthood. Not only that, I figured out how to write a story.

That seems to resonate with me the most now. Taping this hallway is like writing the first draft of anything: complicated, imperfect, and harder to do the longer I wait to start. Every strand of blue tape is its own sentence fragment, and every room that I paint is one more chapter in the story of this house becoming my own.

And here I am at the crux of it, the heart of the house which extends in all four directions, like spider legs branching out into every corner of the world. Suddenly, I feel not as though I am shouldering a huge burden, but like I am standing at the top of a great summit pass looking joyfully out at the other side.

I have done it: I have written my own story, step by arduous step, for long enough that I have reached something of a turning point in the entire narrative. I can see the whole that the pieces are becoming, and even the smallest dream fragments turn out to be part of the landscape.

Such is the power of story, to help us see who and where we are. My house is not yet fully painted, but it is halfway there. I have remembered why I kept that old chair all these years, and have recalled too the blessing of following each strand of thought, no matter how uncomfortable, all the way back through the skein of memory, until its promise is fulfilled.

About the Author:

Dreams of Impending Illness

Dreams often provide useful health information. Learning how to distinguish health warnings in dreams may help you find a path for healing or help you prevent illness altogether.

 

Dreams of Insects are Sometimes about Autoimmune Problems

A common dream symbol of autoimmune disorder is an infestation of small insects, termites, ants or spiders in a house. Each insect seems to represent an unhealthy cell in the “house”, a metaphor for the body. One dreamer shares:

I realized in the dream that there were too many ants for natural products to work and I would need to use chemical pesticides. The area they were infesting was a spiral staircase (often represents the spine) … and the bone marrow biopsy of my spine was one of several diagnostic tests where the cancer showed up. I also had several more dreams before, during & after treatment that seemed to chart the course of things.

This dreamer received chemotherapy and is healthfully alive seven years later!

 

Breast Cancer and Little Seeds

Another woman dreamed a doctor removed a black seed-like substance from her body. At the time she had breast cancer and, seeing the dream as a sign to remove the cancer completely, she decided to have her breast removed.

She is now a breast cancer survivor with a clean bill of health, a new outlook on life, and says her dreams were instrumental in helping her choose her treatment. She’s recently celebrated five years of healthy living!

Insects in a Bowl and Intestinal Problems

I once dreamed I found a large ceramic bowl I made in college. The bowl was filled with cobwebs and spider mites. In the dream, I successfully cleaned the bowl with tap water, removing all cobwebs and spider mites.

As a dreamworker, I was acutely aware that dreaming of an infestation of spiders can be about cancer or illness. I was concerned for my health, but I took comfort in the fact that my dream-self easily cleaned the bowl simply by rinsing it out with water.

Two weeks later in waking life I developed an intestinal problem. I felt awful. After a few hours I remembered my dream. As it turns out, the bowl in my dream represented a place to store food, symbolic of my “bowel” which is the place where my body stores the remnants of digested food, and that my “bowel” would have some “bugs.”

The dream provided useful information on how to rid myself of the “bug” by flushing out my system with water. I drank large quantities of water for 3 days, hardly ate a thing, and my body returned to normal. It might have healed on its own anyway, but the water helped tremendously.

 

Chased by a Rhinovirus
I once dreamed a rhinoceros was chasing me. In order to get away from it, I locked myself in a room.

A few days later I could feel a cold coming on (“rhino” virus!) Honestly, though, I didn’t make the connection until after I saw a commercial for a cold remedy that entailed a rhinoceros chasing a woman! It was as though my dream was being shown to me again on TV.

I didn’t take the advertised cold remedy, but I did take Chinese herbs to boost my immune system (to create a “boundary” between me and the “rhino”virus), ate a lot of home-made chicken noodle soup and rested. I never got sick, but my partner Scott was sick for 2 weeks. He doesn’t always believe in the significance of dreams.

Book Recommendation

Robert Moss has a fantastic chapter on Dreams of Healing in his book Conscious Dreaming, A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life.

Pay attention to your dreams. Insect infestations can be a health warning, indicating an immune problem. The good news is that if you pay attention, chances are that you’ll also be given instructions on what to do to heal your body.

About the Author:

Amy Brucker helps people heal their ancestral wounds so they can free their purpose, passion, and inner power. She offers a one-on-one, private healing/mentoring program Healing the Ancestral Wound. See link "Work with Me" on main menu for details.