Saturday, October 30, 2010

HereAfter by Clint Eastwood

I went to see HereAfter this afternoon.  It was very right - brained.  While it didn't have a coherent beginning, middle and end, it wove together three strands of stories and bound them together with the theme of Death and the Other World.  And Love unites it all.

Stories are like collective dreams.   This is one of the few movies in recent years that deals with the idea of life after death.   It seems once a decade some film maker finally makes a movie with the theme of life after death.  Each of those movies has offered us a unique vision of that afterlife.  Do you remember the movie, What Dreams May Come?   Or Ghost?

The opening scene of HereAfter is horrific in its reality, and all throughout the movie, Clint Eastwood somehow creates an atmosphere of 'reality' that contrasts with the uncertainty of the 'other world'.   It's a sharp yet subtle contrast.

HereAfter is not a movie that coddles you.  Its characters are annoying, heart-breaking and frustrating at times, just like real people.  It is a story of how we can reject a spiritual gift by not knowing how to work with it.  But also because other people are afraid of it and how it ends up isolating us from life.

The whole topic of death is so often ignored in Western culture, mainly because we split life from death and stepped out of the Wheel of the Year and nature's cycles.  The idea that there is a life after death is so obvious to me - look at the trees and plants; look at the moon; look at the circle of the year.  The natural cycles of life say there is gestation, birth, growth, maturity, decline and death.  Which is always followed by rebirth!

So have hope in what comes after.  It will make us less fearful here on Earth.

HereAfter is well worth seeing, although I don't think you'll put it at the top of your favorites list.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dreams and Healing

            With the cost of medical care rising, I’d like to suggest another, ancient form of healing:  interpreting your dreams!  Once you understand symbolic language, you have an inner source of wisdom that will give you information about your body, your emotions and your direction in life.

While science is just now beginning to understand the place of dreaming for our health, most ancient cultures seemed to understand that illness begins in the soul.  And since dreams are the stories the soul tells us each night, perhaps we can consider paying attention to our dreams as a preventative measure for our health.

Until around the fifth century, there were over 200 healing temples spread throughout the Mediterranean region from Palestine to Spain.  Dedicated to the Greek god Asklepios or the Egyptian god Serapis, people went to these temples to be cured of their diseases.   

Once you entered the sacred precincts of the healing temple, you would participate in a ritual cleansing in a sacred spring, make an offering to the god, go to work out at the gymnasium and perhaps go to the Theater to experience a catharsis that freed up your emotions.  Then you would sleep in the temple to incubate a dream in which the god came to you and either healed you or gave you a prescription for healing.  The temple priests recorded your dreams and helped you understand what you had to do to heal.

The diagnostic value of dreams was acknowledged by the great physicians of the past: Hippocrates (famous for the Hippocratic oath of modern doctors) and Galen, the physician of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.  These doctors believed that dreams could foreshadow physical symptoms and reveal their progress.  Hippocrates noted that the Earth can symbolize the body, a river the blood, a tree for a man’s and a spring for a woman’s reproductive system. 

Freud, who did not recognize the precognitive aspect of dreams, may have missed a dream warning that could have saved his life.  Freud had a dream that contained a preview of the precise symptoms of oral cancer that eventually killed him twenty-eight years later.  Instead of seeing the dream as an aspect of himself, he projected it onto the female client in his dream. 

Louise Hay, in her classic book You Can Heal Your Life, shows how our physical ailments begin in our emotional body.  From rashes which symbolize irritations that bother us, to knee injuries which reflect an inflexible attitude of pride and ego, to breast cancer which often develops because we do not know how to nurture ourselves but would rather nurture and worry about others, we develop into what and who we are.  If we develop an illness, it is a call to us to pay more attention and to find out where we are cut off from a deep connection to ourselves.

If we only read illness as a physiological dysfunction, we lose the soul reason why we developed this specific illness in the first place.  Once we learn to give meaning to our lives, even to our illness, we begin the real process of healing and becoming whole. 

And dreams are important diagnostic tools that each of us, not only doctors, can use.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dream Lore: What Ancient People Knew

Since the beginning of time people have regarded dreams as mysterious and powerful, believing that they were messages sent from the gods or spirits to warn, to heal, to threaten or to advise. Dreams were an important part of life and these people interpreted them to make their lives better. What did these ancient people know that we don't know?

Most ancient cultures had gods or goddesses who ruled over dreams.  In ancient Babylon, the goddess Mamu sent good dreams to her people and tried to protect them from bad dreams sent by demons. Later, the Assyrians who conquered Babylon wrote down dreams and their interpretations on clay tablets.  One such dream interpretation states that if a man flies repeatedly in his dreams, all that he owns will be lost.  While our modern interpretation of a flying dream might be different, just imagine: people back in 669 BC had flying dreams!

The ancient Egyptians believed that the gods appeared in dreams and they left records on papyrus of those dreams and their interpretations. Like many other cultures, they distinguished between good and bad dreams, and had incantations to ward off any unpleasant effects of those dreams. They recorded three types of dreams: those where the gods demanded a pious act, those that contained warnings about illnesses or revelations, and those that came from rituals.

The Greek god of dreams was Morpheus (just like the character in The Matrix). The Greeks believed that dreams entered the world between two different gates: true dreams, ones that came to pass in life, came through the Gates of Horn and false dreams, ones that deluded people, came through the Gates of Ivory.

The Greeks, like the Egyptians, also believed that dreams brought healing, and people would go to one of many temples, such as to Memphis in Egypt, or to the healing temples of Aesculapius to incubate dreams that would tell the temple priests what was wrong with them and how to cure it.

The Romans believed a goddess, Fauna, and her husband god, Faunus, ruled over dreams.  The emperor  Augustus even demanded that anyone dreaming of Rome must declare it publicly so as not to miss any prophetic dreams that might help the empire's well-being. 

The Hebrews also held a strong belief in the power of dreams. They believed that God spoke to them through dreams. There are many dreams sprinkled throughout the Bible that mark important occasions for the Hebrews. There was Jacob's dream about the Ladder to Heaven when he saw angels ascending and descending the ladder that rose to heaven and after wrestling with an angel all night, God promised him and his children the land of Israel. 

There was also the Pharaoh's dream about seven fat and seven lean kine (or cows) that Joseph interpreted as seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine. His interpretation won him the Pharaoh's pleasure and a position of power over the land of Egypt.  And if you know your Bible, you'll remember that it was a dream that got Joseph sold into slavery in the first place. 

Christianity valued dreams in its early days.  You can see dreams mentioned in some of the recently discovered gospels,  but later, especially for Protestants like Martin Luther, dreams were considered either evil or irrelevant.

Tribal cultures valued dreams highly, often placing great importance on them.  Many Native American tribes believed that Great Spirit worked through dreams and were a source of real power for the dreamer.  As with the Vision Quest of many traditions, medicine people were only picked for these roles as a result of their dreams. And tribal members would dream sacred songs, dances, visions and medicine that were used by the whole tribe. Both Black Elk and Wovoka, who dreamed the Ghost Dance, had visions of driving off the white man, which their tribes tried unsuccessfully to bring into reality.

Other tribal people, such as the Australian Aborigines and the Senoi of Malaysia, had special dreaming techniques that kept their tribes safe and happy.

It seems that we are missing out on an important facet of life, a natural way to connect to wisdom, when we ignore dreams and their meanings.  

This Blog will help clarify the importance of working with our dreams.