Natural Dreamwork with Mary Jo

the bloody elk…

Dream – “I am skating along an upper balcony of a building, trying to avoid small frozen pools, worried that I will break through the ice.  Below, I see a large elk lying on the ground being attacked by another elk.  His side has a huge gash, opened and bloody.  There is a large crowd of people watching.  A young man is walking back to a waiting car carrying the elk’s bloody rack of antlers.  I am horrified.  From the balcony, I yell, “That’s against the law!” It turns into a chant that the others pick up…in unison we all chant, “That’s against the law!”  
I imagine if this dream were to have gone on any longer I would have had the crowd making posters and picketing the place in protest. 
Years ago when I began dreamwork, this was the first dream I ever worked and I couldn’t wait to explore its meaning in session with my dream teacher, Rodger Kamenetz.  I was sure that he would compliment me, say what a great steward I was of the National Park System. Well, it didn’t quite go that way, didn’t quite go that way at all.
Here in my very first dream session, was the opportunity for so many feelings… pain, fear and sadness, yet instead I went to my mind, making a judgement about this boy, about what is right and wrong…all the while the elk lay wounded, bleeding and in pain.
The dream shows me skating around the frozen pools, not wanting to fall through the ice.  This is a perfect metaphor for the frozenness of my feelings; I skated around them,  I didn’t even want to know that I was afraid.  What would happen to me if the pools thawed and I was immersed in water? I would have had to feel…so the pools stayed frozen. 
One way I had learned to be in the world and not feel was to be in my mind, right and wrong, good and bad, an easy prescription to follow. It had protected me from feeling and being on the ‘right’ side of a cause can look very good in the world.  Even as I was faced with the wounded elk, a heartbreakingly traumatic scene, all I could do was raise the battle cry of righteous indignation about antlers, which is a reaction, an emotion, that looks and acts like true feeling but isn’t…it’s a reaction to a feeling I didn’t want to feel…the incredible pain of a huge wound.
The dreams knew that it was too soon to show me as the one with a painful gaping wound, so it created an image: an elk lying on the ground with a bloody wound. The dream is showing me a wound, a deep and painful wound.  Through the image of the elk I was not yet being asked to feel my own deep wound, just to begin to know it’s there…for now, could I just know it’s there…take a breath here in its presence…and I couldn’t…I reacted.

The dream showed the reaction to my pain…my fist raised in outrage at an injustice. This was a way I learned to survive in the world…and not feel my own pain…instead I reacted and went to my judging mind; it’s how I learned to bypass feeling the pain…again and again and again. And by doing so…I remained separate from my soul, because the soul is about feeling, connection, relationship, libido (our sexuality, passion and desire)…where the love is.

Here in my very first dream session, I was shown that I not only didn’t know how to feel, even deeper, I didn’t want to feel.  Why would that be?  Why would I, or any of us, be afraid to feel? What is it we fear will happen to us if we allow ourselves to feel difficult feelings? They’ll destroy us?  We’ll be re-traumatized? We’ll never stop crying?  We’ll be stuck in them forever?  
Our dreams challenge us and want to help us break through the frozen feeling pools, want to bring us back to and through these feelings…as we are ready. Why? Well, one reason…if I can’t feel the depth of my pain, my fear, my loss, then I also can’t feel the depth of my joy and my love. Feelings aren’t a la carte; I don’t get to choose which ones I’ll feel. Once I began the return to feeling I came to feel it all, the love and the pain, the joy and the sorrow, the desire and the fear. The soul feels it all.
The glowing gift of the dream, which I couldn’t yet see, was for me to see the wounded and bloodied elk…and to feel it as my own wounded self…the pain of this wound.  When asked what I felt about the elk, all I could say was that I felt badly, but nothing much deeper.  
I never thought the hardest question I would be asked in my life was, “What are you feeling?”  I had nothing.  I had learned to have thoughts, ideas, opinions and judgments…“That’s against the law!”… all of which could look and sound like true feelings…but weren’t…they were reactions to feelings. 
My true feelings…difficult feelings…were lying under pools of frozen ice.
Our dreams aren’t saying don’t defend the weak.  They aren’t saying don’t speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.  What they are saying is to feel into our own wound, our own pain, our own loss…and from that place…speak for what is true and needs healing in ourselves and the world…this is true potency.
As we listen and learn from what it is our dreams want for us something remarkable happens.  We find that we change both in our dreams and in our outer world.  We heal from the inside out. We begin to have dreams where we are less reactive with a need to control.  We become more willing to be vulnerable without the need to know and manage everything…we return to soul.

As we come into alignment with the soul, qualities we thought we’d lost for good…true joy, sensuality, creativity, our ability to feel the full range of feelings from deepest pain to deepest love…all begin to return to us as we recover our true self…our soul self.

Mary Jo Heyen is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients throughout the country and abroad in person, phone or Skype. Learn more about her work with dreams at or 

1 thought on “the bloody elk…”

  1. I very much relate to your experience, Mary Jo. I have been digging to find my troubled spots and deal with them in the past few years, and I am indeed finding my creativity that I thought was lost. A beautiful reward for uncovering what has been hidden! <3

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