Natural Dreamwork with Mary Jo

fear…pain and love…

Dream – Dark, out in the country, in a huge old gold-colored sedan. My grandma is behind the wheel and parking the car along the tree line but it’s so dark I’m afraid she’ll hit a tree. I say, “Why don’t you turn on the lights?” She does and I see the front bumper is right up against a tree.
Dream Moment: Sit in dark in the car with my grandma, feeling my fear, and don’t say anything.
In my dream I am with my precious grandmother who kept alive in me what it is to know love from the feminine.  But I don’t trust her to drive in the dark, to not hit a tree and in my fear I ask her to turn on the lights. She does and we are fine. What was in that moment of not trusting her that allowed fear to rise? I was afraid she’d hit a tree and we’d be hurt…and there would be pain. Fear laid it all out for me and I lost my trust.
During my Zen training I used to wear a small necklace with the Sanskrit inscription अभय which means Abhaya or fearlessness.  There was so much teaching about not feeling fear (and of course, I probably misunderstood the deeper meaning of this.) When I began working with my dreams there was dream upon dream where there was a moment or situation where fear was an appropriate response and I didn’t feel fear…I didn’t feel anything. Slowly, finally, as my capacity to feel all my feelings returned so did my capacity to feel fear. And so I tucked my little necklace into a drawer where it lay waiting for me to gain an even deeper understanding about fear…and abhaya…fearlessness.
Driving to the health club a recent quiet morning, no traffic, crisp mountain views…enjoying the stillness in my mind…I felt into my dream practice…feel my fear and don’t say anything…and the unconscious bubbled up, as it is want to do when I’m in the quiet…and something new opened for me.
Elizabeth Kübler Ross and many others have often claimed that there are only two emotions…love and fear.  I’m not sure this is so. In my years of working with dreams, my own and others, I am experiencing that if there are only two emotions, they may be love and pain.
In Natural Dreamwork a question we often ask of the dreamer is, “How far away is…?” We’ve learned that the space between us and another holds a feeling, often an unfelt feeling and that to take a step closer often means a feeling will rise, which is the medicine the dream wants us to ingest.
Throughout our life most of us have experienced ways that love seems to have moved away from us or we have moved away from love. When we are even a half step away from love, pain starts to emerge…and in that space created fear slips in to protect us from the pain of…loss…physical hurt…rejection…grief…all the ways we lose connection to relationship…to love.
Fear may be the gatekeeper…the one with a story about why we should avoid pain.
Fear may be the reaction…that protects and ultimately keeps us of from pain.
Fear has our body on its side…our heart pounds…our breathing accelerates…we tense up…we think…it must be telling us the truth. While fear may be necessary to survive physically it may have been appropriated by our minds and so we apply the same response when pain threatens our hearts…fight, flight or freeze. 
But our hearts are made of tougher stuff than our human bodies. They are made of eternal stuff…love…and what can be broken can be mended…it can take a long time but it can be mended.
If grandma hits a tree I will feel pain…
But pain is not what arises in the dream…it is fear of pain.

We’ve learned we can avoid that.  We off load the pain to our mind which offers up story and its attendant reactions. When the love is threatened…torn at…shattered…and the pain can seem too much it begins to be covered over with different qualities. What emerges are reactive emotions…anger…jealousy…all ways of distancing ourselves from feeling the pain.
When we allow everything to move through the heart…no longer holding it at bay through fear…we will feel pain.  
What we allow to move through our heart hurts. 
When our heart becomes the clearing house of life we feel love as well as pain..the feeling of love at a distance.  
It’s not that in trusting my dream grandma there won’t be pain. She may or may not crash us into a tree…and if she does there will be pain. The trust, and the laying down of fear, is that even in the pain there is something I can trust…that she is there with me…she knows about all this.  Pain is part of love.  
Pain is part of the geography of love…the distance from the love…the frayed connection…the separation in relationship. In that avoidance of pain we experience fear, anger, judgement, arrogance, pride, shame and blame, the whole catastrophe that lies between us and our pain. 
At certain moments in our life, with certain relationships, human and numinous, there will always be a “this is going to hurt” moment.  And if we can learn to trust that moment…that we are not alone in that place…dream grandma is there with me…even leading me to and through the pain…I will feel grief, sadness, loss, desire, yearning and aching, the whole catastrophe of what it means to feel the pain…and the love.

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