They stay dancing in the corners of my eyes
Not fully opened in the grey gauze morning
Chickadee clan is already darting between
Black Sunflower seeds and the sleeping Oak
They chide me for lingering inside
My cave of blankets with the dog
Her low snoring and small warm body
More real than the rumble of trucks outside
In here it is safe to let my dreams
Of a night mist valley
Of a night mist valley
Where old women gambol and circle
Of great amaranthine orchids
In a long abandoned den
All sift into the heart of my wisdom
Within the fabric of this moment
A place of light begins
When I wrote this, I was in the midst of cancer treatment, keeping a weekly not so happy hour with a Cytoxan cocktail. Sleep was poor. When I slept I dreamed almost immediately upon falling asleep. The dreams were full of information I could not readily make sense of, but I wrote them down anyway. At the time, I had a passing thought to do deeper dreamwork, but I was too consumed with surviving the treatment.
Sleep once more has become phantom-like, coming and going as it pleases. Dreams are now nightmares. Wake up crying, sweating, heart pounding, wherethehellamI. To add a layer of wtf, I experience head rushes or brain zaps as they are sometimes called. Da doctor, he say it's "just side effects" from tapering off my medication. End of conversation for him. I am not content with the simplistic answer or to quietly accept and bear the negative impact this sleep disturbance is having on my life.
Patrice Maildoma Somé, of the Dagara people, has voiced the old wisdom, that what manifests in the body and mind are intertwined with the spirit. Imbalance in any part is imbalance in all parts. From the article What a Shaman Sees in a Mental Hospital :
"What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as “good news from the other world.” The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm. “Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field,” says Dr. Somé. These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm."
It is the practice of his Dagara community to assist people in crisis in a way that allows the person to integrate the experience and become whole and balanced. While I carry the Ancestors in my bones and my spirit, I have no real world community like the Dagara who "get \it". Yet, I am not without resources. Instead of being held hostage by "symptoms" I want to work through them in a way that allows this experience to be integrated into my life that keeps me moving along the path that has chosen me. My Dreamwork consists of these spiritual practices:
Journaling I journal regularly, but now I am making a point of writing down what I dreamed as soon as I wake. This helps me ground myself back in this world and detach from the Dream Realm. Writing calms me, slows my heart rate and my racing thoughts.
Tapping My therapist uses tapping when I am caught up in PTSD episodes. She keeps it simple and I have been able to do this on my own. The brain zaps are constant companions, so I can do this when they become more than a nuisance.
Ancestor Reverence This has already been a part of my path, but now I am listening and watching more closely to signs and messages from them.
Self Love This is multifaceted and the hardest part of the work for me. I am a nurturer so everyone else comes first, often leaving little or nothing for me. Eat well, drink plenty of water and tea. One of my partners gave me a gift of several teas, one of them an Earl Grey with Lavender blossoms. That first sip fills me with a healing that spreads throughout my body and spirit. Also I am working to short circuit negative self talk as it arises and replace it with allowing and then letting go. I go outside everyday even if it rains, sometimes because it does. Many more parts to this, but you get the idea.
Explore the World of Dreams Right now I am doing an audio book by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. called The Beginner's Guide to Dream Interpretation. I have other books and articles on sleep and dreaming that I am revisiting.
Here is why I am choosing to deal with this disruption in the flow of life in this way instead allowing another pharmaceutical solution.
Since I was a child, the spirits of my ancestors were woven into my daily life by my mother, aunties, uncles, and community members. This was done in the most minute of ways--I often observed small rituals and actions when I was not supposed to be "in grown folks business." My life was infused with the do's and don'ts of old time ways--don't throw hair from your comb into the yard or into the trash; don't put hats on the bed; always stand the broom up on its handle; throw some salt over your shoulder when cooking, on and on.
I remember conversations between my mother and her posse of women friends, the whispers about one particular root woman who had a hold of my father from the time he was a young boy. This was a hushed and terrible part of my mother's life until the day she died.
There was Mr. M who had the face of a deep ebony African carving with rheumy eyes and a manner as still as the middle of the night. He was able to cure the wildfire of impetigo that raged through my neighborhood one summer, creating a sulfur yellow salve that had my brother's knees looking like he'd never had the infection in just a few weeks. Even though everyone in my neighborhood was afraid of him, he was the one the community sought out when Western ways failed, and they often did.
Here I am now, 60 years old and these parts of my life are as strong as ever, informing my spirit, my mind and heart. They keep my feet pointed in the direction that calls to me. These are old ways, old wisdom and they sing to me. These nightmares and brain disturbances are side effects, but they are something more, something rooted in the ancient. Bad dreams are more than the pickles eaten before bedtime. They are full of messages and information that the ancestors and spirit beings need for us to know. So I'm listening now for what they want me to know.