Pool Rules for the Soul to

Swimming Pool

A swimming pool is an apt image for the unconscious. Bodies of water, whether an ocean, lake, river, or swimming pool connote the depths of life and of soul. A swimming pool, more specifically, is a place for relaxation and for play. But there are also rules.

In a recent dream, my dream ego plays the part of a lifeguard. It makes some sense that I would be in this role. In my professional life, I am a therapist, a kind of guardian of souls. As a lifeguard in my teen years, one of the not-so-fun, but necessary, jobs was to maintain and to enforce the rules:

  • No running
  • No horseplay in the pool
  • No food or drink in the pool area
  • Always stay with your buddy

It’s the pool rules that actually ensure that everyone has a good time and stays safe. Breaking the rules and ignoring respect for the dangers of water can ruin what should be a wonderful experience.

In my dream, one little boy whom I have just disciplined, walks off defiantly. He refuses to sit out with others who broke the rules, and as he walks away, I warn him to never come back. Of course, psychologically, we know he will return, because that is the way repression works — the unconscious forgets nothing, and whatever is repressed is sure to return in one form or another. Bad habits, compulsive behaviors, uncomfortable feelings, unresolved childhood issues, and the like, have a habit of laying low temporarily, only to return when we least expect it.

“No running” is one of the best pool rules for the soul. Imaged by the Greeks as a “butterfly,” the soul is a beautiful, wistful, mysterious, and fragile thing. We approach the soul respectfully, honoring her need for tending. So, we slow down our hurried pace, take time to write in our dream journals, sit with images until they tell their tale, and share with dream friends our inner stirrings of the night. This way of working around and with the unconscious depths is what makes dreamwork so rewarding and useful.

“No horseplay” is another essential rule. Swimming pools are a source of enormous fun and relaxation. As a lifeguard, though, I recall the few times when I had to race to someone’s rescue. Playing too rough, splashing an unsuspecting swimmer with a mouthful of water, or diving off of the high dive without proper instruction or skill or assistance can result in disaster. Likewise, working with the unconscious deserves our respect. The source of nightmares, at times, dreams can either make us dread it’s nighttime visions, or with proper training and skills, nightmares can open us to opportunities for healing and wholeness. Carl Jung developed sensible and effective rules for working with dreams — rules that pay off when applied with diligence and sensitivity and knowledge.

“Always stay with your buddy,” is another essential rule for working with the unconscious. When we work with dreams in the context of an active dreamwork group, or with a friend or partner, a pastor sensitive to the individuation journey, or a skilled therapist, the riches of dreams become more readily apparent. Not that anyone else can tell us exactly what a dream means for us, but by listening to insights and reflections from others, the ego softens its tight hold, and we can better listen and see what our souls want and need.

Someday, I hope to reconnect with the defiant little boy who walked away — a shadow image part of me, no doubt — to see what he needs from me. For now, he has to obey the rules, just like everyone else. I know he will be back, and when he does, I’ll still be there to welcome him along with all the others swimming in the depths of my soul.


Alec Baldwin and the Alien Abductors

planetearth     I am in a spaceship — a very modern facility. A man that looks like Alec Baldwin approaches me, and he seems very anxious and earnest about telling me something. In  my mind’s eye, I see a very slick, glossy full-page pharaceutical add for a vitamin supplement that he is promoting. Alec Baldwin tells me that I have to get it, and he’s very insistent. I tell him I’m already taking 7 or 8 supplements as it is. Does he really think I need another? He just becomes even more insistent that I take this new supplement. Then, a sleek, white automobile pulls up outside, and Alec Baldwin, resisting helplessly, is abducted by aliens from outer space.

Paying attention to the images in our dreams has a lot to do with seeing what is missing in our conscious attitudes. Since outward behavior always follows inner feeling and attitude, we need this kind of psychic compass to re-align our lives when we get out of balance, which we often do.

For example, my association to being in a “spaceship” in a recent dream is that my inward nature is calling my ego to return to Mother Earth. This dream image is showing me that space travel, while adventurous and fascinating, can also never replace the experience of living a grounded, more earthy life. Life in its original form is rooted in nature, fresh air and sunshine, touching the ground of one’s existence, and moving much more slowly to the rhythms of our physical and spiritual natures: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting the stuff of life.

Consciously, I am in “space travel” whenever life in the world is speeding ahead at warp-speed. Life can be full of good and meaningful things, but life is not meant to be lived at this speed constantly. We can develop “jet lag of the soul” whenever we become overinvested in too much activity, too many meetings, too much energy spent in the world of intellect and ideas and service, and not enough connection to a pace of life that feeds our souls. Our health depends on some kind of psychic and natural balance.

Alec Baldwin symbolizes, for me, the solution offered by our technological, space-age world for the soul’s jet-lag: pre-packaged, branded, techno-health and healing. If we can buy health in the form of a pill, maybe we can keep up the harried pace of our lives and fool ourselves into thinking that this won’t come back to haunt us. We substitute this “junk-food-for-the-soul” for the real thing. Rather than eating my vegetables and fruit and lean protein, I start reaching for the fast-food and the luscious, sugary pastry treats, or one more glass of wine that may get me through the moment, but leave me feeling too-soon empty and hungry once again.

A “God-squad” of alien abductors arrives in a sleek, white car to haul Alec Baldwin away. They seem to know that I am vulnerable to this temptation to reach for the quick fix. As I work with this strange dream, I eventually realize that I am overdue for a return to Mother Earth, the planet that sustains me. I’ve missed my regular exercise, having opted to work a little more than usual; but also sacrificing my connection to nature — both outward nature and the nature of my natural needs. I long for the feeling of my heart pumping quickly with beads of sweat forming on my forehead, and the sensation of sunshine and wind against my face on an afternoon bicycle ride; or just the soul-filled sensation of enjoying a leisurely home-cooked meal and a relaxing conversation with my wife about things that can make us either laugh or cry.

I long for this return from the airy heights of accomplishing goals in the outer world to the fresh air and sunshine of a life lived more in the moment. I will continue to rely on my daily dose of vitamin supplements for a portion of my health. But Mother Earth is calling me to return to the sustenance that makes life full and vital and rich in relationships and meaning.


Dreamwork: A GPS System for the Soul

Monarch ButterflyWhy do dreamwork? One could certainly do other valuable things in the early morning rather than spending time writing down dreams and images from the night before. Sipping morning tea or coffee, reading the paper, working out, reading devotions, or just getting ready to meet the day — all worthy activities. So why do dreamwork?

The answer, for me, is that there really isn’t any universal reason that one should do dreamwork. Dreams are interesting, entertaining, and, according to some dream researchers, dreams accomplish necessary functions regardless of whether we attend to them or not. Apparently, dreams help to integrate memories, thoughts, and emotions important for our survival. In fact, if we are prevented from REM sleep and thus dreaming, we will begin to hallucinate in waking life! Some dream researchers even claim that dreams, left unattended, still serve as a kind of “unconscious psychoanalysis” that works nightly to keep us in balance.

So, there needs to be some compelling reason for doing dreamwork, a reason that addresses a felt need on the part of the dreamer. A reason such as a desire to understand relational difficulties that seem to repeat themselves, despite our best efforts to change. Or one might want to better understand what vocation or career one is being called to. Or you might be confronted with the challenges of parenting or of aging, or some other life transition.

A common reason people give for doing dreamwork is that they desire to grow spiritually — knowing that our ego-centric lives, by definition, ultimately defend us against the authentic stirrings of our souls. When people feel that there is “something missing,” dreamwork is something they turn to in order to discover what their egos are unable to find.

This is the perspective of Jung’s view of the ego-Self axis.

ego self axis

As we go through life, we typically shift from being united with our deeper selves to gradually becoming more and more alienated from the Self, the God-image (imago dei) that is unique to each individual. So the question is a good one: “How do I stay in-tune with my own soul? How do I open up to God’s guidance in my life?”

Most forms of spiritual discipline do not help with this process of experiencing in a deeply felt way God’s guidance for one’s life. Prayer, Worship, Bible Study, doing acts of charity — all of these tend to rely on conscious behavioral practices. They do not deal with the unconscious, where the God-image or Self resides. While other spiritual practices, such as Centering or Contemplative Prayer, Lectio Divina, Walking the Labrynth, and Meditation do provide ways of setting consciousness aside in order to provide for a more immediate experience of the Sacred or the Holy.

Dreamwork enables a person to go more directly and consciously to the Source — the GPS system inside of us that God has so wonderfully designed for our guidance through life. Just as the Monarch Butterfly (See Flight of the Butterflies at IMAX) “knows” precisely how to travel over 2500 miles, not to a country or a county or a city or a town, but to a specific mountain peak where it has never been before, so we can find our way through the challenges, the storms, and the uncertainties of life to fulfill God’s plan for us by paying close attention to our dreams.

Of course, it involves taking time to write our dreams down, learning how to interpret our dreams, either alone or preferrably in a group. Also, reading deeply and widely in Jungian psychology is a must, it seems to me. It may take years to learn well the symbolic language of archetypes and one’s own personal symbol-world. But the opportunity to live one’s life feeling “fully alive,” deeply in touch with the same energy that formed the stars, the planets, the incredible diversity of Mother Earth, as well as the chance to make a unique difference in this world — for those willing to travel this journey, what a remarkable privilege!


Dreamwork: Training the Inner Puppy

puppy“I have a new, blond puppy. She is adorable! I place her gently on the floor, and she very quickly makes her first, tiny poop. She looks proud of herself, and so am I. But now comes the training. I try to make sure to remember that she needs to be taken outside relatively frequently so that she learns where to do her business — I don’t want my cute new friend to become a nuisance because she soils and spoils my home. It’s her new home too. But this training thing is exhausting!”


As I worked with this recent dream, it occurred to me what an excellent image it is for the challenge and the benefit of doing dreamwork — or soulwork, for that matter.

Every morning is actually an opportunity for something “new” to be discovered. The unconscious offers up something for the ego to either discover for the first time, or it offers something that we may have forgotten; so it needs to be rediscovered by the ego and, thereby, integrated into consciousness. But it does take discipline.

In his book, A Spirituality of Living, Henri Nouwen says this about the importance of discipline: “If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we have to live a disciplined life,” Nouwen asserts. “In the spiritual life, discipline requires conscious effort to keep every area in life from being filled up. It means creating space in our life for God to act and speak.”

When we get up in the morning, we may remember a dream from the night before. If it’s message for us is not to fall back into unconsciousness, we then need to make space to both write the dream down in our dream journals, while also creating enough space at some point in our busy days to actually do the work — to go back into the dream to listen to the images and symbols and associations that reverberate in our souls as they seek a place in our lives and in our relationships with God and with others.

The “inner puppy” in my dream has some “good shit” (sorry — I just couldn’t find a better metaphor). But if our own instinctual energies are to be creatively channelled, rather than spoiling our lives through impulsive or compulsive behaviors, we need to literally “train” these instinctual energies — loveable and warm and cuddly and adorable as puppies can be, they can either ruin a home or make it a wonderful place to be. It’s all in the relationship between master and young puppy.

When Sam, my rescue dog, came into my home, he was 7 years old and housebroken. But I took time to read and to learn more about dog psychology. We spent hours and hours alone together, usually an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. During this time, I gave up some things I cherished, such as riding by bicycle and that second cup of coffee, because I felt like this time between me and Sam would shape the rest of our lives together and enhance the joy of dog ownership. So, I placed a bag of hot dog bites in a plastic baggy, as Sam and I headed out into whatever weather visited us each day. Rain or shine, warm or cold, off we would go. During our routine, at least 20 minutes was devoted to training Sam in the usual exercises: sit, stay, lay down, and come. Work was slow, but oh so rewarding. Sam loved the hot dogs, of course; but I perceived that we both felt the warm, glad glow of a relationship that gave our lives deepened meaning and purpose.

I can’t think of a better image than this intimate relationship between master and dog for the joys and amazing inner journey of dreamwork. Yes, discipline is involved. We create space for our dreams and for the work it takes to notice our paths of individuation. And this work pays off, in small and great ways, as we feel more and more alive and as we notice the subtle hand of God shaping us and guiding our lives.


Unlock the Meaning in Your Dreams: Program Helps People Connect to God

John RoweRev. Dr. John Rowe will lead an introductory workshop called “Dreamwork: God’s Forgotten Language” 7-9 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Davidson UMC Chapel, 233 S. Main St., Davidson. The workshop is free and open to everyone, and participants who want to learn more about Dreamwork can enroll in an eight-week study course and join a new Dreamwork small group that will being after the course. To register for the workshop or for information, call the Davidson UMC Counseling Center at 704-892-6135 or email to John Rowe at jrowe@davidsonumc.org. Child care is available if requested by Jan. 20. The idea that God speaks to people through dreams hearkens back to stories in the Bible’s Old Testament that were recorded thousands of years ago.

* * * * * * * * * * *

In the past decade, the practice of connecting with God through dreams has seen a renaissance, as more people have become interested in analyzing their dreams as a spiritual discipline.

“In the early church, dreams were considered to be one of the best ways that God was trying to tell you about your life,” said John Rowe, director of Davidson United Methodist Church’s counseling center.

For a year, Rowe has led a group of about nine people who meet twice a month to help each other find meaning in their dreams. He said that, within churches in the Southeast, he has seen a growing interest in dreams.

Connecting dreams and spirituality went out of vogue around the fifth century, when dreams became suspect as church leaders began preferring people to learn about God through the teaching of orthodox dogma and belief, Rowe said.

The practice revived in the early 1900s with Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung’s theories of “individuation,” or the idea that people are born with an “authentic self” that people repress in favor of a “public face” they believe will be more acceptable to others.

Accessing dreams connects people with the authentic self in the subconscious, Rowe said, allowing them to understand essential aspects of themselves.

“People who are spiritual assume the authentic self can only come from God, and to know God is to know your authentic self deeply and (to know) the direction God is leading you in your life,” Rowe said.

Rowe’s small group was founded out of a workshop and a subsequent in-depth class that provided participants with tools to help each other interpret their dreams.

Each small group meeting begins with prayer or meditation. The facilitator will sometimes give a short talk or lecture, and then group members share details of recent dreams.

“We use techniques we’ve studied, and we begin working with the dream and give the dream back to the person at the end of our work to see what sort of insights they have from the Dreamwork,” Rowe said.

The group often works on three or four dreams each session. Usually, Rowe said, people find their dreams bewildering and can’t make sense of them.

“I’ve rarely heard of a dream that didn’t sound crazy,” Rowe said. “But as the group begins to work with the tools they’ve been taught to use, it’s incredible that something that can be so crazy-sounding can unfold in a deep and meaningful way for people.”

He encourages people to keep a journal, pen and flashlight by their bed to write down dreams, which often quickly are forgotten. The more people get in the practice of writing down dreams, often the better they remember them, he said.

Rowe said the Dreamwork group is devoted to meeting together, and friendships have formed as people have talked about their dreams and their lives.

“It really is a mixture of fun and is deeply meaningful,” Rowe said. “You can’t talk about a dream usually without a lot of laughter.”

Copyright 2013 . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer for Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at martyminchin@gmail.com.

Knowing God, Knowing Ourselves — Is There a Relationship?

The LabyrinthWho looks outside, dreams.

Who looks inside, awakens.

                                     Carl Gustav Jung

In the ancient wisdom tradition of the early church, it was an accepted fact: we dream in order to know God. How, then, is this ancient tradition connected to the contemporary idea: we dream in order to know ourselves?

This, I think, is a great question for our consideration. It addresses the criticism of some who see working with dreams as simply a form of navel-gazing, a merely selfish — while entertaining — enterprise. While others, such as those involved in Christian dreamwork circles, see dreams as a way to bridge “knowing the self” and “knowing God.” We can, they claim, do both — and do so with curiosity, increasing skillfulness, humility, reverence, and even entertainment as well!

Death, for example, is a familiar theme in both religious practices and depth psychological ways of viewing the life of the soul. “Dying daily” to sinfulness and selfish-attachments is not just the perview of Christians seeking to become closer to God. For death, symbolically, speaks to multiple ways in which our ego-centered lives are confronted by the challenges of growth and openness to change — always a blend of hope and new life mixed with suffering and angst. We can literally “die” inside, for example, if we stubbornly resist adjusting to changing circumstances — classically exhibited in cases of delayed adult maturity or in cases of dependency on substances rather than relying on building healthier means of coping. “Letting go and letting God,” a slogan made famous by the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, embodies the reality that growth and change involve both dying to self and walking more intimately with the Divine.

So, while experiences of death in a dream — of either ourselves or others — can be deeply disturbing on the face of things, depth psychology and dreamwork open the way for seeing God’s hidden hand at work shaping our souls. Death can be seen as a metaphor or symbol, rather than as a conrete fact.

For example, a recent conversation between me and my wife centered around the death of beloved “parts of me” in a dream that I had the night before. It turned out that both of us were holding fears within us about impending changes in our lives and how those changes — which both of us wanted and desired — felt somewhat threatening at a personal level. Our discussion did not absolutely resolve the “threats,” but by allowing the metaphor of death a legitimate voice, we were able to experience a greater sense of mutual support, understanding, and energy for facing into the changes.

In the Christian tradition, the Celebrant at the Lord’s Table calls out to us in the name of Jesus Christ: “Come, die with me. Come die with me, so that you might really taste life and live fully!” And the promise is that, in dying to ego-centeredness, we will find both more of God and more of our authentic selves at the same time. Spiritually then, death is not necessarily a tombstone blocking our paths. It may be, instead, a potential warning, or an invitation to grow, or a mirror that shows us truths about our struggles, or even a spirit-guide who leads us onward towards a life of Resurrection, of hope, of faithfulness, and of vitality.


Is There Eternal Life?

Dream VistaFrom the perspective of dreamwork, the question of whether there is such a thing as eternal life or an afterlife is a relatively easy question to answer. There clearly IS an afterlife!

In fact, working with our nighttime visions shows what a thin vale exists between this life and the next life — or lives in alternative dimensions. Not only do the dead appear, at times, in our dreams as persons, healthy and whole, but we ourselves often appear to be transformed in our dream lives. We accomplish, risk, gamble, and experience more of life than in our waking states. Truth be told, while I lovingly and gratefully embrace this life, my dream life is much more intriguing and expansive. In my dreams, I am often capable of things I could never accomplish in this life. I travel, without expense or hassle, to places I’ve never been, and I have encounters with characters and animals that would never appear in my conscious world. The psyche, as Carl Jung pointed out, is limit-less. We are but dots in an infinite sea of unconsciousness. So maybe the hereafter is merely an extension of what is already here.

I confess that I skipped church this morning. I am now at home alone, except for the dogs who are sleeping and the gentle music of Christmas played on the stereo by guitars, dulcimers, and violins. Presents lie about our humble Christmas tree, some already wrapped and others awaiting their decorative coverings. Sarah is out shopping, and this afternoon we will unpack our new dinner china — an investment we made together that seems to be a telling sign that our new marriage is “taking.” Poinsettias need arranging, and in the morning on Christmas Eve, we’ll head over to the Fresh Market to pick up the seven live lobsters we ordered to help feed part of our extended and blended families tomorrow night.

All of this because of the incredible idea of “God with us — Emmanuel.” God with us not just on Christmas Day and not just in our lifetime, but forever and for always, in this life and in lives to come. And God with us, not just for us alone, but for every scared young woman — like young Mary — who is worried about a surprise pregnancy and what it bodes for her future; and for every man, young and old, whose future — like Joseph’s — has been turned upside down by events and decisions beyond his control. And God with us for some twenty very young children in Connecticut whose lives were taken suddenly and  mercilessly. For their grieivng families. And for Syrian refugees, and yes, even for power-crazed leaders who have yet to meet the God of compassion, grace, and peace.

The infinite pscyhe connects us to all: to both the great Mystery of our individual lives as well as to the global and universal soul to which we all, inextricably, belong.

God with us, and Merry Christmas to you and yours.


The Tiger and the Lady

Tiger     Proposition: I am most fully alive when I am most still.

The Tiger has my full attention as she prowls slowly, keeping her dark green eyes focused on me and as she watches my every move. There in the background of our circular space is a beautiful, exotic woman, seemingly in her own dance of contemplation. It is both a frightening scene and, at the same time a compelling one.

My energy in this scene is focused on staying as still as I can possibly be so as not to trigger an attack by the Tiger. My senses are heightened to the max, and yet, I am strangely calm, not anxious at all. Tension in every muscle gives me a feeling of being completely alive in this moment, and this moment alone. Is the Tiger, in her beauty and ferocity, friend or foe? I have no idea.

I believe that, in terms of dream interpretation, I have no inherent right to appropriate or colonize as my own the energy of the Tiger or the woman in this dream — to reduce these images to some aspect of my psyche, as some interpreters might encourage me to do. The images are clearly not mine, for they are wholly and gracefully given to me — I did not create them! I can, however, appropriate in my attitudes and in my daily living the intimate relationship which I experience with these images. We have a deep connection — the Tiger and I. A connection that, while unconscious, nevertheless is as real and as meaningful as the connections I experience in my conscious relationships. At least, this is my belief.

Where, for example, in my life do I need to come to “full stop” in order to behold the present moment and nothing more? Where in my life am I both frightened and mesmerized by an unfolding drama that is not mine to possess, but nevertheless needs a witness, an acknowledgment, a reverent gaze, or a silent prayer? Can’t I turn off the iPhone, the computer, the incessant mental comment and chatter and simply tune in to the experience of being that is ever present before my eyes?

A dream image like the Tiger and the exotic lady may be what the Divine Self gives to us in order to simply remind us that, in the midst of all of our efforts to grasp meaning from life and also from dreams, there is a wonderful, powerful, beautiful Mystery unfolding in our midst. Stop and behold!

When Moses asked God in the burning bush on Mt. Sinai to reveal the name of the most Holy, God simply told Moses, “My name is Yahweh — ‘I am that I am’ .”

Can we ever get any closer to the nature of divinity itself than when we are present to this moment? Really present, alert, and alive.


Taking Our Medicine

A common dream image depicts the dreamer as being sick, infirm, or dis-abled in some way — not a pretty picture. To be in need of “Big Medicine,” as Native American Indians might describe it, implies that one is diseased or “dis-eased” in a paradoxical sense that is unknown to us, while being deeply felt by our unconscious selves. By all outward appearances, one may seem physically healthy and whole; so what a blow to my self-image or ego to discover that I might actually be psychically sick!

We know that medicine — particularly the kind of medicine that aggressively attacks invading armies of viruses, bacteria, or cancer — is often destructive in the service of hoped-for healing. Sometimes, we have to face the hard reality that we may, indeed, feel worse before getting better. Taking our medicine, while ultimately desireable, can also be terribly frightening. Will we even survive?

Cancer patients face this reality whenever they endure the loss of hair, appetite, and white blood cells as their chemotherapy regimens destroy both cancerous cells along with healthy disease-fighting cells. The poison and the cure are woven together in the process of healing.

From the view of depth psychology and world religions, the ego — our daytime consciousness — is the patient of the soul. The soul inevitably and aggressively wants more and more of life than the ego will allow. And so, we need “Big Medicine” in order to find meaning in our relatively short walks upon the Earth. By surrendering to God, the Universe, or the Great Spirit — by whatever name we call the Unknown — we open ourselves to a kind of life that both heals and challenges, destroys and creates, breaks down in order to make room for new structures of living and being, and facilitates dying in service of resurrection. Only in surrendering to a conscious death of the ego’s ruling domination can the possibility of a more abundant and meaningful life unfold in ways that are real and manifold.

Of course, we all want to know what is IN the “Big Medicine.” We want to know how prayer will help, or how long meditation should last in order to acheive “enlightenment,” or how in heaven’s name will our small acts of selfless service make any lasting differnce in the great scheme of things. But then, if we actually knew these things, there is still no guarantee that we would more enthusiastically follow through with the regimens. Maybe we’re better off trusting that the Source of Divine Healing is a Love so radical and unconditional that the Cure will be worth whatever the Cure may cost. And that if the goal is ultimately a matter of patience and perseverance, then the path of health, wholeness, and peace in the world is a contribution each of us needs to make a priority — with fearlessness and resolve.

If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.” — Ghandi


The Value of Nakedness in Dreams

I once heard a young college student recall his surprise when he went to visit a friend’s parents who had moved to Florida. The family had lived in North Carolina in a beautiful, while modest, home, and they had attended a very conservative church near a metropolitan community. The young man described walking with his friend to the front door of a double-wide trailer on a warm, sunny afternoon in Florida. When his friend’s parents opened the door, to the young man’s shock, his friend’s parents were both naked — they had become avowed nudists!

The experience of the image of nakedness in our dreams can be equally surprising, shocking, or disturbing. Particularly is this so if the person in the dream is oneself. And maybe even moreso if there is another person with whom I am enjoying said nakedness — another who may not be a husband, wife, or partner!

So, what is this symbolic nakedness about? What does it mean to be naked symbolically, or to be with another together and naked — especially with an unknown other.

At the level of pure image and experience, it can be thrilling to be in the presence of another who accepts us and receives us wholly in the flesh:  no barriers, nothing to hide. We are unconditionally present in body, mind, heart, and soul.

At the level of psyche, nakedness can represent the unconditional acceptance of oneself, one’s emotions, desires, dreams, and possibilities. We are, in nakedness, as we were at birth — mysteries awaiting our unique emergings into unknown possibilities. We await the clothing of our lives, the shape of our destinies, and the gradual unfolding of our journeys. To return to this state of being unclothed may symbolically represent a psychic “re-turning” to the mysterious possibilities inherent in the exposure of one’s ego to the unlimited possibilities contained within one’s own unconscious depths, the psychic space where all opposites exist together.

So maybe to be naked or unclothed is the soul’s way of inviting us into that sacred space of letting go of the ego’s constricting influence on our lives — that sacred space where our own Divine souls are inviting us to become exposed to, or to rejoice in something new, joyful, and creative? Are there restrictions in our current lives that need loosening or removing in the service of freedom and growth? But not freedom and personal growth alone, for the soul seeks to take shape in service to the worlds in which we live — in service to our communities, relationships, families, and our places of work.These places are the worlds where God’s mystery is served best. When we remove the confining limitations of ego, we free ourselves creatively and powerfully for the discovery and manifestation of new possibilities.


(cf. The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, Taschen)