On Armor, Self-Creation, and Accessing Our Inner Worlds

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Part of the great power and mystery of dreaming is that, in dreams, you find yourself in relationship with the rest of you: who you are when you’re not performing your daytime, waking-world persona; who you wish you could be, or hope you’re not. In dreams we can come into contact with disowned and discarded elements and aspects of ourselves – as well as new, emergent parts of us that we’ve never met yet. Dreams also present us with the forgotten or repressed facts of our living connections to each other – and to the animals and plants we share the living world with, to our shared histories and futures, to dreaming Gaia Herself.

Dreamwork creates reflective time for us to be with these mysteries and unfold ourselves into new awareness about ourselves and our world.

Dreams ask us to take an attitude to them that can be very uncomfortable. Waking, we are always discerning the boundaries of our conscious identity: this is me, that’s not me, that’s has nothing to do with me. Dreams ask us to become more porous and curious in our thinking, and become concerned not with what something is or isn’t but with how we relate to it (and how it relates to us).

Dreamwork asks us to practice a faith in our deeper selves by honoring that whatever comes up to the surface – the dream itself, our reactions to it, our associations to it – has its reason, has something to do with us, even if we don’t know how to recognize it yet.

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Art by Geninne: blogdelanine.blogspot.com

This can be a powerful release and relief, for the conscious mind to accept that it’s not in control of everything that goes on inside us, nor does it have to be.

This can also be a balancing practice for many of us whose minds have had very good reason to become protective and stay in control.

Every day, we are bombarded by images, values, policies, and judgments that don’t represent us and that do us harm. In the dominant racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist and capitalist culture, strength and survival can mean adopting an attitude of crafting and defining and valuing our identities on our own terms. That attitude of revolutionary self-creation serves us well in the waking world – but, when it becomes a habitual armor, it can cut us off from the deeper dreaming wellspring of ourselves, our connections to one another, our healing, and our inner guidance.

Our roots go so much deeper down...
Our roots go so much deeper down…

This is not even to really get into how the same dominant culture in general cuts us off from our inner selves, and teaches us not to ask questions, not to draw connections, not to identify empathically with an other. These thought patterns belong to this culture and its legacies of violence, and it’s impossible not to internalize them to some degree. For those (most!) of us who inhabit marginalized identities and have to work hard to claim our value, this can be a double-whammy of a cut-off.

If you find yourself saying things about your dreams like, “That was meaningless,” “That was a stupid dream,” “I wish I could just forget that dream,” “That has nothing to do with me,” or “Phew! Woke up and escaped, now I never have to think about that again!” – then the armor of your waking mind is protecting you from something in your own inner world that wants your attention.

Here’s a small way to begin practicing a balancing attitude in your dreamwork:

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  1. Make a quiet space for yourself – half an hour on the couch, some quiet tea time curled up on your bed, a blanket in the park, a walk on the beach, whatever you got to work with.
  1. Actively imagine yourself taking off a piece of armor and setting in on the ground beside you. A helmet or a chest-plate would do nicely. Tell yourself something like I am taking off my armor in order to be with myself, or In this quiet space, I am free to relax and get curious, or even just I am safe here or I come in peace. Take a breath and feel your body adjust to this attitude.
  1. Get your dream journal and either write down a fresh dream or turn to one you wrote down fairly recently. Pick one element of it that challenges, confuses, or bewilders you and name it, write it down.
  1. Give yourself permission to free associate – this means that, without having to understand or interpret anything, you get to brainstorm any and all images, feelings, or memories that come up as you contemplate your chosen dream element. Associations can be very personal but they don’t have to be – they can be old stories, characters from tv shows, current events in other parts of the world, etc. Let it all just blurt into your journal – notice if you feel hesitation or embarrassment, but remember that you are safe here, no one will see but you, and your only job is to take note of what comes up.
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Dream journalling gets wild… Art by Christian Schloe.
  1. Reflect on what you’ve journalled – allow yourself to ask questions without needing to answer them right away. The point here is to practice being curious and holding the possibility that you are connected to the images and feelings that came to you.
  1. Pick a few elements of your associations to remember and carry with you during your day – not as a problem to solve, but as something to carry lightly in your mind. As you go about your day, notice when events or feelings arise that remind you of your dream elements. Meaning or insight may or may not come to you in this process, and that’s fine – the point is to practice staying in connection to the inner world, and noticing when something in the waking world resonates with your inner dreaming world.
  1. Thank yourself for making time to connect with your own dream life!

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Want to learn more? Check out my Dreamwork for Survivors course, coming this Spring with Califia Collective!

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Kaeti is a therapist, teacher, and dreamer based in Long Beach, California. All of her work (and play!) is interested in dismantling intersections of oppression and breathing magic and radical healing into all the daily corners of her life, into all the spaces of community she helps weave.

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Intentional Space: Setting the Framework

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Dear COM|PASSionate Community,

The yoga studio that I teach at is an amazing collaboration of owner intention and community investment. It holds the sweat, tears, laughter, music, insight, movement and light of years worth of practice. It is also situated in between a boot camp, a crossfit and some train tracks- all of which seem to have impeccable timing. I’ll encourage folks to let their bodies tell them when to release a pose and a nearby instructor will command “20 MORE SECONDS EVERYBODY!” We’ll be dimming lights, settling into savasana and as our body scan reaches our toes and we take our final breaths into “stillness” a train will rumble by.

Such is life. And, while a bit tongue in cheek, I’ll reference this conflict as it happens because I think it is a really powerful practice cultivate. It’s a lot easier (although can still be a challenge for folks) to find peace, stillness, mindfulness, enter wellness buzz word here, etc when you’re on a retreat at spa in some tropical location with raw food prepped by a chef and yoga at your retreat center twice a day (BTW: Any revolutionaries out there that just won the lotto and want to take us on a com|passionate think tank retreat.. we’re open to that) than it is to find those same buzz words in the rush, struggle and micro/macro aggressions (Yes, Microaggressions Project, YES!) of every day life.

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So how do we find, create, manifest space that supports our safety and healing?

INTENTIONAL SPACE.

All of our needs and resources are different. Some of us need quiet and some of us might need noise. Some of us may want to find ways for the world to traipse through our space so that we can practice healing through interaction while some of us may need to make sure the world doesn’t bother us before 10am. Some of us may need our spaces simplified and cleared out to model clarity for the way our thoughts stack up and rush by and some of us may want to fill our spaces with reminders and symbols. While environment isn’t everything (or completely controllable) it’s important and powerful. There’s a reason why those retreat centers are located in beautiful natural settings a long drive from the main road and a reason why yoga studios have sprouted up like wild fire in urban settings. Our brains, hearts and spirits could use a little structure for slowing down.

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Even if we don’t have a tropical retreat center, or even a yoga studio we can afford to frequent, we can put intention into making the spaces that we have SAFE for OUR most effective modality of healing. For me this means spaces that hold the physical medicine I use most (teas, tinctures, oils) out where they are easily accessible. It also means carving out some clean and clear space for quiet whether it be for sitting, reading, writing, music or movement (little altars easily available for aroma and intention therapy in every room.) I’ve also found that I’m the happiest and healthiest when I have intentional and mood lifting reminders visible as well as space that invites me to process externally what makes me feel crowded, discombobulated and frenetic internally. This means that along with photos, clippings and love notes framed on walls or pinned to cork board, colored pencils and paint are left out so spurts of creativity aren’t slowed by the need for preparation and chalkboard painted walls and cement are always designated canvases for visual and tactile exploration.

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With a little intention we can all carve out a little safe space for healing. Do you have intentional space ideas, sacred spots that you’ve manifested or favorite often visited public space recommendations? We would love to hear from you!

With intention,

Traci

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Traci is a therapist, yoga teacher and an aspiring intentional space architect in the Orange County area. She uses a lot of her conscious space identifying and deconstructing gender inequity, intersectional marginality and daily micro/macro aggressions/oppressions and seeks to engage her subconscious in rest, renewal and healing.