Natural Dreamwork with Mary Jo

what keeps us handicapped…

Dream – I am with a woman and a girl, age 15, who is sitting in a wheelchair. Nearby I see a black centipede and I don’t like it. Then I notice it’s moving closer to me. Then it’s turned white, like a worm but maybe has wings. I’m not scared. In the dream I think it has metamorphosed. 
In working with this dream, the dreamer and I first explored the girl in the wheelchair. Our work together had shown us the tender and painful ways her girl soul was hurt, how parts of her had been handicapped. She came to believe she was on her own in the world and learned not only to shut down her feelings but to turn them into something aesthetically pleasing and safe, here the creeping centipede turned into a butterfly. 
She readily acknowledged what she had done to feel safe and knew that centipedes don’t metamorphose into butterflies. So we did what we do in Natural Dreamwork…we went to the moment of the centipede moving towards her. We slowed it down…she felt my support there with her…and she let the centipede move closer. Gone was the winged butterfly replaced with what she hadn’t wanted to feel…a visceral overwhelming fear. She wanted to run away screaming but didn’t…she was brave in this moment…for herself and her soul…and she stayed with it a few breaths…felt her fear through her body, her mind and her heart.  For a moment, the first of more to come, she let herself feel her fear…and she was okay. It was a first step out of the wheelchair.
Our dreams can ask us to take strong medicine, that is, they ask us to feel feelings we don’t want to feel…have learned to no longer feel. Working with our dreams, slowly building trust that they bring healing, desiring nothing less than our wholeness, feeling returns to our bodies and our hearts and we are once again en-souled. 
But it is not an easy journey. We have all been wounded and those wounds changed who we are and how we are with ourselves, each other and the world. Like the girl in the dream, we were handicapped. 
I want to make a critical distinction here…and this is where the dreams are our teachers. We were all somehow handicapped but it wasn’t our fault…this happened to us. In a place of great vulnerability we were wounded and most of us emerged resolute that we won’t be hurt that way again and so we shut ourselves off from one of our most precious soul qualities…the capacity to feel it all.
How we got handicapped, how we got put in that wheelchair is what happened to us. We can’t change it…it happened.  And for most of us even before we work with our dreams we know this part of our story…we know what happened.
What our dreams want to help heal, want to help us understand is what keeps us in that handicapped place. And what keeps us in that wheelchair is not feeling our feelings. Dream by dream we are invited back into our feeling capacity…to take a breath into each one…to feel them all…and we heal…and we return to who it is we truly are…our soul selves.
It touches me to know that in Zen there is a teaching that aligns with the Natural Dreamwork approach. There is a well-known Zen story of a man shot with a poison arrow. As the poison seeps into his body, before he will let the arrow be removed he first wants to know…who shot him and why…who made the arrow…of what wood is the arrow made…what town does it come from and so on. Of course, before he can get the answer to all his questions, the poison will kill him. Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it? This is what we do when rather feeling the pain of our wounds, we want to stay in the story about our wounds. Talking about the wound is what keeps the arrow embedded in us. Yes, we acknowledge the story, the history of what happened…and then turn to our dreams for help as they show us the unskillful pain-filled behavior that emerged from it…and then if we choose we take the healing medicine…and feel the difficult feeling…fear, pain, grief, loss, sorrow…and in doing so we remove the arrow…we step out of the wheelchair.
Sketch by feylix
Mary Jo Heyen is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients in person, phone or video conference. Learn more about her work with dreams at 


2 thoughts on “what keeps us handicapped…”

    1. Thank you so much, Sandy. Because there was a time when we didn’t have a choice it can be hard to remember that now we can make choices that turn towards healing and soul.

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