Sunday, May 17, 2020


As a practitioner of Natural Dreamwork, offering presentations, workshops and dream circles are great joys for me. I have this incredible privilege to share with groups of people what I love…what I hope some of them may come to love…the beautiful invitations and healing found in our dreams. I have fun planning group activities and hopefully create a meaningful experience for participants. I am at ease with groups, can make them laugh, can laugh at myself. It is a sweet and natural way for me to bring dreamwork into the world.  Group work has an important role. It lets us learn about new ideas and inspirations before we decide to step in more deeply. Group work can build new relationships, friendships, even communities with people who share our same interests. 
Yet underlying it all is something quite different…quite vulnerable and heart pounding…my one-on-one dreamwork…the heart and soul of my own work and my work with others. Being with another in their dream, exploring it together is so very different from speaking to a group or facilitating a workshop. 

I step into another reality…the intimate reality of the dream…some of with which I am familiar…so much of which is still unknown….the mysterious world of another’s soul experience. In the session we are in the dream field, the threshold between the inner and outer world, the threshold between conditioned ego and soul.

I step into another’s reality…their unknown…and the beginning few moments as I step into session I am aflutter with butterflies. Are they the butterflies of anticipation? the fear of not knowing what will unfold? Is this the process of acclimating myself to another’s personal energy field? 

Each dream session, after a short outer world check in and before the dreamer and I explore their last dream medicine, we do a brief opening meditation, a slowing down. Taking a couple breaths, pausing between each seems to acclimate me to the dreamer’s space…now butterflies settle…sometimes my eyes get wet as I enter their tender dream alongside them…

I don’t interpret dreams. I don’t tell the dreamer what their dream means. My presence in another’s dream is to help them explore through open ended questions which can help them discover what their dream might be wanting them to know, moments they will know for themselves the dream’s unique intention for them. I bring my curiosity and my vulnerability…and my willingness to not know…the stuff of butterflies…

(Image: Butterfly Girl by Christian Schole)

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

Thursday, April 23, 2020

no room for me...

So many times we wake up believing we have a good understanding of what our dreams are saying to us, who the characters in our dreams are and why they are acting the way they are. And that may be true. 

Often times, however, as we open up even a seemingly simple dream we see there is something underneath, something very special just for us…how thoroughly our dreams know all about us and what it is we need to be nourished in our heart and our soul. And our dreams and many dream characters want to help us remember these parts of ourselves and encourage us to be in relationship with our true self.

Following is a short dream shared during a dream workshop along with some questions I asked to help the dreamer discover what was just under the surface story of the dream…

Dream  - I go into a committee meeting and all the chairs are taken.  I say to the tall handsome man in charge, “There are no chairs left for me. I guess I’ll just leave.”  He doesn’t move any chairs to make room for me. He doesn’t even try to stop me. He smiles at me, like he’s glad I’m leaving! I’m miffed and irritated.

As the dreamer (DM) was reading her dream to me she was really back in the moment, getting into a snit actually that everyone so ignored her and wouldn’t make room for her in the committee meeting. I asked if it would be okay to ask her a few questions about her dream, to look at it from the way it is I have learned to look at dreams and she readily agreed. Following is a summary - 

MJ: What’s it like to be entering a committee meeting?
DM: Very familiar. I’ve been on lots for many years.

MJ: Do you enjoy being on committees?    
DM: I used to enjoy it but I think I should do my part and be
       a responsible community member.

MJ: Okay…that’s what your thoughts about it, that you should be 
       a good community member… but what are your feelings…
       take a few moments.

DM: (After some silence) I’m getting tired of it. I’ve been on so many
         committees for so many years. It’s not fun anymore.

MJ: Is there something else you haven’t done or would rather do?   
DM: Yes! (energetically) I’m passionate about art and doing more of that.
        This is where I feel creative. 

(We explored what some of her artistic expressions were…and she described them very clearly and enthusiastically.)

MJ: Can you look at the man in charge again. What if he knows this about you
        and that’s why he’s not making room for you at yet another committee 
meeting, why there are no chairs for you.  Look at his smile. Can you 
consider that  he is glad for you, that you’re leaving…that that is exactly 
what he wants for you but not for the reason you thought. It’s not that 
there’s no room for you but rather he knows that you’re leaving will make 
         space to do something that nourishes you?
DM: Yes…he’s happy I’m going to do something else!

MJ: Take a few moments here to really feel this…how he is supporting this part 
                of you that wants and needs expression in the world.
DM: “I’m excited; I get to go do what I really want!

We sat for a few moments of quiet absorption as a look of ease and even awe came over the dreamer’s face. She smiled, took a breath and said, “I could have looked at this dream for 1,000 years and never seen it like this.”

How quickly one could assume that people were being rude to the dreamer, not including her, that even the man in charge wasn’t making space for her. That is the surface of the dream, the part which many of us never look beyond. Yet, as we looked more closely the whole story of what was happening and why the man in charge was behaving in such a way got turned 180 degrees. He wasn’t there against her…he was there for truest part of her…for the needs of her soul.

In such a seemingly mundane (they never are!) dream is a whole world we can trust if we are willing to lay down our outer world rules, conditionings and stories. This dream became a sweet truth about the dreamer’s desires that had been put aside in order to do what she thought she should do. She had left no room for her own needs…her soul’s needs. 

Again, our dreams aren’t saying don’t join committees; they aren’t saying don’t be responsible participating members of society. They are saying, very pointedly, are you included in that mix? Are the desires of your heart and soul being listened to and honored? Are you expressing in the world that which only you can express? The world needs and misses this uniqueness that is us when we discover and express our own creative self.

(Image by Carol Dance)

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, April 17, 2020

to love as god loves...

There is a spiritual advice that encourages us to “Love God through other people.”  My inner sense wants to feel this differently, perhaps to “Love other people through God” to approach ourselves and others…to be with ourselves and others…in relationship…as God would be with us.

During an interview on the Inner Life of a Mystic with author Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, he said, “…a mystic wants to know what God knows.” 

I’m not a mystic and so perhaps that is true and I took some time to feel into this.

I don’t know…to carry all that God has to carry. That may not be what is necessary to bring us in closer, to be in relationship with the divine. I don’t feel the need or desire to know what God knows…but it might be healing for ourselves and the world to know as God knows…to know as God knows. 

Can we learn to experience our small piece of the universe…as God experiences it? 

Can we learn to be with ourselves and others as God is with us? To…
see as God sees us…behind our protective personas?
listen as God listens…for what is in the space between words?
speak as God speaks…the still small true voice from the depth of soul?
touch as God touches…with the wordless gesture of warmth and understanding?
love as God loves…with a raw, vulnerable heart that feels everything?
know as God knows…the fragile, frightened, fantastic miracle of being?

(Image: Joanna Sierko)

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

Thursday, April 9, 2020

a time to howl...

There is a howling going on around the world…this wordless expression of something deep inside that pours from our very depths. This inspires to me share here today (with permission) about a poet and a dreamer….

Some here in Estes Park had the privilege of knowing Margaret Guthrie, poet, activist who died last year at age 90.  I first met Margaret through our local grief group which I help facilitate as a hospice volunteer.  She was there with others expressing her grief over the death of George, her husband for over 70 years.

Margaret immediately became a dream client and over the next four years we would meet and explore her dreams, dreams that challenged her and also that brought great support and comfort. The last dream Margaret shared with me was shortly before her death.

Dream - George and I are dancing…a very slow dance. My head is tucked under his chin, my arms around his neck, his arms around my waist. We are so close, so in love. 

Margaret shared that though she and George met at a square dance they never danced much. This dream brought her to tears as it gave the visceral and heart felt sense of being held and being loved. Our dreams will reflect our outer world but they more stunningly so reflect our inner world…and here were George and Margaret…forever young…forever in the love they felt for each other.

Margaret also often shared her poems with us…poems inspired by her grief over George. Her poems touched right into and gave voice to what everyone in the group was feeling. Like Margaret’s dreams…like Margaret herself…this poem is visceral and heart felt.

A Time to Howl
by Margaret Guthrie

I did not know I could howl
I did no know the meaning of howl
until it came, and now comes, 
out of nothing nothing but grief
for the absence of that presence
the hole in that space
the absolute nothingness

how would Sartre explain it
how would Ginsberg describe it

I howl, and all I know is that,
it is an expression of pain
of unmitigated incompleteness

“For everything there is a season
and a time for every matter under heaven:…”

this is the time to howl
and I know now the keening women shown on tv
are genuine, real holding from the essence of their being
not just heart or mind or stomach or guts
no, it is the howling from that deep source

that unites us with the All That Is

it is a howl that calls to the universe
to the maker of the cosmos
to the ultimate God
that made what is called heaven and earth

that made it possible to love
and to lose that which one loves

it is a howl that goes out and comes back
circles around, whirls, like we did as children
or as the Sufi do, or perhaps 
until that consciousness of loss
becomes the loss of consciousness

and there is nothing left but to accept there is -
a time to howl.

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, March 28, 2020

a magic wand...

In the three decades I taught middle school and high school I too often found myself sitting on the steps in a stairwell with a teen who was struggling with something. It could be the angst that takes up residence in us during our teens. It could be a difficult and challenging friendships, an at risk home life. It could be any of the myriad reasons that leave us feeling alone and unseen…alone and not understood…alone.

Once in a while there was something particular that I could help them with, some specific advice, some different perspective, some vital support or resource whose reach was beyond what I could offer.

Most times, however, these young people needed what we all need. They needed someone to listen to them, to truly hear them, to give them space to speak and not rush in to fix the problem or fix them.  They needed honest reflection. We all need to be heard…truly heard. So most times I would not offer advice and simply listen…be present and witness to their raw and tender hearts speaking what needed to be spoken.

And then as words were spent and fears and pain were spoken into the quiet space I would say something that startled them (startled me the first time I said it.) I would say with a wave of my arm, “You know, if I had the power to wave a magic wand and take all this away from you…I wouldn’t.” 

These unexpected words were always met with the wide eyes of bewilderment.

After a pause I would add, “No, I wouldn’t do it. For all I know this is the very experience in your life that you were born for. These are the moments that help us decide who we are and how we want to be in the world. Right now in the middle of it, it can seem that there is no way out. I get that, but this will be over some day; it will be over. When you get to the other side of this and look back you will know that this is what made you who you are, where you found your strength, what matters to you, where you discovered who you truly are. And while it can seem you are on your own, you aren’t.  Find the ones who can be with you through this. It is yours to experience but you don’t have to go through this alone.” 

Hearing these words I could see their bodies change, sitting up a bit, an exhalation, the slight nod of something inside of them awakening…a remembering and acknowledgment of who they are at core.

I shared that there were those who sat on steps with me, up in tree branches, in vegetable stands and other places. There weren’t a whole lot but we don’t need a whole lot. Often all we need is one or two people who see us, recognize us and who remind us of who are and that we are not alone and that can make the very difference of how and who we emerge on the other side. And then quite naturally we become that person for someone else.

I am grateful that back then not much older than my students myself…one who had come out the other side wounded yet intact...that I was able to be with young people in this way, this ground zero of what relationship is. Over these past years of working with dreams and dreamers this has been validated time and again. 

Our dreams come not as symbols but cries of what our soul needs. Soul needs to see and be seen. Soul needs to listen and be listened to. Soul needs to speak and be spoken to. 

Soul needs to love and be loved…

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, March 7, 2020

knut...the throwaway polar bear

(Following is a journal entry from 2008 about conditional love from before I began working with dreams as I do now. Today I would bring in some of the tender and healing language of the dream though I know fellow dreamers will recognize here in Knut's story where our own misunderstandings, woundings and grief lie...and where lies as well the compassion and kindness we can cultivate for ourselves and others.)

I just heard a news story about Knut, the polar bear, who was abandoned by his mother as a cub.  And what a cub! - pure white ball of innocence and beauty.  

His well-intentioned zoo and personal handler took great care of him.  He attended to his every need, he hand raised him, hand fed him and even slept with him.  Knut didn’t know what life meant without his devoted handler.  He was beloved of hundreds of thousands of visitors to the zoo. There were Knut stuffed bears, Knut candy, Knut t-shirts; the list goes on and on.  Knut mattered.

Then, the unthinkable happened.  Knut grew up.  The once white coat turned to a mottled brown and grey.  Knut became an awkward teenager, gawky and unattractive.  Interest in him waned.  I mean who wants to visit a homely bear.  His handler could no longer risk being injured by the now maturing Knut, so he kept his distance.
However, Knut, so used to human touch and attention didn’t understand.  They say he suffered from mental illness as he was no longer given the physical attention he once enjoyed and came to depend upon.

What did these well-intentioned professionals think?  Was it a surprise that a polar bear’s nature and instincts as a hunter would emerge?   Could they not predict that a bear can’t rationalize and choose to be other than he is as they doted and showered attention upon him, only to strip him of it as it became problematic and dangerous?

Knut mirrors that shadow side of all of us.  Initially, in most relationships, be it childhood or adult, others are a delight to get to know, a welcome part of our life, bringing pleasure to us.  And we are a delight to them. We enjoy another’s company and personality. 

Yet, are we with them because of them or how it makes us feel?  Are they with us because of how they feel? Because we feel good about ourselves in their presence?  Then, as the relationship matures and other aspects of who we are emerge, with all their flaws and stuck places, the tables turn.  

We who once loved and accepted this other person now take a step back. We who were once loved and accepted find others taking a step back.  Yuck!  We weren’t expecting any of this - this reality.  What do you mean you or I have needs and expectations? I can’t be around someone who is not attractive any more or has personal struggles, wounds.  Why would we want to be in the presence of homely and broken? Others don't want to be around us when we reveal our places of struggle and need.

Then we are reminded, once again, that who they truly are doesn’t matter; it never really did.  The relationship was conditional and dependent upon how they made us feel or we made them feel.  Our lives don't teach us how to be in relationship  with each other....with ourselves...for all of who we are... 

Is there a follow up story for Knut.  Sadly, yes. A new little cub was born to the zoo and he became the new darling. Has anything been learned about what to do for his mental and emotional health? I don't he is, in all his precious furry self, lovingly being bottle fed and doted upon.


(On March 19, 2011, at age four, Knut unexpectedly collapsed into his enclosure pool and drowned.) 

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, February 2, 2020

terror of being the girl...

Dream - A group of people who feel like royalty are at a large on-going outdoor party.  We are about to sit down for dinner. I rush into a room to shower.  In the room is a young woman, 20’s, who is keeping an eye on a little girl, about 7.  The girl is sitting on a bed and seems challenged. Her head is lowered, hair hanging in her face, and she has a really angry look on her face.  When the young woman isn’t looking, the girl throws something at her.  Now I see that she has a tennis racket in her hand and before I can call out, she swings and hits the woman with it.  This poor woman!  I notice that she is all showered and looks nice.  I’m still a mess.  I will offer to trade places with her; I will stay and keep an eye on the girl and let her go to the dinner.

This dream is from almost a decade ago…the girl is an image of my relationship to my soul self…and there was anger…valid anger at not being truly seen.  The cleaned up young woman was my ego.  I, still a mess, was not ready for the meal with the royals, the archetypes, those beings...the beloveds...who love us deeply and who come each night in our dreams to help us remember that we belong to this divine family....always have.  It isn’t even me who was invited. It was the girl, this angry little girl was the one invited, the one who belongs to the royal family but I kept that part of myself locked up.  The girl I saw as challenged was not my true self, but that was how I see her because I  was afraid of her. 

At this point in my dreamwork, so many years ago, not only was I still struggling to feel, I didn’t want to feel my vulnerability and my need.  It seemed a weakness to me, some flaw that I needed to overcome. So the young woman was an image of my misunderstanding that I, my ego self, was smarter than my soul self, that this girl somehow needed to be managed, that someone had to keep an eye on her, and I certainly didn’t want to be in any kind of relationship with her, let alone be her. I didn’t understand back then that my capacity to be in my feelings, to be vulnerable was actually the very potency of the girl...of soul.

Dreams bring us images of our relationship to the deepest truest part of who we are…our self…our soul. 

In Natural Dreamwork, we consider that girls in our dreams are an image of our soul (as are boys.) The girl represents the soul’s need to love and be loved, the soul’s need to be in relationship with self, others and the divine. She is the soul’s capacity to feel all essential feelings including love, pain, joy, sorrow, fear and vulnerability.  The young girls in our dreams may come to us bursting with life and joy, playful and open…willing to be in all of their fullness. 

If this is so then why does the girl in our dreams often come in ways that show damage, disability, even behaviors that we find annoying and irritating. In the dream we are convinced that this girl is a pest, someone to be disparaged, rejected and shunned. 

Why are we so angry at her or her at us? We may even hate her, want to hurt her…see her as dead. This is so very painful that even the words here feel disturbing. Yet, most of us have these kinds of dreams.

How did we come to feel this way about the most vulnerable and tender part of who we are?

There is a poignant scene in the series “Anne with an e” (a remake of Anne of Green Gables.) Anne, still living in the orphanage is lying under a metal bed reading a book. Books are portals for Anne, they keep her imagination alive, they transport her to other worlds, worlds where there is still hope and possibility of a life beyond the difficult life she is experiencing.  And yet she has already learned that she needs to hide this part of herself, this deep desire, as it is not valued by those around her, that she even be punished for her desire. Books, home, hope and love are not for orphans.

An orphanage matron discovers Anne, pulls out the book and acknowledges how very much Anne risked to have the book…how much it must mean to her…and then proceeds to rip out pages from the very heart of the book. She then returns it to Anne who is visibly bereft with so much of the story torn away…so much loss. We can relate to Anne here, feel horror and helplessness at such cruelty and anger on the part of the matron. 

If the figure of the matron were in one of our dreams we would acknowledge the cruelty of her act, an act even we ourselves may do in a dream. And we would also know that this angry woman is an imago of conditioning, a dream representation of what happened to us…what changed us from a girl with a still hopeful heart such as Anne to one whose heart has been so hardened that she can’t feel another’s pain because she can’t feel her own pain.

This scene touched me so that I spent some time feeling into it…imagining why the matron so hates and hurts the girl Anne. It is a moment where we might touch into some compassion for her as we recognize that she came to hate her own girl soul. If we could give voice to this moment, where the matron speaks her pain it might be something like:

Who do you think you are!  
To read and enjoy yourself! 
To get lost in these books!
To think you, too, can have a life!
What? Do you hope that they will come true? 
Do you believe you will ever have a happily ever after? 
That a prince charming will come and love you? A Mr. Rochester?
Foolish girl. Your lot is here…to work and serve others…it will always be so.
I had hope once. I could have been happy. 
I had a chance to marry but it was taken from me.
I was creative and talented but it was taken from me.
And all I’m left with is bitterness and hatred for the stupid foolish girl I was who thought her life would be something different.
And I hate you for even reminding there is still something to hope for.

(And if the matron voice can even go deeper we might come closer to the painful truth of why we have damaged girls in our dreams)

And I am afraid of you…you terrify me…
your very presence threatens me…
because when I was you I was not seen, I was not loved. 
All I got was pain and I choose to not feel my fear or my pain…
To be you means I will have to feel it all and so…
I choose to not feel…

To see her (us) healed to come back into wholeness can feel too much. 
She is a threat to our stories. She is a threat to our conditioning.
She is a threat to our numbness.

We hate this girl because we are terrified to be her…because in some way, somehow we remember what it was like to be her before we chose safety…before we buried her…replaced with a terror of what it would mean to be her again. We know the price we are being asked to pay to become her once again…we will have to feel our pain. 

Our dreams come faithfully because they know we are capable of doing the hard work of not believing the untruths that want to shame us…and of laying down the blaming of others for our pain (even though they did indeed inflict it.) They know how to help us move out from under the conditioned self to the soul self.

Our dreams come faithfully to bring us back to the girl…with all her soul quality. When terrible, horrible things happen (and they will happen)…when we experience great loss (and we will) our girl heart can remain open. Our girl heart can feel her pain, her joy, her sorrow…the whole palette of what it means to be em-bodied and en-souled.

It is the work of a lifetime….

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