By Ellen Livingston
Last week I had another poignant and powerful dream. I savor and treasure this brand of inner guidance when it blesses me. In this dream, I was alone in my home, and when I went to get something in the kitchen, I saw a mouse, a rat, or some little rodent that ‘should not’ be in my house! My immediate reaction was something like fear and repulsion. I somehow managed to grab it in my hand, and I raced to the door and attempted to hurl the little ‘varmint’ out into the yard….but it clung fiercely to my hand. That was scary! I shook my hand violently, trying to shake it off, but it clung more desperately, with all its little talons digging into my skin. I brought my hand closer to my face and looked right at the critter’s face, and my heart just melted as I realized it was a teeny-tiny kitten. So innocent and helpless – and it needed me!
I brought the desperately clinging kitten into the bedroom and fashioned a soft nest on the bed quilt. The kitten willingly released its tiny dagger claws as I gently set it into the softness. Soon, somehow (it’s a dream!), there were a few more tiny adorable kittens with the first one, and I gave them some covers to keep them warm and safe. As I looked lovingly at them cuddled together, I saw that they were suckling and completely comfortable and content with their needs met. It warmed my heart….and I woke up from the dream.
I have much experience with dream interpretation since I have been blessed with remembering many potent dreams. When a dream sticks in my mind, I know it has important messages for me. I pay attention first to how I felt in the dream. What were the primary emotions experienced? In this case, I felt instant fear, panic, and revulsion… an immediate sweet tenderness and a maternal instinct of loving care. It was a wildly sudden shift from fear to love once an important truth was revealed to me.
Next, I get curious about what messages the dream might be bringing. At the time when a dream visits, what is true in my life which might need higher guidance? Does the dream offer clarity, or invitation, in an area where I am experiencing uncertainty, fear, or resistance in my life?
I re-experience the details…in this case, getting in touch with how it felt having those sharp little claws tearing into my flesh and being unable to shake them off me. I let myself feel it again in my waking reality. And then, feeling my heart suddenly soften fully when I found myself looking into the tiny face of a sweet newborn kitten in need of care….and then, after making a nest for it, how it felt to realize there were more kittens – or more parts of me needing my loving care?
I imagine embodying all of the characters in my dreams. Who am I when I am the unwanted rat who is being hurled out the door? Who am I when I am the scared, aggressive giant one doing the hurling? Who am I when I am the tiny, needy kitten, clinging on for dear life? Who am I when I am the content kitten in the safe nest, getting its needs met? It is fascinating and enlightening to play all the parts and to see them all as parts of me. For me, it becomes an accessible way of relating with my shadow. Dreams can often show me parts of myself that I have been pushing away, ignoring, or in some way not accepting, often without realizing it. Dreams also reveal my strengths and resources to me and often bring reassurance.
I am still savoring all the messages from this particular dream. They are coming into my awareness in layers. There are no right or wrong answers when working with dreams, only what feels helpful or in alignment with the moment.
I have a personal morning and evening practice of saying some simple phrases out loud that help me bring awareness and presence to how I navigate the daily transitions from day to night and night to morning. Before going to bed, I symbolically release the day and welcome the mystery of the dream time. And in the morning, I end the dream time with gratitude for all the wisdom I’ve accumulated and verbally greet the day with positive openness, love, and intention. A friend inspired this practice, but I made up the words at the moment. Mostly, it’s about releasing the past, with gratitude for all the lessons, greeting the present moment with a clear energy field, and with love, connection, appreciation, intention, and the confidence to co-create with integrity.
It’s about living in love. One of the most potent moments in my kitten dream was the softening of my heart when I saw what was true. I moved from fear to love instantaneously. And why not, once I realized what I feared wasn’t real? In our waking reality, this is often harder. We have all developed layers of resistance, born of the coping mechanisms we created that we thought we needed for survival. We often hold onto emotions instead of letting them flow through us. We justify and defend them instead of simply feeling and thanking them for showing us where we’ve moved off our center and strayed from our natural self, which dwells in love.
I keep learning that to the extent that I can live in love within myself, by embracing all my shadow parts (those parts I don’t like, judge harshly, don’t want, etc.), I can live in love with all other beings.
There is a beautiful Sanskrit mantra:
Lokah, Samastah, Sukhino, Bhavantu.
May all beings everywhere be happy and free.
And may my thoughts, words, and actions contribute positively to the happiness and freedom of all beings.
We can turn this mantra inwards and reflect on what it means to live in love by contributing to the happiness and freedom of our own self and all the different parts of us. Just as world peace begins with inner peace, so does living in love in the world begin with living in love within oneself.
The way I see it, our world is in a strange and precarious place right now. Something huge is being played out on the world stage, more fully in the open now than ever (at least in my lifetime). It’s a critically important chapter of Transition (capital “T” intentional!). It’s very tempting to harden our hearts to cope with our overwhelm and insecurities. But that strategy is not going to work this time. I think we are truly being called to OPEN our hearts at this time and lean into the unknown of the dark places. We have to be willing to LOOK at what is happening. We have to FACE the facts and OWN our responses. Everyone is responsible for what is unfolding.
It’s helpful to examine our inner shadows because these unaccepted parts of ourselves often get projected outwardly as our harsh judgment of others. It becomes a dysfunctional, unconscious cycle, which in today’s environment is causing egregious divisiveness between people. As we turn inward and embrace our unwanted parts, we can offer that quality of love and acceptance outwards.
I remember the book title that caught my attention years ago: “Be Nothing.” The book’s basic thesis is that when we can, for a moment, shed all of the titles and identities we’ve adopted and drop into the ‘nothingness’ beneath or above all of these theatrical entrapments, we realize the sameness that we all share as humans. It’s fun and creative to try on different roles and identities and adventures in our earthly life, but when stripped naked of these outer coverings, right down to the core of us, in that ‘nothingness,’ we all share the steady, divine light-force that is our source of life. At this moment, in this profound realization, none of the outer trappings matter anymore. The practice of eye-gazing with another person is one powerful way of dropping into the space of ‘being nothing’ together.
Today, I had the exquisite experience of receiving a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy session from a friend. It was a gentle yet powerful invitation to enter into spontaneous communication with my shadow parts by connecting with the parts of my body. It was another way of dropping into a space of honest presence with myself, facilitated by another being who was living in love.
We all have inner shadow parts that need our loving acceptance. I’m grateful to my dreams for continuing to bring my work to my conscious awareness. Living in love is an inside job. When we pay attention to that, we begin to free our natural state of love to express itself. We can give ourselves and others the blessed permission to live in the state of love, happiness, and freedom that we all inherently long for and that we all, at our most natural core essence, dwell in already.