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Lucid dreamwork: Healing the Snake Axis

This is the last article in a series about snake dreams. By now, the DreamTribe has explored the meaning of snake dreams from many perspectives: historical, archetypal, snakes as initiation, snakes as earth wisdom, and even how to cultivate your own snakey powers through flower essences.

Today I want to continue the theme of cultivating snakey wisdom through the lens of lucid dreamwork, a method of exploring themes of power and choice in lucid dreams for personal development.

Like most people, my snake dreams have mostly been marked by fear, recoil, and panic. Snakes hold an alien kind of presence—their very existence brings uncertainty and threatens our mortality.

I hold that snake energy is autonomous: it’s not a part of “me.” Rather, snake energy is real, vital, and has its own agenda when it comes in relationship with the dream ego. That is the depth perspective, and it comes with millennia of traditions for snake symbolism as the giver of life and death, and as the ultimate transformer.

But while there are many connections to be made with snake power, the most visible connections to my life have been to creativity, authenticity, and connection to the primal life force.

In my repetitive snake dreams, a large snake is discovered (sometimes red and yellow banded, sometimes green, sometimes black), and invariably turns towards me to attack.  What follows is the predictable dream drama of scrambling for higher ground, and lashing out with whatever defenses I can muster.  I usually awaken panicked and with a sour feel in my belly.

As a lucid dreamer, I began to encounter the snake in my self-aware dreams too. Having conscious choice in these dreams has been transformative of my relationship with snake, although it’s been an ongoing process of many years, not something that happened overnight. And it’s far from over! Like Carl Jung suggested years ago1, repetitive dream series are really more enlightening to work with than solitary dreams, as each dream in the series adds new dimensions to a theme that stretches across the lifespan.

In a memorable and powerful dream encounter eight years ago, I mustered up the courage to stand still and a huge snake crawled up my leg, and wrapped itself around my neck and chest. I held still in its strong embrace and the scene dissolved without further incident. This dream actually stopped my occassional scary snake dreams for quite some time, leading me to believe I had “accepted” my snake power. Not exactly!  Like all worthy adversaries, it came back and presented more difficult challenges.

Two years later, I was invited deeper.

Spiral Snake Staircase

I enter a spiral stairwell and walk down the steps. I am aware I’m dreaming, nervous and excited. The banister is also a snake, winding its way down. I feel a sudden surge of humility as I walk down, knowing I am close to a source of power. The staircase becomes a round tunnel and I slide down quickly, enclosed but not restricted, emerging on a platform.

I look down and am horrified to see that I am bleeding profusely from my chest and abdomen. Blood splatters the floor and I am simultaneously holding a box in front of me that is also bleeding. I feel I am close to something powerful. I hurriedly make one more downward turn, where the axis of the staircase winds tightly into a standing column of blood and light. It is alive, transparent, and pulsing with energy.

I hold up my box and it fits into the column at about chest level. Suddenly, I feel relieved, and am no longer bleeding. Still lucid, but unsure how to proceed, I am struck with a pang of humility again. I fall to my hands and knees, prostrating myself in front of “the source.” I thank it for this opportunity and feel very emotional, both ecstatic and sorrowful. I feel a compassion for myself (in my own thoughts) and I know that I am safe. (recorded in 20062)

I’ve been working with this powerful dream for six years now, and there’s a lot I could say beyond the scope of the conversation today. The dream came at the beginning of a creative surge in my writing career, as I was writing a MA thesis on lucid dreams and becoming more comfortable with my ability to dance with the strong energies from doing intensive dreamwork. That’s the dayworld parallel to this dream.

But for now, I want to draw attention to how the snake in this dream takes on the form of a banister, an architectural feature that literally provides guidance and support for moving deeper to lower levels.

This snake-banister then spirals into a raw energetic source: alive and bristling with power, yet needing something from me –my own contribution. My action completed the circuit, relieving pressure and stopping the leak of life force (blood) from my dreambody. By healing the snake-energy column, my own dreambody is healed.

Towards a Lucid Dreamwork

Lucid dreamwork, as I practice it today, is not only about exploring dream images and symbols, but also the choices we make in our dreams3. Our choices are often hidden in waking life, but in dreams the decision point behind what happens to us (and what we allow not to happen) is easier to spot, as well as the consequences to our thoughts, beliefs and actions. In this dream, I made the choice to follow the staircase down in spite of my fear: that is lucidity at its best, going against the grain. Conscious action to complete the snake column was also integral to the dream, as was the spontaneous decision to enact a posture of surrender.

When do we know we have made good choices?

It’s always debatable, of course, but if you awaken from a dream with increased vitality or energy, that’s a good first sign. Waking up with a feeling of dread, or a sick feeling in the stomach, on the other hand, is a sign that we have worked against ourselves in some way, or that we may have bitten off more than we can chew. Over days and weeks, a transformative snake dream will continue to reverberate, and affect waking life attitudes and choices.

I’m always careful to not use lucid dreamwork to chide myself for not acting this way or that way in the dream– that’s key. It’s not about blame, but about noticing our patterns, and knowing there will be another opportunity to make a different choice the next time we lay down to sleep. In this way, repetitive dreams serve as a living record of how we are balancing our mortal, daily lives with the inner path of soul that slowly unfolds in the dreamworld.

Notes

1 The best introduction to Carl Jung’s work with dreams is his autobiography Memories, dreams and reflections.

2 This dream was first publicly shared in Ancestral knowledge in lucid dreams, Electric Dreams, 13(4), with an emphasis on Celtic ancestry and the theme of reverence.

3 My own evolving practice of lucid dreamwork is heavily influenced by the continuity theory of dreaming, and also the clinical work of G. Scott Sparrow.

First Image: Pachacuteq Monument staircase by mcgmatt (CC)

About the Author:

Ryan's recent dream research focuses on lucid dreaming, sacred sites, the anthropology of dreaming, and sleep paralysis. DreamStudies.org

Waiting In The Lucid Void

Since I was a child, I have had conscious dream experiences that take place in immense, spacious realms. Sometimes these spaces are truly voids and my own dream body does not exist. Other times, these spaces fill up with abstract geometric patterns, or multi-colored buzzing particles that resemble the “snow” from a television set.

It’s a terrifying place to be sometimes, simply because everything is stripped away and I am facing the unknown. However, this void simultaneously has held some of my most trusting moments in the dreamstate.

In the lucid void, we have an opportunity to die to our self-perceptions and be reborn in every moment.

Charting Imageless Lucid Dreaming

I call these uncanny spaces imageless lucid dreaming. In the dream studies literature, the works of Kenneth Moss and Linda Magallon in particular resonate strongly with my experiences. More recently, thanks to The Lucid Dream Exchange, I was able to read about many others who have also visited this lucid space that seem to resemble my “void,” most notably Robert Waggoner and Ed Kellogg. Waggoner talks about “the gray state” and Kellogg details his lucid journeys into a vast abstract world he calls “the Matrix.”

[pullquote]We are still in the dark about the state’s physiological signatures[/pullquote]

Also, psychologist Fariba Bogzaran has detailed a similar realm that she has named “Hyper-space lucidity,” characterized by lightning-fast travel and filled sometimes with dark light. For Bogzaran, the experience is non-dual in nature. The spectrum of possibility here no doubt has to do with the individual’s paradigm of reality, mental set, and cultural background.

To date, there have been no laboratory studies that look at this experience in particular, so we are still in the dark about the state’s physiological signatures. Is it REM? Hypnagogia?  Imageless lucid dreaming is in a similar place to where lucid dreaming was thirty years ago: experienced first-hand by many, and scolded by other non-believers that it is merely a “micro-awakening” between dreams.

Until we have third-person validity, therefore, it’s important that we continue to document the first-hand experience of this unique altered state. I hope you join me in this exploration and share your findings.

Moving into the Void

I’d like to now share my lucid void practice that appears to invite powerfully emotional lucid dreams.

By engaging in a meditative state during the lucid void, the dream recrystallizes around you. If you hold an attitude of trust and acceptance, the new dream scene will spontaneously regenerate.

What emerges is different for everyone, but suffice to say that you will be brought precisely to the place you need to be.

It begins with realizing you are dreaming and remembering your intention. You can then enter the void at will by disturbing an ongoing dream scene by walking through a mirror or sinking through the ground, or whatever works for you.

I used to crawl into television sets, but I lost a few opportunities as I would wander around the dream looking for a TV. The best methods are those you can do anywhere, without a prop.

From there, you may experience a number of disorienting spaces.

Entoptica, 2005 Ryan Hurd

I often experience various geometric shapes and bizarre bodily feelings of flying or drifting. Sometimes a vortex is created –such as in my painting above — and I (the ego core without a dream body) enter the swirling lights, travel through a twisty-turny tunnel, and am then spilled out into a dream scene with a normal dream body.

Many of these new dreams would be powerfully emotional dreams, with opportunities for working with issues core to my personal mythology.

Waiting and trusting in the unknown

Try waiting in the void with a meditative attitude.

Notice what is happening around you, and notice your thoughts as they come and go.

Try not to have any goal or expectation, but when one does crop up, note it and then return to your waiting posture. If you feel fear, remind yourself that you’re safe in this space and if you choose, you can wake up at any time.

Sooner or later, the dream will re-form around you.

Where will you end up?

You may be surprised.

This article is adapted from my new ebook Lucid Immersion Guidebook, which is now available on Amazon as a Kindle download.

References

Bogzaran, F. (2003). Lucid art and hyperspace reality. Dreaming, 13(1), pp. 29-42.

Kellogg III, E.W. (2005) Enter the Matrix: Exploring the Source Code of Dreams. Presentation at the 2005 Psiberdreaming Conference.

Magallon, L. (1991). Awake in the dark: Imageless lucid dreaming. Lucidity, 10(1&2), pp. 46-48.

Moss, K. (1991). Experimentation with the vortex phenomenon in lucid dreams. Lucidity, 10(1&2), pp. 49-51.

Waggoner, R. (2009). Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self. Needham: Moment Point Press.

CC First image: Tunnel by Mariana C.

About the Author:

Ryan's recent dream research focuses on lucid dreaming, sacred sites, the anthropology of dreaming, and sleep paralysis. DreamStudies.org

Lucid dreaming as a spiritual practice

Lucid dreaming is the art of becoming more self-aware in our dreams.  Often when we realize we’re dreaming, the dream becomes clearer, and colors more vibrant. We’re aware, alert, and we know that ours is a dreaming landscape. The sheer joy of it often lifts us off our feet and we float into the sky, looking down at all of the dream’s creation.

The rules are different here.

This ecstatic state is known as the lucidity effect; it’s been documented by countless beginning lucid dreamers.

Unfortunately, holding onto that feeling can be difficult. As soon as we try to control the dream, to bend it to our will, the feeling may be dashed altogether.

But dream control is not the only way to go.

For many, lucid dreaming is a spiritual practice. This looks different for everyone, as we have wide range of personal dreaming styles. Some seek experience with the highest powers; others commune in the underworld with earth spirits. Still others have learned that flying can result in information that is later verified in consensual reality. Some brave souls find themselves in conversation with the deceased.

Finally, this state allows for intensely real encounters with other creatures, leading us to wonder if dreams are more than “our own stuff” but a forgotten communication tool.

These dreams of landscape include communing with non-human voices. An example of ecodreaming that is reverberating strongly for us at the DreamTribe right how includes dreams of whales, who seem to be telling us of their perilous state and asking for our help. While forgotten to us as Westerners, this practice has been known for much longer as whale dreaming by the Australian Aborigines.

Going deeper with lucidity

It takes time, perhaps a lifetime, to balance self-control with the dream’s own energy. I am by no means as master of this, even after 20 years of lucid dreaming.

Lucidity is flighty by nature. What all lucid dreaming spiritual practices have in common is that no matter how high they fly, they touch the ground of compassion.

Right action can only be felt in the particulars of the dream, and only the dreamer has the authority to know what that feels like. There’s no final, better, or ultimate goal here.

The Lucid Dance of Balance

But this much is true: lucidity emerges in maturity not as total dream control but as a conscious dance with the energy flows of the autonomous dream figures. The dance shifts between active and receptive postures, which we embody by asking questions and making space for an answer. This lucid dance is also about shifting from abstract ways of knowing to more emotional involvement in the dream, and vice versa.

Ultimately, this flow allows for a conversation between the dream ego and the self-rising currents of the moment.

If you’re interested in moving beyond your comfort zone in lucid dreaming, it’s good to know that many have gone before us on this path. Interestingly, when lucid dream psychologist Fariba Bogzaran researched how people approach the divine in lucid dreams, she discovered that those who take an active, seeking stance in the dream often find lucid outcomes that largely mirror their own expectations.

However, when the dreamers took receptive postures, not seeking but opening up to mystery, a different pattern revealed itself. They found themselves in new situations, encountering aspects of the divine that surprised, delighted, and sometimes challenged them.

Seeking the Divine

Sometimes the way a question is framed in the dream makes all the difference. Rather than demanding, “I want to find God!”, try asking an open-ended question such as, “What is beyond my senses?”

So perhaps it’s better to say: do not seek. Rather: wait and see…

Psychotherapist Mary Ziemer is another researcher who has studied receptivity in lucid dreams. Her website LucidAlchemy.com outlines a new way of adapting lucid dreaming to the goals of alchemy, in which we throw images before us to enter into, and are forever changed by the transformational process.

The receptive posture in lucid dreaming has been much maligned in Western lucid dreaming culture. Many fear emotions in their lucid dreams because they may “lose control,” and others are more interested in testing willpower than learning from the dreaming imagination.

Luckily, the dreaming mind is patient, and when we become open to new possibilities, the dream responds.

In this time of ecological crisis, lucid dreaming emerges not as a narcissistic fantasy realm, as it is often portrayed in mass culture, but as a valuable method of engagement with the repressed and forgotten voices of the land, our own ancestors, and the cosmos we inhabit.

You may not find what you’re looking for, but you’ll find something better: the threshold to the unknown, where information, knowledge—and possibly even wisdom—await.

*photos by eschipul and arno arno

About the Author:

Ryan's recent dream research focuses on lucid dreaming, sacred sites, the anthropology of dreaming, and sleep paralysis. DreamStudies.org

Mugwort Helps with Remembering Dreams

Mugwort has been known for ages as a reliable dream enhancing plant. I have also had good results with this mild herb that is a close relative of wormwood and has a long history of medicinal use.

In the West, mugwort was historically associated with the Greek goddess Artemis and the moon, perhaps because it stimulates blood circulation and was used chiefly to aid painful and irregular menstruation.

Of course, Artemis is one of the Greek Gods who was known to send divine dreams. In other words, mugwort, dreams and the Moon are all bundled together in an aromatic and cosmic smudge stick.

I recommend picking fresh mugwort consciously and ritualistically and placing it close to the bed, or even under your pillow before bed. Also try burning some mugwort as incense (and even smoking it – very pleasant), which can make bedtime into a ritual that will support more dream remembrance.

Here is my recommended source for mugwort, grown organically and sustainably harvested.

About the Author:

Ryan's recent dream research focuses on lucid dreaming, sacred sites, the anthropology of dreaming, and sleep paralysis. DreamStudies.org

Lucid Dreaming: How Visiting Hogwarts Can Help You Heal

I have been listening to my dreams my entire life.  In fact, one of my earliest childhood memories is of a scary dream of a big black raven.  Later, when I was around 9 years old I had another nightmare that at my tender age sent me to the library researching books on dream interpretation.

As I grew up, I continued to jot down my dreams in journals.  I never knew quite what to do with them, I only knew that they felt important and worth keeping.

In graduate school as a student of Dr. Apela Colorado, I was introduced to an entirely new universe of dreaming.  I learned that dreams are of central importance in many traditional indigenous cultures.  I began to track my dreams according to the signs of the sun, moon and planets.  I realized that my dreams were full of messages from the ancestors.

We students in the Indigenous Mind program began to rediscovered the power of our collective dreaming.  Sometimes our dreams would have similar themes or images; sometimes we would dream for each other; sometimes our dreams would fit together like pieces of an intricate puzzle.

One of our assigned books to read was Healing Dreams by Marc Ian Barasch.  I was fascinated to read the story of the author, who was able to diagnose his own cancer by listening carefully to his dreams.  As someone who had studied and practiced healing arts for 20 years, I became intrigued by this process of dream diagnosis.   What if our dreams do in fact, hold the key to our healing? I have had many clients with illnesses hard to diagnose and even more difficult to treat. I began to encourage them to look towards their own dreams, not just for information on their illness, but also to find the prescription for cure.

collage by Amy E. Brucker

Later, at the 2007 IASD’s Psiberdreaming Conference, I participated in a workshop entitled “Mind-Body Healing through Dreamwork” led by Ed Kellog, Ph.D.  I was very inspired by his work.  During a live lucid dream chat, I learned from Ed about his “lucid dream challenges”. In these, the dreamer becomes lucid (awakens in the dream) and challenges himself to some task he or she has chosen before falling asleep.

As a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I was intrigued by Kellogg’s “Harry Potter” lucid dream challenge.   In this challenge, the lucid dreamer would visit Hogwarts and practice various Hogwarts spells.  I was thrilled at the opportunity.  Who hasn’t had the fantasy of being able to make magic?

Around this same time, I was dealing with a chronic painful condition in my right shoulder.  I decided to incubate a dream in which I practiced a Hogwarts spell which would also send some healing energy to my shoulder. The spell I chose was “Lumos!” which calls forth light.   The directions I gave myself before going to sleep were:  1) become lucid, 2) practice the “Lumos!” spell, and 3) once the light appeared, direct the light to help heal my shoulder.

As I drifted off to sleep, in my mind’s eye I practiced waving my magic wand.  The next morning I woke up around 5:30 am and without my lucid dream.  “Oh well.  I’ll try again another night,” I thought, too sleepy to really be that disappointed.

I drifted back to sleep.  Soon I was dreaming again and found myself in an underground cavern.  Suddenly I realized. “Wow! I’m dreaming!  Time to practice my magic spell.”  I began to enthusiastically wave my hand, which was holding a magic wand.   “Lumos!” I cried as a bright light burst from the tip of my wand.  My wand blazed with a neon green light, much like a Star Wars light saber.  “Cool!” I exclaimed and began swirling my light saber, watching the beams bounce off the walls of the cave.

In the midst of the fun, I remembered that I still had more work to do- heal my shoulder.  As I used my mind to direct the light to my shoulder, it changed both color and shape into a bright lazer-red eye, shaped like the eye of Horus.  This eye is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and power.

I awoke amazed.  The chronic pain in my shoulder seemed to have decreased.  In the months to come, I continued to reflect on the red eye of Horus to guide my healing process.  My shoulder went through many more phases (including completely frozen!) but my dreams continued to be my allies that guided my process.

About the Author:

Inspired and guided by her ancestors, Atava has been studying and practicing healing arts for over 20 years. Atava teaches across the country and sees clients in her healing practice Ancestral Apothecary in Oakland, CA. She also has a unique line of herbal products infused with prayer and magic. Her website is www.ancestralapothecary.com