I feel grateful that I do not have to work at Taming my Lamb....
Throughout the three days with Catherine Shainberg, I work with the truth of images and how they depict our reality. Dreaming is not just in the night, but a continual process. Instead of merely being a passive observer of the events and images in our life, she teaches us how to fully participate and respond to both the night dreams and the daydream. The first concept to embrace is the truth held in the images our body/mind/spirit creates. Even if we do not like, agree, or understand an image, it is absolutely reflecting the truth about our perceptions, filters, and our true being. I see it as the soul speaking. This language has pinpoint accuracy and as I work with the images, I begin to have a deep appreciation for how an image can incorporate thought and feeling into such a tidy and precise modality of communication.
Dreaming is a Whispering and the Secret is in How You Blow
"Dreaming is a way of triggering consciousness or holding a center so that consciousness can have power," she explains. The stories or mythology created out of the dream describes how each person inhabiting a body understands the great mystery. The Kabbalistic lineage teaches that dreaming is a whispering and the secret is in how you blow. Kabbalah is a blowing wind through the text or form; it means to receive from the inside. One becomes the flute and God blows the flute. Through experiential exercises using all of our senses, we touch the subconscious from a relaxed fully present and awake awareness. This way of working with imaging is a process of becoming more alive to the true reality in the world and a detachment from complete absorption in the illusion of the world. The power comes from interacting and responding to the images instead of treating them as if in a movie or being at the mercy of them. Life is lived as a co-creation, mythopoesis, shaping experience through myth and vision, rather than as fate.
Two to three minute imaging exercises, one after the other, train our mind and body to respond quickly. On the last day each exercise takes only a minute and is followed by another in rapid succession. Truth is found in the first impression of the image and in the experience of the senses and feelings that arise. Images instantly appear out of the dark and my first response is wonder and questioning, "Why this image?" My second response is to morph it into something else. I learn to be with the image and take it in before morphing or responding to it. Catherine says the Talmud speaks of the four Rabbis. The first Rabbi 'sees' and dies of shock, not living the dream fully. The second Rabbi 'sees' and goes mad. The third Rabbi 'sees' and says, "Is that all?" The fourth Rabbi 'sees' and comes back into the world transformed. I learn to be with the image I receive instead of pushing it aside. I learn to respond to it. Entering the dream world is the hero or heroine and I am that heroine. Transforming the images teaches one how to deal with life's challenges. Dreaming offers a way of practicing and honing the skill of creating reality. It also transforms our pattern of seeing and responding.
The challenge is real and as I enter the night dreams they now take on a different flavor. In one, I enter a furniture store looking for a dining table and chairs. Squishy, swivel chairs with kaleidoscopic colored leather seats and backs surrounding a dark wood rectangular table appear. Delighted by the chairs, my attention is now drawn to the table. It seems rather short and squatty. "Maybe I want a round table instead. No, rectangular is fine, I surmise, it just needs to be longer and taller." Instantly, the table grows in dimension. That was easy. In another, I am walking alone in a pitch-black night beside an endless highway. A car comes from behind and slows. My antenna goes up and warns me that it may not be safe for a lone female walking at night in the middle of nowhere. I begin running and just as soon as I do my feet rotate at lightning quicksilver speed propelling me far ahead of the car. My eyes are alert and watching both sides for signs of people, lights, or buildings. On my right, lights and buildings appear yet there is a tall barrier between it and the road. "I must find an opening," no sooner thought than a dip in the barricade materializes and I bound over the low wall down an embankment. I mingle with people in the bright lights of the town. Still concerned that the car has followed me, I merge into a tall shrub. I am completely invisible now to passers-by. This transformation lesson must be complete because the next moment, I walk out of the shrub into the light and wake up.
Remembering the Power In Choice
The challenges increase with practice until transforming becomes second nature. This skill is brought into the waking state as courage and an ability to see a situation more creatively and from an expanded state of heightened possibility with choice. Choice is a key word. Night dreams offer endless choice and possibility and this knowing translates into the dream of life during the day. Reversing the day unwinds the burden of the day and opens a passageway to the night dream of choice. If I can handle a situation in the night dream, I am even more powerful in the day. The dream is the reality of how I actually feel. Recalling each moment of my day seems a prodigious task. "How will I remember a whole day?" Surprisingly, the scenes of the day do unfold like petals falling from a spiral core of a faded rose. One after the other the previous moment comes forth effortlessly until slumber enfolds me and I am in dreamland. If in the accounting of the day there arises a moment that weighs upon me, hurts me, disturbs, or unsettles my mind or emotions, I have the choice to re-image, re-frame, or re-experience the situation by responding to it. I do it in the same way I respond to the night dream. It is a form of therapy on oneself and with skill and practice trauma can be removed before it festers.
Sabrina recounts her dream from the previous night. The whole group asks her to describe nuances, feelings, and details of her dream, which helps the dreamer clarify and pay more attention to it, encouraging a way into the heart via the use of poetic language. A sensuous richly evocative, vivid description brings the life of the dream into the room and into each one's experience. Dreams often contain residue from recent events in our life and carry less weight or meaning so we go through a process of verification to set those bits aside. Patterns are noticed and then each one becomes a secondary dreamer re-telling the dream from their own imaging, sensing and knowing. The dream entity assimilates layers of images and sensations revealing the wisdom that this dream is a world dream created by all of us. In truth, we dreamed it together. The knowing that life is a dream and we are dreaming the new dream each and every moment is indelibly impressed upon our consciousness and with it taking responsibility for our creations means sincerely undertaking the ability to respond.
With our eyes closed Catherine pummels us with scenarios and asks us questions. "Play your whole life in front of you and see your life as a victim, now do the same and see your life as a drama, now see your life as a comedy. Which do you prefer?" "See the heroic stance you took as a young child to protect yourself in your dysfunctional family. See how your stance doesn't serve you anymore." "See your mother's face in a mirror; it is the first face you see. Change what you dislike." These simple rapid-fire intentions send waves of knowing and change throughout my cells.
I soak up the way she works with individuals in the group going through resistance, how she surgically enters their images and cuts out, brings in light, and guides them into an altered experience. It is amazing the speed which people are able to move through their resistance this way. Clearing out fractious emotions is done in a Gestalt way by feeling it, finding where it resides in the body, and vocalizing it. Once honored, the question is asked, "How do I want to feel?" The remembrance of choice is prompted and then a response of choosing a feeling is initiated with sensation and imaging. Taming the beasts of emotions requires us to clean the hurts of childhood and society. By changing dissonant past images and feelings the attitude and triggering to the past is transformed. Each time a challenge is faced and met through the exquisite creativity of story and image, healing occurs and light enters.
Wearing silvery armor, I enter a dark cave and meet the dragon of anger, the bull of resentment, the crocodile of fear, and the sadness of Eeyore. I lasso them in a golden net and climb a ladder. As I climb the rungs, the emotional demons all turn pink, then turn into doves, and finally disappear. I leap off the ladder into the sky, turn into pure light and expand out into the universe.
This article was published in The Spirit of Ma'at, November 2010 issue.