Monday, July 27, 2009

When you can't remember your dreams....

What do you do when your dreams fade as soon as you wake up? This has been happening to me the last two or three weeks, though normally my dreams seem to want to be remembered. It’s frustrating when this happens. What can you do about it?

First of all, it’s helpful to remember that your psychic work is going on whether you remember your dreams or not—it’s just that it’s happening below your level of conscious awareness. In my experience, these “blank” times are often followed by periods where you recall really vivid, active dreams. Maybe this active phase kicks in once you’ve processed something to the point where your conscious self can benefit from participation.

Second, remember that once you start actively following your dream life, you will always remember the important dreams. Even if you get busy and forget to write an important dream down before it fades, Psyche will send you the message again in another dream, another form. So don’t fret.

Something you can do when the dreams aren’t clear in the morning is to try to catch and write down even the faintest image or idea that does remain. Sometimes even those traces will be meaningful later on, or will show a pattern that repeats. Here are some examples from my own dream life lately. These few fragments represent almost the only dreams I’ve remembered in the last two weeks:

Monday 13 July 2009. No dreams stuck—only something about having two online stores and not being sure how or why.

Tuesday 14 July 2009. Dreams had to do, again, with something going on at some distance, or electronically, or something like that. Something that I felt like I had no direct control over, though I wanted to or felt I ought to. Not comfortable; lots of other people involved.

Thursday 16 July 2009. The dreams I can remember from just before I woke up this morning are fuzzy, but they were busy and full of traveling, new friends, new spaces, interesting activities—and laughter! I remember laughing. Everything was strange, but apparently in a good way.

Friday 24 July 2009. Dream—don’t remember many details—I am traveling and have lost something, maybe a suitcase, and I am surprised that I have my own car there and have to drive myself back instead of riding with my partner.

Sunday 26 July 2009. Dream fragment: Something about beanbags—some kind of joke or funny story. Lots of laughter—friends talking about this. Then someone hands me a paper grocery sack that someone has left for me—inside are beads for stuffing beanbags and bits of ribbon and trinkets to decorate them. We all laugh—“apparently beanbags are in my future!”

Other dreams during the night were similar in that there was lots of laughter, lots of friends, and (in the only other bit that I can remember at all) I was making very funny and entertaining puns and word plays.

Monday 27 July 2009. Dream fragments: 1) waking up and discovering it was 11:30 in the morning; 2) A friend is mad at me because I didn’t remember someone else’s dream, even though they remembered mine. She insists I try harder to remember.

Busy night—more stuff with friends, lots of fun and activity, none of which stuck.

You can see patterns emerging here, and they’re helpful, hopeful ones. Even though I often feel blue in my waking life, something underneath is shifting in a big way. Looks like the changes will be positive. Bring it on!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Life Quilt

I posted a photo today on my Facebook page of an art quilt of mine, one that I hope will be accepted for an upcoming fiber arts exhibition. Someone asked me about it, and there's no better explanation than the final few paragraphs of my dissertation, for which the piece was created:

Concluding Thoughts: The Life Quilt

The image for the final art piece, entitled “Life Quilt,” appeared relatively early in the dissertation process but refused to come into physical form. I started collecting materials for it, imagining its parts and layout, but was never able to begin the actual work. This puzzled me, because the image was so clear in my mind. It was not until the morning when I began to write this last section of the dissertation that I understood why this piece had to wait, and only at that moment was I able to begin to work on it.

The Life Quilt is created in homage to all the Ladies who collaborated with me in this work. It includes phototransferred images from the letters with which I began the journey, scraps of fabric and clothing from my own family and from pieces “found” in thrift shops and antique stores, and some small objects that represent stages in our lives as women. These bits and scraps are collaged, stitched, and quilted together; the edges are neither bound (though our lives have often been bounded) nor finished (as our lives are never neatly finished). The idea appeared about the time I first encountered my imaginal friend Ellen Janney:

I’m working today in the basement studio, selecting fabrics for a quilt piece. A quilt seems like a good thing for the Ladies and me to do together—a quilting bee! I sense several presences. One person I recognize—my mother’s mother, Hazel Comstock. She says, “My granny made quilts … like them crazy quilts.” Hazel so rarely speaks! But she’s interested, at least.

I’ve got some old, fragile laces and fine things; some battered dishtowels; a piece of one of my dad’s knitted cotton “guinea tees,” worn to shreds after Mom died. Pieces of Mom’s old damask tablecloths, who knows how old when she received them, but worn and threadbare in spots even when she gave them to me back in the ‘80s. I’m not being gentle with any of these things. Life isn’t gentle with us; Death, life’s other face, is not gentle. It rips our garments, our dreams, our lives, and leaves us standing, gaping at the sudden destruction, the jagged hole left in the fabric of our existence. Sometimes we’re able to mend the rent, but often it remains. Often, our lives are shredded like shattered silk....

I’ve never hand-quilted before, and I call on the Ladies: “Who’s the best quilter among us? I’ll need your hands to guide mine, please.” Then, in my mind’s eye, I see a little woman, probably in her sixties; small, frail, white-haired, and encased (the only possible word) in black silk with a white lace collar. Quaker? I wonder. Time period looks to be the 1880s, maybe, from the dress, though it’s an everyday dress and so it’s hard to say exactly. I see her with her head bent over something—a sewing machine, maybe? She knows I’m there, but doesn’t acknowledge me; she’s intent on what she’s doing. Then she pulls whatever it is off the table toward her, gives it a little shake, then looks up at me and smiles. I recognize her now—Mary Ann John Tomlinson, my great-great-grandmother, Ellen’s dearest friend. This is a thrill for me.

I wonder about the way I first saw Mary Ann just now—bent, as if over a sewing machine. I wonder if she actually had one, or if I’m seeing her that way because of the relationship fostered by our work here: almost like I’m seeing the part of her that lives on in me. However it is, it feels so right, and so warm: all of us Ladies, holding hands across the years and the generations, sharing our experiences....

The backing for the piece, onto which the fabric shapes are quilted in what at first seems a random pattern, is faintly imprinted with images of the Mandelbrot Set, representing the infinitely repeating, yet infinitely variable nature of women’s lives over the course of human history. The stitches that appear random from the front of the piece are actually caught up to points within that repeating pattern on the quilt back. Our lives are part of the archetypal pattern, whether we can see that or not.

On that morning when I began to write these concluding paragraphs, I realized that the reason the piece lay dormant for all these years is that it represents the dissertation itself. Parts of this finished work were actually written years ago, and have been incorporated almost untouched. They remained there in my files and in my mind, and I turned them over and over without being able to see how they fit into the overall pattern of the work. All I knew was that they were part of the work; like seeds in the winter soil, they needed to wait for the springtime to sprout, and for the summertime to flower.

The work on this dissertation followed the seasons; each spring it came to life again after a winter’s dormancy. As spring progressed into summer, ideas flowed and writing progressed. In full summer I admired the work’s progress, tended and watered and pruned and weeded. Then, in the fall, that period of work would come to a close and the seeds would fall to the ground; the cycle continued during the cold bleakness of winter. As I write this, spring is once more moving toward a summer during which I will weed and prune the draft and watch it flower into the final version. In the early fall I will defend the dissertation. I do not yet know what the fruits and seeds of this work will be, nor what new growth will sprout from it after the upcoming winter. But I know that the cycle is endless, and that my part in it continues. I am endlessly grateful.

A conversation with Grandmother

Last night I had a conversation with Grandmother, my Guide. I haven’t talked with her in quite a while, likely because of the serious depression I've been lost in for several months. I've only recently begun to come out of it.

With all the blessings in my life right now, how can I possibly be depressed? I even have a horse — the realization of a childhood dream! All this I know. So what on earth is going on?

When I went to bed last night I could perceive huge, empty space around me — not a threatening space, but vast, limitless, full of possibilities. I want the courage to let go and float on the tide of starlight into that space, but it’s terribly difficult. It feels like I’m hanging on for dear life to the shreds of business — busy-ness — here in my daily world. So I prayed from my soul for understanding and guidance.

About 3:30 in the morning I woke up with the realization of the depth of my terror at this moment. I am waiting for The Terrible Thing to happen. This is an undefined Terrible Thing, but for me, it feels like a certainty. There is too much good in my life right now — too many things are wonderful, too much luxury exists, I have too much time and too many resources. I mean, not having to work, and having a horse???! This is just too much to take in, too much to accept. Something Bad Will Happen. That’s the way things work.

Then I heard Grandmother’s question in my mind. How comforting it was just to “hear” her calm, measured “tones”:

“Can you receive?”

Receive? Oh yeah, the cosmic “receive.” Well, short answer: “NO!” I mean, no, for goodness sake, no!

“Why not?”

Well, duh, of course not! I haven’t done anything to deserve this!

“But you are.” She didn't bother to argue with me that I'm a good person, that I deserve good things, none of that. She just cut to the chase. She always does that, and at times like this, I hate it.

Ah. I “am.” The cosmic “am.” Yeah, right. No, I can’t just “receive.” It would be different if some person gave me something. Then maybe I could accept it, like if I had done something for them. But the Universe? No, I don’t think so!

“And why is that different?”

Her questions often make me squirm. Sheesh, I don’t know. It just is. Things don’t work that way. It just doesn’t work like that. Sorry, but it just doesn’t.

“Is this true?”

That prompted a “discussion” of what it might be like to be able to just accept what is at this moment and be happy. I had a flash of that feeling. Wow.... It would be so fantastic, so peaceful, such a lovely place to be. But it was just a flash, extinguished as soon as I perceived it.

Why is my resistance to this so strong? I mean, I have almost everything I could possibly want. How on earth can I still resist? It is true that, like everyone else, there are still some things I do lack, things I dearly, dearly wish I had in my life. But why do I cling to what I lack instead of focusing on what I have? It is weird, counterintuitive, destructive.

“Lack and unhappiness is all you know.” She used other “words” that were more subtle and explanatory, of course, and more nuanced. I’ve worked through huge emotional and psychological issues over the past few years, but this one remains, like bedrock.

I think it has a lot to do with what I absorbed from my mother — and maybe from the Motherline — about lack of nurture, about complete insecurity both emotional and physical, about the dangers of having to rely — financially or emotionally — on someone other than oneself. Mom was so clear about those dangers and deprivations. However I learned it, it’s my foundational “knowledge” about the way the world works, the way things are at the most fundamental level of my reality. How on earth does one go about changing this?

The way it works is so clear: as soon as I imaging trusting and receiving, I instinctively pull back, and the thought is, “something bad will happen and all this will go away.” There’s a distrust so deep that I can’t even get at it. It’s a part of me! I don’t see how I can change it….

Grandmother wouldn’t give up, though. “Can there be another way?”

I don’t know. I can try. I can try to focus on gratitude. I have an aunt, my mother’s sister, who shared much of that terrible childhood with my mother, and who has experienced tragedy in her life that would have killed most of us. She suggested one day that gratitude is how she survived. I am going this week to visit her; perhaps she can help me understand.

There was an instant of hope. But then I was back whining about what’s missing in my life, wondering how I can ever be happy without it. But Grandmother was tracking right along with me.

“Can you be happy without that?”

I genuinely don’t know. There are moments when I think I can; and there are moments of black despair when I know I cannot.

As Grandmother pointed out just before I went back to sleep, “Happiness comes from within.” Deep happiness can’t depend on another person or on something material; it has to be something essential, inner, arising from one’s soul. And that, I think, brings this discussion back full circle: “Can you receive?”

Wow…. Guess she’s assigned me my homework.