Dream a Little Dream with Me

I want to focus specifically on dream work because it is something I am doing more frequently. I find it fascinating and extremely insightful. And, well, we all dream. Everyone dreams and that includes animals. Carl Jung proposes that this would not be the case if it did not serve an evolutionary purpose. (fun fact, if you google “how do we know that…” one of the top things google will guess that you are searching for is “how do we know that dogs dream”) For now, I’m asking you to trust me that they do. Our dreams must give us something to learn, to keep us alive and safe and to grow.

So they help us grow and they also help us discover new things. Every dream has some new information coming from the depths of our unconscious, trying to make itself known. In a recurring dream or a nightmare, it may be that the lesson is of deeper importance or greater urgency and the unconscious is trying that much harder to get your attention. This is what I have discovered to be true about dreams as I’ve learned more about how to work with them. I would be weary of any person or book that declares they will interpret your dreams. Rather, it is a process and a practice and there are ways to be in relationship with your dreams, to treat them as guides and teachers.

When you are in the sacred space of sleep, your ego is on break and your unconscious comes out to play in the dark. The unconscious is a world of symbols and archetypes, of emotions and questions and longings and infinite potential. This energy of the less tangible and less logic-based things in life uses people and symbols that we attach meaning to in our waking life, to create stories that we can use. These stories are our dreams.

Anyone with a broken heart or goal or desire that has not yet come to fruition can tell you that the internal, intangible world is very real and the brain, soul and heart aren’t always on the same page. So dreams can be a bridge between our unconscious and conscious selves that can keep us moving forward when we cross them.

In our waking life, we can look at the themes, the symbols, the archetypes, the emotions and the questions present in the dream to learn something and grow. Jung proposes that everything in the dream is a symbol that holds information about yourself. Each person in a dream is representing a facet of yourself…a quality you want to garner, a shadow quality you need to work with, a quality that will help you with your current life circumstances and so on.

It is common for people to have a dream about someone they just randomly saw the other day and say, “Well, obviously that person was in my dream as a coincidence of seeing them the other day.” Jung would argue otherwise on behalf of your unconscious. We potentially see hundreds, maybe thousands of people a day. Your unconscious seeks opportunities in the real world for synchronicity because those things can then grab your attention and be studied as symbols. It’s as if your unconscious is scanning your experiences for the right symbol to use and when it finds it, boom it edits it into your dreams so you have the opportunity to work with it.

So here are some primary things you can start doing:

Before you go to sleep, focus on your desire to remember your dreams.

When you do remember them, lay in bed and go over the dream again before moving.

Write the dream down and give it a title.

Describe the themes that you see in the dream.

Record the emotions and energy you felt.

Think about the questions that the dream is posing to you.

Identify the symbols in the dream and record what you associate with them.

Keep a journal of dreams and look at them in a series of 10 for patterns that occur.

In certain cases, you may want to draw your dream or move and act it out to dig deeper into the sensations and messages.

Keep asking yourself how this relates to your life experiences…What is familiar? When have you felt this before? How does this make you feel now? What new perspective is being introduced? What is the invitation from this dream?

This is plenty to start with. Other practices for getting in touch with your emotional and unconscious world within can also help.

First, acknowledging that this part of you is alive and working on your behalf all of the time. Focus intention, perhaps in meditation, through writing or wandering in nature, on your desire to notice and nurture your unconscious world. Also, while I don’t rely on dream dictionaries, there are a myriad of books out there that can help you to learn to work with your dreams.

Here are a few recommendations of books that have been helpful to me:

Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill: Using Dreams to Tap the Wisdom of the Unconscious, by Jeremy Taylor

Dream Symbol Work: Unlocking the Energy from Dreams and Spiritual Experiences, by Patricia H Berne and Louis M. Savary

Man and His Symbols, by Carl Jung

I also recommend seeking out dream groups, a dream practitioner or a therapist who offers dream work or deep imagery work, retreats and workshops. I learned so much about dreams from my vision quest and the month-long transformation retreat I did in the Amazon, in addition to my personal practice.

Dreams are personal. It can be so helpful to have someone guide you through the process and dream work in a group setting can be extremely powerful as well. I have made major life decisions based on dreams and gained many insights. I occasionally have lucid dreams and even literal dreams that have come true the next day. There is a whole world of possibility for those courageous enough to explore. Happy Dreaming!

Countdown to 2015 – 7 – Passion Play

As the countdown to 2015 continues so does our opportunity to focus on what we want out of the coming year. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

10 – Setting intentions – thoughts and questions for inspiration

9 – Gratitude – an absolute must

8 – Wandering in Nature – taking a look in the mirror via the wilderness

And now for number 7, how about a bit of passion play.

I’ve been focused on “passions” maybe more than anything else in the last 2 years as I’ve been trying to pursue my own. My working definition of passion is something that goes beyond a hobby or interest; something that we want to dive into and get lost in; something we want to learn more about and explore and share; something that lights us up inside and makes us feel so alive.

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life…if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” ~ Roald Dahl

With vulnerability, I admit I used to get jealous of people who were living their passions or who were doing things that I wanted to have as my passions…the people who were born on top of a mountain and have been climbing them ever since. I thought of them as a different, untouchable race.

Honestly, when discovering how much I love to climb mountains my first feeling was despair for the lost years growing up in the anti-mountain midwest.

This has really changed for me the last 2 years as I decided to focus my whole life on finding my passions. I shifted my perspective and realized that I want to live in a world where everyone is living fully and passionately and connecting and supporting each other in this. With all of my attention there, I became a student of passion.

I got outside my comfort zone. I looked at the things I was interested in and made a point of doing more of those things and noticed how I felt…treating them more like a right than a luxury. In doing so, I met others doing similar things and often doing related things that were bigger, bolder and creative…things that hadn’t even tickled my consciousness.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from those interactions:

It helps to become an admirer. Seek out people doing things that make you say “wow. I wish I could do that.” And then rather than taking the role of bystander…be inspired to take action. Court someone as a mentor if possible. Study what they do. Be curious and ask questions…to them directly or to the great all-knowing google.

Seek out resources. Seek out community.

Keep trying new things. When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

The imagination is key here…even with an inkling of what your passions are, you can start to play around with them.

Pick an interest or passion and brainstorm, without restrictions or judgment, different adventures to have with that activity. Write out goals, possibilities, things to explore. Dream big and broad and then pick one of those dreams and start pursuing it.

What would it take? What would it look like if I wooed this? What do I need to know? What do I need to do to make this happen?

It is magnetic to be around someone who is pursuing and living their passions. Opportunities seem to open up and connections are made. This is one thing that I love about travel…you often meet people doing something they love and you also encounter a lot of perspectives that you wouldn’t otherwise in your familiar surroundings.

It is never too late to play with our passions and to pursue them and pursue them some more. I guess it would only be too late if we reach the end of our lives and realize that we never did.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

2 years ago (as of yesterday!) I left the USA for Argentina on a journey of self-discovery to design my life around my passions.

I’ve launched a campaign on kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! to help me turn these passions into something to give and share in a book and guidebook that I plan to publish. What I love about Kickstarter is that it is all about bringing together people to support each other’s passions.

I have 7 days left in my campaign. All or nothing…not to be dramatic, but you really do get everything you’ve raised if you meet your goal or you get nada.

To give people a taste of thoughts on pursuing your passions, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days. They are focused on personal development practices, specifically around preparing for a glorious, adventurous new year. Number 7 here is focused on pursuing passions.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider backing my campaign, any donation helps; also please share my campaign with others who might be inspired. You can find out more about me and my story at erinkmac.com.

Follow this blog to receive the others in this series. Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me, the countdown to 2015.

Countdown to 2015 – 8 – Au Naturale, Wandering in Nature

The countdown to an adventurous 2015 continues with Nature, that sexy beast, coming in at 8. So with 10, we set intentions and with 9 we expressed gratitude for where we’ve come from and what has come to us. I can’t go further without mentioning the essential component of ‘time in nature’.

Why? Well, we’re all nature. We can start with that. We’re energy, vibrating at our own unique frequency, alive and connected to all that is alive. I believe we are at our happiest when we are most fully living our true nature, the ultimate expression of our essence and I think time in nature can turn our attention there.

I would bet on my infinite potential human life that there are studies about the good effects that time spent in nature has on a being’s mind, body and soul. Just today I read that this is a known contributor or common denominator in the lives of centenarians (people living to be over 100 years old).

Mostly I can just speak from personal experience.

When I am trying to process something there is nothing that helps me more than taking a mindful wander in nature. Depending on what is on my mind, what I want to be on my mind or what I am trying to get out of my mind, this mindful wander may be an adrenaline induced, heart pounding, sweaty climb up a mountain or it may be a slow, barefoot walk through a peaceful forest listening for the quietest sound I can hear or sitting in silence at the side of a lake.

Is there anyone who doesn’t find a mountain or ocean or flower to be beautiful?

Pachamama, Mother Nature, is my favorite artist in the world. The chaotic creativity of a buzzing jungle, the intense colors of a sunset that don’t even seem possible, the equal parts mystery and reason in the cycles of the sun, moon, tides, seasons and connection of it all…it is sheer mastery.

The Earth is a great healer too; it can provide everything we need. Shelter, food, medicine, each other, beauty… It is not a coincidence that we have evolved from cultures who were highly reliant on and educated in the dynamics of nature and the elements as a Provider and Teacher.

I cannot say with confidence that there is anything more humbling than a stormy ocean at night, a towering mountain adorned with crackling glacial ice or any other circumstances when nature decides to show her immense power and demand your respect.

And yet nature is also the most delicate of places…the peaceful, soothing sound of a flowing river, the calming “shhhhhhhh” of rustled tree leaves; everything perfectly in balance, ebbing flowing, responding, embracing what is.

In my humble opinion, the greatest of adventures happen in nature. It offers the most intensely beautiful experiences with all sorts of unpredictable circumstances…the greatest challenges rewarded with awe-inducing scenery that makes your head and heart ache with trying to understand how it is even possible.

And it can make you feel so small. I think this is beautiful. Sometimes I purposely picture myself in a natural place and I zoom out to a star-level view and I realize that I have a place in the world and yet anything seems possible from that perspective as I’m just a tiny person in an expansive universe.

Quite simply, nature mirrors us or we mirror nature. This makes it a magnificent teacher when we choose to spend dedicated time outside. Even in a city, we can go to a park or notice a flower growing in an unlikely place. I think it is so important to commit to going further into the great outdoors, the wilderness too.

If possible, an extended time living in nature is ideal…days, weeks, months. Notice all of the different sounds, species, colors and scents around. It is a gift and it is a lesson to live in a place long enough to notice the changing levels of the river, for instance, and to watch buds turn to blossoms.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

And now I’ve lost myself in my love letter to nature, so back to the point.

When processing something or when setting an intention, take a moment to go wander in nature while focusing on the question or desire and then notice what shows up. Maybe even pick a plant, rock, lake, animal, flower…whatever draws your attention and sit in its presence and notice its energy and where your thoughts, emotions and energy go.

Make a point of getting outside as often as possible, the more remote the better, but any nature will do. Notice how all of your senses are stimulated.

Plan an adventure in the great outdoors.

Sleep under the stars. Go somewhere where you can see the stars. Wish on a star.

Play outside. Create something outside. Be sure to have a hobby that is done in nature. It is no coincidence that moving to the 300+ days of sun and mountains in Colorado changed the quality of my life.

Read a book about our connection to nature…my favorites are by the author Bill Plotkin: Soul Craft, Nature and the Human Soul and Wild Mind. Or read some John Muir, National Geographic or learn a bit about Teddy Roosevelt.

This blog post could be a book and so I’ll leave it here for now.

My love of nature has brought me to the mountains of Patagonia, where I am living on a lake in Argentina and writing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to Patagonia…in pursuit of my passions and wanting to help others find theirs through this book and interactive guidebook.

I’ve launched a campaign on kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! to help me turn these passions into something to give and share. What I like about kickstarter is that it brings together people who are working towards something, who have something to share with people who want to be a part of making it happen.

I have 8 days left in my campaign. All or nothing…not to be dramatic, but you really do get everything you’ve raised if you meet your goal or you get nada.

To give people a taste of the type of material that will be in the interactive guidebook/journal, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days. They will be focused on personal development practices, specifically around getting ready to plan a glorious, adventurous new year. Number 8 here is focused on spending time in nature.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider backing my campaign, any donation helps; also please share my campaign with others who might be inspired. You can find out more about me and my story at erinkmac.com as well.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me, the countdown to 2015.

Gone Journeying – A Call to Adventure

Are you familiar with The Hero’s Journey? If not by name, you’re likely more familiar with it than you know. King of myths, Joseph Campbell, identified a similar structure in myths throughout countless cultures, eras, and in our own individual lives that shows up with striking frequency. So much so that many a movie, novel, or personal transformation story echoes this mystical pattern. Creative geniuses of the likes of Bob Dylan and George Lucas have been known to acknowledge being guided by this pattern.

So what is it? In short, the “hero” of the story experiences a “call to adventure”…some sort of pull, feeling, or event that tells the hero that their current situation has become too small and it is time to go out wandering to discover something new. This might appear as a feeling that is magnetic, a ‘must do’, without being able to actually see the magnet. In some cases, the call is not recognized or it is dismissed, often leading to a more dramatic and often painful “yank” to adventure. The universe now has the hero’s attention, and the hero commits to crossing the threshold and going on this journey. The hero goes out wandering and often encounters signs and guides along the way, as well as barriers and obstacles to overcome. Typically there is a climax as the hero is faced with the biggest challenge yet, a death of old ways and a birth to a new revelation. Ultimately, through the course of this journey, the hero learns, grows and receives a gift, his personal, unique gift. He is then faced with the task of returning back to his community, crossing back over the threshold as a transformed hero ready to share this gift.

There are many types of travelers that I meet. There are those who have a break from school or their job and are using it to travel. There are those who are moving abroad to work, either with a job lined up or the willingness to find some sort of work that will enable them to live abroad or travel. There are those who are going for months or even years, those accomplishing huge adventure goals, those taking a short vacation to experience a new place. There are those who are taking a break, maybe a sabbatical and have a job or commitment to return to. Here I am wandering Argentina, out exploring and meeting all sorts of these travelers and I feel so different from them. I feel this weight or responsibility. I think travel is a wonderful thing for many reasons, and I respect all types of travel. So what is this feeling? It finally it hit me…

I am not “gone traveling”. I’m gone journeying, a heroine’s journey to be exact. The purpose of my wandering is to pursue the call to adventure that I felt first as the “yank” and then felt more gently once I accepted it. (I touch on this in an article I recently wrote for elephantjournal.com.)

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What am I doing? Well, after fighting it for some time, I gave in to the whisper to go wander foreign lands right  now. I sold my house, car, most of my things, and set out to get in touch with my essence and design my life around it. Not to “find myself”, but to fully “be myself”. I’m not traveling, I’m not jumping into an expat life, I’m not looking for work. I’m on a journey to have my unique gift revealed to me. This journey could happen with or without travel. Ok, well travel is part of it 🙂

So why travel? Well, because you are alone if you are going about it the way I am. Things are different, foreign, there is a threshold to cross and dance with the unknowns. I am trying to look at things in a new way and this facilitates that because newness surrounds. And for me, I love to travel. To create a life around what I love, I started with something I know I love…travel. This is why it made sense for me.

So why alone? Because it is uncomfortable or maybe a gentler way to say it is that you are out of your comfort zone. This is a heroine’s journey. It is a rite of passage, which is very common across cultures and eras as well and is experienced alone and often in nature. Along with travel, nature is such a great teacher and mirrors so much back to you. It teaches me my tools and forces me to come up with new ones as well. It teaches me what I am capable of when I have courage and take action. What frustrates me? What does that tell me about me? What am I afraid of? Why? Is it a familiar feeling? What am I doing about it? How am I processing it? What excites me? What is it about it that lights me up? Who have I attracted doing this journey, and what experiences? What have I learned in the process of preparing to leave and throughout wandering? What do I do when I get to a new place? How do I approach people and situations and how do I want to be approached?

My journey is a conscious one and one grounded in intention. I am getting answers to all of these questions. I am pausing to reflect. I am still discovering my passions, talents, and my unique gift. I’m still out on the journey. There absolutely have been challenges along the way and there continue to be. At times I’ve actually been too obsessed with The Journey and have had to learn to just be again. I need to be guided by what I love and continue to fine tune what I learn when I do that. One component of this is that it’s a “can’t turn back” sort of situation. Once you cross the threshold into this journey, it is almost impossible to turn back. But history also shows with this pattern that if the hero moves forward with conviction and awareness, the hero perseveres. It’s not a coincidence. To me, it is an energetic response to the heroine owning her true nature and letting it out to play only to find it was within her all along.

This looks different for everyone, but the components often resonate. It feels right to share this story because I think we benefit a lot from sharing our personal experiences and connecting with what resonates. And I think the hero’s journey is just so simple and awesome. Have you felt the call to adventure? What do you love? What would it look like to let yourself dedicate time to fully pursuing what you love?

To read more about The Hero’s Journey (or Monolyth), well, just google it! Or you can read the book where Joseph Campbell first references it called The Hero With a Thousand Faces