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The D Word

19 Aug

Navigating the Bumpy Spots – especially the D word

August 15, 17, 19 2011

I have been noticing long blocks of time during which I feel calm, serene, even joyful.  I am grateful for these times.  They are such a gift.  I am aware that sometimes they come unbidden, like a breeze or a ray of sunshine, but other times I have to work a little harder to get there.  Once in a while, anxiety gets the better of me and I have to pull out several spiritual, emotional, and physical tools to shift the energy.  As I remember (or am reminded, as the case may be!) of these tools – ie, walking or other exercise, meditation, lying on the earth or under the trees, talking with friends, a good meal, emotional releasing via sound or sobs, and use one or several of them, the length of time I stew in my worries and fears diminishes.

In the last week I have had two episodes of anxiety.  The first lasted longer and took more effort (grace?) to resolve.  The more recent incidence – yesterday morning, was only indirectly related to the cancer, and shifted after several hours.

I share this simply so that if you ever find yourself in a situation similar to mine – facing an illness that is potentially life-threatening, you will realize you are not alone in feeling fear, worry, anxiety, or a lack of clarity.  Please realize that getting stuck in the morass is optional.  There is hope for climbing out of the stuckness, if we have the will to emerge.

I want to share the root cause of last week’s anxiety.

As I have reviewed my dreams of the past year, I have noticed: 1) several dreams which seemed to indicate multiple sites of cancer, 2) several “attack” dreams – dreams of an animal biting me or someone else, or one animal attacking another animal, and 3) multiple “death dreams” – dreams of my own death, or of people I know, or of people I don’t consciously know in waking life, or the death of animals.

One friend – a spiritual friend with whom I have often shared dreams in the past – upon hearing about all these dreams, encouraged me to “think positive.”  She may not have used those exact words, but that’s the message I got.  That was not helpful.  I truly believe dreams come to us for a reason.  Dream teacher and author Jeremy Taylor teaches that ALL dreams come for the purpose of health and healing.  Furthermore, he teaches that death dreams are ALWAYS about transformation and rebirth.  What concerned me was that I wasn’t just dreaming of my own death (twice) but also the death of several other relatives, friends, and people I didn’t consciously know.  What did it all mean?

Some dreams do not need a lot of deciphering.  They are gifts and their meaning is quite clear.  There is a beautiful book called Healing Dreams, by Mark Barash.  It is filled to the brim with extraordinary dreams of beauty and healing.  (I once checked out the book from the local library and had so many post-its marking the pages that I ended up buying a new copy of the book and donating it to the library so I could keep the one I had already earmarked over and over and over again.)

For other dreams, however, we may need the support of other dreamers or therapists to explore the many layers of meaning.  Robert Moss is someone who does this.  He is a prolific author on the subject of dreams and leads workshops around the world during which dreamers can share their significant dreams and work with them in a sacred context.

We are so afraid of death in this culture.  Even if we are spiritual beings, when death or the possibility of death arrives, the fear in us arises.  It seems to be a rather inescapable phenomenon.  Death is obviously something we all have to face at some point.

Likewise, we are afraid to talk about death.   It is as if we are afraid that if we talk about it, it will stalk us sooner or faster.  I have worked in the hospice field for five years.  I know the reticence people have in talking about death.  Even me!  And I was supposed to be the one initiating the conversation!

I was determined to work through these dreams.  I had eventually realized that keeping these fears to myself was not serving me.  It was only escalating my anxiety.  I needed to share some of these dreams with others.  Since my first friend wasn’t particularly helpful (I think she was afraid for me,) I chose to talk with my friend Betsy.

Betsy and I exchange Unergi body/mind psychotherapy sessions. (Unergi is a powerful form of body/mind therapy beautifully taught by psychotherapist Ute Arnold.)  Betsy and I both find the sessions extraordinarily helpful.  This past Saturday, I came to Betsy with the express purpose of working on these “death dreams.”  I’d like to share with you the essence of that session.  It was a powerful one.

The two dreams that were scariest for me, not surprisingly, were about my own death.  The first happened exactly one month ago today – July 19, 2011.

I am at a workplace of some kind.  There is a message board on the wall.  The first message says “Uptown proposals.”  The second message says “Cindy Greb is…” (I can’t quite see the next part.  I have to move so I can see around some obstacle to read it.) “…deceased.”  I can’t believe it, but that’s what the message says.

That was not a fun message to read.

The other dream was slightly more symbolic, but certainly seemed to be about me.  This one occurred on April 10, 2011 – one and a half months prior to the mammogram and ultrasound that showed “suspicious abnormalities.”

There are two brothers and two sisters and they are waiting for the one sibling to die.  She hears something outside and opens the door to investigate.  She is “immediately attacked by a wolf.  The death is quick and immediate.”

I have two brothers and two sisters.

This is the dream I chose to focus on during the session with Betsy.  It is especially interesting because just a couple weeks later I end up having another dream in which a father introduces his daughter as a “wolf survivor.”

I decide to have a dialogue with the wolf.

Me: Wolf, that was so unfair of you.  You didn’t give me a chance to fight or defend myself.  You just attacked immediately before I even knew what was going on.

Wolf: Well, I was hungry and you were there.  It wasn’t anything personal.  And besides, that’s not exactly true.  You heard a noise and then you just opened the door and walked outside.  You could have looked out the window first.  You could have cracked the door and peeked before stepping out into the open.

Me: (surprised) You’re right, Wolf!  You’re absolutely right.  I wasn’t cautious enough.

There then ensued a period of time during which I sat with my feelings about the word “caution” – which I don’t particularly like because it feels mousy and unadventurous.  But then when I used the word “careful” – ie, “full of care,” the energy was completely different.  I needed to be more “full of care.”  I needed to be more aware.  It didn’t serve me to walk through life glibly with no awareness.

I remembered reading several stories of people being trained by shamans or gurus or elders.  They were taught to be more aware of their surroundings.  In one of these stories, an apprentice was told to sit in a field and look only straight ahead.  He was not to move, he was not to turn his head.  At the end of the day he was to report on what was going on around him.  The exercise taught him to rely on all his senses – his ears, his peripheral vision, his instincts, the sense of smell, that sixth sense that we tend to disregard in our scientific, “prove it to me,” “I-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it”  world.

This kind of awareness about what is going on around me is important.  For instance, it’s important to notice if the fields have been sprayed with Roundup, so I can make choices about my drinking water or do something to help detoxify my body.  Or I can be aware of dreams that seem to caution me about my health (and perhaps choose to schedule a mammogram, for instance!)  Or I need to be aware of what is going on around me as I drive so that I can protect myself or my passengers from possible harm coming  from the sides or from behind.

Eventually, as the therapy session continued, I remembered one significant thing:  Wolf  is one of my allies.  Wolf, sometimes in the form of three black wolves, has appeared to me many times over the years in my dreams.  Several of these dreams were very powerful.  Clearly wolf is one of my animal spirit guides.  So if he attacked me and killed me, perhaps it wasn’t a malicious thing.  Maybe there was a reason.

Then I remembered another thing.  In shamanic traditions, there is a ritual in which a death of the apprentice occurs  in a non-physical realm.  There is also another ritual in which there is a symbolic death/burial (ie, lying for one night in an open grave – that often the initiate himself digs.)  Perhaps this was one of those times.  Perhaps I had been attacked/killed/eaten so that I could be reborn into a new being.  Often indigenous cultures use this ritual death so that the initiate can surrender an old way of being which no longer serves.  Perhaps this symbolic death, this dream death, is the beginning of a transformation for me.

Then I had my “Aha!” moment.  I realized that not only is Wolf my ally, but so is Cancer!  And for that matter, so is Death.  Cancer forces us to WAKE UP!!!   Cancer forces us to look at our life from a larger perspective.  Cancer is our opportunity to ask, “What can I be doing differently?  What changes can I make in my life to be more fully alive?  What can I do, not only to live longer, but to live more happily, more joyfully?  What is left undone that I want to get done?  Am I living my purpose?  Am I being authentic?”  NOW is the time!  NOW is the time!!!!

I realized also that Death is an ally because it limits our time on the planet.  If we lived forever in this human form, we would have no incentive to change or grow because time would be infinite.  Death, when it comes knocking, teaches that time is short and there is no time to waste.  We must love, learn, grow, be kind, and be true to ourselves NOW.

Needless to say, after this session, I felt much more peaceful about my dreams and my situation.  Onward!!!

Thank you for reading these thoughts.

May you be richly blessed.