Natural Dreamwork with Mary Jo

a jungle gym…

Dream – Dusk, I see Jim on a playground climbing around on the jungle gym. 

This was a dream I had in 1978 shortly after the death of my brother-in-law. Dreams were an ongoing part of my life, faithfully recording them yet still having difficulty understanding them. I was looking for dream symbols and what they might mean rather than the approach that I wouldn’t learn for another thirty years. Being with dreams now, understanding them from a Natural Dreamwork perspective has changed everything in my relationship with my dreams. They are now my precious teachers, lovers, friends conversing with me each night in a visceral, soul-full way….

Joe’s older brother, Jim, died at age 33 from cancer. He was diagnosed in the early days of cancer research when testicular cancer was taking young men swiftly. Jim suffered on for three years as he agreed to all kinds of experimental research, hoping perhaps, but also knowing that while he probably wouldn’t survive it might help those to come. The survival rate now for testicular cancer is in the high 90% range. Jim is one of our heroes.

In these days of meanness and unkind words and unconscionable acts of divisiveness and violence, my thoughts turn to my late brother-in-law who taught me early on lovely lessons in caring for others, about clarity and kindness…and finally over thirty years later what my dream of him may be saying.

Jim taught both Joe and me a beautiful life lesson that I carry with me to this day.   We were all together one afternoon in our early twenties and Joe and I got into a disagreement…nothing big but we were each arguing our point.  After a few minutes Joe said to me, “That’s just stupid.”  Jim, a quiet low key kind of guy, who had been sitting there quietly listening, immediately said, “Well, Mary Jo, you just won the argument.” “Huh?” was both mine and Joe’s quizzical reply.  Jim said, “When you have to call names it means you’ve run out of valid points to argue.” Of course I don’t even remember what the argument was about but I did leave that moment with a teaching on how all of us can speak and be with each other when in conflict.  Instead of leaving or turning away from each other, can we turn towards each other. This isn’t easy to do but we can do it. Just because disagreement enters the room doesn’t mean that love and respect have to leave. 

Back to this dream of Jim…  

Part of my work as a dreamwork practitioner is as a hospice volunteer working with the dreams of those near the end of life, as well as their families who too, are more aware of their dreams during this time.  These dreams, as they are for all of us, are full of support that can help us face our challenges and fears. They come with an intention to heal us…into life…and when it’s time…into death.  

Back when I had this dream I took the jungle gym to be a play on words ‘gym=Jim.’ Clever, makes sense, but it was flat…no heart…no soul.  I have come to know and trust another way to look at this brief dream and that is from the way I work with my own dreams and those of my dream clients.  What is the feeling that the image evokes? As I step back into this dream, still fresh decades later, I look at dream Jim. I don’t see the cancer ravaged pain-filled body that finally brought about his death.  I see a healthy happy boy…climbing with agility and joy…an image of the eternal…an image of soul…and my heart bursts with love for both Jim…and for that boy in each of us.

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

1 thought on “a jungle gym…”

  1. I love the feeling of this dream—so authentically connected and immediate. What a gift! I’m grateful for your sharing of the dream, and for your insights, Mary Jo. At the end of the post, you ask about our experiences with dreams of loved ones who have died. My mom and dad have both died within the last two years, and I wrote about grief dreams in my blog… If it’s okay, I’ll share a link to those posts (read from the bottom): Your jungle gym dream is so simple and eloquent. Thank you!

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