Can our dreams give us intimations of our need to respond to our wider environmental crisis? Let us consider several dreams reflecting environmental threats. This first dream, Diamonds and Tornado, is from Paco Mitchell:
I am in a house with several others. A tornado is coming. We prepare for it by practicing sky-diving maneuvers—ways to stay in touch as we hurtle around inside the vortex of the great whirlwind. There will be no escaping the tornado. In fact, a square hole has even been built into the ceiling of the room for the explicit purpose of permitting our absorption into the massive tornado. The last thing we have to do before the tornado hits is to swallow a handful of diamonds.
When the tornado finally arrives, the atmospheric pressure drops and we are all sucked up in the turbulence. As we whirl around with the debris inside the giant funnel we try to execute our ‘maneuvers’ to stay in touch. The experience is awesome and frightening, but when I remember the diamonds I have ingested, I know that—whenever and wherever I land—the diamonds will be with me and will form the basis of a new life.
Paco Mitchell understood his dream to furnish him with a personal orientation and guidance, a form of wisdom, as he says, during a time of upheaval and change. He notes that “Diamonds and Tornado” should be read as a collective dream, since we are all facing a tornado of planetary proportions.
Books such as Dreaming the Future by Kenny Ausubel, co-founder of the Bioneers Network document the threats around us likely to grow larger in decades to come: global warming, peak oil production, diminishing energy resources, and world-wide financial turbulence, heralded by the economic downturn starting in late 2008. Paco Mitchell’s dream, he believes, is a message for us all to “stay in touch,” as the dreamer is urged to do by practicing “maneuvers.” We cannot stop or even control the planetary forces gathering strength. But the dream suggests another message. Along with “staying in touch,” each of us must do something else: we must “swallow a handful of diamonds.” What could be the meaning of this strange image? Mitchell believes that diamonds represent essential values that “must be incorporated, assimilated, embodied.” He alludes to the “diamond body” of Buddhism. “Diamonds and Tornado” is a collective dream message, and a warning to us all.
A similar dream, Stormy Weather, is recorded by dream worker Rachel G. Norment in her article “Let’s Wake Up, Help Save Our World” as follows:
I’ve gone to some building to get out of stormy weather. I find lots of other people there. Someone may question why I’m there. I say I’ve just taken refuge from the weather. I receive a phone call from someone I don’t know. The person has heard of me and is begging me to warn other people about an impending disaster. I ask what s/he is talking about. The person says it’s what was in the newspaper and it will happen in two days. I then remember seeing the item referred to. After getting off the phone, I turn to people near me and try to tell them what was said. No one wants to pay any attention.
Rachel Norment works as a facilitator with the Healing Power of Dreams Project, part of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. She notes that in 2003, when she had the dream “Stormy Weather,” the world had just experienced the cataclysmic effects of the Asian tsunami. By this time scientists were already documenting the melting of glaciers and other evidence of global warming. A few years later Al Gore would release his film “An Inconvenient Truth” and begin to awaken larger numbers of people to the invoked in “Stormy Weather.” Norment’s dream ends with the ominous feeling that “No one wants to pay any attention.” But she, and others, would keep warning the world. For her, dreams were giving a clear message: “Wake up, everyone, before it’s too late.
Robert Moss, author of Conscious Dreaming and other important books on dreamwork, records the following Dreamcatcher dream he had while was attending a meeting of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) in Copenhagen:
I am spinning a web from my solar plexus. It expands outward like an immense spider web until it covers a large community. What is going on? Am I becoming a spider? I realize I have generated a huge dreamcatcher, except I want to call it a Life Catcher. Its mesh will screen out negative energies and projections while welcoming positive, life-supporting influences and visitations. Within the safety of the web, the community can grow shared visions of life and possibility and find ways to manifest them. Scouts can move across the skeins of the web spying out things that are developing at a distance.
Moss noted that this dream reminded him of Native American “dreamcatchers,” whose imitation spiderwebs were constructed with the goal of catching bad dreams but letting the good ones come through. Here is precisely what it means to move into the fifth stage of the soul, the Return, when we face the challenge of what we will leave behind for those who come later. Jonas Salk, alluding to this challenge of working on behalf of future generations, put the problem well when he said “We are being bad ancestors.” Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy has described the challenge of our time as “The Great Turning.”
How then can we build what is required for generations to come?
A clue for how to think about the challenge is provided in a dream recorded by a young physician, Max Zeller, in the year 1949, when Zeller met with Carl Jung. Jung spoke to Zeller before the young physician left Europe for the United States. At that meeting, Zeller reported this Building the Temple dream:
A temple of vast dimensions is in the process of being built. As far as I can see there are incredible numbers of people building on gigantic pillars. I, too, was building on a pillar. The whole building was in its first beginnings, but the foundation was already there. The rest of the building was starting to go up, and I and many others were working on it.
Jung commented on Zeller’s dream by identifying the “temple” here as the construction of a new world culture, a transcendent platform beyond any single individual. Like Zeller in his dream, each of us works on a single pillar, but “many others were working on it.”
I conclude with a dream Bird in Flight offered by Lynn Twist, a global activist and fundraiser who has raised more than $150 million for charitable causes. Twist recounts her story in The Soul of Money, where she tells how she came to be leader of the Hunger Project, among other ventures. As part of her international work in 1994 she traveled to central America, in the company of her friend John Perkins, who had been working with shamans in South America for many years. While in Guatemala she was invited to participate in a ritual dream and vision ceremony, led by an indigenous shaman of the Achuar people.
Prior to that ceremony, Lynn Twist had no particular interest in dreams. But that night with the Achuar Shaman in 1994 was to change her life forever. In the shamanic ceremony, participants were encouraged to embark on an inner journey into a dream state and Lynn Twist recounts her dream that night:
In my dream, I became a large bird and experienced myself flying over a vast, green forest. As I looked down I saw disembodied faces floating up from the forest floor toward me. They were faces of men that were painted with geometric designs, and they wore yellow and red feather crowns. As they floated toward me, and then back from the forest, they seemed to be speaking in a strange language that I didn’t know. The dream was very vivid and clear, very haunting and quite beautiful. Then I heard a loud drumbeat and awoke.
At that point, the shaman led the group of participants as they explored the meaning of their dreams. The Achuar are an ancient dream culture and they take seriously the importance of dreams. The shaman confirmed that Lynn Twist’s dream could be meaningful, even prophetic. But he offered no interpretation: “The dream belongs to the dreamer,” as my colleague Velva Lee Heraty likes to say. Lynn Twist at that time regarded her “Bird in Flight” dream simply as an exotic experience but gave it no deeper meaning. Yet Twist would be reminded by her husband John that the distinctive facial markings and feather crowns in her dream were the traditional signs of the Achuar people in the Amazon region of Ecuador.
It was not until years later that Lynn Twist came to see her prophetic dream for what it was. At a later date she received an invitation, a “call,” as she put it, to organize a group of visitors to meet with Achuar leaders. Along with John, she traveled to Ecuador, venturing into the vast Amazon basis. There, in the deep rain forest, she found herself face to face with people wearing face paint and feather crowns– exactly the ones she had seen earlier in her dream.
The result of this Breakthrough would have large significance. Over the next seven years, their relationship with the Achuar took over the life of Lynn Twist and her husband John. As a result they worked the find ways to help the Achuar find their own adjustment to the modern world while retaining cultural integrity. Lynn Twist’s encounter with the Achuar, and her “Bird in Flight” dream, became the beginning of The Pachamama Alliance, a world-wide initiative to support indigenous peoples who retain their links to Mother Earth– the meaning of “Pachamama” in the Quichua language of the Andes. Lynn Twist’s Return dream was the beginning of “healing the world” through waves that would be felt around the world.
“Diamonds and Tornado”, Paco Mitchell, Dream Network, Vol. 27, No.3, p. 36.
“Stormy Weather”, Rachel Norment, in “Let’s Wake Up, Help Save Our World,” Dream Network, Vol. 27, No.3, p. 18.
Dreamcatcher, Robert Moss, p. 267.
“Building the Temple”, Max Zeller, in The Dream: The Vision of the Night, 1975, cited by Meredith Sabini,
“The Field of Dreams,” Dream Time (Winter, 2011), 28:1, p. 22.
“Bird in Flight”, Lynn Twist, in The Soul of Money, Norton: 2003, pp. 174-175.