I’m traveling alone at night and have gotten on the wrong train. Frustrated at feeling inept as well as being lost, I tell myself, that’s the problem with traveling when it’s dark. It’s difficult to see those directional signs.
The fellow sitting in front of me asks the driver to please shut the door as he is cold. Even though I’m wrapped up in my own fearful angst, I know he needs my help. I dig out my wetsuit, fling it in front of him, and begin to maneuver his arms into it, at which point Bruce Willis turns around to me—with a rather pained smile/grimace on his face at my brazen encroachment on his personal space—and says with forced patience and kindness, “Be calm, it will all work out.”
And he keeps my wetsuit.
Later, as I’m stumbling around making coffee, fragments of my dream break into my consciousness, and waking up, I realize, hey! Bruce Willis showed up! What a hoot!
Dreams are the guiding words of the soul. Why should I henceforth not love my dreams and not make their riddling images into objects of my daily consideration? Carl Jung
Therapists who include dream analysis in their repertoire of tools will tell you that 99.9 percent of the time your dreams are not predictive of the future, so, reluctantly, I put aside any thoughts of me and Willis as train buddies.
However, I did set about honoring my unconscious by writing down the dream and my associations from the symbols my unconscious sent up to me, such as riding on a train, traveling at night, a wetsuit, getting lost—and Bruce Willis. Then I looked for any beliefs, attitudes, or values that these symbols could be pointing to in my “surface life.”
A favorite Willis movie of mine, for example, is Disney’s The Kid, where Willis plays a cynical middle-aged man, Russ, whose life is interrupted by a younger version of himself at his front door—an 8-year-old Rusty—who claims Russ is “a loser” as he’s dogless, has no girlfriend, and doesn’t own a red airplane. After going through the usual denial, trauma, and acceptance, the movie ends with Russ and Rusty desolately sitting in a deserted diner. All seems lost—no dog, no girl, no red airplane. But, then looking up and out the diner window—spoiler alert—they see their future older self and, jumping up ecstatically, they high-five each other, yelling, “We’re not losers!”
Credit of photo: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA
The energy dynamic within me which showed up as Willis was telling me, “Hey, it’s okay if you got on the wrong train, going the wrong direction. Don’t be so anxious about it. The important task is to keep journeying. You’ll get there, I did.”
And so will you. We often make life and career decisions “in the dark” because we couldn’t read the signposts or we lacked self-knowledge. Sometimes we abandoned our difficult goals or ambitions and climbed into a shiny carriage and took the easy way out. Or we didn’t walk through those open doors. But don’t panic, all is not lost.
And what does “getting there” mean? As a People House Spiritual Facilitator, I encourage people to look inside themselves for answers to that question. Usually it includes embracing and integrating those parts of their soul, their psyche, parts that as children were judged unacceptable by their adult caregivers. Our dreams provide us hints into that process, bringing us into wholeness. They point to how in our daily lives we are still unconsciously living out those behaviors, attitudes, and values that no longer serve us.
What future will you create?
Buddhists train in meditation to learn to be present to the now. They tell us that the “now” contains the seeds to our future, and while we may think we’re taking care of “what’s next” by anxiously and endlessly worrying about it, in reality we’re missing it—and we end up missing the present as well. Yes, we should plan for what is yet to come, but we hold that lightly, knowing that life has a way of taking us along unforeseen paths. How we respond to those unexpected bumps in the road is an indicator of our mental health. It’s also how we “create” our future: When plans go awry, do we respond with anger and self-medication through substance abuse, for example, or do we respond with curiosity, trust, and hope?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, says, mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”
So – don’t panic, practice nonjudgmental mindfulness, and stay committed to the journey.
About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working, and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her spiritual connection at People House and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, where she focused on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.