No Need to Go Outside for
Dream Quest Experience
(This article originally
appeared in Venture Inward Magazine)
My first wholehearted attempt to abide
at the "center of my being" was my experience using Henry
Reedís Dream Quest Guide Book. It happened at a critical juncture in
my life. I felt as though my back was against the wall, and both
personal and professional doors were closing to me. I was anxious about
my future and physically tired most of the time. I had decided I was
going through a mid-life change. While I could intellectually understand
this as "normal," even with its indescribable pain, that
didnít stop me from being angry or confused about what to do.
I am now on the other side of that
wall. I have gone through a transformation from who and what I thought I
was to what I am truly becoming. My anger, confusion, and resistance
have subsided. I am able to express myself in more creative ways. I am
able to trust my inner voice and respond more appropriately. I have
relaxed, let go, and become more agreeable to be with, both at home and
at work. I have a sense of being on a fresh pathway, an adventure so
searching and joyous that I can hardly remember my longing for public
recognition, fame, and success. In short, I am discovering that there is
far more to me than I had ever suspected.
In my teens and twenties, I believed I
could have an important impact on the world and garner recognition in
the molds of Madame Curie and Margaret Mead. Then 15 years in a
difficult marriage forced me to reassess my purpose and goals and my
beliefs about myself. Turning inward for guidance, I had a profound
spiritual experience that revealed what I believe is my lifeís
purpose. In the ten years since, I have struggled to make sense of that
experience and to adjust to a difficult change in self-image from
"world-renowned lecturer and author" to something much less
attractive to me.
Without having resolved the self-image
issue, I recently found myself at 46 as an educator, administrator, and
counselor, facing my own professional crisis in a deteriorating urban
community college. I also saw myself as a wife in a second marriage,
concerned about my husbandís work, and a mother of three children,
estranged for a year and a half from my 22-year-old daughter.
Almost in desperation, I saw the dream
guide book project as a new tool to work with. What follows is a
personal report of that experience and its effect on my life.
Focusing on the Quest
Approaching dreamwork for the first
time, I was eager but apprehensive; determined to trust that dreams
could produce the guidance I needed, yet terrified that they would! As
instructed in the guide book, I collected my dreams for seven days and
thought about several problems. For the first "study night"
(on the seventh day), I had seven dreams to work with in my first
"meditation in inspirational writing." The aim was to learn if
my dreams guided me toward a single problem for my focus during the
dream quest project. Hereís one dream:
I am in a senor citizen condominium
trying to help out, going from one room to another in this vast complex.
A number of movie and music stars breeze in, captivate everyone, and
breeze out. I feel left out, ineffective, wishing I could be accepted
like the stars.
To capture the essence of the dream and
simplify the process of comparing dreams, I titled each dream. This one
was "Threeís a Crowd; Helping Seniors and Stars." About this
dream, I wrote in my journal: "Sometimes I try to help out in
situations even when my help is not wanted or appreciated. I wish I were
a star instead of just helping others become stars themselves." My
unfulfilled ambition to become a "star" in my profession is a
sensitive subject to me.
Hereís another dream:
Iím on a trip in the dark, an
"adventure." Iím excited and afraid. A voice says,
"Donít be afraid; youíve got your magic sword."
This reinforced another dream about
being at a crossroads in my life. This one says Iím in the dark about
my life, but Iím protected by what I interpret as the spiritual forces
within me. When I started the workbook, I was concerned about my health,
a career change, my daughter, my husbandís work. The first weekís
dreams seemed to point to an underlying issue: My identity was tied to
being wanted and helpful; how I felt about myself was related to being
protected and loved. I was at a crossroads, wanted to take a turn for
the better, but not knowing which way to turn. In my meditation journal,
I wrote a dialogue between my questioning self and my knowing self:
"How will I ever be able to know
what is the right thing to do?"
"You listen, and you understand,
but you do not act, and not acting begins to dull your
I often avoided acting by being too
"busy." Piling up on myself all the "helpful" things
I had to do may actually have created more self-doubt and trouble,
rather than less. From the quiet confidence radiated by my knowing self,
I wrote: "I can be more truthful with myself and less demanding. I
can take quiet action on the small things, a step at a time, and the
larger problems will work themselves out."
As a result of this writing, I realized
I no longer wanted to focus on "fixing" something in my
external environment - my career or my relationship with my daughter.
Instead, I wanted to focus on going deeper within myself and acting more
confidently on what I found within. Waves of understanding washed over
me, and I felt a sense of release.
My initial dream petition to be placed
under my pillow each night simply said: "Iíll listen to my inner
voice first, then act. If Iím still feeling afraid or doubtful, then
dreams, please show me a better way."
I applied my affirmation
conscientiously and collected a new set of dreams. I wrote in my
journal: "Iím impressed that, as I listen to my inner voice and
collect my dreams, I am having actual experiences in the day associated
with my concerns."
Each time I came to a decision or a
need for action, I quieted myself, listened to my inner voice, and acted
accordingly. Tuning in to that voice demanded staying close to the
center of my being, listening closely before any response. Instead of
reacting to my world with fear, and frustrated attempts to control
others, instead of handicapping myself with anger and unhappiness, I
found myself much calmer and quieter, more in control of myself.
Frankly, sometimes it went well, sometimes not so well. But I
concentrated on application.
I stopped trying to change the college,
to get my daughter to communicate with me, to help my husband gain an
important business contact. I also stopped rejecting what was happening
to me, and two remarkable things happened.
First, I began to accept that my
daughter was not contacting me, although that had been one of my deepest
concerns. Then on the 10th day of the quest, she called me to arrange a
time to meet, as thought we spoke to each other every day. I couldnít
believe it. Nothing I had done in the last 18 months had moved her to
contact me. We met three days later, and coincidentally, she wore a new
hat of the same turquoise color as the suit I wore. The meeting went
well as I concentrated on inner listening and guidance.
I also quit looking at how awful the
college was becoming. I remained quiet as the organization continued to
deteriorate. I also began to look for signs of new life, of
transformation. How could I improve myself, my contribution to the
college? Then on the 11th day, I met a man who changed my mind about
looking for a position elsewhere. We began working together to further
the research begun with my doctoral dissertation. We have since written
a major grant to bring a large program for ethnic students into the
At the end of Week 2, following the
guide book instructions, I reviewed my progress in fulfilling my
application contract, seeking insights into how I might view my problem
differently and compensate for anything I may have neglected or
mistaken. Although I felt my initial efforts had gone well, I still had
concerns about my health, about the stress at the college, and about my
My study of one of the second weekís
dreams illustrates the value of this reappraisal and the recommended
A group of women are chatting around a
round wooden table. Sunlight is streaming in through the windows. The
walls of the room are painted yellow. Warmth and light surround the
women. As I walk into the room they welcome me warmly and ask me to join
them. I feel as though I have come home finally, am very feminine, and
I interpreted this to mean I had been
welcomed by the feminine aspects of myself - those qualities of being
warm, enlightened, yielding, intuitive, and accepting. As if I had
"come home" to myself, I felt complete, aware, effective, in
balance and radiant. I realized that if I quit denying the feminine in
myself - as I have been resisting the "womanís place is in the
home" role - I would attain inner awareness and wholeness.
Dialoguing with a troubled image in
another dream, I learned I was turning others off at work by being too
forceful, demanding, and "masculine." In my career efforts, I
had sacrificed many of my feminine aspects to the detriment of my inner
life as well as my outer effectiveness. I would have to reduce the
dominance of my male aspects and be more quiet and yielding in order to
attune myself to the Higher Will. Thus I would feel "at home,"
accepted and loved, effective and once again powerful, but through
enlightenment, not power games.
When I revised my pillow letter to
strive for more feminine behavior, I did not remember dreams for a few
days. I took that as a sign of resistance to my statement. So I revised
it again to strive for more balance between the masculine and feminine
aspects. I could bring the feminine into focus: being more receptive to
others, more intuitive, more yielding, nurturing, and encouraging, yet
without losing useful masculine traits, intellect, assertiveness,
creativity, and strength of will.
Searching with New
After this revision, my dream life
flowed again. My inner voice became more real each day, and I felt more
willing to listen to it and be guided by it. I liked myself better. I
made a doctorís appointment, started an exercise class, bought some
A dream from that week seemed
I go to the doctorís for a checkup.
The doctor is warm and funny. He looks like Mickey Rooney in a bright
green Hawaiian shirt with yellow flowers on it. Through the walls of his
inner voice, I can hear his staff discussing the progress of my life. He
seems to feel I am healing. On the wall is a picture of the doctor
looking like a guru with white robes. He is smiling, and out of the top
of his head flows a rainbow down to a bright sun shining on his nose!
Yellow light streams in through the window, and two men materialize to
my amazement and hug me. A woman tries to materialize, but is only a
shadowy figure, and then fades.
I woke up happy about this dream. The
shadowy figure of a woman confirmed my need to strengthen the feminine,
while hugs from the men released a fear that I was too masculine.
"Going to the doctor," was indeed what I was doing, that is,
seeking my inner voice and the healing forces within me. The humorous
image of the doctor seemed to suggest I lighten up. The guru picture
with the rainbow and the sunny nose seemed to say I was "on the
nose" with my spiritual quest.
In my journal, I reflected: "In
trying to be more feminine, I find I have a lot of work to do on myself
- weight loss, yielding, listening and responding more patiently to
others. My resistance is very high. I heard a message today saying: You
donít need sugar; you have me. Later in the day, however, someone
brought me cookies and ice cream, and I ate them."
Part of my resistance to letting go and
being more feminine is the fear that I will be left out or wonít get
to do some things in my life. This fear is ludicrous because my dreams
say the male and female aspects have to be in balance, and one cannot
dominate the other.
Iím still not sure about the best way
to carry out my life purpose, such as being by my husbandís side
instead of in a career of my own. However, Iím going to act as though
itís a fact and watch for signs of confirmation. As instructed by the
guide book, I recalled a past experience when I said "yes" to
a spiritual life of service, when I felt dedicated and at-one with life.
I was utterly certain that a new age of consciousness was coming and
that the part I was asked to play would be successful.
Through an exercise in which I rewrote
the "magic sword" dream, I realized that, in spite of my
"spiritual commitment," I had been trying to go it alone, not
sufficiently attuned on a day-to-day basis to the Higher Will. Perhaps I
had intellectualized my commitment, and my dreams were returning me to
the need for moment-by-moment contact with my inner voice if I am to
fulfill my purpose. They suggest that, if I so listen and respond
accordingly, I will be more effective professionally, more loving and
understanding with my family, in better health and less stress, and more
satisfied with and accepting of myself. My new revision of my pillow
"If I strive to become a clear,
balanced channel of service to others not only by listening to my inner
voice, but also by responding fearlessly and in complete trust to its
suggestions, yet still feel ineffective, then dreams, show me a better
The very next dream was very moving for
A beautiful woman in riding clothes is
training ponies. She befriends my young daughter and me. We move through
her life, watching the men in her life fall in love with her while she
is busy working. The dream shifts to an apartment where my daughter is
playing with a mirror that cracks into fine pieces all over the carpet.
My husband helps me pick up the pieces, but the feeling is that I
didnít move fast enough to prevent the breakage or even to pick up the
pieces myself, so he had to act. Heís not happy to have to come to my
rescue, but not condemning either. The dream fades back to the pony
woman, still not certain who she chooses to love. Approaching her is a
pony man who looks just like her. The feeling is that maybe this match
To me, the pony woman symbolizes those
aspects of myself that are developing my energies (ponies). Beautiful
and competent, she focuses more on her work than on making a successful
match with the male aspects (men in her life). The incident of the
mirror seemed to say that my facades, my reflections, were cracking into
many pieces. But because my daughter symbolizes new life and joy to me,
the mirror breaking in her hands was a positive expression of the good
that would result as my facade crumbled. that my husband was helpful but
annoyed is very much the way he is. He loves me and respects my
competence, but thinks I have often misdirected my energies instead of
carefully listening to the Higher Will and responding. The pony man
approaching at the end of the dream seems to verify that my efforts are
working; listening to my inner voice, balancing the male and female
aspects, then responding.
When I took this dream to a dream group
for help, I began to cry, then shake. I couldnít stop letting go, in
spite of the embarrassment and the pain of self-revelation to a group of
strangers. Beyond the pain, this dram was telling me, "This time it
will work out." Self-doubt, anger, confusion, and resistance were
washing away. The worst was over; the storm had passed. This time I was
coming together as a person. I felt my existence deeply and profoundly
confirmed. No longer need I struggle to please others, realizing now how
deeply and unconditionally we are loved as we are.
Two other dreams of the final week
seemed significant. One suggested I should listen in a more concentrated
way (meditation) to the rain (inner voice) tapping and often pounding on
my roof (brain) and at my windows (soul). Another dream suggested I
donít listen enough. I felt these were telling me I should meditate
more regularly, in addition to attending to my dreams.
The dream quest experiment, in short,
played a central role in my transformation. My dreams became a private
haven from the storms of my personal and professional lives, storms I
often created for myself. My dreams seemed not to blame, no matter what
my struggle was. They guided me to hope and resolution. I saw my life
reflected in them and, to my joy and amazement, the reflected image
seemed more vivid than the one in my mirror.
The process was not an entirely gentle
one. I had to review my personal commitment to an image I had held for
many years. I had to reevaluate the shame and anguish, the bitterness
and guilt I experienced over my divorce, my rebellion as a housewife,
and the subsequent deaths of my parents. I was slammed in the face with
my past in my daughterís rejection of me. And out of this, I have come
to believe that the premise of this workbook is correct: Dreams will
speak, sometimes dramatically, to those issues that occupy you during
the day. They can become your inner companion with whom you can share
your secrets and from whom you can expect support.
As to my daughter, our meetings have
led us to new levels of mutual understanding. I came to realize the
impact on a relationship when both individuals are going through a
life-stage transformation. At 22, she was experiencing an identity
crisis not unlike mine at 46. In her anxiety about being ill-prepared to
step out into the world alone as a professional dancer and teacher, she
mirrored my dark side. She felt I was thoughtless, greedy, destructive,
and blind to her needs. One of my dreams made clear the parallels of our
individual struggles. Our different life styles and goals had driven us
apart, but this dream suggested that our love and respect were mutual,
that is, if I accepted her world as being as significant to her as my
world was to me.
Not every issue of concern in my life
has been resolved, of course, but for the first time I am optimistic
about what lies ahead, and I am more equipped than ever to go where