Saturday, December 28, 2019

snowflakes and dreams...

snowflakes and dreams…

Just as no two snowflakes are two dreams are alike and no two dreamers are alike. This is incredible and mysterious, yet it is so.

Looking over dreams there may be similar scenes, similar characters, and similar actions but here is where, for each dreamer, the similarity ends. To be in a particular dream landscape, with a particular dream character, performing a particular action, is a very personal and precise experience. Each dream seems impeccably orchestrated for each dreamer, coming with its own unique approach to what wants to come into our consciousness…what wants to be in conversation and relationship with us.

Like the multi-faceted snowflake, each of these dream images brings its unique gift to the dreamer…and that is the feeling the dream image evokes.  This is the healing medicine in our dreams. We feel into these images…what they want of us and for us…how so very much they want to help us remember who we are. 

These feelings may come with the urgency of a snow blizzard, seemingly overwhelming and challenging...or they may come as the gentle falling of individual snowflakes we catch on our tongues, reminding us of the miracle of which we are a part. 

In our willingness to explore these feelings the dreamer returns to those places where something was lost, where something precious of ourselves was left behind...and we have the opportunity to recover these lost parts of self. This is the promise and potential in every dream…the return to soul.

What a lovely way this winter…what a lovely gift to yourself…to stand in awe of the mystery and marvel of snowflakes…to stand in awe of your dreams…these exquisite invitations into your own mystery and marvel.

Mary Jo Heyen
Natural Dreamwork Practitioner

Dream sessions in person, by phone or on Skype

Saturday, September 14, 2019

code lavender...

A valued part of being a hospice volunteer, their dream specialist, and a member of the hospice team means that there is on-going support and training for the work we do with our patients and families…this end of life experience which is incredibly tender and vulnerable for all.

A recent training was a bit different. The focus shifted from the ones we care for to the caregivers themselves. It was about compassion fatigue, an experience of those in the caring professions where being with human pain and suffering is a core part of one’s job. It is the “the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time.” It is a kind of secondary traumatization.  Our presenter was articulate and helpful. She shared that compassion fatigue is unavoidable and so awareness is needed to notice its onset early and what responses can be helpful and nourishing. 

A growing trend in hospitals and care facilities is the establishment of “Code Lavender.” It is where the team knows the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue and can quickly offer support and call a Code Lavender. They initiate the particular offer of help that might be needed in that immediate moment, a stepping away from the scene, an attentive listening, a space for quiet, physical movement. While one can identify their own fatigue rising and ask for help, Code Lavender is proactive. Caregivers are not on their own. The team senses when to step in and intercept the emerging rise of compassion fatigue.

My own spiritual path and dreamwork practice have taught me to be aware of how the inner reflects the outer and vice versa. During the hospice training I couldn’t help but feel how our dreams have their own Code Lavender.

Much of our dream material can be about the places we’re stuck, caught in conditioning and how we’ve learned to be in the world from that place. It is often a very lonely place, void of true relationship and hard to see on our own. Our dreams will bring events and situations to help us gain awareness of this and then we have a choice about continuing or changing. 

Then there are those moments where dream figures come to us. They may be warm and loving, they may be familiar outer world figures, they may be outrageous characters. They may say a simple, “How ya doin’?…”Whatcha doin’?…they may say nothing at all...and quietly come and be present in our dream. 

These beings know the signs and symptoms of our exhausted spirit. They know where we hurt and why we hurt. They come into our dreams to stop the spin, the momentum of mind that can grip up and to give us the space for something else to arise…the feeling under the spin…the remembering and recognition of who these inner helpers are…

They feel to me our dream's own Code Lavender.

(Art by Andrea Mazzocchetti)

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 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

an infinitesimal gap...

What arises on the zafu, the meditation cushion, also arises in our dreams and it can be difficult material. As both a meditator and dreamworker I often integrate the two. The two practices inform each other, my dreams deepening my sittings and my meditation supporting me to be with the material that comes in my dreams….to take one more breath in this place…

When I was training in Zen meditation one of my teachers shared something that had a profound affect on me. We speak of the thought stream, the endless narrative of the mind. This teaching was a bit different.  It says that in between the end of one thought and the beginning of another thought is an infinitesimal space. As we deepen in our sitting practice the gap slowly widens and down inside that gap is silence and presence where there is no movement of mind. Hard to explain, once it is experienced we know it. The gap widens and our capacity to simply be in the silence deepens. It is one of the treasures for me of meditation as it creates a spaciousness that we can carry into our day helping us to be with ourselves and others not from a place of reaction but rather awareness and choice.

This is the image I hold as I work with dreamers…I’m looking and listening for these infinitesimal gaps in the dream that I want to widen and explore with the dreamer.

There may be a space…an infinitesimal gap…the frequent inexplicable shift from one scene to another. This is always a place I would want to invite the dreamer to stay a bit long. What was that moment in the dream where something is moved over so quickly that the whole dream location changes? Most often it is a feeling that the dreamer doesn’t want to feel. 

There may be a space…an infinitesimal gap… between words that hides a feeling. Again, here is where I would slow down the dream and leave space for the gap to widen…for something to rise and reveal itself to the dreamer. It may be a memory. Most often it is a tender feeling of love or pain, joy or sorrow, fear or vulnerability. 

There may be a space…an infinitesimal gap…between a physical gesture…a turning away…a choosing to speak or not speak. We widen that gap by turning back, speaking or not speaking…and again space is made for the tender feeling to arise.

As with the spaciousness that meditation can bring into our day as we widen this gap to deeper capacity of silence and presence, so does the spaciousness of presence arise from the widening of our dream gaps…and in that space, too, we are aware that there is so much depth to who we are…that we do indeed have choice about how we want to be present in the world.

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 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

underneath jealousy...

A dark voice whispers, “they are excluding you…they don’t even see you…”
so I know to look up...just in time to see jealousy coming up my walk, 
dragon claws flexing, ready to sink into my heart, 
nostrils flaming red hot rot that will sear, separate and blind me…
will squeeze my heart closed and turn other into object.

This time...just in doesn’t slip in past me, catch me unaware.
I remember the promise in my dreams…”there’s a feeling underneath…”
Curious...even a little brave…I step out to meet this familiar old dragon, 
“It doesn’t have to be this way you know,” I say... heart pounding, hoping what I’m saying is true.

“There’s a feeling underneath you…I want to know what that is.”

Jealousy waits…
heat coming off the talons itching to tell its dragon tale.
I know one hesitation…one flicker of my story mind and it will be inside...
I breath into the narrow space left me and I, too, wait… 
another breath...another...surrendering to what is waiting there.

I close my eyes…slowly I let the feeling in…
feel what jealousy is hiding, what it promises to spare me from…
pain...of an ancient wound always avoided
pain...of longing for the love that the voice denies,
pain…of loss for a connection missed.

I stay...I breathe...I feel my hurts so much…so much so…
I have to sit down on the step…
as the grace of sadness rises and flushes and flows out my eyes.
Sadness for myself...for how many times I’ve made it about other…
how many times I believed the lies that tell me I’m separate… 

How difficult this is for all of us…to stay…to breath…
to feel difficult feelings all the way through…to what’s underneath.
Even jealousy has to sit its sorry dragon ass down…
and in the waiting gets teary eyed…takes a ragged dragon breath
...and becomes desire.

When we’re willing to take a deeper look inside at what may be keeping us from our wholeness, our connection to soul, it is difficult.  The dreams don’t care if they step on our toes and scuff our polish. They just want to be in a depth conversation with us. How do we look at these stuck ways we behave and not go to shame, not give up? Can we learn to feel the pinch to our ego and take a breath into it…stay a moment longer?

One way I found for myself happened unexpectedly, years before I formally began dream work. It often helps me to keep a sense of humor with those behaviors that are...shall I say icky? So one night I found myself caught in the viselike grip of a jealousy. I didn’t want to feel jealousy but couldn't’ find my way I sat in meditation… breathing...letting go of the story and the fight. It was really hard to stay with it but I did. 

Suddenly in my mind’s eye was an image...a pudgy little dragon...huffing and puffing as she walked over and plopped her sorry little dragon bottom down beside me. She had a fretted brow and I couldn’t help but laugh. Here was what my jealousy looked like when I wasn’t fighting it...under all the tight, resentful, maneuvering energy that goes into being jealous was this vulnerability.  

Through my work with dreams I’ve since come to the beautiful recognition that underneath our jealousy is our desire...a desire which can seem too vulnerable to feel, too tender and raw, so we cover it over and make it about others and get lost in story.  

I made a drawing of the dragon and kept it near my meditation cushion. A few years later I walked into a small art studio and there, sitting on a shelf, was my exact pudgy dragon, with the addition of little dragon toes painted pink.  I felt so received in that moment. She now sits in my midnight loft and reminds me that under all my stuck places is a little dragon. How can I not feel love and compassion for all the broken parts of myself in that moment?

I remember Ram Dass speaking about his own stuck places. He calls them his schmoos, “Oh, here comes this schmoo again.” And it’s true...I believe these parts of ourselves will always rise...they may have less energy but they will rise. And when they do, can we bring tenderness and kindness to ourselves in our stuck places? If so, then we also make space for other things, such as acceptance, humor and a lightened attitude about stepping into work with these often difficult parts of ourselves and others.

(Image: Mary Jo’s Dragon by Jan Igaki)

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 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

text to self...

Dream - I look at my phone. I have a text. At the top of the screen is the letter “I” in the middle of a band of my brown paisley shawl. The message says, “Are you going to want to do this the easy way?” For some reason I think it’s a group text.

As we worked this dream together, my dream teacher, Rodger Kamenetz, made me laugh immediately…”your shawl is texting you.”

What is it about this brown paisley shawl that is special enough to me that it comes as an imago in my dream, inviting me into a teaching and a feeling? 

It is luxurious and elegant. I found it in a re-sale shop, abandoned because it had a small tear. I unhesitatingly bought it and attentively and tenderly re-wove the tear, a mending that somehow makes it even more special to me…

For many years it sat on the back of my meditation chair, to be wrapped around me on chilly mornings as I sat in meditation or in the early morning dark with a cup of coffee moving from the world of my dreams gently into the world of my day, the two less and less dissimilar.

A couple of years ago, when I opened my dream center I brought the shawl into this new space and hung it on the back of a chair, hoping its elegance and tactile presence would be part of the welcoming atmosphere for the dreamers who come here to share dreams.

My personal dreamwork of late, my inner work is this call that is a struggle for me. It is calling me from my desired solitude into the increasingly shared space with others. My fear rises here strongly, a fear that I will lose myself.  Can I do this? 

The ‘I’ that desires solitude and the ‘I’ that is in the middle of a band of paisley, part of the group text. Can I be more and more with others as my work is asking of me and still be me? The dreams seem to think so and I trust them…thoroughly.

The message, “Are you going to do this the easy way?” was both teasing and poignant for me. I don’t live in the mountains by chance. It is a conscious decision to live in a way that is close to the earth and to silence. 

The easy way for me is to withdraw into my solitude, the cloistered place of meditation and retreat to the mountain, both the physical mountain I live on and the remote mountain of inner solitude. The hard way is to both remain true to my self, my soul and at the same time be with others, spending so much time in the dreams of others. 

Can I take my self as I took my shawl from the inner space to the outer space…to a place where I can be increasingly more with others? I don’t know, but I do know that is what I’m being invited into…

As Rodger observed, the ‘I’ that’s alone and wraps itself in meditation is now an ‘I’ in the middle of a band of paisley, in the middle of a group text. The ‘I’ is still there but in a different context. It’s there with and for others, where I am with others face to face…present…in the moment…the the space between words and the space between breaths…in the depth…and all that I part of this field of paisley.

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

Sunday, July 21, 2019

dreaming and meditating...

Are you a meditator? Are you a dreamer?  Have you thought of these as two mutually exclusive practices?  Sitting in silence on the meditation cushion versus feeling into the images that is the invitation of the dream.  

Those skills we develop on the zafu, learning to return to the breath...learning to be with whatever arises...learning to not veer off into story, into reaction...offer tremendous support as we learn to feel the myriad feelings that occur in our dreams.  Those images and feelings that come to us in our dreams can be taken to the zafu, supported by the container that has developed the capacity to stay with what arises...the capacity to welcome all that arises…to trust the healing wisdom of the feelings that want to be felt…that need to be felt...and to feel them all the way through.

Both practices, dreamwork and meditation, are invitations to return to our self, our true self...our soul.  Neither is an easy nor a quick fix.  That is why they are called practices not perfections. They are each slowly deepening genuine paths that offer us the opportunity to heal into wholeness.  When dreamwork and meditation are practiced together, they support each other...and develop an inner trust and confidence as we make our descent home. 

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

Saturday, July 6, 2019

the call home...

Our dreams want to help us remember who we truly are...not who we think we are.

They do that by showing us who we became through conditioning and ways we learned it wasn’t safe to be our true selves. For many this ‘conditioned self’ (versus true self) began forming at an early age in response to a world that is cut off from soul and especially the quality of soul that feels it all...the love, the pain, the joy, the sorrow, the belonging, the loss...the soul feels it all.

Our dreams show us how we have shut down our feelings, numbed ourselves, misunderstanding that this is what it means to be strong, that this is a true way to be. They show us how we have lost our connection to soul and to inner support.

Our dream’s deepest desire is to call us back home, to our soul, to our connection with the divine, the inner father and mother, to the inner support they provide.  As I’ve shared before, in dreamwork we see the soul manifested in our dreams as a boy or a girl. How we are in relationship to them in the dream reflects how we are in relationship to this deepest part of who we we love them, can we be them? Or are we angry at them, rejecting out of fear this vulnerable and tender self that is our truest self and thereby rejecting the call home?

There is an exquisite and poignant scene in the film, “Blood Diamond" that brings this alive. Dia, age 10, is kidnapped by the rebels, abused, violently trained to kill, to be ruthless...and something in him seems to die, becomes soulless. When his father, Solomon, finally finds him, he is met with Dia pointing a gun at his head, empty-eyed, ready to pull the trigger and kill his father.

Solomon speaks: “Dia, What are you doing? Dia! Look at me, look at me. What are you doing? You are Dia Vendy, of the proud Mende tribe. You are a good boy who loves soccer and school. Your mother loves you so much. She waits by the fire making plantains, and red palm oil stew with your sister N'Yanda and the new baby. The cows wait for you. And Babu, the wild dog who minds no one but you. I know they made you do bad things, but you are not a bad boy. I am your father who loves you. And you will come home with me and be my son again.”

It is as if Solomon's voice reaches down into the abyss, evoking the son he loves, evoking a return to soul...and we see the light rising in Dia’s eyes...a re-membering...the return to his soul, a return to the boy who is his father’s son.

Our teachers come to us in this way in our dreams...they call us back from the darkest of places, where we were shattered and something dark came in, pretended to be us and stood between our soul and our inner teacher, our inner connection.  Like Solomon, our dreams speak to the deepest part of us...calling us home to our capacity to feel it all...that even in the midst of bad things that happened, we remember who we are...soul boy and soul girl, children of the divine.

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