Last night I had the strangest dream. It was a vivid dream, one I can see easily now many hours later, and a dream where the feelings I felt while dreaming were sitting within me on waking and will be carried with me today.
The dream had a very strong message. But let’s start with the dream itself.
I was with lots of people in a community space, like a school or maybe a very large old house. Everyone was frightened and scrambling. Trying to find a good hiding space from dinosaur-like creatures. Dragons perhaps. If you were found by them, or the people who worked with them to hunt you, you would be eaten. Without a doubt.
I thought I had found a great place to hide. In a low cupboard, under a blanket. Thinking about the hiding place was very detailed in the dream. Of course, it had to be somewhere concealing. I needed something to hide my scent. Most importantly, it needed another way out. This cupboard was concealing, it had a blanket in it to smother my scent, but there was no other way out. And so, I went looking, hurriedly, for another more suitable spot. With many others, looking beside me, for the perfect hiding place.
The situation changed suddenly, the hunters were coming, there was no ‘perfect’ place. We had to hide, immediately, where ever we could. We did so on the ground, dropping from where we were standing under blankets we were carrying. Many people were making shapes under their blankets, to hide the fact they were human. I tried to do this, but someone was lying on my blanket, their foot caught in such a way the blanket stretched out across me and revealed my form. I was, of course, caught. I laughed with the hunters, as the fear rose inside me of my impending fate.
The leader of the hunters arrived. A wise old woman, with duotone hair of greyish white and black. A kind but stern face. Piercing eyes. A long cape and a stave. She handed me a crystal. An offering to the giant creature with large teeth. The creature which was to rip my flesh from bone, destroy my being forever. I looked down at the palm of my hand and saw the crystal change form into a flashing computer memory stick. Perplexed by the change, I knew my fate was sealed. There was no way the monster would accept this trinket over a crystal.
I realised in that moment I had nothing to offer this creature. Nothing to offer but me. And so I decided to go with a open and pure heart.
The dinosaur dragon creature was frightening large and fierce looking. But I felt calm in the knowledge that I was coming with the only gift I had to offer, and that it would be enough. And it was. The creature sniffed my head, the palms of my hands and looked in my eyes, before allowing me to pat it, and hold it.
I woke not long after this, the words of the wise woman in my ears. Go forth with an open and pure heart. I woke with remnants of fear and relief in my muscles and bones. And on reflection of this dream, I realised that this is how we must live with our fears. By facing them with an open and pure heart.
In the fifth class of my course Meditate for Mental Health, which ran last Wednesday, the topic was making space for fear and self doubt. We talked about how to make space for your fears, to let them come along for the ride and the role they would play. Using the beautiful words of Elizabeth Gilbert from Big Magic (a must read) to illustrate this point.
‘Allow fear to live and breathe and stretch out its legs comfortably. I don’t go to war with it. The less I fight my fear the less it fights back. I can relax, fear relaxes. I invite fear to go with me where ever I go. I even have a welcoming speech - which I give before embarking on a new adventure.
Dearest fear, creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together, I understand you will be joining us, as you always do. I acknowledge that you believe that you have an important job to do in my life and you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I am about to do something interesting. And may I say, you are superb at your job. so by all means, keep doing your job as you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And creativity will be doing its job, which means being stimulating and inspiring. There is plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself right at home. But understand this, creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognise and respect that you are part of this family, so I will never exclude you from our activities. But still, your suggestions will never be followed. You are allowed to have a seat. And you are allowed to have a voice. but you are not allowed to have a vote. You are not allowed to touch the road maps, suggest detours, fiddle with the temperature, dude, you are not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.
And we head off into the terrifying but marvellous domain of unknown outcomes. Uncertainty.’
We also looked at the role of fear, as an emotion. Taking on board the philosophy from Karla McLaren shared in her book, The Language of Emotions. Her philosophy of every emotion being a ‘sign post’ telling you something. That there are no good or bad emotions. We examined the good aspects of fear. How fear allows us to be alert, to have clarity, to be ready to move quickly. When flowing freely inside you, fear allows you to tap into your intuition.
We explored the idea of how to make friends with fear, and what can happen when you give your self doubt a personality. We looked at what can happen when you thank both fear and self doubt for looking out for you, for trying to protect you. For being grateful to them, but reminding them everything is okay. Alerting them to the fact that there isn’t a sabre-toothed tiger nearby to harm you, that you have got this. Reminding fear and self doubt of the reality of uncertainty. That looking silly, failing yourself or someone else, is not something to be running from, it is a learning opportunity. One you will survive and grow from. Reminding your fear that you’ve got this and to relax. Relax into whatever new adventure you are embarking on.
But what we didn’t talk about was what my dream gifted me this morning. Of the importance of making an offering to your fear. And that offering being you. You exactly as you are in this moment. You with an open and pure heart. A heart willing to face uncertainty. One willing to face your fears. And for your fears to accept you for who you are. With all your hopes and wishes, with all the opportunities and possibilities your heart is open to.
And so, when the ancient dragon of fear is upon you, salivating before devouring you, take a deep breath and stand before it, knowing you are enough. Open your heart to the uncertainty in front of you. Let it be a pure heart, one without preconceived feelings, one beautifully in tune with where you are headed.