death.jpgWARNING! Though what I’m about to say suggests that I’ve found the answer to something it’s more like an answer. I’m struggling with all these concepts as well, which is why I started this blog in the first place i.e. as a venue for discovery and sharing.

In trying to catch up to the backlog of submitted dreams, many of the last several dreams I’ve worked have included the visitation of someone close who has died, or have had more subtle visits from the dead show up such as in the dream below. There are an incredible number of ideas concerning death e.g. what is it, what happens, if anything, after death, etc. Most of this seems to follow a spiritual line of thought and pretty much leaves the reality of death for the dreamer to handle on their own.

But most often death is painful, messy, ugly, confusing, sad, and frightening and none of us seem to have the right tools for dealing with it. Most of us would rather not look too closely, or feel its reality too deeply, preferring not to “wallow,” but to “move on.” We are told that we should meet death nobly by being calm, accepting and embracing its inevitability stoically, or as a great adventure. Some think they will now live peacefully in heaven. I think that’s wonderful, if you can do it, but I fear that would just be another failure in my life so that even in death I lose. After all, if I do it wrong, there’s no do-over!

I, on the other hand, am pissed off with the reality of death, what a rip; I am not looking forward to it! Most of the palliatives offered for dealing with death seem to be some means of avoiding its reality. But the avoidance only keeps the emotions stuck, especially the fear and sadness, and in my case a measure of anger.

In the dreams shared with me there’s always something new that comes up, for example, and in the name of practicality, I share this dream that came from the mother of a child who seems to be having trouble dealing with a father’s death:

The dream:

 This dream is mostly verbatim though I have changed some identifying features in order to maintain this family’s autonomy.

 “hi am writing on behalf of my child who has been unwell for 7 months and since has really bad dreams about fire and about people, usually male, trying to chase them and capture and harm them. I know this is a feeling of insecurity because their dad passed when they were 9. could this be the cause. and what can i do to help them? thanks mom”

My answer: (for privacy, names and gender have been redacted)

“Death of a parent to any of us is always traumatic at some level, but to a child the reality of death both personally and the devastating loss of someone they always trusted to be there can be especially traumatic. Children can also wonder if they had anything to do with the death i.e. if they had just loved them more…

 _____ may very well be dealing with his death on many levels especially, in dealing with the insecurity that the death brings into their life.

 Fire itself can be a “cleansing” symbol, but it is also a symbol for destruction and can represent repressed anger (sometimes we can have anger at the person who has died as in “how dare they leave me!” But they can’t admit this to themselves let alone voice it out loud. There’s also the anger that is directed toward God, or just the world in general. It’s a very helpless feeling which is also present in her dream.

 All these feelings and thoughts may not even be at the level of consciousness for _____which is why they are showing up in a dream (all dreams come in the service of health and well-being).

 If you haven’t already, it would help _____ greatly to work with a nurturing counselor to help {your child] move through this.”

Disconnecting from the intimacy once shared when someone was living is a hugely difficult process, we are social beings designed to be connected. When this evaporates due to death or any ending (such as a relationship or a way of being), when the connection disappears, we have to deal with our own disappearance, our own lost sense of being apparent–of existing.

As humans our relatedness confirms and reinforces our existence, the loss of relatedness caused by the death of a loved one can render us ungrounded and unattached. Sometimes we need help to find our footing again.

In dreams, death frequently represents social, emotional, and spiritual transformation that is going on in our lives and in the growth of our personalities. We need to let certain parts of ourselves die in order for something new to develop.

This is true for children’s dreams as well wherein the parent dies because there is a need within the child’s psyche for certain relationships with the parent to die in order for the child to continue to develop. When we are fleeing something in our dreams often we are fleeing this need for change and psychic growth. It could be that the child in the above dream doesn’t want to move on from the relationship experienced with the father–wishing to remain connected and not letting go. The fixation at this level will make it difficult to move that part of themselves on and could possibly retard their overall emotional growth.

So, what do we do?

 In my opinion the best we can do is to confront, as in stand before, this scariest of all shadows rather than to flee it, salve it, and make it all right. Death, as with any of our darkest shadows, as horrible as it is, can serve us. It is what can define a life and the way we live it. To hide from it, or to live our lives as though we will never die, limits our experience of life. We need to mourn not only those we’ve physically lost, but we also need to mourn our own life-ending and the sweet naiveté that comes with denial.

It’s harder to live life with the presence of death standing, as Carlos Castaneda’s Yaqui shaman pointed out in Journey to Ixtlan, at arm’s length over your left shoulder, but to do so can make you pay greater attention to the life you are leading. This can also be the message in our dreams of the visiting dead i.e. “pay attention, I have something for you.”

There is a frightened, confused, and saddened child in all us that we need to pay some attention to and not ignore as though it were a weakness. This must be done gently and with respect, and overtime, the dark being in us can become a part of us that can share our lives instead of being separate and shaking in some corner of our inner world.

Dealing with loss and letting go is a constant struggle for all of us. But in many ways life is the practice ground for letting go–things of the past; of feelings e.g. bitterness, resentment, and hurt; rigid beliefs e.g. that which doesn’t grow with experience; traditions–all elements tied to the past and not of the here and now. To tie things up and shove them into the cellars of our mind does the psyche more harm than good. To deny the reality of the moment keeps us stuck in the past and can negatively affect our future, and we cannot deal adequately with the future, or events of the past. All we have is the present moment with all its pleasures, pain, joys, and chaos. It is here, and with these constant companions, that we need to live.

What makes all the letting go so difficult is the fact that the ego-self is the ultimate “grasper”. Whatever the mind grasps, it holds on to, often tenaciously. The more one imagines that scarcity rules the world the more likely they are to hold tightly onto what they have managed to get. In a mindset of scarcity to give anything up when the likelihood exists that you’ll not get another, whether we’re holding on to love, ideas, beliefs, money, or life, is foolhardy and can jeopardize ones very survival whether that be emotional, spiritual, or physical.

The ego does not recognize that at any one moment it has everything it needs to exist, it is only when it goes into the past, or an imagined future that it leaves the condition of sufficiency and creates the thoughts of scarcity. And the ego-self is virtually never in the here and now. So it holds tightly to what was once needed and what might be needed again.

Sometimes holding on and refusing to let go of something can be a poison to the spirit and a wall between our self and reality, our self and happiness. Letting go may actually be a process for healing.

But how do we heal?

I think the first thing we need to let go of is thinking that the world is only as we think it is. I mean, how arrogant! Reality is not just what your conscious mind imagines it to be there’s vastly more to us than what we are conscious of and vastly more to the consciousness than we can ever be aware of.

Another is to give up hiding. When we hide we are hiding from the imagined “other”. You can never hide from what is most important in your core. It knows you, your every move, desire and regret. When you hide it is your ego-self hiding from itself–the imagined self.

Yet another may be self-importance. None of us, I mean none of us is more important than the other. Everything will die and become food for something else. Even suns die and become food for the growth of other suns. As Carl Sagan, the astronomer, said,

” We of made of star stuff”. Along with this attitude of self-importance we too often leave out being grateful for what we have. We need to let go of this self-centeredness that causes us to be ungrateful.

Another would be to let go of the idea that in anything something other than your self may be responsible. Every decision we make will lead us onto a path with various consequences. Your decision, the one you made, is responsible for whatever happens. That’s not to say that things don’t just happen and are unconnected to a decision, but you are responsible for your response to them. And though I’ve said it before “being responsible” does not mean “blame” Blame is a function of the ego-self designed to thwart being responsible. Responsibility doesn’t have a positive or a negative attached, it just “is”. So you don’t have to avoid it, “embrace it and keep moving” as my mother used to say.

 

I ran across this Winston Churchill quote at a gift shop the other day, “Never, never, never give up!” which is superficially something you might want to decorate your desk, and it may well be a laudable philosophy under certain circumstances, but it should not be a mantra for one’s life. Though the never-give-up concept could apply to specific situations at hand (to which Churchill was referring), thus allowing one to be present in the moment, it should not be applied across the board.

And we have to let go of the illusion that we have plenty of time, as though there’s plenty of do-overs, or as though we’ll never die.

Thinking we know, hiding, self-importance, resisting the inevitability of death, and irresponsibility all lead to imbalance and this leads to pain. Life is much easier when we learn to let go, when we stop trying to control what we have no control over. Now that’s not to say that certain actions don’t have a greater probability over others to produce a certain result, but to make your decisions and your actions more consciously in the moment by letting go of your imagined realities allows for greater balance. Then take whatever you get and be responsible for it.

It’s this balance, or lack of it, that created the conditions that drew Robert across a North woods lake many years ago and deposited him into the Archipelago of Dreams. And like all of us he had to learn how to overcome these imbalances by letting go of the illusions that were weighing him down. You and I may have years to do that, but Robert only had a few short days and his time was running out rapidly.

Then again, with death standing over our shoulders, we may not have that much more time ourselves and though action may start in the Spirit it’s only in the Being world that the healing can take place. The truth is we don’t have that much time. Like Robert, you and I haven’t got the time to act as though we’ll live forever.

What Robert learned in the Archipelago of his dreams was more valuable than whether he succeeded in his mission or not, what he learned would save his life in both the Spirit and Being worlds. What he learned can save us all.

 

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