This post is NOT about dream interpretation -- it's about interpreting the signs and symbols of your waking reality. It's about cultivating a magical world view.
The Language of Symbols I'm quite sure most people are familiar with the concept of decoding the language of dreams -- the Monster in a dream represents a literal anxiety or fear; the Doorway in a dream symbolizes the way you perceive an opportunity; the Fork in the road you dreamed about to you speaks to you of paths, choices, and decisions…
You get it -- your unconscious, subconscious dreaming self employs a rich vocabulary of archetypes, icons, symbols, and metaphor. Your dream language is often literary more than literal.
You also understand the requirements of translating this language -- that while much of this vocabulary employs mystical, universal, human truths that we share -- some of the patterns of meaning overlap from one of us to the next -- there is a deeply unique and personal level which must also be explored.
Your Mystical Slang You are both author and audience of divine communication. You are constantly customizing the language of your spirit, through experience. A Dream Symbol Dictionary will only take you so far -- you must still engage your inner Artist, your inner Author, your inner Mystic Detective to discover the richest possible detail.
Life is but a dream You process conscious, waking reality in terms of logic and intellect -- an application of your Thinking Mind. Within your subconscious, astral reality -- the Other Side, the Deeper Layer Inside -- where you dream, meditate, manifest, and create, your expectations for discovering Meaning are expansive, relaxed, open, imaginative…
You don't insist on knowing from spirit, you allow yourself to wonder, travel, discover, and play. You feel it's appropriate for your Inner Child to reign in your dreaming, creative, divine, spiritual aspect; so why do you put him to bed and call in some "more Adult" perspective when interpreting the signs and symbols of your waking, conscious experience?
Keys to Talking with Trees Last summer, while spending time with a friend in Kansas City, Missouri, I tried to explain this concept to a man named James who is both a clinical psychotherapist and a pagan priest. On a day trip to a pagan community in nearby eastern Kansas, as we walked along a trail through a dense grove of sacred trees, James told me about a client with a child who claims to see faeries, elemental spirits, and quite bluntly claims to talk to trees.
The child's mother is Christian, yet not entirely closed to the possibility that her daughter is telling the truth, as she knows that children may have special abilities or imaginative ways of perceiving the world. She didn't feel comfortable telling her daughter "The trees don't talk to you! That's just your imagination."
James, who is experienced in working with dreams and uses dream analysis in his practice, nevertheless approaches dream interpretation in the context of therapy with a purely secular, Jungian mindset. I told him about a girl I know named Claire who also self-identifies quite matter-of-factly as a Tree Talker. I met Claire when she was eleven years old; she is now nineteen. Claire is intelligent, grounded, confident… and trees communicate with her.
James asked me "How does this communication occur? I mean, does she speak the language of trees, or do the trees speak her language? Is this communication something she perceives as literal, physical, external? Or is it archetypal, subconscious, psychic -- within her own mind?"
I told him I felt he was thinking about it a bit too logically, like a scientist. I wasn't sure that I had the vocabulary or the training to address the explanation in purely clinical, psychological terms, but perhaps I could lead him toward that and he could carry the concept through… Because I feel that what I'm describing could be well explained in Jungian concepts, without tearing apart the Truth of the experience or denying the essence of spiritual perspective. In other words, if the child claimed that trees were talking to her in her dreams, a therapist could explore that symbolic language and help her decipher the meaning, with a kind of established, clinical confidence.
Why not simply apply that symbolic language and the process of interpretation to her waking experience?
"How? Can you give me an example?" he asked.
The trees are providing impulses -- cues and clues -- like a kind of associative flash card exercise. The language -- the symbols and signs and their potential meanings -- are found in the mind and more. The mind, the heart, the spirit, consciousness, the subconscious, the superconscious reside in multiple dimensions of experience beyond simply Thinking.
The logical, intellectual, thinking mind is only one dimension of experience. The Thinking Mind stores and retrieves information -- but so do all the other parts of us. Experience is not only rational thought; experience stores data received from the heart, the soul, the higher self, the collective consciousness, etc.
"An example…" I mused, holding my arms out to the woods around us. "Hmm, right here, right now, in this moment… Trees, talk to us!"
There came at that moment an enormously unmistakable, physical, external sound effect -- like the sound of a huge, wooden door slowly and dramatically creaking open.
"They're talking to us!" James exclaimed, delighted and surprised. "The branches rubbing against each other, rationally. Logically. But beyond that explanation, what did they say?"
They told me that a door just opened. Possibility. Opportunity.
"Ah, so the meaning is like Rorschach Test -- only the ink blob is a sound, in this case, and not an image. The translation is your personal association with what the sound resembles, and what that sound stands for symbolically. Like a cinematic metaphor, like the artistic language of film or literature."
Indeed. James told me a few months later that he embraced this perspective and introduced a version of it to some of his clients in therapy. He also began referring certain like-minded intuitives to me. So, in that context, it was a professional joint-venture opportunity, for both of us.
Ask Mr. Crow More recently I was contemplating a financial decision, a move that might require a leap of investment and faith on my part, upfront, but which could pay off in greater, long-term benefits, and ultimately lead me to a different level, financially.
I was walking in the woods behind my house and discussing the possibility with my spirit guides, asking spirit to weigh in on my hunches. A crow landed on a low branch just above my head. I know from lore and experience that these black birds often carry messages, so I never hesitate to ask a crow for advice.
"What do you think, Mr. Crow, will the action be in line with my intentions?"
The crow bobbed and squawked once, turned around toward the North, leapt off with a great heavy effort that left the branch swaying, dropped closer to the ground, but then soared up to land on another branch three times higher than his previous perch. He turned around again, looked back at me, and repeated his single caw.
"Thanks, Mr. Crow, that's just what I needed to know."
While I could run to a metaphysical bookshelf and look up someone else's existing information about what a crow means, what the significance of the day of the week is, what kind of tree he landed on, etc. to a certain degree, that kind of detective work might result in a collection of everybody else's meaning, but it wouldn't automatically be a synergy of meaningfulness to me.
How do I break down the significance?
- The timing of the bird's appearance -- if he had an answer for me, then what question was I asking at the time he showed up?
- How did his actions symbolically represent -- illustrate/act out --the actions I was contemplating? It took a jump and moment of dipping low before ultimately flying and landing in a position higher than where he came from. Sounds like a positive financial move to me.
- Not only did he fly up, he flew North -- stored in my mind are significant associations with the North corner of the cardinal directions: earth, materialism.
More than anything, the crow simply affirmed what my logical thinking mind had already projected would happen.
Trees send me intuitive impulses. Birds deliver messages to me too, all the time! I live in a dream world, an enchanted movie of my own authorship, where magic does happen. Remember the Disney-esque fantasy segments in Nine to Five, where Lilly Tomlin's character Violet spoofs Snow White and Cinderella, where little animals come to her aid in creation? Yeah, that's the reality I choose to operate within.
James said "You choose to cultivate what we'd call a Magical World View."
"Would you define that as crazy?" I asked.
"No! It works well for you, doesn't it? You're healthier, happier, and wiser, because of it, aren't you?"
"Oh, absolutely!" I said. "Consider the alternative…"
I've already lived part of my life with a view of the world only filtered by intellect, logic… No hocus-pocus, no wonder, no miracles… No spirit. Since I've begun to embrace my life as my creative masterpiece, the signs, serendipities, and divine guidance are abundant. Everywhere. Magic is found in the most mundane places.
You don't see fairies, talk to spirits and angels, and so believe in them, in that order. As Claire explained to me years ago, "Fairies and angels don't show themselves to people who don't believe in them."
Can you not see the forest for the trees? Can you see the keys in the forest?
Seek Wisdom, Practice Love, Embrace Wonder, Act Magical