Last week I had one of the hardest dreams I have had in a very long time. The feelings were excruciating, horrifying really, and incredibly real. At the start, I was probably around age 14, confiding in a therapist. Although I am terrified to, I reveal to him that I can see spirit right in front of me. I immediately find myself inside of a small room, and feel that I am in a mental institution. All of my perception is profoundly altered. I am aware that I am taking the drug Haldol, a powerful anti-psychotic medication normally given to people with profound symptoms of Schizophrenia.
I lose all perception of time. I long for my former life, but am also barely conscious. At a certain point I realize my mother is in the room, sitting right behind me. I am trying to convince her to let me out, but I have trouble speaking. My mouth is extremely dry, I actually pull cotton out of it. I pull a tampon out of it. I am horrified. I can’t even form a thought, the Haldol feels like someone is jumping on my brain and that my perception is flickering in and out. Have five minutes passed? Five years? I don’t know.
I see pictures of myself being a good member of my mental institution community. I am participating happily in the art class. I am helping others heal. I am terrified that my mother will see these pictures and want me to stay locked up. I am doing so well after all. I look at her and realize that it is no longer my mother but a version of myself, and I am spewing vile words, that I can never be trusted, that I have no integrity, that I couldn’t handle getting out of here. That I am not strong enough, not disciplined enough. The Haldol is so debilitating, but I finally get the words out—
“I know I am crazy, but I still have feelings.” And then I wake up.
It feels important to mention that I have never taken any prescribed psychiatric medication—I’ve never been diagnosed with any mental disorder, as a matter of fact. I have always been terrified of this and resisted it in so many ways. For me, having a diagnosis meant I was going to be stripped of my power, of my autonomy, of my dignity. What I did not realize that it was this fear that was keeping me institutionalized, and that I have been doing all of these things to myself. By working so hard to keep any of my experiences that might be considered ‘crazy’ or ‘weird’ or ‘abnormal’ hidden so that I wouldn’t be labeled as such, I have kept my spirit locked in a tiny room, drugged, disoriented, unable to express my pain.
It’s a turning point in the dream, when I am finally able to speak, speak to this part of myself that has kept me down, tortured me and silenced me, allowed me to do anything but just be myself, and feel the way I feel.
And so in this dream I see some light. In seeing my own struggle I feel some resolve. How much longer will I keep myself institutionalized? How many more months will allow my energy to be drained, my connection to the deepest yearnings of my soul cut off, trampled on, numbed away? I’ll say these words like a mantra, I may be crazy, but I still have feelings. I may be crazy but I still have feelings, still have feelings, still have feelings. In so many ways, they are the primary thing I have. I have the way things feel to me, I have the way I experience the world, and I know I must honor that completely. This dream helped me see how I have denied myself this, and worked so hard to destroy my own light, and keep myself locked away. Truly, the more I think about it…the more it opens up.
Of all the self-destructive behaviors I’ve engaged in, I think my most shameful (and the one that would probably be most likely to garner me some kind of mental diagnosis, although it’s not exactly difficult to come by these days..) is punching myself, pinching myself, and slapping myself. Basically, physically abusing myself. Self-harm I guess they call it, but that’s always been a somewhat bland term to me because so many things could fall in that category. I wish I could tell you the first time I did it. I might have been really young. It has always been a somewhat instinctual reaction to a wide variety of external stressors. But I know when it got really bad—when I was 17. Thus far, that has been the lowest part of my life. I sunk into a deep depression that expressed itself in a lot of ways—I lost my appetite, experienced extreme insomnia, the whole nine. But I also began consistently hurting myself, and to extremes. During school these powerful waves of self-hatred would pulse through my body and it would feel like the only viable option was to expel them in some way, to punish myself.
As the depression continued I eventually began relating to this heavy punishing energy as a demon that lived at the back of my throat, pulling at my tongue, taunting me, spewing this vile hatred into my ear. In my notebook I began referring to him as the MOC (Master of Ceremonies). He completely controlled my life. Whatever he said went, and I could never get him to shut up unless I hurt myself physically in some way.
And what was his biggest threat, the biggest reason I was such a terrible failure? That I was crazy. And wasn’t I? Hearing voices telling me to hurt myself? Isn’t that basically the definition? This is why I was always so careful to hurt myself privately and to hide all of my self-harm from anyone. I was completely terrified of cutting myself, A, because the sight of blood has always made me ill, and B, because I thought that if I cut myself then I would definitely be seen as crazy—or perhaps what I was most afraid of—needing help.
I did not want help. Mostly, because I didn’t want to be someone who needed help. Those people were weak and unstable and untrustworthy—and weren’t being ‘good’. I was supposed to be good and happy and help other people because my life was so blessed. And how was I ever going to that if I needed help? I did not want anyone to know of my pain, because having pain at all was shameful. Plus, I had way too much of it. I had to be punished for it. And so I was, and so I did. Over and over.
I wish I could say I never ever do this anymore, but I can’t. I can say that I do it significantly less. Like maybe once or twice in the last few years, and with a lot less severity. At least 13 years since I’ve left a bruise on myself. When you self harm you sort of start to count things in this way, like ok I just slapped myself—but I didn’t slap as hard, I was a little more gentle this time.
As with so many of my self-destructive behaviors, I am on a healing journey with this one. And this blog post right here, paired with this dream I had last night, feels like a really important milestone. Because I am speaking my pain to all of you, and I am opening up my closet and letting all of the skeletons out—especially the one that has me convinced that you will all think I am crazy.
And you know what? It feels really good. Because somehow, some way, today—so what if I am crazy? I’ve got my feelings, and I’ve got to own them. It’s the only way….no, it’s my way. And I love it. So much gratitude for anyone who took the time to witness me here, like this. And courage to anyone out there that may be hiding some of their pain for fear of judgment. Maybe I am ‘crazy’, but I still have feelings. I’m not going to let those voices keep me locked up anymore. And as I have learned time and again—for me, speaking up is the way out.
Last week, I had the amazing pleasure of posting up at an amazing new spot in New Orleans, the Glitter Box. On Royal St., it’s a hub of incredible art and crafts pieces, all centered around a modern intersectional feminism that honors the need for making yourself feel beautiful, look glamorous, and ground into your spirit. I was there offering dream consultations to the patrons, and when a group walked in looking for some healing, I got the same reaction I’ve gotten over and over these years that I’ve told people I do dreamwork—EEK!
I’ve come to realize this is because, 9 times out of 10, if a person remembers any of their dreams at all, they remember one they consider a “nightmare”. The dream reminds them of a feeling they want to avoid. Having someone stand there and suggest we explore it together—well that doesn’t sound very fun does it? Why would anyone want to do the work of exploring our shadows—opening up to precisely the things that we’ve been working so hard to avoid or reject?
I understand it, I really do. But I feel pain about it too. Because through my work with these shadows I have come to see that all of the energy we are using to avoid them is one of the biggest sources of our suffering. And even though we know this, when it comes to the individual and specific ways we are blocked—the things our dreams love to immerse us in—it can be so difficult to muster the courage and the strength to look.
So as the years have passed, I’ve come back again and again to these questions: How do I frame dreamwork in a way that doesn’t feel as scary to people? How can I advocate for the dreams in a way that honors their power while still empowers the dreamer? How can I create a way for people to interact and interface with dreams in a way that is nurturing and supportive and even…dare I say it…FUN?
One of the most powerful ways I know to explore dreams is through a process I was exposed to during my time at North of Eden called ‘strings’. In the process, a group leader takes each dreamer through a theatrical re-enactment of their dream, intended to illuminating the wisdom and healing potential of the dream. By creating a physical experience of the dream, dreamers can more readily access that healing potential. I went through many retreats focused on this process, and it was nothing short of life altering. I felt into wounds I was carrying from many generations previous, and was able to understand the source of so many of my negative reactions and difficulties in relationship with others.
I eventually came to help teachers lead strings, and have even led a few string groups myself. But as with any powerful medicine that engages with shadow work, the territory can be extremely tricky. More than once I witnessed and have even facilitated pushing people into places and experiences that were actually too much for them to handle or process in that moment. I’ve come to realize that I do my best work with dreams with an extremely gentle touch, and one that empowers the dreamer first and foremost and always. And through this realization, Dreamplay was born.
Starting this January, I was blessed with the commitment of a few incredible dreamers in New Orleans, including Mary Lou Bensabat and Marian Gay-–dreamers and teachers who have walked the path of their own dreams with an inspiring amount of humility, discipline, and compassion. They agreed to meet with me every couple of weeks to help develop this Dreamplay process. We stuck with the idea of bringing the dream to life through dramatic re-enactments. But made a definitive change—instead of a group leader directing the dream, it was the dreamer themselves that is charged with telling the group how they would like their dream to be played with.
We focus on the felt experience of the dream, and encourage a quiet, meditative state during the practice. This way we make space for whatever may be alive for the dreamer as they allow for their inner vision to be witnessed. Questions and commentary are kept to a minimum—and when the dreamer feels done, we’re done.
When I started this I was worried that the practice wouldn’t be powerful enough, that it wouldn’t really honor the capacity dreams have to heal. But that judgment completely changed after the first time I experienced Dreamplay for myself. Sure, it was not as life-altering as the first time I did strings in an intensive retreat setting. But it wasn’t meant to be. And when it compared to just discussing my dreams with someone one on one, it actually effected me just as powerfully—if not more so. I was able to connect with feelings in the dream that I didn’t even realize were present, making it possible for me to gain insight on the topics brought up by the dream.
What I love most about this process is how accessible it is. Just like a yoga class or meditation circle, dream play is meant for dreamers of all levels of experience and relationship with their own dream practice. Truly, no matter if you only remember one dream from your whole life or you engage in deep lucid dreaming experiences every night, Dreamplay opens up a safe and non-dogmatic environment for you to explore what your dream wants to reveal to you. One of the things that I’ve loved most about it so far is the awesome synchronicities that arise between the dreams and the dreamers who participate, allowing themes to arise organically from those present. And the fact that since the focus and power is put into the hands of the dreamer, it’s easy to regulate the depth of the experience so that it aligns with what you’re most prepared for in the moment.
So!! I’m happy to say that I’m starting to bring Dreamplay out of my office space and into the wider world and I hope that some of you may be able to join me. The process is truly a lot of fun and something I’m eager to bring out into the world so that more people can find ways to incorporate the wisdom of their dreams into their everyday lives. Here’s the upcoming info & dates!
Mondays, except April 17th – NEW ORLEANS @ Grandmother Dream House, 1112 Mandeville, 6:30pm
April 17th – MIAMI –Dreamplay @ Inhale Miami, 7:30pm
April 23rd – NEW ORLEANS — Dreamplay @ Nola Yoga Loft, 2pm-4pm
The other day I was tagged in the post below by Sarah Silverman, where she revealed her most recent Google searching history that including:
The truth is, dreams about peeing, pooping, or trying to are some of the most common dreams I’ve come across—I can’t even remember all the pee or poop dreams I’ve worked with clients over the years. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve had one. It’s not that surprising—all humans do this every day, multiple times a day.
But what does this act represent to us? And why are there often negative emotions around an experience that is so natural and healthy?
As always, there are no absolutes and no definitive answers when it comes to deciphering symbols or actions within dreams. What’s most important is feeling into what is most deeply true for you. Here, I just want to offer you a couple of avenues of exploration if you find yourself having dreams about using the bathroom, and invite you to use it as a jumping off point for your own inquiry.
One of the most common scenarios with peeing dreams is having to use the restroom and not being able to find one and/or using the restroom in an unusual, normally public place. Embarrassment, shame, and anxiety often come up here. Perhaps you ended up peeing somewhere you would never pee in real life, making you feel exposed and vulnerable.
A good place to start as you feel into the visceral experience of the dream is to ask yourself, are the feelings in the dream familiar? And not just the feeling of needing to pee and having nowhere to do it—but on a more symbolic level, when do you feel this way—anxious, humiliated, desperate for some privacy?
On a societal level, the cloud of shame that hovers over going to the bathroom is everywhere. Ever seen a commercial for “poo-pourri”? Women especially are socialized to believe their completely natural behaviors of farting, pooping, burping, and peeing are gross and disgusting—things we have to hide from others. It makes a certain kind of sense—pee and poop are waste, we are supposed to dispose of it. But that doesn’t mean we are bad just because we have it at all.
The metaphor is common enough—our ‘shit’…being in ‘our shit’…dealing with other peoples ‘shit’…meaning the places where we get caught in our own illusions, act out, feel heavy or weighed or burdened, stuck or confused or lost or in despair. It’s not to say that we should embrace these states—but when we are too anxious or embarrassed to even allow for this shit to exist, how can we ever release it? The shit is not the problem—it’s a natural part of the cycle—and our bodies naturally dispose of it. It’s the shame we attach to it that makes it so hard for us to feel like we have the space we need to let it go.
Right alongside having to pee at all, almost all humans have had another common experience–potty-training. This presents the issues of control that are also often present in bathroom dreams—both our inner sense of control over our own bodies as well as the ways we are asked by society to control and/or manage the needs of our bodies.
Unregulated human waste can make our communities sick–this training is necessary on some level. At the same time, this training is one of our first introductions to a conflict we will encounter in different ways our entire lives—the needs of our individual bodies vs. the needs of our communities/family systems. In order to be a part of society, you have to learn how to control your body’s impulses in certain ways. This can never be avoided, but your bathroom dreams could be pointing to how this control is out of balance. Are you suppressing your own needs for the sake of the group or ‘saving face’? Are you too focused on what other people might need, making you feel desperate for some private space to just let go? Remember, everybody poops, and ultimately, it can only be controlled for so long. We need to have discernment about when it’s appropriate to compromise our deep internal needs to serve the greater whole and when we must surrender to our bodily needs and release our control. Are there ways you seek to control how you are perceived by others? Do you construct an image of your life that is designed to hide your shit? How do you feel when that shit comes up? Is it similar to how you feel in this bathroom dream?
As most people have experienced, releasing the body’s waste is a life-affirming action that often, when we are in the privacy of our own toilets, can feel really good. But when the threat of being witnessed or seen in this release comes into play, what feels good and is natural can start to feel really difficult. That’s because of the vulnerability and loss of control that is required for us to allow it. When our bodies are screaming at us that we need to go to the bathroom–when the amount of shit inside of us has reached a level where our bodies are demanding we let go of it–we are forced to face that if we are going to get rid of it. And that means we are going to have to give up control. We are going to have alter the story we have about ourselves, and release the ways we are convinced that our shit doesn’t stink.
Another aspect of control that can be present in bathroom dreams is the lack of control we have over our very own bodies. Our bladders seem hell bent on reminding us of this every single day—no matter what’s going on, if we have to pee, we have to pee. Our bodies have their own marching orders. This is another area of inquiry that can be helpful around bathroom dreams. What is your relationship to your body like? Do you find yourself working hard to control the way it is perceived or what its needs are, or are you open and receptive to the messages it gives you about its needs? Does this relationship change when you are around others—if so, how and with who?
Not to mention, I know there are plenty of folks out there that have had bathroom dreams where the feeling of release is heavenly! Or maybe you found yourself going to the bathroom in public without any concern, and felt empowered. And to that I say bravo!! I think this world needs more people out there just letting their shit go!
Because after all, it’s just crap. There is going to be more where that came from. And there’s one more obvious thing about bathroom dreams: they are often really really funny, kinda like Sarah Silverman herself.
Do any of the lenses I suggested resonate for you and your bathroom dream? What did I miss here? What have you learned from your dreams about needing to go to the bathroom? Can you be brave share the craziest one you’ve ever had?? It would totally make my day I promise you!
Before we got engaged, I was pressuring Jordan to do it. I was 27, convinced that if marriage was not in our future, then there was no point in continuing. What I didn’t realize was what I really wanted to know. I still wasn’t sure whether he wanted to marry me or not. Once he proposed, and I realized his answer was yes, I was faced with a question I hadn’t really given much thought to—Do I want to get married?
I wasn’t questioning of our relationship–I knew I wanted to be with him for the foreseeable future. But it was that foreseeable part. What about all the unknowns? Was I really going to stand up in front of everyone I know and commit to another person for a lifetime, knowing how much I don’t know about what the future holds? Knowing how out of my control it all is? Knowing how bad the odds are that something like this could last? Knowing how much I have changed in the past seven years and how much Jordan has changed in that time as well? Isn’t it kind of disingenuous to make that kind of commitment?
It felt like it to me. After all, I don’t simply want to remain married to my husband for the rest of my life. I want to remain in love with him, I want our love to grow, and keep growing. I want us to have a healthy and dynamic sex life, I want us to have harmony and peace in our home, I want us both to be given the space and time we need to develop our passions and projects. I want it all, and I know how rare that is. And I know how much work it takes. Because I have been working on it with him for the past seven years.
Unlike a lot of my accomplishments, my relationship with my husband is something I can say easily I am very proud of. I was single for many years, convinced I would never find love. So I know how it can sting to hear someone speak about their great love life. But I am not proud because of fate. We have both worked incredibly hard over the past seven years to keep our love alive. A lot of sacrifices have been made on both sides, and we have both had to grow, heal, and transform in a myriad ways to keep our connection to each other.
But even though we have a great relationship, the idea of the marriage vows scared me. I think it might be because of the way we met. We started talking one day at a party and have been together ever since. It was easy to find things in common—we attended the same elementary, middle, and high school in New Orleans, where we still live together, with a community of people that are still among some of our closest and oldest friends. Since I had known who my husband was since I was 8 years old, I thought I knew him. We were always running in similar crowds but were never lovers or even really friends. If you had told me just 30 minutes before we started talking that I would end up marrying him, I don’t think I ever would have believed you. Even now we look at each other and sometimes get another wave of surprise. Like, wow! I can’t believe my person in life is you!
Remembering this, I felt discomfort making a vow like till death do us part—couldn’t the same shock happen the opposite way? Couldn’t I be just as blindsided one day by the reality that we shouldn’t be together any longer?
But the more I thought about it, the more my understanding grew. The answer to this question is yes, but that doesn’t mean a wedding shouldn’t happen. I have come to understand the ritual of marriage as just one among many human traditions where we attempt to create permanence where there is none, where we grasp at eternity even though our time is brief, and where we attempt to forge acts of infinite, unconditional love even though as humans we are so finite, so submerged in our individual conditions. The act of committing my whole self to someone else, to summoning all the devotion I can muster, to reaching deep into my reserves of compassion and patience and humility over and over to keep the fires of our love burning bright—these acts are sacred, because they are an attempt to transcend the mundane aspects of my humanity.
I quickly realized I wanted us to share in the writing of our own vows. We started with a brainstorm of words and values that we share and prioritize in ourselves and with each other—self-love, devotion to God, humility, humor, honesty, community, the land, and integrity. After that, I wrote a draft, and he edited it, as he often does with my writing, and we went back and forth a bit. I am so happy with the way they turned out and to share them with you now.
A week into married life, I realize how important it is to me to share these vows even more publically. I have committed myself to the ritual of maintaining and open, honest, unconditionally loving, sexually monogamous relationship with another human being yall! I been practicing the past seven years but now I feel the weight of the commitment more than ever. I want to share that commitment with all of you. I want accountability here. I want all of yall to know that I am going to do my absolute best.
Do you vow first and foremost to love yourself, to be kind and gentle with yourself, and devote yourself fully to your own personal divine connection? We chose this to be first because this has always been a firm touchstone in our relationship. Before we even present an issue or conflict to the other, we check-in with ourselves—is there a way we could love ourselves more here, be more gentle, and be in better relationship with our individual sense of the divine?
Do you vow to always turn towards your passion and follow it with hard work and dedication, and to support your partner in doing the same? Jordan and I are both self-employed, and very driven by our passions and this is something we also put at the forefront, because we know it’s vital to each other’s happiness.
Do you vow to be honest, especially when it is difficult, to be vulnerable, especially when you feel hurt, and to speak from your heart, even when your belly is full of fire? Communication, communication, and then, even when you don’t feel like it at all—a little more communication—honest, vulnerable, and from the heart.
Do you vow make time for one another, even when it may feel like there is none, to listen to the words of the other, reflect upon them, and make changes when they are needed? Creating time. See #2, workaholics. We both have a way of dissolving into our passions and missing times to connect. Being willing listen, to really hear, and ultimately to change patterns of behavior is vital.
Do you vow to play and to laugh, to enjoy the little things, to cherish each other, and to always say yes when asked for another embrace? Silliness and love go so well together. Like sprinkles and rainbows.
Do you vow to be slow to anger, quick to forgive, and eager to apologize? I feel like I am always learning when to retreat and re-center and when to assert boundaries.
Do you vow to put each other’s commitment to one another above all other things, to stand for each other in times of trouble, and to act from a place of trust even if it feels broken? Ultimately, if something is going to last, it means you have to persevere through times when it doesn’t feel good, or right, or like the other is fully there. Sometimes you have to be the anchor. Sometimes you have to be the force that lifts the weight from the bottom of the sea.
Do you vow to contemplate, regularly, what it means to love and what it would mean to love better, with greater integrity, with more compassion, with deeper trust, and with full dedication to God? For me, this vow and the one above work hand in hand. I discern whether to remain committed based on the answers I find contemplating these questions, and then re-commit with greater clarity.
And do you vow, above all else to love Jordan/Kezia, with all of your heart and your soul, with your hands and your feet, with your words and your deeds, sharing in the love that reverberates through each other and to all of those present today, devoted to one another and to the dream of a more loving, harmonious world? In summary, this is what we think it means to love—and we are going to do everything we can to do it.
I know a lot of people have a lot of different kinds of feelings, values, and philosophies that come up for them around the concept of marriage, or even long-term relationships/partnerships in general. So I just wanted to share a little about how I found meaning in the process. And now that I am married, I know that our journey is really just beginning. I would love to hear from yall what your struggles and triumphs have been.