Staying with the Feelings

I have just returned from a North of Eden Archetypal Dreamwork retreat at Kripalu in Massachusetts. This was probably some of the most intense spiritual work I have done. I have a new understanding of how trauma reaction covers me, how I am taken out by my projections and reactions and how this relates to the trauma. I have a new awareness of how much my body is telling me about where I am in terms of feelings or reactions. I am beginning to really recognize, in a visceral way, when I am going into my trauma reactions, when the truth of what is happening is taken over by my reaction to something that has already happened, usually a long time ago and the LIE that comes in through my mind that wants me to project the trauma reaction onto the world of the present time. This awareness gives me the choice to name it, to ask for help, to withdraw the projection in the moment.

For the past few months, I have been learning about visceral feeling in my body. Specifically sensuality and how this distinct feeling moves in me whether I am feeling pain, grief, desire, or fear. The dreams and my homework around the dreams, which have learned this into me, have carried and held a very specific intention, which is to feel me into my body. I have lived outside my body for most of my life, not feeling and not knowing that I was not feeling, assuming that the emotional responses I was having were feelings. The ecstasy associated with love (or, more to the point, love making), fleeting. Pain was avoided, fear was avoided, joy was manufactured, grief was skin tearing…definitely a feeling to GET OUT OF.

At Kripalu, we worked my “Strings”, which is to say the dream was enacted in group process with group members playing elements of the dream and me, the dreamer, challenged to step into the dream, feel whatever comes up and be rigorously honest about it. No small task, I can assure you.

Archetypal Dreamwork is not done with a single dream. A cluster of dreams is used. It must be a cluster for the mystery of the dream’s intention to find its way into consciousness. One dream offers only possibilities. The cluster can offer the dilemma (the issue we face that is blocking us in our spiritual growth), a feeling, and the promise of this work. In the string work, the container of the group is critical as well. This is where the group and the group leaders hold the place of love and support until we can accept the inner love and support. There is a tremendous safety in this container which provides the space for the dreamer to go into, and allow, the feelings to be experienced. The dreams prepare us and then take us in. This is how it works with my Dreamwork Analyst (in our one-on-one sessions). She holds the place until I can turn towards the inner love that is there for me.

My work going into the Kripalu retreat involved the very intense place of working through a trauma dream in which I am a boy of about ten who is violated in a sexual way and in the moment of the violation, I experience arousal in my body and immediately feel shame. This dream holds the place of violation which has linked my sensuality with shame. On a collective level, it is the story of the Garden of Eden told in a flash moment of the dream. The knowledge of who I am is turned into a shameful thing. Unhooking my sensuality from this shame can really only happen through alchemy, by bringing the feelings and intention of the dreams together in such a way so as to produce a psychic shift, a spiritual awakening. In this particular place of my work, it has been about learning that the sensuality is mine. It is my true nature. What if it is what my soul feels all the time? What if I could live my life from this place? What if I could stand in the deep place of my essence and live in this world? No material thing in this world could possibly compete with the gift of that.

The dreams leading up to this moment have prepared me for this difficult work. And though it is a battle, I am in the deep knowing that my God will not give me more than I can handle.

From this place of the violation of the boy, I had these dreams at the retreat:

I am with some people and they are doing something to me, like maybe string work. I don’t understand what is happening and I am scared. I hear myself telling them, “no, no, no, no, no” like I am pleading with them. Then someone, I think Deb D., takes her hands and pulls her fingernails across my lower back at my sacrum. I feel a burning sensation and I feel my body responding in the feeling of sensuality or desire outside of my control.
The Anima is here in this dream helping me come back into my body. Her support is necessary for the healing, but I am terrified of this part of me (no, no, no, no, no...). I am terrified of all the energy coming into my body. It feels like too much. I don’t know what will happen.

I am in a foreign city. It feels dark and there are lots of people. I go down into a basement level shop that is owned by a Spanish couple. As I come down the stairs, I see my painting Tethered Bull hanging on a wall across the room. It is framed and looks like it has been there for a long time. I like seeing it there but I can’t remember how it got there. I think I must have given it to someone.
In this dream, the bull, represented in the painting, is all of the energy and potency of this feeling which is coming back in. I am the bull. The dreams and the Archetypes are bringing me back into my body. What is it like to come back into the body? For me it is excruciating. I am realizing that the human capacity to feel is so big, bigger than I can fathom. It is like the container of my body is not big enough. Allowing the alchemy means staying with the discomfort. What is it like to stay with a feeling, especially a difficult one? There is so much energy in the place of staying.

There is a battle raging in me. It is like being in the bubbling caldron, in the fire, in the maelstrom. These are not ideas. The feelings are real, the Archetypes are real and the alchemy is real. It is a spiritual battle, and I am in the tumble, cycling through, knowing nothing, but trusting my God to bring me through.


  1. What if this is what my soul feels all the time...I love that. Such an honor to bear witness to your becoming. Thank you.

  2. Wow, Laura! Love this entry ... such deep work you are doing and how fulfilling it must be! Kudos and blessings to you! Thank you for taking us on this journey with you!