Shaman and writer, Martin Prechtel of the Tzutujil people of Guatemala, writes that waking is one wing of a butterfly while dreaming is the other. Each wing tells half the story of life to the other, mirroring each other ceaselessly to keep aloft. It is at the heart, where the two wings meet, that the substance of us is ripened.
Unlike the Tzutujil, we live in a society that disregards and even devalues dreams. When one wakes us up in the night pounding on our hearts with urgency, we tell our children it’s just a dream. Though we may have hot tears flowing or physical residue from our wrestling with the night, still we say it isn’t real.
After much practice at forgetting, we are expert amnesiacs awkwardly trying to take flight with a single wing.
The truth is people are thirsty to share their dreams and, though nobody has told them how important they are, the tribe desperately needs their dreams to make better decisions, to balance out our personal and collective lopsidedness.
Meanwhile, the dreams, are like lovers, and want nothing more than to be remembered. Any small crumb of thanks we give to honour them makes them come alive in vibrant nightly theatrics. The more we remember them, the more they remember us! And the events of our everyday get plumper with significance.
The woodpecker that flies into your window is trying to get through to you, the warm breeze through the sugar maple is whispering a special secret for your ears only and the friend you bump into is no accident for your learning.
I often speak of ‘dreaming it forward,’ which is the practice of bringing dreams down into the material through ceremony, beauty-making and the generous giving of relevance to the invisible. With enough practice at this, you will feel yourself at the heart of this gorgeous feeding-back loop, from which you can sing truthfully into the greater song of things. After all, my dream fits with her dream fits with his dream to orchestrate the Great Dream.
If we don’t feed the invisible, the heart weakens into depression and what Martin Prechtel calls, “spiritual homelessness.” Like so many of us, it is easy to feel lost and irrelevant in a tribe where our ‘wilderness’ is not allowed to roam. Sure we can get by without dreaming – we may even thrive according to some standards – but in our quiet moments between doings, a sadness erupts on the landscape of us that has gone barren from all the ploughing.
To make beauty from our dreams is to plant seeds in that overworked soil, cultivating life where we have harvested too much. It is slow and courageous work, but the bounty that can grow from it is inestimable.
Soon, the intruders and tyrants that haunted your dreams (and wakes!) reveal themselves to be the fragile ones. It isn’t that you’ve become tougher, but rather more vulnerable – which is real strength in disguise. Your wings, when they fly together, can take you to the home for which you’ve always longed – where the heart flowers in all its regal grief.