Sunday, February 10, 2019

the long good-bye...

I was speaking with a woman whose husband had died suddenly. She was wondering aloud what’s better...a long drawn out illness where you know the person is dying or a sudden death then ends life quickly.

She said, tearing up, “I never got to say good-bye and tell him I loved him.”

There’s a kind of regret that sits alongside grief...the regret of ‘I wish I had told them.’ It’s a regret that wants a ‘do over’...that tells us we should have, could have done things differently.

It’s a regret that waits for a dream of the deceased to offer some assurance that our loved one is okay...and okay with us. This is all so very tender and sad...and confusing to the already deep well of grief with the death of a loved one.

What if we made our life with someone we love into one long good-bye? What if we didn’t wait until a catastrophic illness, an accident to strike to let our love be known? What a risk we run if the death is not have made our love manifest.

After my conversation with her, I was thinking about how we can choose to live in such a way that we’re always saying good-bye. By that I mean, we voice our love, our recognition, our appreciation of our lives together. So much so, that even if our last words were angry words, we’d be okay, because we know we love each other and that angry words are just a part of being in relationship; they don’t undo anything.
Do the people we love truly know we love them, value their presence in our lives, know that life without them may go on but never be the same?  It’s not something reserved for special occasions. It a daily connection in a smile, a laugh, a thank you, an I love you...all the ways we say the long good-bye...with no regrets.

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

Saturday, February 2, 2019

the sting of the anemone...

From a dreamer…
Dream - I’m with a group of unfamiliar people spelunking in caves and I’m excited. It’s dark, mysterious and eerie.  Someone is holding a lantern and we are exploring. The caves are spacious and go on forever, deeper and deeper.  We have a guide, 60’s, long white beard, wearing an overcoat and a brimmed hat.  He seems like a sage and I trust him.  He’s an old hand at this; he knows the caves.  He shows me a pool, 2 feet in diameter, shallow, clear trickling water.  There are beautiful, brightly colored anemones with waving tentacles clinging to the pool wall and little fish, beautiful tiger fish, vibrant colored spines, almost like they’re lighting up the pool.  I feel in awe of the beauty.  The guide says, “Put your hand in the pool.”  I’m scared to do it but I do because he told me and I trust him.  My whole arm is in the water and I feel electric stings all over my arm and even my legs which aren’t in the water.  I feel shock, pain, am afraid, “Oh fuck, I shouldn’t have done this.”  I pull my arm out in pain.

Dream Practice: Be in the moment of hearing the sage say, “Put your hand in the pool.” Feel your trust and do it. When you feel the pain of the electric stings…stop…don’t pull your arm out…turn to the sage who supports you here and take a breath into the pain…and then another.

It makes sense to pull one’s hand out of the pool full of stinging anemones, to not want to feel the sting of pain. The sage in the dream, this inner teacher, tells the dreamer to do the very thing that he must know will cause the dreamer pain.  Why would he do that?  Why would I give a dream practice that asks the dreamer to not only return to the place of pain but to stay there…take a breath into it?

Because this dreamer, like many of us, is already in pain, and had learned to be numb to it, to shut it down. He, like many of us, has been pulling his hand out of the pain pool for most of his life. When the original pain began in his childhood the dreamer believed he was alone, that there was no understanding and support…and there truly was no one he could turn to…and he adapted to his environment which meant closing off from his feeling self…his soul. Often times it is not the traumatic event that traumatizes us. What traumatizes us is that in that terrible moment…those terrible moments…we felt abandoned…we believed we were alone…

Our dreams, in their wisdom, take us back to these feeling places, to help us recover these parts of ourselves to which we lost connection. It can take some time and at first we may need to just feel our fear…our fear of pain, our fear of being afraid. This dreamer was in a place where he was beginning to trust his inner teachers and so followed his guidance…and then reacted as he had been to conditioned…to pull back from the difficult feeling. 

Pain is part of the feeling palette of soul. The soul feels everything and if we’ve learned to shut down to difficult feelings such as pain, loss, grief and fear, then we are also shut off from parts of our soul…and we are no longer whole. We will feel pain, we will feel fear…and as we learn to trust these feelings…let them move through us in their own wisdom…allow them to teach us what it is they want for us to know…we also feel more deeply true love, true joy…our connectedness and our wholeness.

This dream invites the dreamer into his pain…no longer alone. He is invited to feel his pain with the presence and support of his inner teacher. This is the healing medicine in this dream…to take a breath into his pain, to turn and feel the support for him, his capacity to be with all of who he is and this helps heal him, helps return him to wholeness.

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 or 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

delicious dreaming...

Most of us have been woken from a dream or woken ourselves up with a heart pounding fear. 

In its desire to help us to remember our true self, the dream world shows us places we’re stuck and separate and it can seem a scary and frightening place. It is that…and it is so much more.

Have you even woken from a dream with a feeling of deliciousness, come into waking consciousness awash with love? That, too, is what the dream world wants us to remember.

In those moments we are bringing back with us into our daytime life the feeling of what it is like to be in our soul…the moment of simply loving and being loved…something we have forgotten…but never lost. 

Next time you wake up awash in this love…and I so hope you do…lay there for a few breaths…absorb it…wiggle around in it…remember it…be it.

To quote one of my hospice patients as we opened up a dream and this deliciousness was felt… “you are strumming the strings of my heart.” 

(Image: Strumming My Heart by Simon Bull)

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

Friday, December 14, 2018

all our dreams...

When people learn that in addition to working with my regular dream clients I am also a hospice volunteer working with the dreams and visions of the dying, the question I am most often asked is, “Are the dreams of the dying different from other people’s dreams?”  There will always be so much to learn but for now I would have to say…not so much. 

At the moments nearing and surrounding our crossing the threshold, there can certainly be the additional element of visions, seeing deceased loved ones, spiritual figures, presences that can help in this moment of dying. These visions…visitations…seem to be a distinct experience from the dreams themselves.

In a culture where most of us don’t pay attention to our dreams we may tend to think that end of life dreams have a particular poignancy and urgency. And in the late stage dreams…the final days and hours leading up to the death the dreams do come closer in with support and comfort.

But for someone who works with dreams on a daily basis, my experience has been that end of life dreams seem to be no less urgent than those dreams I see with my regular dream clients…your dreams tonight. Our dreams come relentlessly and faithfully trying to help us find our way back to wholeness, inner connection, support and love…to our truest self. 

And if what I’m experiencing as a dreamwork practitioner is true, there is something incredible and magnificent about this.  

To know that no moment of our life is more or less important than another. We try to make a distinction about what is important and what isn’t.  But what if each moment, in health or in illness, in peace or in turmoil, in celebration and in sorrow, our dreams come to bring healing and wholeness? 

If we only seek out support and growth in times of difficulty then we are missing the lifetime of daily support that comes to us each night in our dreams…has always come to us. 

To begin to understand that the transition into death of the body is one part of this long human journey and that equally important each night, through our dreams, we are invited to be students of our inner teachers, to feel the love of the divine, to be in true relationship with others and with our soul. 

What if there are not just two threshold moments in our life…birth and death? What if, in each moment, in each choice we are at a threshold moment…the choice to step closer to soul?

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, December 9, 2018

liquid grace...

I write here so often about the importance of letting ourselves feel our feelings as they rise, that feelings are the conversation we have with soul and the divine…but it’s not easy. Most of us have spent so much time learning to not feel. If we’re working with our dreams we will be brought again and again to a moment where there is a feeling or an unfelt feeling and the dream wants to teach us about this place, how to recover this quality of our soul. If we’re not doing dreamwork we can still learn to drop into a feeling to find the healing there. 

A feeling to learn to stay with might be, for example, sadness. When it starts to rise…to discover that it’s trustworthy…how sadness is a grace…a liquid grace that can move through us and heal us. And if tears rise, all the better, salty water that is necessary to conduct electricity…the electrifying connection of our soul to the divine. As we learn to trust our sadness we let it move through us as it will…all the way through. We don’t try to name it, figure out why we’re sad…we let it have its way with us. 

Since I was a girl I’ve known this place of sadness rising…an ineffable longing…or a deep loss. I discovered I could be with it, honor it, deepen it…by playing a piece of sad music…music that was even sadder than I may be at that moment. The music became the catalyst for the sadness to move. It might take ten minutes…it might take a whole evening…but something in me knows to honor the sadness.  I can’t say I was able to do that for all feelings; it took working with my dreams for me to even know there were feelings underneath that needed and wanted to be felt…but there was something about sadness I always trusted…it is incredibly personal and intimate.

Over the years there have been a number of musical pieces that supported this movement of sadness through my body and, for me, I have found that Barber’s Adagio for Strings will open me fully to the sadness…dropping into the exact place where the bow meets the violin strings…the notes, like tears, flood my body.

This has now evolved into a meditation and a teaching for me.  Listening to Barber’s Adagio for Strings, I am Dante being guided by Virgil through my own inferno…being shown the places I’m disconnected or stuck, places I’ve been deeply hurt, places I’ve deeply hurt others. I never know what I’ll be shown in those moments…but there is neither shame nor blame nor story…there is just the healing liquid grace of sadness.

Next time you feel sadness rising, if you can, don’t push it down or walk away from it. Consider immersing yourself in the feeling waters of a piece of music that evokes even more sadness and let the music, the tears, move through you…they know what to do.

(Image: River of Tears by Echo Brosnan)

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, December 2, 2018

our words matter...

Our thoughts and our words matter. With our words we can either uplift or diminish ourselves or another… our words can heal or hurt. Many of us carry with us into adulthood the wounds of word…scars that cut into our very soul….beliefs about ourselves that are not true. 

Do you remember the incredible work of the late Dr. Masaru Emoto? 

He “discovered that crystals formed in frozen water reveal changes when specific, concentrated thoughts are directed toward them…and that water exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns. In contrast, water exposed to negative thoughts, form incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors.”

What is in our thoughts or on our lips for a moment can become a heavy burden another carries for a lifetime. To feel into these striking images of how the vibration of our thoughts and words affect water crystals….and to imagine what we would see if we saw the results of what our thoughts and words do to ourselves and  each other.

Our dreams show us this…how we were formed from the words that poured onto us and into us. These then became beliefs about ourselves and others. Are the characters in our dreams, including ourselves, whole and healthy, vibrant and alive…or are they damaged, fearful and aggressive. How we were spoken to is often how we learned to speak to and think about ourselves and others…and how we think of and speak to the most tender part of ourself…our child soul. Our dreams bring us these encounters, not to judge or shame us, but to help us understand the deep and lasting affect of the words spoken to us and by us and to help us learn….no, remember…the truer en-souled way of speaking.


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

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

peeling a carrot...

In 2003, I experienced the third recurrence of breast cancer and was now stage 4. By that point we were running through chemo drugs and radiation limits and this would be the fifth chemo to be tried.  Each one had its own unpleasant side affect, the most common being hair loss. This next one was no different and along with the hair loss was the loss of taste. As a foodie, as a scratch cook, this was harder for me to deal with than the hair loss. For a full year I could not taste anything. 

As difficult and challenging as it is to experience cancer, that’s not what this writing is about…after all I’m still here…taste buds and all. I want to share one of the many teachings I received during this time.

One day I had come home from school and went into the kitchen to prepare dinner…a dinner I would’t be able to taste. As I stood at the counter peeling a carrot, something I had done thousands of times…I stopped.  Tears rose.  For me it wasn’t just about the dish, how it would look, how it would taste…it was the sound of the carrot peeler, the cool texture of the carrot in my hand, the garden smell, the color change from dark skin to bright orange. There was something more than final dish…something more personal and connected.

It was the process.

From age 16 on I loved working with food, yes, how it tasted but also how it felt in my hands, how different foods came together to create something new and wonderful…how I slowly learned to go from recipes to experimenting, to learning what complemented each other, enhanced each other, ways to be in relationship with and honor food.

Perhaps it was said best by my nephew when he was four years old.  He was up to his elbows in his salad and my sister said, “What are you doing?” He replied, “If you’re afraid to touch your food you’ll never be a good cook.”  She said, “You learned that from Aunt Mary Jo didn’t you?” Yes…

I’m not afraid to touch my food. I love how smells fill the kitchen, how working with fresh ingredients deepens my connection to the earth, how I can express my respect for animals and plants. Standing in the kitchen in that moment, carrot in hand, I knew an underlying truth…I love my time spent with the gifts of the earth. There may be other planets, other galaxies where life is incredible…but oh how earth pulled out all the stops on nourishing us with her diversity and bounty.

If we only have our eyes on the goal, the final result…then we miss what may be the most important experience…the intimacy of relationship when we are writing, drawing, painting, carpentry, gardening, sewing, cooking…stepping into a dream…the moment that we are connected to the whole, a participant in the miracle of our human life.

(Image: Peeling a Carrot by takitakos)

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