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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!

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.












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!


dream job
Blog Dreamsharing September 20, 2015

Would you change your life because of a dream? I always encourage dreamers to get the dream’s message and do something in waking life to honour the dream; to bring its message to conscious light for growth and for change. But would you do it? Do you really want to shift your life based on a dream? Most people love to get clarity about their dream and their life but don’t actually want anything to change, which can be very uncomfortable. People fear change, I’m told, more than they fear death! I am no different but I decided that I need to practice what I preach. Of course this puts me in a tight spot vis à vis the change or death choice!


The Dream

I was walking with a rather tall man in robes- maybe 7′ tall- in a quadrangle, a large courtyard in what felt like a campus setting. He says, “Your job is death.” I ask, “Well how do you mean it? Symbolically or literally? As a psychotherapist my clients have mini-deaths, (symbolic endings and releases) all the time.” But before he can answer, I am awakened. End of dream. 

Since that dream, nine years ago, I have looked at it every which way possible and it never produced an “aha” of new insight. Maybe it was simply a confirmation that I’m on the right track but I follow the wisdom of Jeremy Taylor who says that dreams don’t come to tell us what we already know. I know all about the symbolic ways of death; the endings, letting go, new beginnings and the symbolic fires that scorch our souls so that something new can grow from the charred but enriched inner destruction. Nine years of working on that dream off and on simply produced “Ya, I know that” kind of reactions. So I decided to take the dream literally. The man in robes had the feel of a teacher or guide (perhaps from other realms) and since all the symbolic approaches got me no where, I thought I had nothing to lose by going literal.

The Action


So I signed up for a series of courses at the University of Toronto on grief and bereavement. There’s another course I’m eyeing too. Will it change my life or the direction of my work? It’s too soon to say. However, I know I’ve run from this interpretation for a reason. Years ago, I helped start a charity whose goal was to create a hospice and when I left, I couldn’t get far enough away from the topic, though that wasn’t the reason I left. I just felt gun-shy and started avoiding the field, even though I passionately agree with everything about the hospice movement. Of course my “job is death” could be about the dying process or the grieving process. [On an interesting side note, a psychic once told me that I was a “rescuer”! Not an emotional rescuer but one who apparently helps people who don’t know they are dead, get to the other side. Supposedly I do this in my sleep and that’s why I wake up so tired! And I do wake up tired!] But again, why would the dream tell me what I already know? Dreams bring forth material from our subconscious that we are ready to look at. They may also carry precognitive and other psychic information. In either case, it won’t be old material.

A Dream Uninterpreted is Like a Letter Unopened~ The Talmud

death at psychiatrist

This quote from the Talmud is right! We are getting nightly letters from our unconscious mind, our higher mind and sources beyond that, so how long will we let the mail pile up? It’s time to open our letters. Spend some time with a dream and get someone to help you if you are stuck. Once you feel you know what it means, here are seven ideas to move the dream and its messages into your waking life.

  1. Post it! Write the message on a Post It note and stick it on your bathroom mirror, the dashboard of your car or on your computer monitor. You can even put it on your phone and see it every time you power on. It will help keep the dream’s message in your conscious awareness.
  2. Stick it! When was the last time you added a bumper sticker to your car? You can imagine (or even create an actual bumper sticker) that the message of your dream was put into a clever phrase and made into a bumper sticker. Every time you walk up to your car, you will be reminded of your message.
  3. Draw it! You don’t have to be an artist to draw your dream. Stick figures can show the dream action just as a crayon scribble can show emotion. Doodle your dream message and stick it on your fridge or draw your dream, photograph it and put it on your computer as a screen saver.
  4. Move it! Just as you don’t have to be an artist to draw a dream, you don’t have to be a dancer to move it! Put on some music and move the feeling of the dream through your body and out, or beat a drum and move your message using rhythm and movement.
  5. Create it! Creating the message of your dream isn’t just for drawing. You can make a Dream Stick by taking a walk and as you think about your dream, glance around for a stick and see what appears. Decorate it with string, yarn, beads, feather and whatever you have on hand, in a way that expresses the feel of your dream. If you like to write, create a poem, short story or blog about your dream.
  6. Learn it! As in my “your job is death” dream, see if there is a course you can take, or a new skill that the dream is encouraging your to learn. One of my daughters dreamt about riding a bike, then went out and taught herself to do it!
  7. Do it! Speaking of “do it”… Don’t wait nine years like I did. Experiment. Take action. Explore something new. In a quickly changing world, change is the only constant. We might as well embrace it…and do it!

So, at the end of the day, would you change your life because of a dream? I’m going to try and before I know it, I may be adding coaching for loss and bereavement. Who knows? But to leave my dream, to abandon it,  without taking action in the waking world would just be too sad. What a waste. Will you join me? Will you change your life because of a dream?  Let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

Dreaming at the Crossroads of Life

Dreamsharing Heart-Centered Dreamwork June 19, 2015

Dreaming at the Crossroads of Life


Today we have a guest blogger, Susanne van Doorn, Ph.D., a Dutch psychologist and blogger on Mindfunda.


“Women’s dreams mirror the tides that move the fluids of their bodies. Just as the waters of the earth swell and recede, so our dreams change over time” Patricia Garfield, Womens Bodies, Womens Dreams


When Patti asked me to write a blog post to contribute to her Heart-Centered Dreamwork I was thrilled. Patti and I share the same dream of creating a platform to share knowledge about dreams, spirituality, and mythology.

Looking back at my life, I see three crossroads I have passed through. I matured from childhood into womanhood, I choose my partner for life and entered a life stage of companionship and motherhood. And now at this point in my life I say farewell to my fertility and welcome the Crone stage. (In the ancient societies there where three stages of womanhood: the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, all manifestations of the triple Goddess.)


Crossroad From Childhood Into Womanhood

My earliest memory of a dream is a nightmarish dream I had about an airplane being stuck in my closet. I was scared about the noise it made and how trapped it must feel in that little closet of mine. We used to live near a military airway. I later on deciphered it to be about the way I had to tune down my energy in the big family I grew up in. I am the youngest one in a family of 7 siblings. We had nine people living in our house. So it was always fun, always busy and there always was the need to tune in or tune down. I think my dream supported my longing to fly out, to spread my wings. I left home relatively early at age 17, doing just that. You can see that a dream that is concerned with showing you new roads on which to travel, often uses symbols of travel. In this dream it is an airplane. The air and the wind flow and chill, but it also supports transportation into new endeavors.

Ralph Metzner talks on Mindfunda’s Youtube channel about the battle between the Aesir sky gods and the Vanir earth gods as the battle between old and new technology. To resolve this battle Odin showed both tribes how to conduct rituals based on mutual respect. The earth tribe in my childhood home was my father. Being the principle of the local high school he was all about rules. Teaching the rules, playing by the rules; do your homework. He liked things that where tangible. I was more “airy”: I saw ghosts, spirits, I could talks to them for hours. I was a dreamy girl. It took me several decades to engage in a ritual based on mutual respect to build a bridge towards my father’s knowledge. A dream paved the way for that. In this dream of mine I foresaw his death. After having this dream I asked him if he wanted to do anything before he was gone; anything he had not gotten around to in his life? He talked with me that night about his life, about how wonderful it had been and about how much he loved my mother. He had enjoyed the company of his children and told me how I always amazed him with my analytic skills and my guts to ask questions other people only thought, but never said out loud.

Crossroad From Womanhood Into Partner And Mother

The next step in my life was finding a partner. It took me a while before I had the inner peace to settle down with someone. When I was in my thirties I began to feel so alone. I missed a companion; someone to share my life with. Somebody with whom I could raise a family. I decided -very unromantically to make this a mission in life. I started dating, I started incubating dreams about my dates and my romantic life and it took me a while to develop the intuition I needed to guide me through this process. Then one night I dreamed: “I am on the train and it is a very sunny day. The window is open and while we are crossing the lake beneath us some water touches my arm. It feels like a caress from love that gives me faith and pleasure in my travel”.

Again, like in the first initiation dream, a form of transportation used as a symbol of transformation. The train of life passing above the waters of love. Where in the first initiation dream from childhood into womanhood the element of air played a big role, in the second dream the element of water has the upper hand. The first dream encourages me to rise above the things I was thought in my elderly home. The second dream encourages me to feel the depths of love. I dreamed this the day before I went on my first date with my future husband, the father of my children.

Crossroad From Partner and Mother Into Crone

 The last dream I want to share with you is a dream I have described in my blog. It is called “Hathor, the Goddess of dreams”, Injecting the uterus of a cow with frozen meatballs doesn’t seem like a very pleasant endeavor, but waking up from the dream I felt really good. I had done something very important. Something that had to be checked, and had to be kept warm.

Brenda Ferrimani (, dreamer and artist wrote me this about my dream: (I) Couldn’t help making a connection to Patricia Garfield and her book “Creative Dreaming”, and her horned/branching woman. You know the ovaries almost look like horns growing out of the uterus. So I get the physical connection with “frozen eggs” and perhaps the message, that my body is no longer producing eggs naturally but Hathor the horned Goddess assures me that I will still be a creative force in the world. I also thought of the “meat balls” as cow testicles. That I was placing something very potent inside the belly of the cow, if this were my dream. Kind of feels like a willing sacrifice happening so that the pregnancy can take place. In a way the bull has given his life to make the cow pregnant. Interesting how the “balls” are not only fertile but nutritious for human consumption. Maybe the dream comes to tell me about my future creative life, how I may be instrumental in bringing soul nourishment to others.

I was so thrilled that Brenda made the connection with the horned Goddess. The Horned Goddess is an ancient archetype, based on the full moon. The antlers of the Horned Goddess rise up in the sky to select the right energy and information for intuitive knowledge. This dream is linked to a dream of mine where I was in the bathtub and there where antlers growing out of my belly.

I hope I inspired you all to look at your dreams from this “crossroads” perspective. Take into account your life cycle and the initiation rites that are buried, but still vital for us in our current society.

You can follow Susanne’s blog at, making the fundamentals of psychology, mythology and spirituality easy to use in your personal life.















Ask Your Dream Questions

Dreamsharing April 6, 2015


If you have questions about your dreams or dreaming, you can ask your dream questions here. While I can’t promise chocolate chip brownies, I can promise to answer your questions and that my answers will be just as rich as brownies! All questions will be posted anonymously. You can write to me at

Ask Your Dream Question

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Previously Asked Questions

A Dreamer’s Question:

Would you discuss the significance of the color white and of snakes in dreams? Thank you.

Patti’s Answer:

While I don’t think it’s appropriate to get into a “this means that” or “dream dictionary” kind of discussion, because your own associations are uniquely your own, I’ll just say that generally speaking colour can refer to one’s emotional state. But even saying that limits what a colour in a dream can be about. Sometime colour, or the absence of colour, is making a point and it’s there (or not there) in a way that grabs your attention. Sometimes the quality of light is associated with spirit. If you are wondering about a specific dream, I’d encourage you to just sit with the white in your dream and see what comes to you by way of associations, inspiration, or intuition.

It is a similar issue with snakes. What is your relationship, thoughts, feelings, etc. about snakes? What a snake means to me, will be different for you, but it’s is a hugely archetypal symbol. The discussion came up earlier with some friends on Facebook and I have a note on snakes attached to my Facebook page if you are interested but you’ll have to like the page to access it! (SNAKES). You can also read about snakes under my Library of Dreams tab.

Both snakes and colours can be archetypal in nature. Symbols on this level have meaning across time, culture, art, religion, common to all people. All dreams have many layers of meaning, all rich and important to explore. Sweet dreams.

A Dreamer’s Question:

I have quick question:Lately, as soon as my head hits the pillow, and I close my eyes, I begin to see things. I’m not in a dream state yet. The visions just start occurring.

Just closed my eyes, and whoosh, I began seeing people walking around (like one see’s when they’re looking for a seat at a concert or something). The latest is: a number of faces that flashed before me (one at a time). It seemed like it was chronological in time, present to past. I wasn’t really dreaming, however, it was there. Maybe past lives. Like I said, I’m not even sleeping yet and I’m seeing visions. I’m confused. Do you know what’s going on here?

Patti’s Answer:

There are many ways of knowing and perceiving things and we can define dreams quite broadly as only part of a large continuum of consciousness. The “dream” for me is only partly about our nocturnal adventures when we are sleeping. When we close our eyes, and tune out the environment, our brain shifts gears. The stage as we slip into dreams is called the “hypnogogic” stage and can be measured in a lab. Whether your brain is technically in that stage or you literally just closed your eyes, I can’t say, but I do know (and I’ve experienced this too) that all sorts of psychic material and dream material can be observed and felt including past life material, astral journeys and more. So sit back and enjoy the ride!  Sweet dreams!


Help Me Stop Dreaming

Dreamsharing March 16, 2015


“Help me stop dreaming!” Is that possible? Well, a dreamer honestly emailed me and asked me to help her “stop the dreams.” I think she meant just the bad dreams but if she wanted to stop all her dreams, that’s not a healthy option for any human being! All the symptoms of sleep deprivation, such as the inability to concentrate, stress, disturbances and even psychosis, are considered by many sleep researchers to be from lack of dreaming, not lack of sleep. The time spent in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep is absolutely required for our well-being.

To put an end to the scary dreams is another question. For me and most of today’s dream workers, we tend to think that “there is no such thing as a bad dream” because all dreams come to further our health and personal growth. Dreams move unconscious material to conscious awareness so that we may be able to process our feelings, grow and change. Most healthy people have a bad dream now and then, and after working with them, they generally find that there is something just below the surface of their conscious awareness that is trying to get their attention.

In the case of the dreamer in question, she sent me enough dreams to blog about for a year, so I could only speak in the most general sense. You can do this for yourself as well, when you have a lot of material in one dream, or in a group of dreams to work with. It will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed from too many dreams or symbols. Simply zero in on situation or the central image in each dream and the feelings that they generate. For example, in this case, we found the following situations followed by the predominant emotion:

  • Danger/ fear
  • Break-in/fear
  • Forgetting/ concern or anxiety
  • Dirt and mess/ distress
  • Reunion/ clarity (Note: clarity isn’t considered an emotion since it is part of the thinking process, but it was the dreamer’s description).

Once you understand the main situation and the feelings that go with it, ask yourself if there is anywhere in your life that feels the same? In other words, “what situation in my life feels dangerous and makes me feel fearful?” “Is there any situation that feels like a ‘break-in’ or invasive in some way, where I feel fear?” What occurs to you may not resemble your dream scenarios at all but it may trigger a connection or awareness of some time in your life—past or present—when you felt the same way.

While nightmares may be normal, frequent nightmares are clearly telling you that something within your psyche is bothering you or is out of balance. In this case, our dreamer said that she takes good care of herself but I would suggest to all dreamers that emotional self-care be included in your daily routine. With nightmares, the answer doesn’t lie in the cessation of all or even some of our dreams, but in working to understand their messages. Sweet dreams!