A line from the song, “Sound of Silence” keeps running through my head…”Hello darkness my old friend…I’ve come to talk with you again.” These days it seems like darkness is the one seeking us out. I don’t even need to give examples, do I…we are surrounded by darkness in the acts of our politicians…in the hearts of our fellow humans…in the wounded earth keening her pain-filled cry of fiery and watery grief.

The story is told…The Dalai Lama met with a monk who had been captured and tortured for 10 years by the Chinese.  In speaking to his holiness, the monk said that he had been in real danger several times. The Dalai Lama asked him what happened, expecting him to refer to torture and near execution.  The monk replied, “Several times I almost lost compassion for my captors.”

“How do we keep our hearts open in hell?” asks Stephen Levine. Indeed, we may have little control over the elements taking us, the government failing us, our brothers and sisters dividing against each other.

Who and how we are on the outside is a reflection of who and how we are on the inside. The outer hostilities reflect the inner hostilities…towards others and even more deeply towards ourselves.

Can working with the inner bring healing to the outer?  Can working with our dreams help us understand ourselves more deeply, have compassion for those ragged parts of ourselves and then flow naturally into a compassion for all we see around who still are blind to their own true nature?

If that is true and my own experience with dreamwork has revealed that it is, how do we be with each other…how do we keep our hearts open…how do we stop the war…first within ourselves and then amongst ourselves? When we ask this as a question it becomes perhaps a prayer…the beginning of the possibility of a return to being in relationship…with ourselves, each other and our world.

A 2014 NY Times article, “Portraits of Reconciliation” shared stories of Hutus and Tutsis two decades after nearly a million people were killed during Rwanda’s genocide…and the excruciatingly difficult seemingly impossible moment of reconciliation.
Some people could only be in the same room, not speak.
Some could say a few sentences and the anger returned.
Some could sit with each other and chat.
Some could hold hands.

This article touched me deeply and taught me not only about the power of humans to forgive and heal it helped me understand how challenging it can be to work with inner material…an example of how we may be with difficult…even traumatic…feelings when they show up in a dream.

At first we may be full of reaction or projection…story…even a true story…all to avoid  a feeling, usually a profound pain or fear. Then, perhaps as we deepen into this dream moment, all we can do is just ‘be in the same room’ with the feeling, knowing that any movement of mind will bring in story and if it does we can go right back into the spin of right/wrong, good/bad. The longer we are willing to be in the presence of the difficult feeling, we find a space is created for some healing to come in. In feeling the difficult feeling we have taken the medicine in the dream…we have kept our heart open in hell.  Then we can feel a movement, a shift, from what is usually fear to other feelings…true compassion…true grief…true joy…true love…all of which were waiting in the wings for their cue.

In Sabbath Poems, Timbered Choir #, Wendell Berry writes…
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet around me…like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places where I left them…asleep like cattle
Then what is afraid of me comes…and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me, and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes. I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it, and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.
After days of labor, mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last, and I sing it.
As we sing, the day turns, the trees move.

(Image: Being Compassionate by Του Νίκου Ανδρείου)

Mary Jo Heyen is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients throughout the country and abroad in person, phone or Skype. Learn more about her work with dreams at www.maryjoheyen.com or  www.thenaturaldream.com