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!

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Countdown to 2015 – 2 – Into the Dreamy Depths

I think it’s time to specifically call out the unconscious part of ourselves too and why we have it and what we can do with it. So as the countdown to 2015 nears its end, let’s take a look at what’s going on inside.

“Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.” ~ Carl Jung

I think this is true and I think both are important as well as integrated. The unconscious is the part of the iceberg immersed in the ocean…the unseen, the feelings and emotions, the intangible. If you’ve ever had a gut feeling, woke up from a dream or had butterflies in your chest from falling in love, you’ve experienced the unconscious.

I’m going to write from a Jungian perspective because it is familiar territory and it resonates with me deeply. Jung identified both the collective unconscious and the personal unconscious.

The collective unconscious refers to the human template basically, what are the things the characteristics that all of us receive when we’re born, share with each other and contribute to in how we live our lives. The ability to think, feel, to breathe, our unique ability to analyze and be aware of ourselves as individuals and aware of our thoughts.

The personal unconscious refers to our unique experience of the collective unconscious. It is the culmination of our experiences, the influence of various cultures and communities we are born into, the season and time of day we first experience and the impact of all of this and more on how we individually express and manifest it all.

I think we can all agree that we are not just these static bodies made up of all this physical, tangible stuff and nothing more. Where does the change take place…not physical changes, but how we change as people over time? Where do our experiences go as we accumulate more of them? Where does the growth we experience in our lives occur, the learning? How do we evolve and apply ourselves and express ourselves? Where does creativity live? What does our conscience look like and how does it operate? Why do we seek new experiences and goals and dreams?

And so there is much we can learn if we are willing to dive into the depths of the intangible world within…we might call it our souls. What would it look like to acknowledge this and engage with this energy?

How do we do that? A number of ways.

The realm of the unconscious is that of symbols, where it plays around with ways to express itself and work its way into our consciousness. Symbols are containers for energy, meaning, information, values, emotions. They give us something physical and tangible to identify with so that we can then process all these unknowns with what we do know.

This is why storytelling is important and why we have cultural myths. This is what we experience in dreams. This is one way that nature is a mirror for us. This is something we can find in our own writing and art if we commit to a practice and then experience ourselves through our own creations.

Initially I wrote a whole section on dream work for this post, but there is just too much information there and if you’re like me, you get a bit antsy when a blog post just won’t end even if it is interesting. So expect a post on dream work sometime soon. (Follow this blog and you’ll get an email when it comes.)

For now, my recommendation would be to get curious about your unconscious world and search for some practices that most appeal to you for getting to know it.

Maybe it is sitting with some of the questions above. Maybe it is starting to journal, take nature walks, meditate, record dreams, read poetry or philosophy or a book about Carl Jung. If at all possible I think a long term, solo journey in nature is the most ideal way to dive into this stuff.

Might I suggest some topics to consider:

“Who am I?” ok maybe that is a bit intense. But what makes me, me? My values, qualities, talents, passions, personality?

How do I process information?

How do I express myself?

How do I want others to approach me?

What are my shadow qualities?

What triggers challenging emotions in me? How do I handle that when it happens?

When do I feel the happiest and most alive?

What was my childhood like?…both the things I loved to do for hours and also my defense mechanisms and strategies that I used as I discovered I was my own person?

What do I need to let go of in my life that doesn’t serve me anymore to make space for new?

What new things do I want to invite into that space?

..all territory of the unconscious and the soul.

To me, not befriending your unconscious is like not celebrating your birthday. Your unconscious is there and it is active whether you like it or not and it has a critical role to play. We all have the opportunity to get on board with that and have a conscious approach towards it and actually be grateful for the gifts that lie there. When we don’t, what resides there can often arise in ways that aren’t so comfortable.

“You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.” ~ Johnny Depp

With our birthdays, we’re turning older whether we like it or not. Aging is a reality. Celebrating your birthday is an opportunity to celebrate your life…holy shit, we’re alive! That’s pretty cool. To me, a birthday is a symbol of our life and an opportunity to check in with what we’re doing with it.

Ok, off my soap box. Happy birthday to everyone and happy exploring of your unconscious. This is just the tiniest of introductions to all things unconscious, but my hope is it was interesting in the least and a call to curiosity and action at the most.

Thank you for tuning in to this series of ten blogs posts on personal development practices for a fulfilling 2015. If you’re just arriving, welcome! Here’s where we’ve been:

10 – Setting Intentions

9 – Expressing Gratitude

8 – Wandering in Nature

7 – Playing with our Passions

6 – Letting to go Excuses

5 – Law of Attraction and Ritual

4 – Self Care

3 – Finding your People

If you like what you are reading, please consider backing my kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! and please share too. The campaign is focused on writing and publishing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to a life designed around passions and also includes an interactive guidebook to help those wishing to make their own personal changes.

I have 2 days left in my campaign, all or nothing! I will beg. I will. Please.

You can read more about my story at erinkmac.com and continue to receive this blogs by clicking the ‘follow’ button.

Thank so very much for coming along on this adventure.

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.

What Inspires You?

I had the pleasure of having the most intense experience of my life in every way you can imagine and some you probably can’t…deep in the Amazon on a thirty-three day transformation retreat. We learned many traditions and engaged in several ceremonies during this time, guided by a shaman who had experienced intense healing himself from this very selva (jungle).

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One type of ceremony we practiced was a coca ceremony, where the sacred plant is shared over the course of hours in a highly ritualistic setting while the group holds council on a single, chosen topic. It is important to note that these ceremonies were guided by a shaman whose focus is on healing, and were accompanied by elements of candles, song, blessings, and shared intentions.

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The topic for this particular ceremony was to ask ourselves: What inspires me? Where do I fit into the cosmic evolutionary journey? We talked about all sorts of ways to take action, to work with kids, to bring what we were learning in the jungle back to our “real world”, and how each of us individually felt inspired to provide a unique gift.

After some thought, here is what I had to say:

I do not know what my passions and talents are right now. I’m out wandering the world looking to discover just that: my inspiration, my gift to give. What I do know is that every one of us is unique. If we learn to live in a sustainable relationship with our Earth, life could go on and on and on, and there will never again be another “Me”.

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How exciting! The possibilities!! But I also get overwhelmed with the responsibility of this! I mean, wow. I believe we each have a particular place in time and space where our passions, talents, and skills meet in a perfect storm for what the community and the world need from us. Our gift and our service to the world is to be at our best and our happiest, really owning our true nature.

It reminds me of a drum circle, also unique to those who make it up and their ebbs and flows and rhythms in that moment. You don’t just go into the circle thinking, “I’m gonna rock this super sweet beat!” You listen, you feel it. Where is the space that is available to me, the place where my soul is needed? And as more of us realize that space and jump in with conviction, the collective rhythm takes it in and evolves exactly as it should.

I used to be overwhelmed and concerned…if I follow my dreams and passions and everyone else does too, who will want to be the garbage man (for example)?? Over time I have realized that if we were all living to our greatest creative potential, we wouldn’t be living the same stories that we are today. There very well might not be a need for a garbage man because we would have another unique solution entirely.

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I think this is critical. To see the possibilities that we haven’t even thought of yet, when we each take responsibility for following our passions and realizing our gifts, and creating new stories together. There are worse things you could be asked to do, no?

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When I left Denver to wander the world, expose myself to the unknown to get to the core of what is me, in some ways it was like a mini funeral. Sure, saying goodbye to familiarity was akin to a little death. During many goodbyes and ‘see ya laters’ friends opened up to me about why they will miss me. It was a unique and special opportunity for me to hear from the people I care about the most; what do they see in me?

I hold this in my heart as I wander and I hope to give others this gift in return. To tell them now, “Here is how I experience you… Here are the gifts that I get from you…” If we each seek to embody our own true nature, we can grow personally and in turn collectively participate in the evolutionary journey.

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