This morning, as I was preparing to leave to teach meditation class, my last blog topic came into me…the importance of turning…re-turning and what it is we are returned to when we do that.
My work as a dream practitioner now includes working with the dreams of those in hospice and their families. Dreams at this time of life can be significant, offering not a cure but a healing…a healing into death…a turning towards death.
There is a gratitude I feel when I am with a hospice patient. The first thing is my awareness that we are not alone in the room. There is a presence in the room with us. I feel it all around me and it helps me step into the dream…and I see the presence in the dreamer’s face…a moment of closed-eye beauty as they feel the supportive presence in their dream. I also feel gratitude because I can enter the room and the dream and fear of death does not block my way. I have been blessed with my own familiarity and recognition of this presence that comes to us as we near the end of this life. Death and I have walked together.
In 1999 when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer (which over the next three years became stage 4 metastatic), the first response in both Joe and myself was tremendous sadness. We came home that day from the doctor and sat in the living room as dusk fell upon the room…and upon us…our hearts broken that we may not have much more time together.
The next morning I got up at 4:00 am for my meditation and a few minutes into the meditation I was overcome with a heart pounding fear of dying. I knew I couldn’t go into this experience with so much fear. It would incapacitate me and keep me from being present.
So every afternoon, after I got home from school, I would go for a long walk. I let myself feel all my fears…turned towards each one…let my tears rise…let the fear of what lay ahead of me each have its voice…the fear of chemotherapy, baldness, hundreds of injections…the fear of dying…the fear of leaving Joe behind. I let all the fears be present, knowing each had a right to be there…and to be felt.
After about two weeks into these daily walks, something happened. As I was turning a corner I’d turned every day, I ‘felt’ a tall presence step in stride with me. In my mind’s eye I turned and looked at it…it was Death. I said out loud, my voice thick with tears of recognition…“Oh, I know you.” It was an old and familiar presence, a presence whose love for me I felt. We walked together for a while…and as we did I knew then that I could do this, go through this frightening journey of cancer and that at the end…either way…I would be okay. In my turning towards the fear, feeling it, I got to feel what else was there along with the deep sadness and the fear…a feeling I’ve felt right before going on an exciting trip…fear, anticipation and excitement.
Mary Jo Heyen
Archetypal Dreamwork Practitioner
Author of the dream primer, “Who are Those Guys?”
Dream sessions in person, via Skype or on the phone