WE BREATHED OUT, CLOSED OUR EYES, AND DREAMED
Excerpt from The History of Last Night's Dream - a book that CHANGED the way I work with dreams and visions forever.
"...we must have looked strange, this little band of students gathered on Colette's porch in the heat of a July morning. Colette read to us in her high, thin voice, form a script she'd handwritten in a notebook – a script in English, with French and Hebrew phases sometimes thrown in. We breathed out, closed our eyes, and dreamed. We opened our eyes and told her what we saw. We closed them, and she read more. We dreamed a little more and opened our eyes again.
Sometimes we would have problems. People would get stuck and see nothing or encounter painful, difficult images. Her interventions then were poetic, mysterious, and beautiful.
She asked us to open our eyes during the session and describe what we'd seen. She then responded to problems as they arose by making new suggestions. She spoke directly in dream language, in images. This was very intense work, empathic and marvelous. She created images in you and repaired your painful, broken images as well.
Someone would read "the book of life" but report that the letters were to small to read. Colette would intervene and do a repair: "Now you have glasses and can read what the words say. Close your eyes and breathe." The dreamer could now return to her dream and complete it. For another student who was battling a wild bear, Colette invented a magical white turban that allowed her to fly out of the scene.
The first few times I worked with her, I had trouble seeing anything at all. But after some practice, Colette's words strongly stimulated the imagination. I could see more and more the more I tried. The images would sometimes flicker by rapidly. But I was seeing.
One time she asked us to begin by seeing ourselves raking leaves.
I closed my eyes, following her words, I raked a big pile. Then at her instruction, I picked up a brown leaf. I held the leaf in my left hand and clasped it with my right. When I opened my hands, the leaf was green, alive, with pulsing veins. I passed it through my body – this was no problem at all – and touched it directly to my beating heart. The leaf clung tightly. The fresh green filled my heart with its energy. At the end of the visualization she instructed us to sweep the leaves into a pile and then carefully put the rake away in the toolshed.
Colette told us this exercise was useful for healing any internal organ. You could apply the magic leaf to the liver or the kidneys, lungs or heart. But the whole visualization was designed to be helpful from beginning to end. Seeing yourself sweeping up leaves gathers the scattered forces of the mind. Even putting the rake away gives a feeling of completeness and satisfaction.
In everyday experience we know how powerful such images are. Sitting in a cold room, you imagine a sunny day and feel warmer. Or perhaps you are feeling rattled. You close your eyes and visualize for a moment the face of your child, and instantly your heart opens and expands. In such circumstances, my wife visualizes a flower opening in her heart.
Images powerfully enlist sensations and feelings. At a very simple level, when we are hungry we visualize food, when we are thirst we visualize drink, and when we are lonely we visualize love. Some religious cultures have cultivated this power of images to a very high degree. For instance, highly trained Tibetan Buddhist monks can raise their body temperature significantly through "tum mo" or "inner heat" meditations in which they visualize a flame burning in the imaginal body. Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School, a pioneer in mind-body medicine, applied the meditative practices of these monks to help cultivate the "relaxation response" in patients suffering from the effects of stress.
Why are images so powerful when it comes to influencing the body and mind?
Desoille theorized that "the waking dream, being intermediate and nuanced between the state of waking and the state of sleep, between the physiological and the psychic," enabled the patient to draw on a deep reservoir of feelings...
Placing a green leaf against my heart, I feel the physical sensation vividly, while at the same time my spirit is uplifted. From a middle space between the soul and the body, the imagination activates both."
See also: Episode 1 of Experiment With the Idea, it's the most popular episode and all about the power of your imagination.