Grief is a sacred journey

The Woman in My Dreams

DSC09509-003In the dark days before Winter Solstice, I take stock of where I am and wonder where I’m going. December questions match the season and my time of life. How will I spend my precious days this year? What do I want to write about? Is it time to move from my house? What matters most now?

After asking for inner guidance, a mysterious woman appeared in my dreams.

10/22/13: I talk to a woman I don’t see. There are no images to identify her. I tell her I want to create a new office and place to write in a room I’m not using now. I want a room of my own.

A place to write, a room I’m not using now and don’t know? My dream borrowed Virginia Woolf’s title “A Room of One’s Own” to make a point. I have a quiet house where I live and write, but we’re in dream consciousness here, in inner psychological worlds.

In my outer life, I’m slow to change, but my husband Vic died eight years ago and I’m 71. The dream lures me with a new space for creative work and an unknown feminine guide.

11/13/16: I see a table covered with lit candles, glowing with warm golden light. “I love the candles,” a woman says. The only image is glowing candles. I hear her, but don’t see her.

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Discussing this dream with my Jungian therapist, we recalled my first dream. I knew this was an appearance of the same woman without knowing how I knew. Dreams require intuition and, for me, a dreamworker to help me explore. Even though I heard the dream woman speak, I couldn’t describe her voice when I woke up.

DSC04013My dream woman likes candlelight, a world of ritual where I do healing work for myself, for those who grieve, and for friends who suffer losses. Instead of sharp-edged insight from thinking and reason, she prefers soft edges and intuition, moonlight illuminating the dark. Although I still don’t see her, I trust her. I’m listening.

Two weeks later, she appears again.

11/26/16: Vic and I stand in the basement of my house (not where I’ve lived for many years, but a place I don’t recognize). A woman plans to move into the cellar in six months. The cellar is huge compared to the house above it and cleaned out so she can move in. Brightly colored chickens, some with feathered plumes, walk around in the stone basement. I see three dogs, each with puppies. I want a puppy from the mellow black dog. She has scratches around her hind quarters. Dream Vic says she had a hard labor or was wounded, but her wounds are healing. The pups lie on her lower body, snoozing and grunting.

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Elaine Mansfield, 1992

This time I recognize the woman when I wake up, although I still don’t see her. When I discussed the dream with my therapist, I connected the dream woman to an oil pastel I did in 1992 of a woman waiting for a sailboat. (Yes, 1992, and I’m still exploring the image.) I worked on this pastel for six months, compelled to capture some mystery. If I were to paint her now, she would have long white hair.

I had the 18 x 24 inch image framed. It hangs in my bedroom so I see it before I go to sleep and when I wake up.

DSC05264The dream woman plans to move into my cellar in six months—in the spring when new life bursts forth. The cellar is cleaned out and ready, so I’ve done the inner work to prepare the way. The basement, the huge feminine unconscious, is much larger than the dream house or my conscious perspective.

Colorful chickens, ancient symbols for emerging life, will lay eggs I can’t yet imagine. I want a pup from the black dog. The black dog in my dream led me to the dog in my oil pastel. Black dogs are companions of the Crone Goddess Hecate who stands at the crossroad of any transition and at the threshold between life and death.

Dream Vic points out that the mother dog was injured. My instinctual self has been wounded by Vic’s illness and death, by his mother’s continuing needs, and by Meniere’s Disease, but like the mother dog, time brings healing and new life.

Photo from reference.com

Photo from reference.com

I ask my questions and wait for the dream woman to offer more clues, one by one. In the way of dreams, she’ll come or not come on her own schedule. My job is to recognize her and listen for her wisdom. I’ll watch for the orange lantern at her feet, the light within the dark.

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Do you pay close attention to dreams? Do they offer you new hidden places to explore? As some know, I’ve been a student of Jungian Psychology and dreamwork since the late 1960s. I recently found a dream journal from 1967. For another blog about the importance of exploring dreams and intuitions through painting or drawing, see Finding Balance during Grief: Healing Dreams and Creativity. For more about my perspective about feminine consciousness, see Finding the Sacred Feminine in Nature and Friendship.

 

20 Comments
  1. I absolutely believe in messages from dreams Elaine. It seems you have such vivid dreams. I often get a piece of a dream that will recur for a few nights and try to put the pieces together. Of course I have to write them down upon waking or they dissipate in my memory until the next one comes along. I think if a dream becomes one that sticks with us in our waking hours it definitely contains a message. 🙂

    • Debby, my “dream catcher” is a dream notebook with a pen on a bedside table. I write them down immediately, including in the middle of the night. I had a dream last night and wrote it down around 3 am, but I barely remember it at 8 am. I’m glad it’s there in my notebook with every sensory and feeling detail I could remember about it, plus a short summary of what I did and thought about the last few days. I also consider whether or not I’ve asked for perspective about something confusing. I can’t count on my waking memory since sometimes my dreams sink back into the unconscious without a trace. Then, as you say, there are the ones that stick with us in waking hours for days or even years.

  2. I a.m 62 years old. My husband died on May 27, 2015. I kissed him goodbye as he left home for a short motorcycle ride,and he never came back.

    I am living in another town now. I sold our home. I demolished the life we had, sold our home and all of his belongings and most of mine. I’m in a physical place I want to be. But I’m in the dark, wandering in a wilderness. In the dark, I can see the light.

    When I am in the darkness it is so much easer to see the light.

    We talk about the void, looking into the void. But what about being in the void, and looking out into the light? The love, the answeres are in the light. The birth of light happen in the void, in the black hole.

    I am a room of my own. The room of my own is not “out there”. The room of my own, is, ” in here”. Inside me are all the answers and all of the questions. The woman is me, in her room of her own, in the darkness, looking toward the lighti. It is so much easier to see the light, from the darkness.

    Thank you Elaine, for this inspiration.

    • Thank you, Deb. It’s good to hear from you. Please save your wise reflections about grief. You transformed your outer world soon after your husband’s death. My outer surroundings are much the same as they were when Vic was alive. Of course there are changes, but I sleep in the same room I slept in, have many of the same photos on the wall, and live on the same land in the same community. I’m listening when you say you ARE a room of your own. Also when you talk about being within the dark and seeing the light from there. I think of a long birth canal.

      For me, there will be outer moves to make–most of which you’re already made. I found comfort in that deep darkness in the years after Vic’s death. I could see a world of inner light and outer beauty from there. I’ve moved from that place now and sometimes I miss the peacefulness I found there almost as much as I miss Vic.

  3. Oh, Elaine. What excellent dream work…soul work, you have been undertaking for so long. Tending the images of your soul, the feelings of your heart…. I’m so touched by these dreams and the subtle threads of your Self’s authentic voice that connect them. I’m equally touched by your ego’s perseverance in listening to and recording these messages for so many long years. This is a beautiful, articulate, enormously resonant post from an authentic seeker. I’m so impressed by your unique ability to verbally and visually illustrate your soul’s journey such that others can easily relate to it and find inspiration in it. Brava!

    • Thank you, Jeanie. You’re one of a few writers I know who can lead readers through a dream and engage us with a sense of discovery and new meaning. It’s a challenge to write about dreams, even though they’re so important to me. This dream series was simple, so I took a chance. I was thrilled when I understood that the dreams were connected to each other and also to an image that captivated me 25 years ago. No matter where I go next in this life, I’ll take that oil pastel along.

      I first wrote down my dreams in Psychology 101 taught by Prof. James Maas in 1964 or ’65. He became well known for sleep research and also for scandals. I remember being asked to look at my dreams from a Freudian and a Jungian perspective and how the perspectives differ. Big assignment for someone who knew nothing. I only remember the question. My answer is lost in obscurity where I’m sure it belongs.

  4. I am struck again by how your artistic talent dovetails with your writings. One complements the other. The oil pastel is lovely, and evocative. What if your “ship” comes in again and again; you welcome it at various key points in your life with the ebb and flow of loss and gain.

    Again, I am curious why I don’t remember dreams. Usually a fragment appears just before waking, but hard to retrieve. Maybe I need a therapist . . . .

    From girlhood, I have been fascinated by dreams, once writing a paper exploring dreams from a Jungian perspective. (I think I’ve mentioned this more than once in this space.) Dreams have much to teach us, as this profound post asserts.

    I notice you mention “The dream woman plans to move into my cellar in six months—in the spring when new life bursts forth.” I wonder if we can expect a sequel here. Thank you, Elaine.

    • Marian, I agree our ships come in again and again–with surprising cargo. In my pastel, the woman, dock, etc. are visually under the water line. It’s not a perspective we’d find in nature. My artist friend pointed this out as I started working, but I needed it to be that way. Under water. At that time, this woman was completely in the unconscious. She’s revealed a little more since then.

      Some remember dreams and some don’t. I have periods where dreams are sparse such as now and periods where I dream once or twice a night such as after Vic’s death. When the outer world gets too busy, I have fewer dreams. A therapist I know suggests drinking a big glass of water before bed (we tend to catch those images coming in and out of sleep, so when we get up to pee) and to keep a notebook by our bed so it’s easy to grab the smallest snippet. But maybe this isn’t your way. You did mention your Jungian dream exploration paper. I wonder if it’s gone along with my first paper about dreams.

      I hope for a sequel. My dreamworker and I took the 6 months time frame symbolically–six months from when I had the dream would be spring. So, she would appear in a time of new life. The future is hard to pin down–in dreams, in families, or in politics. I’m waiting for her to show up again.

  5. Oh Elaine, thank you again! The darkness is comfort! I never really thought about that before, but it is. I find comfort in my dreams and I find comfort in getting in bed at night. Probably because I get to sink into the darkness for a while. Thank you for sharing your insight and experiences. You have been so helpful to me.

  6. Do you know that i dedicated the Holy Night Dreaming Event to the Queen of Winter, Frau Holle/Lady Holle?
    Your dream reminds me of her. Frau Holle combines life and death: as Queen of the Realm of Death she knows mortality is a stage in the circle of life. As bringer of abundance and new life she guides the souls of children yet to be born.
    The Holy nights are 12 days between Christmas and Epifany. Each day I share a dream incubation and I have a spiritual practice. That way you create a book filled with dreams and spiritual guidance for the rest of the year. The nights in this period were thought to be more prone for precognitive dreaming because the veil between the worlds was thin, Lady Holle roamed the sky.
    Here is more information to the event: http://courses.mindfunda.com/course/12-holy-nights-20162017-edition/

    • Wonderful, Susanne. I hadn’t made a connection to Frau Holle and want to learn more. I’m off to read about your course.

      A few months ago, Robert Bosnak (‘A Little Course in Dreams’ and more) helped me incubate a dream based on Meniere’s Disease symptoms. I’d done yearly dream work with him and a group here for a long time–maybe 20 years?–but hadn’t been able to attend workshops the last few years because my hearing is so poor. I miss too much as dreamers quietly explore their images. My hearing equipment hasn’t provided a solution to group work, but I have a lapel microphone that that works with one speaker by sending their voice directly into my hearing aides. With technological help, Robbie was able to use my symptoms and experience to show the group how he works with dreams at his Healing Sanctuaries. After working with him, I had a powerful helpful dream which I use as a meditation to calm my symptoms. I’ve written the details, but haven’t shared it so far. Dreams help!

  7. This is so beautifully written Elaine and divine timing as I’m writing on this similar topic. I’m guided in my dreams and always have been. I’ve paid closer attention as I get older and learn the lessons the first time then having to repeat them. This is such divine timing it brings me to tears with gratitude thank you so much. ❤️

    • Thanks so much for reaching out with your encouraging words–encouraging for both of us. I find it challenging to write about dreams in a way that matters to others and especially to those who don’t work with dreams. You encourage me to be a little braver. I just visited your site and didn’t see a piece about dreams–so maybe it isn’t posted yet. I contacted you on twitter and FB, so maybe you can flag me when you post the piece. Blessed Solstice.

  8. Elaine, what can I say – your pastel/oil is very very beautiful. Thank you for sharing them. It is a work of art. Not only technically, visually, use of colour etc.(I know nothing re the aforementioned) except that to me it is breathtaking in all those things but also especially what it says – and I’ve just noted on a piece of paper that I really really want to do ‘my woman’ from a meditation – as a creative expression of me. That is another story –

    It is a beautiful post, thank you so so much. It acknowledges so well the inner guide and how she is to be trusted and how one must be patient and let her evolve … we are so rewarded by our dreams if we but pay attention to them. I have my dream journal and pen right there and even if it is 2.34 a.m. or 4.44 am I usually write them down – they’ve been a bit scarce of late, perhaps because of the busyness of everything in the outer as you mentioned in a comment back to someone.. but thank you for the affirmation of how important dreams are to us – a real gift –

    The comments were lovely and yours back to them –

    And, I will just mention because as JSackmom said to you about divine timing … I too wrote last night about women, staying steadfast … so there is something of a synchronicity about.

    Thank you Elaine, so much.

    • Susan, thanks for your beautiful and thoughtful response. Yes, there is synchronicity about.

      My oil pastel turned out well considering the primitive level of my art skills then. I showed my friend and artist drawings I’d done of dreams, so she offered to let me work in her studio. She looked at my first attempts and groaned. Did I want the piece to reflect the way the world looks? I did. So, we went on field and photography trips. First to take photos of the lakes here to get a sense of how to lay out a water landscape (although I put the figure of the women under the water line even though that’s not the way water appears in the landscape). Then I interested Vic in photo shoots to take images of me posing in a long fancy dress on a dock so I could get the placement of the woman’s body and also the dog. I never had red hair and many other details, but the photos helped me with basic positioning and gestures. Since the piece is so watery, I looked at hundreds of paintings of waves (my friend had a good art collection) and then took photographs of waves on the lakes near me. So while I painted, I learned to look at the world with a sharper eye. With oil pastels, the color can be applied as a little dab here and spot there and if you begin with high quality paper and pastels, it’s easy to go over mistakes and begin again.

      It took me a long time to learn all this, so the one piece took about six months. I was dedicated! I didn’t quite know why, but I was trying to integrate a more receptive feminine energy. I was a little obsessed with it and also having fun.

  9. Fascinating, Elaine. I rarely have vivid dreams, but when I do they are incredibly detailed. I’ve had a few strange ones of late – things I couldn’t make sense of. I think I’ll put a notebook and pen on the nightstand and begin to capture what I recall of these dreams. Thank you for sharing the woman in your dreams….

    • Ann, I usually can’t make sense of my dreams–which is why I continue to see a therapist every other week. We began our dream work nearly 9 years ago (is it possible?) when I was desperate with caregiver’s exhaustion and anticipated grief. My dreams reflected my depleted state and I knew I needed more support. Dreams stayed powerful after Vic’s death, so I kept right on working with them. I’m grateful for a Jungian therapist who loves dreams as much as I do and helps me explore them.

  10. I used to keep a dream journal by my bedside. It was amazing to review the dreams and images. The ones I wrote down were the ones I could remember and draw on for inspiration in my writing and painting. Even if I told my dream aloud to the dog sleeping next to me, my dreams were completely lost if I didn’t write them down. The dreams I had when I was a caregiver for my daughter were the most exciting. But I stopped logging my dreams shortly after my daughter’s death. I couldn’t face my dreams, my self, my grief. Recently I started keeping a pen and notebook on the night table again. But somehow, I can no longer catch my dreams.

    • Robin, I wonder what will happen if you persist and leave that notebook right there with expectations. As I’ve said in this thread, I write down the tiniest snippet. Just one little image or a color or a feeling. It’s possible to work with that. I also write down what stands out in my life in the days just preceding the dream. Your photography feels so close to the dream world.

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