Browsing Category


my search continues
Blog Soul Coaching® December 4, 2016

My search continues, although my journey started long before I found Denise Linn and Soul Coaching®. I have been searching, and I still search, for the One Great Dreamer. At first, in my fascination with dreams, I mistakenly thought that dreams were both the means and the end. I thought that if only I could understand the message of a dream, if I could crack the code, then I would know myself better and understand dreams and their messages. I scratched in the dirt like a dog following the scent of a buried treasure.

The Search For Treasure

My search continued and at first, the treasure was simply to understand dreams. I hoped that if I could learn to understand dreams I could understand myself. Plato would approve. For me, dreams were the technology for self-understanding. They still are, yet in that moment by the pool (see my last post), when I tried to visualize what all this would look like, I suddenly saw that self-understanding was but the outer ring in a series of concentric circles.

Picture This

At first I thought that dreams should be the core circle, and expanding outward from the dream, I would find dream-understanding, self-understanding and so on, in an outward, expanding movement. But when I started working with dreams, their movement drew me inward and the centre circle, the core of the matter, was God. My search moved far beyond the need to understand myself, taking me into a world that was not visible to the naked eye, and where dreams were the technology for understanding both Self and Spirit. It was what I was searching for all along. Dreams were the means, not the end.

Forgetting and Remembering

Dreamers often awake with a sense that they were dreaming without being able to remember the details of the dream; that there was something there, if only they could remember what that was. This is not a new phenomenon. In Plato’s Republic we learn of the Myth of Er. There, Socrates tells of a man called Er and of his journey into the next world after dying in battle. Er tells of the rewards, the punishments, the judgments that a soul encounters. But he tells of the choices a soul must make and finally, of the River Lethe as well. It is this River of Forgetfulness of which the souls are required to drink, causing each to forget everything they had experienced between death and rebirth.

More Forgetting

Judaism, too, tells of forgetting. In the Talmud it is told that before an infant is born the child learns the entire Torah in utero! But as the newborn is delivered, an angel taps the baby on it’s upper lip, causing it to forget (and thus explaining the indentation we all have under our nose, on our upper lip.) Throughout the ages, there was a sense of there being something that we once knew but have forgotten.

There’s a Word for That?

There is a word for it, anamnesis, which is a kind of remembrance, and means the remembering of things from a supposed previous existence. Although this is often a reference to Platonic thought—that learning is the remembrance of things forgotten but once known by a soul—this idea shows up with little variation in medicine, religion and psychology as something previous known that is recalled to memory. So we spend our lives searching for what we suspect we’ve forgotten and surely, we’ll know it when we find it, won’t we? Or will we have forgotten how to see as well?


A better question would be, “Have we forgotten how to listen”? I believe that we have. In my next post, I will tell you how I began to listen. (Hint: It began with my body!)  But please don’t stress that I’m keeping you in suspense! I like to think that I’m asking you to develop your waiting and listening muscles. They are essential to the journey to connect with your soul. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Until next time….

Opening doors in life
Blog Soul Coaching® November 27, 2016

How are you at opening doors? Doors will open in life but do you step through? Or do you hesitate? Do you wait for someone else to open them? My journey through one door led to Soul Coaching® and it started many years before Denise Linn’s book fell off my shelf and everything I had learned clicked into place. As so often is the case, we can only see the path clearly by looking back over the terrain. Here is where it started, and though I’ve shared this story before, now I’m giving you the whole story, in shorter posts, so you can pause to ponder your own journey. Even though all beginnings are somewhat random, we will start here…..yet even “here” had a before, in which I had to open a door…..


We live in post-Freudian times and many of us grew up learning that dreams were the “royal road to the unconscious”. And they are, but they are more than that. They are another form of opening doors for us. The first time I became aware that dreams were hinting at something larger than my own personal psychology was in an unlikely place for a revelation. The year was 1997 and I was sitting by the hotel pool on a very hot Philadelphia weekend. Danny Stein had just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and my kids, numbering four, were cooling off in the pool along with all of Philadelphia it seemed. I sat in a lounge chair, watching the kids, watching people and reading Joan Borysenko’s “Fire in the Soul”. In it, she wrote, “A Parable: Safe Passage Home”. I read it and gasped. Then I cried under my sun hat. Somehow, in a few words, I found out why I was so interested in dreams, why I was a dreamer. Borysenko wrote,

“The fledgling souls took many roads Home. Each Way had its own Story and each soul responded to that Story with the gift of free will, embroidering new stories on the dream-tapestry of the One Great Dreamer.”

With that sudden understanding, I could now see what wasn’t there a moment before. In that moment, I reconnected with my Creator, with myself and to all dreamers in a way that I wasn’t connected before. Before, I felt like an orphan; now, suddenly, I belonged. Before, there had been an intellectual understanding of the psychology of dreams, now it was personal and it was spiritual.

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

In that moment by the pool I realized that I dream—you dream—because God dreams. Being “created in God’s image”, a familiar passage from the Bible, now took on deeper shading, as the idea took root in my heart and in my soul. Life was a noisy, hot day by a pool one moment and reality was where I had left it. Yet, a moment later, my eyes were opened to a broader perspective and I understood. I dream because God dreams! Yet, as everything changed, I still had work to do, children to raise; wood to chop and water to carry.

I was born of the One Great Dreamer and to dream is my birthright and my gift. At the same time, it is both natural and supernatural. My fascination with dreams had come into alignment with creation. Yet this sudden spiritual awakening —my poolside satori—threatened to dissipate as I struggled to understand. Am I dreaming all of this? Am I dreaming my life? My children? (My deliberation paused as I counted heads in the pool.) And if, like my Creator, I dream or create my world, are my own children, or anyone else for that matter, dreaming a different dream? Are common dreams what creates community and binds societies together? If my mind can play with the possibility that I’ve created my own reality, and I’ve dreamed this life of mine, then I have to also consider the possibility that God is a dream as well. Who’s dreaming whom? (And is it time to get out of the sun?)

That was the beginning of my chapter in Soul Whispers II, a book written by Soul Coaches for people who are on their own journey….and it still is as active within me as it was when I wrote it a few years ago. In my next post, I will continue my journey to Soul Coaching®…..

How is your journey in life going?

2016 has been one of the most challenging years in a long while for so many of us. If you pause to look back, you might see patterns, gain a higher perspective and  find insights from this 20/20 hindsight that you didn’t see while in going through those experiences. Many doors closed this year and many of you have experienced endings, as I have. But we have a choice: to stay in the room with the closed door, or open it and walk into another room or hallway in life to a new beginning. I hope you will follow along in my exploration of how I got from there to here; from then to now! What a trip!

Blog Dream Courses Dreamsharing Heart-Centered Dreamwork August 27, 2016

The power of groups is well known. Let me explain for those who have never attended a group of any sort. Group work is not unlike a candle flame. Have you ever felt the heat of one candle with your hand? Of course you have! And as you add candles, the heat expands and you can feel it from further out. So, for example, the heat from the candles of a Baby Boomer’s birthday cake, will be much hotter than a 5 year old’s cake! (Better make a wish and blow out those candles fast, before the cake melts!)

It’s the same with people’s energy. One person, talking to another, will have an exchange of energy. But add many people to the circle, and the energy builds exponentially. That’s why I love group work! Groups have the power and the energy to facilitate deep awareness and lasting change. The “heat” of many souls is powerful and works as an alchemical catalyst in your metaphysical kitchen.

Whether a BBQ and sing-along around a fire pit, where the food tastes better and the harmonies are exquisite,  or in psychotherapy, where the power of groups is well-documented, people can always feel the difference. In regard to the therapeutic use of groups, Mary Ann Huckabay, Ph.D. writes,

“Groups provide their members with a community of peers, whose experience and understanding echo the vicissitudes and wisdom of one’s own life. Groups provide a safe harbor for exploring essential life issues…” [Gestalt Therapy, p. 303].

In my own world, one of my dream groups just ended after 12 years (that’s not a dream group record, but it’s MY dream group record!) , yet the members have become close and want to continue to meet socially.

I bring this up because every August, I plan my groups for the coming Fall. And as I consider what I want to offer, I can feel the energy rising. This year, even more so, as I add more group opportunities to the mix. In addition to my on-going (some are online)  dream groups, I’m adding grief support to the mix:

DREAMSHARING: 8 weeks online…..FULL

GATEWAY DREAMING: A 4-week online dream group for those who want to get a taste of working with dreams, bringing body, mind and spirit into the process….$75.00. Perfect for beginners in dream-catching as well as experienced dreamers. Begins Wednesday, September 14th, 2016 @1-3 pm EASTERN- 3 SPACES STILL AVAILABLE

TORONTO DREAM GROUP: In person, in North York, this 6 session group will meet over September and November as we explore dreams in an experiential way; including body/mind dream work, Psi dreaming and Spiritual dreams. $150, starting Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 @ 7:30 pm- 4 SPACES AVAILABLE

A DIFFERENT KIND OF BEREAVEMENT GROUP: 6 Sessions, North York location, for those who have lost their significant other. Discussion and support, meditation and Tapping (EFT), dreamwork and more. $180, beginning Thursday, September 15th, 2016

I hope you will contact me, even if you are just curious and want to ask some questions. The power that builds in a group, may be the very push you need to help get you over the hurdles in life. Let’s turn up the group energy this Fall!

what is your superpower
Blog Soul Coaching® June 13, 2016

What is your superpower?

I’m taking an unofficial survey. Mine used to be invisibility but I’m rethinking this. I had the pleasure of meeting up in person with my online dream group at the Divine Wisdom Retreat in Phoenix last year and through the amazing meditations and guidance of Denise Linn, together with the work of Colette Baron-Reid and Lisa Williams, I started to think about my love of hiding.

The Invisible Child

If I had to pick an archetype for the child I used to be, it would be the “invisible child”, a variation on the Wounded Child. Caroline Myss describes this archetype as, “the Child that has the idea that nobody saw them and they were ignored when growing up….The light side of this Archetype brings out and embraces the opportunity to create an extraordinary journey towards visibility. There is a yearning to become a visible person, often through creativity and using the imagination.” I’ve been taking this journey for the last 25 years, when I first started my psychotherapy training. When I was young, I was sweet (I have witnesses), shy and reserved; a natural introvert. I learned quickly that being invisible was a great way to watch others and know when it was safe to come out and be seen… or just safe. Fox like, I would wait and watch. Invisibility was also great through my teen years when all I wanted to do was disappear. As I got older, I knew invisibility was also a way to go inside to recharge.

for good or for evil

But somewhere along the way, this “superpower” no longer served me and it occurred to me that if I want to put my work out in the world even more than I already do, then I cannot hide. Archetypically, I’m a Teacher and my students will have to find me, right?  As I reevaluated my superpower, I realized that the truth is, our superpowers can be used for good or for evil. They can keep us safe and in control, or they can become chains that bind us and keep us from flying. Did someone clip your wings as you were you warned not to fly too high? (Or is flying your superpower that leaves you ungrounded?) With invisibility, and in general as an aging woman, my superpower ceases to be super and it’s now just a label. No one illustrates this better then Grace and Frankie, in the third episode of Season 1:



A Super Exercise

  • Think about all the superheroes you know and pick a superpower. Is it mind-reading, x-ray vision, flight? Something else, entirely different? Pick one and don’t think too hard.
  • Explore your choice of superpowers and Google it to see if there is a superhero or archetype to go with it- just to give you some ideas about how it works in your life. There is a lot of information here: For instance, let’s say you feel connected with Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. You might explore honesty or the archetype of the storyteller. Even if you can’t find any information about what your superpower symbolizes, you can still use your imagination! Ask yourself, “If you knew how this superpower worked in your life, what would it be?” If you love to fly, check out all the flying superheroes, like Superman, Superwoman or read the Greek myth of Icarus.
  • Make a 2-column list of all the good you can do with this power on the left, and all the ways this power may stunt your growth, on the right. You can label your columns “Good” and “Evil” just for fun!
  • Once you have a good idea of the perks that come with your superpower, look at the evil column and see what price you pay for these powers.

The Perks and the Price

For me, I’ve learned that while invisibility is sometimes useful, eventually I became invisible to myself! All I could see were my faults and my short-comings. The negative side of invisibility is hiding. At the retreat, Denise Linn suggested we do something different when we get home to help make our insights and changes concrete. So I bought a mirror. I’ve been meaning to buy one to place over my grandmother’s vanity but now I was really ready to see myself. Moreover, while I bought this mirror to truly see myself, more importantly, I was ready to see in myself what loving family, friends and students already see in me. I was ready to see my gifts and my soul in the mirror. I may still use my “Invisibility Cloak” from time to time, but for the most part, it will be hanging in the closet.

Patti in the Mirrow




soulful curiosity
Blog Soul Coaching® May 18, 2016

Soulful curiosity? What is that? I haven’t talked about Soul Coaching® in a while so maybe I can address the topic of soul curiosity and what that has to do with Soul Coaching® in the same post!

Seekers Unite!

People who are curious about the subject of soul are often Seekers. Caroline Myss defines the archetype of a Seeker as “one who searches on a path that may begin with earthly curiosity but has at its core the search for God and/or enlightenment.” Not to be confused with “the Mystic, which has the Divine as its sole focus, the Seeker is in search of wisdom and truth, wherever it is to be found.” I used to grapple with that difference but decided it was too hard to be a Mystic while raising four children! I do have God as part of journey though and I remember asking my mother about God at the age of four or five. She said God was everywhere and that really freaked me out when on the toilet! Fortunately the big skirts of the 50’s enabled me to cover myself up…you know, just in case God was really there. (Ew.) Clearly my five year old mind didn’t grasp the subtleties of that philosophy that if God was everywhere, he/she/all that is, would be in me, in all things and all of life, without separation. Ok, I’ll leave that for the Philosophers among you, (which clearly is not one of my archetypes)! But it didn’t stop me from searching.

Where Has Seeking Taken You?

In my life, I’ve explored Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Native spirituality and Aboriginal traditions, Shamanism, and more, and there is plenty more that I haven’t explored and this is the Seekers way; the Seeker’s mindset. So it was that I found my way to Soul Coaching® and the work of Denise Linn. Professionally, in a practice that started with body-centred psychotherapy, then energy work and dreams, and now grief and bereavement work, more and more often, my clients were talking “spirit” with me and I was becoming their Spiritual Director. I had looked into Spiritual Direction courses but felt they were not balanced, as they focused on one’s spiritual life only. I was trained to work from the premise that emotions and psychological healing had to be addressed as part of the process or spiritual pursuits ran the risk of becoming just one more way to avoid some hard work. I already had one or two of Denise’s books on my shelves; “The Secret Language of Signs” being one of my favourites to use in dream work. When a member in a profession group I was in mentioned she was a Soul Coach, my whole body perked up. I was listening.

I’m Listening

It turns out that is exactly what Soul Coaching is about- listening! And this is exactly what I had been doing for my clients, listening to their hearts and their souls. I was looking for a mentor for this work though, and I found it in Denise. Soul Coaching gave me the tools to teach others how to listen too.

But what is this “soulful curiosity”? I have it and most of the people who come to work with me have it too. It is the desire to know oneself; the desire to listen deeply to one’s heart and clarify one’s purpose in the world. And more, it is the desire to find that spark of God that is within us! Whether you resonate with the description of the Mystic or the Seeker, you are seeking self-knowledge and your inner, most sacred Self and God, (or however you define the Creator). You are ready and willing to clear the clutter from your life in all realms of body, mind, emotions and spirit and discover your essential, soulful self. You want to learn to recognize that voice of your soul as you navigate a more and more stressful and challenging world.

The Winds of Change

Well life is about change, (change is the only constant in the equation of life, after all) and Denise Linn will no longer be training Soul Coaches. She is turning the process over to her Advanced Soul Coaches who do her teacher training and I had decided that I wasn’t going to be one of them. But I had an AHA moment when I realized that I was playing out an old pattern and moreover, I am professionally happiest when I am teaching a group of Seekers who what to learn and grow! So why wouldn’t I want to do that? In that moment, I was listening to my heart and soul! That is what Soul Coaches teach people to do and I was, gratefully, listening to myself for once!

Curiosity Didn’t Kill the Cat

What are you curious about? Do you want to know how intuition works in you, in your life? Are you longing to give yourself breathing space? (I even put it into my latest Vision Board that featured more white space than usual.)

vision board

If you are a Seeker and you’ve felt stuck lately, start with your curiosity. I have a brittle and yellowing copy of Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop in my office to remind me to be curious. It was discouraged by my family so I now take every opportunity I have to reparent myself and clear out attitudes and beliefs that aren’t mine. What would you explore or do if there were no negative repercussions? What would you try if you had nothing to lose? Would you explore something in your outer world or would you take an inner journey…or both? Soul Coaches can walk with you and teach you how to listen within. I will be honoured to be training future Soul Coaches in the New Year ( January 2017…An appropriate time for new beginnings!) while I continue to lead Soul Coaching groups as well as working one-on-one with individuals. Contact me if you’d like to ask me about my work. I hope, whether as a client or a student….or a friend, that our paths cross. We will recognize ourselves when they do…. We will be the curious ones! As always, I welcome your comments below!

western field of dreams
Blog Dreamsharing Featured May 12, 2016

Where do our dream attitudes come from? I recently presented at the Toronto IASD regional conference on the roots of our dream attitudes and received a few requests to share it here. I apologize in advance for its length but this isn’t a short story! To make it a little more readable, I’ve put quoted authors in brackets, but if I’ve missed any critical notes, please contact me. Okay, for the historically curious among you, let’s take a look at which seeds blew into our Western Field of Dreams.

We know that current attitudes towards dreams in our society are a mixed bag of the following:

  • Science, asking the question “how do we dream” (while not necessarily delving into the “why” of dreaming, agreeing on it’s function, let alone valuing dream work),
  • Classic psychotherapy, using dreams to uncover neuroses (with often archaic symbolic codes yet with varying levels of commitment to the message of the dream itself)
  • And cross-disciplinary studies, that examine everything from the shifting views of consciousness and transpersonal uses of dreams for personal growth and peak experiences, to psychology and the humanities that look at the cultural role of dreaming, to holistic and naturopathic use of dreams in diagnosing health.
  • Dreaming is turning out to be the biggest head-trip of all. Jeff Warren tells us in his book The Head Trip, that, “… a new generation of Buddhist monks are having their EEGs scrutinized for signs of unusual activity. So waking consciousness is hot—but what of sleeping consciousness?” The answer it turns out, is somewhat complicated, yet, even as we move steadily and further into the 21st century, dreamers are still subjected to eye rolls and the infamously dismissive phrase “It’s only a dream”!

As we being to explore the origins of Western Field of Dreams we will find it is a journey through Biblical thought, history and traditions as it meets up with ancient Greece, and the Christian church.

Kelly Bulkeley (researcher, dream scholar and former president of IASD) confirms the strong connection between our ideas now, with the ancient world then. He writes, “Once we take into account the writings of the philosophers, poets, and historians of Greece and Rome, we have to acknowledge a strong kinship between their dream theories and the theories of modern Western scientists. For the Greeks and Romans, a few dreams were accepted as genuine conduits of divine energy and religious experience, but most dream experiences had their origins in the natural processes of the sleeping mind.” This points to the difficulties in identifying our roots.

In The Beginning…

In our culture, many tend to think of the Greeks as the ancient well from which we drink in all most of our “civilized” attitudes. In many ways, it is true that some of our communal organizational structures and ideas about democracy, philosophy, theatre, history, architecture and even the Olympics were derived from the culture and history of ancient Greece. However, that only describes one source of our culture. The Bible- Old and New Testaments, and the Christian establishment that followed, is another. It is useful to mention some dates for the periods under discussion so that we can see where the Greeks and the Jews were in their evolution in relation to each other.


When the Patriarchs, followed by Moses were beginning a new religion, in the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1600 BCE), the Greeks were in the Mycenaean Age, (end of the bronze age 1600-1100 BCE) moving into the Dark Ages (1200 BCE). If we accept the earliest date of when the 5 books of Moses was first written, we see it was long before the Greeks started writing their own traditional myths down. If we look at the later date which some scholars hold by, of the 5th to 2nd centuries, BCE, as the composition of the larger collection of the Bible, we see that this overlapped with the beginnings of the Hellenistic Period for Greece. By the time we get to the compilation of the Talmud, which is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism, 5th century CE, the impact of the Hellenistic culture had already left its mark on the entire Mediterranean region. In a nutshell, we have the development of Judaism, Homer and classic Greece, and the dream healing temples of Asklepios followed by early Christianity. We will see what that means in understanding where our attitudes towards dreams came from.

In the Ancient Near East, ancients believed that dreams were a communication between themselves and the gods, originating outside the dreamer. We see this attitude is reflected, as well, in the Bible. Most of the dreams in the Bible are found in Genesis as well as in Judges (7:13-15), 1 Kings (3:5-15), and in Daniel 2 and 4. We’ll get to New Testament dreams shortly.

In the Bible, there are “prophetic dreams” and “symbolic dreams”. In the first type (prophetic), we find the word of God as an announcement or warning to communicate to the dreamer. It is clear and immediately understood. In his book, A Letter That Has Not Been Read, Shaul Bar states, “Its centerpiece is the appearance of the deity. God or an angel comes to a person in a nocturnal dream, stands nearby, and speaks to him or her. The message presented is chiefly verbal; the visual element is quite limited.” Rather than a description of God’s appearance, what is important in the prophetic dream is the words that are spoken. The message is communicated in straightforward language, without symbols. It’s themes are “fixed and recurrent and can be divided into two groups: dreams of encouragement and dreams of admonition.” The main difference between prophetic dreams and symbolic dreams is that God or angels appears in the former.


The symbolic dream differs in that we find the visual element is of key importance as in Joseph’s first dreams (Gen.37: 5-7) or Jacob’s dream of the ladder (Gen.28:12-19). In this type, the dreamer has a vision that functions as a symbol with hidden meanings. Symbolic dreams appear in a typical way and serve as a “vehicle for the display of the piety and the sagacity of their god-inspired interpreter.” The typical formulation of the symbolic dream is unpacked as follows: God sends a symbolic dream to a gentile ruler, and its only successful interpreter is God’s servant (Joseph or Daniel), who interprets the dreams that the local magicians or astrologers cannot. For the most part, during prophetic dreams, the dreamer is passive, and waits to hear what God has to say.

It’s Greek To Me

Now we segue over to Greece to take a peak into their dream development.

It was in ancient Greece in where the convergence of cult, magic and medicine created a practice and belief that lasted for more than one thousand years. Dreams were used in Magic- most commonly incantations and spells that somehow gave people a sense of control in a world in which they had very little control. Dreams were used diagnostically in Medicine with Hippocrates and the esteemed physicians Rufus and Galen and in healing in the cult or religious temples of Asklepios. The rituals of dream incubation originated there and spread throughout the Pan-Hellenic world in more than 320 healing temples throughout the region. Supplicants would travel to the Asklepian temples where one would go to sleep, praying for a healing dream. This ritual, practiced in over three hundred healing sanctuaries from Asia Minor to Rome lasted from approximately the fifth century B.C.E. to the fifth century C.E.[E.Tick] (The association between healing and dreams is with us still in the form of Asklepios’ snake, seen today in the caduceus, the symbol we now associate with the healing arts.) Therefore, in ancient Greece we find a long association between dreams and healing that was the ground in which the importance of dreams grew in the life of the people. But what were the beliefs for the average Greek in the street? Much the same as we find in the Bible and throughout all the Mediterranean countries, dreams were thought to be external experiences (The Greeks would say, “I saw a dream rather than I had a dream”.) and messages from the gods.


Ancient Dream Books

One way to get a peek into what was going on in the agora is to look at the work of Artemidorus, who wrote a 5 volume opus on how to interpret dreams. Called, Oneirocritica: The Interpretation of Dreams, and was the only dream book to survive intact from antiquity. Exploring this comprehensive work gives us a good sampling of second century Greek attitudes toward dreams at a time that was alive with dream activity. Artemidorus was a professional dream interpreter from Asia Minor. Born in Ephesus, a city in the Roman province in what is now western Turkey, he wrote, “Apollo has encouraged me in the past…he clearly presides over my work and has all but commanded me to compose this work. It is no wonder, then, that Apollo of Daldis, who is called Mystes according to our local tradition, urged me to this undertaking…” Although he doesn’t mention the nature of the communication with Apollo, one can only imagine it took the form of a dream or vision.

He goes on to inform us that he “gathered his material by traveling in Greece, Italy, Asia Minor, and the islands that surround them.” Well travelled, educated and well read, Artemidorus showed evidence of familiarity with the classic writers of his time: Homer, Hesiod, Euripides, Xenophon and more. He mentions the work of many other dream writers, some well known and others less so, but throughout his work, we see a mostly rational, practical and systematic approach to dream interpretation that reflects an empirical bent. The Empiricist medical school of the second century focused on the importance of experience. Traditional views were not accepted without its conformity with experience and Artemidorus considered this to be fundamental to his work. He wrote,

“I have never courted public favour or concerned myself with

methods that are pleasing to phrase-mongers. Rather, I have

always called upon experience as the witness and guiding

 principle of my statements. Everything has been the result of

personal experience, since I have not done anything else, and

have always devoted myself, day and night, to the study

of dream interpretation.”

Other Attitudes Towards Dreams

Early in his books, Artemidorus wrote, “In a way [the dream] cries out to each of us, ‘Look at this and be attentive, for you must learn from me as best you can.’”Almost two thousand years has passed and most people are still not paying attention to their dreams. Most people do not take their messages seriously. [ As an aside, we can’t talk about Artemidorus without noting that Freud had read Oneirocritica and was influenced by what he learned there. Perhaps this the reason the study of psychiatry and psychology does include dreams. These dreams, however, are studied and used mostly diagnostically, with varying levels a commitment to the message of the dream itself. In classic psychotherapy, dreams are more commonly used as a way to access the unconscious, but not usually considered as having a message to communicate to the dreamer; certainly not an external message from a god!] To Artemidorus though, dreams weren’t used for self-knowledge. Everyone was capable of bringing forth a dream message to foretell one’s future.

It’s interesting to consider whether Aristotle has had some influence on our attitudes towards dreams. I believe he has. On the belief in the predictive nature of dreams, he flatly denied that dreams are God-sent, as was commonly held to be the case. In his work On Prophesying by Dreams he wrote “For, in addition to its further unreasonableness, it is absurd to combine the idea that the sender of such [divinatory] dreams should be God with the fact that those to whom he sends them are not the best and the wisest, but merely commonplace persons.” According to Aristotle then, if dreams were God-sent, then only the King or the brightest citizens would be the recipients for these dreams. Yet in ancient Greece, good philosophers notwithstanding, physicians regularly used dreams as a tool for diagnosis.

Both Hippocrates in the fourth century B.C.E. and later Rufus and Galen, contemporaries of Artemidorus, valued dreams as a way to access their patient’s health problems. It was at this time that “myth was pushed out of medicine at the same time that it was pushed out of philosophy…and the Hellenic period …witnessed the rationalization of mystical science. ” [Tick] In the Hippocratic work On Regimen, the forth book opens with “Anyone who has a correct understanding of the signs that occur in sleep, will discover that they have great significance for everything.” It was believed that dreams are of great importance as ‘signs’ (semeia) or ‘indications’ (tekmeria), not only of the physical constitution of the dreamer and of imminent diseases or mental disturbances befalling him/her, but also of divine intentions, of things that may happen in the future, things hidden to normal human understanding.” [Van Der Eijk ] Hippocrates rejected divine causation as the source of disease and dreams, respected as natural phenomenon, were taken out of the realm of spirit and religion.

And Honourable Mention Goes To…

Looking back historically we see that as long as there have been dreams and dreamers with an ability to articulate their inner visions, the subject of dreams has long captured the imagination of humankind. Dreams have been found in inscriptions, documents, letters, dream books and in the literature of most ancient cultures, with the oldest written evidence of dream interpretation coming from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. A few of those cultures have produced dream books that have survived in fragments to modern times and most assigned fixed or limited meanings to the images and symbols in dreams. Perhaps the oldest known dream book, called the Chester Beatty papyrus, dates from circa 1350 B.C.E. and contains symbols and images with fixed interpretations based on contraries or opposites.

Chester Beatty Paprus

Ancient dream books were the equivalent, and perhaps the forerunners, of today’s dream dictionaries, many of which still reflect the fixed definitions found in Oneirocritica but without the subtleties and understanding that Artemidorus displayed.

It is interesting that in the second century C.E., the time in which Artemidorus wrote, he expressed an opinion that parallels the Jungians. He believed that considerable knowledge on the part of the dream interpreter was essential if dreams were to be seen against the background of local customs. Artemidorus did not limit himself to interpreting individual dream images out of context of the dream or the dreamer’s life, as with a typical dream dictionary. In fact he may have been the “first to encourage, however slightly, a cooperative effort between dreamer and interpreter.”[Delaney]

What Happened Next?

After such a positive beginning for both for Greek civilization and for the people of the Bible, we might think that the favourable esteem in which dreams were held would continue. We would be wrong.

On the positive side, in the book of Numbers we read,

“Hear these my words: When a prophet of the Lord arises among you I make Myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream.” (Num. 12:6)

Yet, there are no dreams experienced by the prophets and for the most part, the prophets talk about dreams as something to avoid. For example, Zechariah warns,

            “For the teraphim spoke delusion, the augurs predicted falsely; and the dreamers speak lies and console with illusions”. (Zech. 10:2)

Similarly, in Jeremiah we read,

            “As for you, give no heed to your prophets, augurs, dreamers, diviners, and sorcerers, who say to you, ‘Do not serve the king of Babylon.’ For they prophesy falsely to you….” (Jer. 27:9-10)

So although God has made clear his agency in creating dreams, for the prophets, dreams had become a source for false prophecy. As readers of the prophets’ words, we might wonder, as scholars in the field do, “Is it the legitimacy of dream interpretation or is it the quality of the interpreter that is contested?” [J.Husser] This still indicates, however, that for the prophets, dreams were considered a communication with God, even if there were those who would falsify that communication.

In the Bible, then, we see a positive belief around dreams, similar to their surrounding neighbours, yet unique. Dreams are considered to be communications with God as in most of the Near East, but the types of dreams, and the uses of these dreams is much more limited in the Bible where we don’t see the professional dream interpreter mentioned. While scholars in the field generally agree that dreams were either prophetic or symbolic, some view dreams in the Bible as literary devices that move the story along, and bring forward the view of the Biblical redactors. Robert Gnuse, in his book “The Dream Theophany of Samuel” we find a proponent of this point of view. Gnuse writes,

            “Epic literature uses the dream report as a theological and literary device to foreshadow the unfolding plan of history for God’s people. Likewise historical texts, which also contain created dream accounts, have a theological purpose for using this form. Prophetic texts, however, are critical of dreams because dreams infringe upon the exclusiveness of prophetic reception of the divine word.”


Against this backdrop of positive Biblical attitudes and (mostly) negative attitudes of the prophets, we now come to the Talmud. Here we find an enormous change that is a mixture of quite positive attitudes contrasted with deeply negative assessments of dreams and dream interpreters. The oft-quoted adage of Rabbi Hisda, “A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read”, launches the Talmudic discussion on dreams.

In the end, it was probably the influence of Hellenism on Jewish dreams that was responsible for the turn-around of previous attitudes that made the discussions on dreams in the Talmud possible, but in subsequent, post-Talmudic traditional literature there was no comment at all on the dream interpretations and discourse in the Talmud. Their silence on the subject of dreams further illustrates the ambivalence on the topic of dreams.

In an interesting historical side note, we might wonder if the Jews of the Bible ever met the Greek god of healing? There is a strong likelihood that they did. In addition so some archeological evidence, we can speculate that individual Jews probably went to some of the Asklepia for dream healing based on this fragment…

“…The treatment prescribed was to keep sated with pork…but rising up from the dream and leaning on his elbow on the couch, he looked at the statue of Asclepius (for he happened to be sleeping in the vestibule of the shrine) and challenged him, saying, “My lord, what would your have prescribed to a Jew suffering this same illness, for certainly you would not bid him to take his fill of pork.” [Edelstein]

From this we can claim that the dreamer, Plutarch the Athenian (Greek philosopher and Neo-Platonists ca. 400 CE), either knew of Jews and Judaism and the question was strictly hypothetical or that he actually knew Jews that came to the healing temples. In any case, it hints that there was some influence and knowledge of each other and a cross-pollination of ideas and beliefs was likely, in some cases absorbed, in other cases, rejected outright.

To sum up, what’s the verdict so far?

Biblical and post-Biblical: Positive Ambivalence

Greek attitudes: Positive.

thumbs up



The Roman Empire was Christianized during the reign of Constantine between 306-337 CE. Constantine’s mother Helena was a Christian and Constantine was tolerant of the new faith. During a battle outside Rome to become sole emperor, he reportedly has a “vision” of a flaming cross. He ordered his soldiers to paint crosses on their shields and he believed the Christian God was fighting on his side. From this point on, Constantine worked to integrate Christianity into Roman life. Part of that increasing support turned Constantine against the Greek god of healing, Asklepios along with other pagan gods. This massive shift turned Asklepios from “healer, saviour and soul of the universe” to a “deceiver of souls and a demon” [Tick] as his healing temples were destroyed, attacked by Constantine’s soldiers and individual Christians alike.

As with Judaism, Christianity reflects the cross currents of the times and region but along with the positive esteem that some held dreams, there were also voices of caution, doubt and out-right condemnation. Even so, dreams played an important role in the beginning of Christianity with Joseph (named after the great dreamer Joseph in the Torah) receiving four heaven-sent dreams that instructed him on Jesus’ origins and how to care and protect him. The story of Jesus’ life and career are marked by powerful religious experiences, yet none were described as dreams. While all peoples of the ancient near east shared a vocabulary in dreaming, eventually Christianity sought to distance itself from pagan enthusiasm for dreaming. In spite of this, there were still Christian individuals and martyrs who described the importance of dreams as part of their transformation or conversion but the church fathers had some issues with dreams. It came down to this: The early church had trouble with the natural experiences of the body in sleep, equating nocturnal emissions and dreams of a sexual nature with demons, temptation and sin. [Bulkeley] As Hamlet would say, “There’s the rub!”

This early church bias and negative estimation of dreams was further cemented by important theologians of the early church, in particular Jerome (347-419 CE), and Augustine (354-430 CE). Jerome, in spite of his own powerful dreams, deliberately mistranslated the Bible’s admonition in Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 18 as “You shall not practice augury nor observe dreams” where the original Hebrew did not mention dreams at all, thus lumping dreams with other pagan divinatory practices. For Augustine, dreams were a source of ambivalence as he struggled between his faith and his Roman education. While his mother was a powerful dreamer and faithful Christian, and he acknowledged his mother’s gifts and true dreams, he still emphasized the “spiritual dangers of sleep and dreaming.” [Bulkeley]

There were a few positive estimations of dreams and the dreaming experience but over time church authorities discouraged this attitude. The theologian Tertullian (155- 230 CE), a younger contemporary of Galen’s, who had written positively about dreams was eventually branded a heretic. Origen, a theologian from Alexandria, was also unable to shift the anti-dream majority in the church. Synesius (373-423 CE), the neo-Platonic and well-educated bishop of what is now Libya (Ptolemais) wrote on the topic of dreams as well, writing that they should be cultivated, not despised, that dreams are “personal oracles” and that we should “seek this branch of knowledge before all else; for it comes from us, is within us, and is the special possession of the soul of each one of us.” Sadly, he too, was eventually found in conflict with the church. In the opinion of many scholars, an individual’s direct access to spirit was seen as a threat to religious authority.

While the church fathers debated and worked at solidifying church doctrine, and by the time the Roman Empire began to disintegrate in the 4th and 5th centuries, the church had already systematically destroyed many of the Asklepian temples and “pagan” statuary of the gods. The love the people had for the god of healing, in time was transferred to this “new god” Jesus. It is interesting to note that Jesus and Asklepios were often described in similar ways, as “savior and healer”. He was said to walk the land, in simple sandals and staff in hand, creating miracles and healing the people.

By the time we get to the middle ages, the church is firmly anti-dream and great philosophers like Descartes, Spinoza and others, begin to grapple with dreams, reality, consciousness, the dualism of mind and body and more, but always in the shadow of the church and the long history of attitudes towards dreams that preceded it.

Tracing our dream origins is a useful exercise so that we know where we came from and how we got here. But in the global village in which we now live, together with world knowledge that is available with the click of a mouse, I think it’s important to be open to incorporating the wisdom of the world’s dreaming traditions to get insight into our own dream mysteries. Perhaps this is your goal too.


For example, in ancient Greece there was a god you might have heard of- Hermes, the “Divine Messenger, who was called “The friendliest of gods to men.” He was the herald and interpreter for the more remote Olympians, speeding back and forth between the surface world and the spirit worlds in his winged sandals. He presided over chance encounters and happy coincidences… You will often encounter him in border areas, places of transition and the border zone between sleep and waking.” [Moss]. So it was that in the Greek city of Pharai that stood a statue of Hermes where the following practice unfolded:

You bring a question to Hermes, anything from, “Will I recover?” to “Should I do business with Antony?” But first you would bring oil for the lamps, incense or other offerings to show respect to the god. When you are ready, and keeping your question only between you and Hermes, you whisper your question into the right ear of Hermes’ statue. You then cover your ears to block out noise as you move into the market place. As soon as you arrive, you uncover your ears and the first human speech you overhear will give you the answer to your question. So this ancient practice, put people and every-day conversation in position of doing the gods’ work, delivering messages to seekers or dreamers, without even knowing it. Is it superstition? Synchronicity? Fast forward more than 2000 years.

A Mystery

A dreamer in one of my dream groups shared the following dream:

I am being laid off from my job. I knew I had done my best. I was doing an excellent job and I was happy. I demanded to know the reason. It turned out that someone had submitted changes to my contract and that I could be terminated on the spot without reason. I saw a piece of lined paper with the changes to the contract. I knew I was supposed to learn and realize something from this. The word BLEEDEN appeared on the paper I knew it was him [the one who had changed the contract] and woke up feeling ok.

 The dreamer had no clue as to the name of this man, Bleeden, and had absolutely no associations that came to her from either the word [bleed] or the dream character who was changing the terms of her contract nor was it anyone she had ever met in waking life. We worked on the dream from many angles and no projections from the group resonated for her and trying to find a message from the dream produced no “aha” of connection or insight. But I knew.

Bleeden was my maiden name, a name that I never used, as I went by my stepfather’s last name. The dreamer had no way of knowing the name I was born with, and I had never discussed my childhood with her. We were not social friends and she didn’t know anything about my relationship with my father.

In the dream she said, “I knew I had done my best.” The back-story that she didn’t know was that my father had died suddenly leaving me with a lot of unfinished business and questions when I discovered that he had cut me out of his will. I believe that her dream was a message to me to help me finally lay him to rest. It told me that on a soul level, whatever “Sacred Contract” we originally had, he had changed the terms of the contract and it had nothing to do with me or the kind of daughter I was. As the dreamer stated, “I had done an excellent job”.

When we have dreams that make absolutely no sense to us, a dream in which we have no associations to at all, we have to ask the question, “Whose dream message is this?” We may not actually be the one for whom the dream message is intended. And these dreams- all dreams- need to be shared so the message can be delivered!

We are social beings and we need to tell our dream narratives to others who are both respectful and empathetic. Each and every dream carries many layers of meaning, mostly for the dreamer, but also for others in our lives, and for our communities and our world. In the same way that we might ask ourselves if our dream has any precognitive information for us before assuming that the dream is about our psychological issues, we need to ask, “who is this dream message for?” Or “whose dream is this?”

After pouring over more than 3000 years of written history, I have come to know this: our roots teach us that we need to share our dreams. Find or start a dream group (you don’t need to find a statue of Hermes), find friends to share dreams over cups of coffee and don’t keep those messages, wisdom and insight to yourself! You never know who needs to hear its wisdom.












I Need Your Help
Blog May 4, 2016

I have a question for you but first, a confession. I’m not a career blogger! If I were a career blogger, you would have heard from me more often than is the case. But the truth is, I don’t like getting tons of emails, newsletters and posts from bloggers and sales people who all have the cure or the answer for whichever of life’s challenges I happen to be grappling or the latest and hottest “secret” or “You won’t believe what happened next”! I am so sick of the word SECRET! The “secret to…” Are you sick of it too?

I write when I feel inspired to write, to share my experiences and knowledge on dreams and life. So, just to refresh your memory, I decided to finally follow the information from a dream where I was told “Your job is death” and see where that takes me. I’ve been doing just that, studying grief and bereavement through the University of Toronto. Four courses down, two to go. I’m even running a bereavement group with a colleague of mine, but then I choked.

The Dilemma

And by “choked” I mean I had a case of writer’s block. Not that I didn’t have anything to say, but I thought maybe my readers want to stick to dreams and not hear about grief, let alone death. We do live in a death-phobic, youth obsessed culture after all. The more time passed, the more I was frozen in indecision.  Yet, everything I’ve learned about promoting one’s work tells me to see what your demographic wants and offer it! But my demographic is so large! Everyone dreams and everyone dies (eventually) so where to start?

My Question

That’s where you come in. Tell me your opinion.

  1. Would you like to see two separate sites? Dreams AND Grief & Bereavement should be separate, because you’re only interested in one or the other?
  2. Or should it all be under the one banner, one website with different pages? since it’s all part of the Patti Allen offerings ( It’s up to you and I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts. You can post your responses or email me privately at

Just so you know- not that I want to influence your vote- Dreams and Death (among others) were brothers in the Greek mythology. According to the poet Hesiod, Hypnos (Sleep), Oneiros (Dreams) and Thanatos (Death) were all sons of Nyx (Night). The Talmud says that “…sleep is 1/60 of death, and dreams are 1/60 of prophecy. Dreams are the buds of prophecy.” so this isn’t a far out combo. Dreams, death and sleep have been linked in the collective psyche for ages! (FYI, I’m partial to the combo plan.)

Ok, so go ahead and vote…. I REALLY appreciate your opinion and your help! What do you think?


Just 3 Words
Blog Dreamsharing Heart-Centered Dreamwork January 7, 2016

The Dream

“Just Three Words” is what I’m calling this recent dream. I dreamt the following:

I am in some busy place, as if a house (but not my house) has been taken over by President Obama’s staff and political team. I happen to catch Obama alone at a buffet table so I say, “I used to teach calligraphy so if you ever need something calligraphed, I’m happy to do it.” He responds, “As a matter of fact, there is something you can do.” He wants a certificate for his girls and gives me a phrase to write. I can’t remember what it was but it was just three words, descriptive in nature. I take the piece of paper that it’s written on, but when I look at what it actually says, I think it needs more than just those three words or else it’s just a fragment, an incomplete sentence and will just look like some random words. I go back to him to suggest that we add a word like “congratulations” or whatever is appropriate to the occasion so that it will be more clear. Now he’s really pissed off with me for bothering him! I think that this is a side of his personality that he doesn’t show the public. He’s not a very nice man.

(Reality Check: I used to do and teach calligraphy. I let that go years ago. No conversations about Obama prior to having the dream,  although I heard him on the news in the other room (I wasn’t really paying attention so can’t say what he was talking about, but I think it was some political-speak on gun ownership.)

The Juice

So after listening to the thoughts, feelings and projections from my dream group and working on it with a dear dream friend, here’s what has the most energy for me. This, by the way is the easiest way to get into your dream….Follow the juiciest parts! It was the feeling of trying to please an important person, who I wanted to think well of me. When I look at my life, I connect to this right away, having grown up with the “Disease to Please”. Like many empathic children we become sensitive to the subtle cues that tell us if we’re ok or not. So I look at this and think to myself, “this again?” Who am I trying to please and impress in waking life? Only one person comes to mind and I’m sitting with this and mulling it over. But even in wanting his approval, I still spoke up and wanted to do the calligraphy in a professional way. In my youth I wouldn’t have spoken up. Ok so there’s been some growth, lol! This is good. And as a calligrapher, or any artist who creates something for a buyer, there is always some tension between what pleases our artistic self v. what pleases the customer. This is an important tension to explore, for a “pleaser”. What pleases me? I’m always at the bottom of my list, sadly. (That’s another life-long “Blesson” – blessing + lesson to work on.) Time to make some shifts!

There’s another way to look at this dream as there are always many ways to do dreamwork, and I ask myself “What is my presidential self?” While I haven’t liked every thing Obama has done politically, I would describe him as intelligent and articulate, caring and well-grounded in his family’s love…..and an historic groundbreaker. What part of myself is at the buffet table of life? What part of me is the perfectionist/artist, what part of me is a leader-of-the-free world self? and there is more to explore, the house, the buffet table, the certificate, the president’s public and private self, and of course, the anger. Is someone in waking life bringing out my pissed off self?

The Words

A while back, on ABC ‘s morning news, did a bit on “Your Three Words and asked: How much can you say in just three words? Can you express your thoughts, your feelings, your sadness or joy? Could your three words be a celebration of a special event, or a thought on everyday life? The response was tremendous and as I think about the forgotten three words that I was to calligraph, I think this would be a creative way to honour my dream and bring it into my waking life.

I’m not sure which three wordsI’ll choose but I’m playing with “Love-Lead-Write” for now. I wonder what your three words would be? What three words bring your dream (and/or your life) together in a way expresses your truth? Post your three words below. I’d love to hear from you!

conversations on letting go
Blog Dreamsharing October 27, 2015

Conversations on letting go. Yes, it’s time for those difficult conversations. But first, I’ve been away and I apologize for that. My mother has been diagnosed with a form of dementia and that is a huge transition for her and for me. If you are only interested in dreams and dreaming, then you will find tons of posts on that topic that will find helpful and interesting, but if I’m going to be honest in my blogging, I have to admit my head is in a different space right now….though this post does touch on my dreams. I hope you will hang in there with me to the end…….

If you read my September 20, 2015 post on death entitled “In Which Patti Learns Her Dream Job, you will know that I am dipping my toes in the waters of grief and bereavement professionally. Not a moment too soon. My mother isn’t actively dying yet (let’s face it, we are all one step closer to death every day), but I feel like I’m watching her die in slow motion. She doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia that many are unfortunately familiar with, but she likely has vascular dementia, or “vascular cognitive impairment [VCI]”. I say likely because the psychiatrist that diagnosed her didn’t bother to go into those details and is more interested in the cocktail of drugs that will hold down her paranoid delusions and keep her behaviour stable. She still reads, remembers details and knows who we are but her lucidity is interrupted by agitation, delusions and difficulty finding the right words or confusion that the doctors say will increase over time. The mother I know is disappearing. And this is sad beyond words.


Not that my mother is perfect but she’s the only mother I have in this life and I do love her, difficult personality and all. So I find I’m grieving the loss of who she was as well as the loss of the perfect mother I wanted. Have you been there? If you are reading this (I still wonder who reads these blog posts or if they are wandering in cyberspace, only to be read by some aliens, 2000 light years in my future.) feel free to share your experiences with losing a parent to dementia in the comments below.

As all this was unfolding over the summer-  though for a few years, really- I dreamt that,

I am teaching or leading a group and many of the Dream Association members are there. My mother calls on the phone and without pausing to say “hello” she launches into a long story about her latest problem. I finally succeed in interrupting her and tell her that, “I can’t talk now. I have a group.” She doesn’t stop talking and I ask, “What happened to my real mother?” I mention that in the past, my mother would have said, “Ok, call me when you’re done and then hang up.” EOD [End of Dream]

And another dream fragment,

I dream that mom is able to walk [which she cannot do in waking life] but is a very small version of herself, maybe 4′ tall. [EOD]

There have been other dreams which I believe are helping me process the changes. Even when my mother doesn’t appear in my dreams, the issues do. In my dreams I am making decisions, choosing between this or that. I have my typical anxiety dreams, where I’m not ready for whatever the dream action presents. In another dream, I am attacked by a doctor’s son. I fight tooth and nail but no one comes to my aid. I think that about says it all.

In our death-phobic society, no one really wants to talk about death, but even more shocking is that no one wants to talk about grief and letting go. What I’m experiencing is “anticipatory grief” and very few people want to talk about that except for professionals in that field! “At least your mom is still with you.” “At least she still knows who you are.” There are often a lot of unhelpful platitudes offered family members going through this.  Short of support groups, who are doing great work by the way, I would love to start an on-going conversation in the general population about grief, loss and letting go. After all, we ALL will experience loss. And loss can be about things other than death. The loss of a job, loss of a relationship or friendship, the loss of health, and even the loss of hopes and dreams are all losses! Admittedly there are a few organizations who are helping people talk about loss, but let’s move the conversations on letting go and loss out into those crazy “interwebs”…where you found this post!


Inspirational Dreamers
Blog Inspirational Dreamers October 16, 2015

Jenny Alexander

Jenny Alexander is a true Inspirational Dreamer- a prolific author and creative tutor who uses dreams in her writing practice and teaches creative dream-working for writers as well as more mainstream workshops on the art and craft of writing. Her first book was published in 1994 and since then she has written scores of fiction and non-fiction books for children and several for adults. Her adult books include two practical handbooks for writers, Writing in the House of Dreams and When a Writer Isn’t Writing: How to Beat Your Blocks, Be Published and Find Your Flow.

Do you remember any childhood dreams? If so, what’s the earliest?

When I was about five years old, I dreamt I was riding along my road on a horse-and-cart, on a sunny summer day. The horse was trotting happily, and the cart was full-to-overflowing with gold coins that jumped and jingled and sparkled in the sun. Everyone came out of their houses to wave as I went by. I liked that dream so much that I used to deliberately go back into it every night, as soon as I closed my eyes. It made me fall asleep with a smile on my face.

When did you first get interested in understanding your dreams? How did that unfold for you?

When I was in my second year of university I started having nightmares about killing myself, waking up at the point when I was about to put my finger in the light socket, or turn on the gas, or jump off a high building. One night I woke to find that I had indeed climbed out of my third-floor window in my sleep and was, as I’d been dreaming, standing on the ledge outside. I thought my dreams were trying to kill me. It didn’t occur to me that I could try to understand them until I went into therapy after my sister’s suicide, a few years later. I told the psychiatrist about the terrifying dreams I’d had and was still having, and he encouraged me to record them and bring them to our sessions.

How did dreams play a role in your life, whether in decision making or in healing?

Dreams have always played a huge role in my life. They provide depth and context for my waking experience, but I only interpret my dreams if the interpretation is obvious, and then it doesn’t feel like a process of interpretation so much as a conversation between close friends. Just as important to me is the opportunity dreams offer to go beyond waking life into a completely different and unrelated world, which can only happen when we let go of the idea of interpreting and treat them as experiences for the self, in exactly the same way as we treat the experiences of waking life.

If you could give one piece of advice to those who are just starting to listen to their dreams, what would it be?

Simply that. Listen. Be receptive. Observe. Don’t demand explanations and try to manipulate meanings. Be patient. Meaning will emerge naturally over time, as you begin to see how and where your dreams resonate with your waking experiences, as well as how and where they don’t.

Anything else you’d like to share about dreams?

Dreams are pure imaginative substance; if you can let go of looking for psychological explanations they can be an endless, vibrant source of inspiration and ideas for creative work.


You can reach Jenny through her website: or her blog: