It’s been a little while since we explored dreamwork here. If you don’t know, my approach (generally) is to allow my dreams to hold their own space. I try not to analyze my dreams, but to participate in them. To let my dream selves show me what I need to know. I take some time in the morning to transfer to my conscious mind the vital information. Trusting that what is meant to be conscious will be, and some ideas cannot be known in this realm. If the earlier winter initiates a process of looking back, feeling waves of memories and bringing them into the present; the second half of winter is perhaps looking towards the journey ahead while still in the void.
All things begin in the dark. Night dreams hold keys to the void. This is not exactly the same this as the liminal, the space between realms; we access the liminal in the subconscious, the transition in and out of night dreaming, in the alpha and theta states, daydreaming, and creative practice. Not to argue semantics, but it’s a meaningful distinction because we still hold elements of ego (who and what we believe we are) in the liminal space, and in void stages we lose that sense. Which is both frightening and where the magic lies.
The deepest seeds of possibility can be found below the surface of what we think we know.
The void is fundamentally unconscious and unformed. It is pure potential and it is completion. The void is not to be understood, but experienced. Some experiences are unconscious for a reason. We can work with them safely there. But we can also hold the feeling as we transition back and allow this to inform our perspective.
Since the summer I have had a practice before bed of plugging my phone in outside of my bedroom, connecting with my guides and running reiki when I get into bed, and giving myself about 10-30 mins before turning out the lights to daydream, receive messages, reflect on the day, and prepare an intention for my nightdreaming. Sometimes I’m very specific, with questions I hope to resolve, but often it’s simply stating if I wish to travel and explore vs acknowledging when I really need rest and would like to be totally unconscious.
I frequently find that I do start falling asleep towards the end and that marks my transition to turning out the lights and drifting off. I make sure to activate my energetic protection so that I can feel secure as I drift. I have found the practice hugely helpful for working actively in lucid dreaming, as well as overall improving my sense of rest (even when I am awake for a long time trying to wind down).
Recently I have decided to mirror this process in the morning. I consciously state my intention to bring my awareness gradually into a conscious state. I open my mind to anything from my nightdreaming, even if I don’t immediately remember what I dreamt. If there is a dream at the front of my mind, sometimes this means reentering the dream while I’m not quite awake. I wonder and spend time with the feeling of it, how this feeling can inform what is floating outside my awareness.
And before getting out of bed I ask my guides what they would like me to know and pull one or a few cards.
Even when I only have a few minutes, this is enough time to anchor into the awareness that my time asleep and drifting through the void is just as important as anything else I do when I’m awake. Sometimes it’s more important.
It’s giving me a new appreciation for the long nights of this season. My dreams have been telling me to pay more attention to how I’m feeling, not to exert my will over my intuitive sense as I move through waking life. They ask me to listen to my gut. And to practice acceptance for the timeline of unfolding events.
The term liminal is defined as a “transitional” space, or an in-between space. In psychology it is generally speaking to life events, and the effects on our psyche. It can feel quite unsettling and disorienting, but more in terms of where we are rather than who/what we are . For example, when you’ve ended one job and accepted another, but haven’t started yet. One could experience pregnancy as a liminal space, you are transitioning towards being a parent but it hasn’t happened yet. Or breaking up with a romantic partner and still living together. Or summer vacation when you’re in school.
To find yourself “in the void” is much more murky. Experiencing a post-traumatic event of uncovering repressed memories, and starting to question everything you thought you knew; being blindsided by a breakup and not understanding why; the death of a close loved one that sends your life hurdling in a new and unknown direction; moving through a disaster or other experience where your life is completely uprooted and you have no idea what’s going to happen next… These are examples of void phases. They tend to hold a lot of fear. Even if you’ve been through them many times they are often unwelcome. The archetype of the Tower, or Ten of Swords comes to mind. “Total defeat. The structure of your life (or your mind) reduced to rubble.”
In the lack of knowing, we are also paradoxically in the space of pure potential. Feeling like you “don’t know anything” is threatening to our human desire for predictability (read: survival), but again, it is the space where we can transcend beyond what we believe is possible. It’s important to remember that this feeling is hard to access when you’re in it (it’s unconscious), but we must try to cultivate this awareness alongside the patience to accept the unfolding in its own time. We take actions to support ourselves, while also acknowledging that not everything is in our control (ever). A phrase I heard recently that captures the aspirational end of this is “sometimes when you feel like things are falling apart, they’re actually falling into place.”
Some types of loss are easier to accept, others require a willingness to move through deep pain in order to emerge. In many cases part of accepting the reality that you’re in is to acknowledge that some experiences are deeply unfair, unjust, undeserved, and unnecessarily cruel. Acceptance doesn’t mean agreeing to or liking our circumstances, it means sitting in the truth of where you are.
Returning to dreams— to analyze the dream is often to insert our conscious and subconscious associations in order to find meaning. The analysis of a certain dream may sound like “I’ve had a conflict with this person where I felt rejected, and in this dream this person appears in a strange new setting. So maybe it represents rejection or past hurts, feeling like I don’t belong.” Whereas staying with the void might be waking up recalling the dream and feeling into a sense of homesickness, or being not quite in the right place, searching for belonging— a sense of knowing it’s not the right place but unsure how to find home again. An urge to trust that you know what home feels like. It’s there, find your way back.
The second is much more nuanced, and holds the totality: maybe there is an element about rejection there but it’s also about knowing that a change is needed, knowing that there is a “right place.”
I can’t help but move into that analysis sometimes, perhaps a muscle memory from so many years of facilitating psychotherapy (not to mention many years of my own therapy). A lot of insight can be gained through analysis and interpretation. But I do think dreams are unique in their unconscious origin, and we sometimes lose their deeper or hidden meanings by comparing them to what we think we know. The example above is a taken from an actual dream I had recently; the surface interpretation would have reenforced what I already knew and felt. I might have just said to myself “wow I guess that is still bothering me.” But in staying with the feeling I was able to start exploring why it was still bothering me, what it meant to me in a broader sense. It tuned me into much deeper yearnings, an awareness of ways that I hold myself back, invest too much energy in spaces that don’t reciprocate, or let stubbornness influence me to try to “make it work” when I actually need to let go. It held the complexity of seeing my part as a way to see that I could change this behavior in the future— Rather than simply sinking into a feeling about something that already happened and was out of my control.
“The conscious mind is very intelligent, but the unconscious is a lot smarter.”
Here’s another example of distinguishing liminal and void space of processing: that first “hot take” of interpretation was generated within about 5 minutes of waking up. Whereas the second took about 3 days of feeling deeply unsettled, confused, simultaneously eyes OPEN to some beautiful gifts in my life I hadn’t been seeing clearly, and also a bit beaten down by looking back at least decisions and seeing my own foolishness.
Pain is a part of the growth in the void, the poison and the cure side by side.
Whether we suffer in the void though, is dependent on whether we struggle to speed it up or take our coats off and settle in.
We can struggle to find the light or learn to see (feel) in the dark.
Dreams themselves are not necessarily painful, nor is the unconscious generally, but dreams are a window into a depth of our unconscious that is extremely unformed and numinous. My perspective is that it offers a less painful, even safer, way to peer into the void and facilitate some of the deeper growth even as we may not be in a void phase of life. It’s much like trancework, but even more intuitive and unconscious.
What have your dreams been telling you lately?
What is the feeling of them that first moment when you wake up?
How do you like to collaborate with your nightdreams?
When have you been in void spaces in your life?
What are some personal examples of the distinction between an experience that was liminal vs totally unformed?
If you like, try exploring this in your dreams. Ask yourself in the morning what you think it means, and then try to drop into the feeling of it and see what else emerges.