Following the Trail of Dreams

 

INTERPRETING DREAMS

Have you ever set an intention to record dreams, and then upon waking, had an inkling that told you, this dream is significant…so you sleepily try to jot down the important elements, knowing there are things missing but nonetheless. You tell yourself you will look at it, your dream, again later, for analysis and perhaps, enlightenment.

I believe dreams affect our choices and have the potential to give profound insight…but it seems so hard to pin them down.

As an artist, I have developed a deep fascination with the landscape of dreaming. Many of my paintings are images that have emerged from trying to make sense of their mysterious content. I have found over the years that, like building a muscle, my ability to remember my dreams becomes more reliable the more I set the intention to recall them and write them down. The biggest challenge, however, is in the interpretation of them. It’s like there is no boundaries in our dreaming world, so there are often symbols and scenarios that are weird and nonsensical. Thankfully, any research I commit to this endeavour has proven to be fruitful; from writing a dialogue with characters to consulting online dream dictionaries (based on the understanding that some signs and symbols are universal).

Lately I have made a determined decision to honour my intuition as I analyse my dreams, and after recording the dream itself, I have been adding a paragraph or two entitled ‘Interpretation’. I use thumbnail sketches when words are not sufficient to describe events or feelings. I also record them in the same voice I would use to write a story.

After my son Jordan died, my reason for remembering dreams changed and intensified. I feel like we are living in a matrix-like world where he is living on the other side and I can’t quite get to him. I associate his energy with owls, so when an owl shows up in my dream I really take notice. There have also been wonderful moments, where he has showed up in my dream all fresh-faced and happy- these dreams are so vivid that I wake having that sad realisation…’Oh, that was a dream’. But many of you reading this may think: ‘It’s not, he’s showing you he is alive and well’, and that’s what I believe on my good days.

The other day I heard a wonderful teacher and blogger talk about dreams and mentioned that it is easier for Spirit to connect with us in our dreams because our busy minds are at rest. We are not living by ‘what’s next’ or trying to assimilate the multitudes of data that assault our senses while we are awake, distracting us. In this sense, our minds are yielding and open. This is my hope, that by following the trail of my dreams , I will gain a deeper understanding of the realm of the Spirit.

WATER

I wanted to talk about the specific dream element of water because it has been recurring for me and I know it is such a common dream symbol. Water dreams often symbolise the world of the subconscience, spiritual realms and deep emotions. This is not surprising, since we are made up of about 70% water, and as a substance water behaves much like emotions. It ebbs, flows, can be calm or tumultuous. In yogic tradition, water is connected to the moon, hence, it often has a mysterious and dark quality. Here’s a recent dream I had, and my brief interpretation:

I was surrounded by deep, overcast, oceanic water, where the wind and the waves were building steadily and I had a sense of foreboding as if I would be easily overcome by them. I was on a very flimsy floating mat, and I lifted up into the dark turbulent sky for a few moments.

My interpretation:

Because the water was dark and waves were building, I am thinking that there are deep emotions I am perhaps still unaware of. Being lifted off the surface indicates to me an encouragement to trust in God; it is akin to the story of Jesus walking on the water in the New Testament.  The vessel I was in was very fragile. A vessel of any description can represent the physical body -I have been feeling really run down so it makes sense the vessel in my dream was ‘fragile’.

There are so many forms and associations for water, here are just a few to ponder:

Did you dream, like I did, that you were on a boat or other floating device? Boats are considered my many traditions to symbolise the spiritual journey, or the notion of being carried and held by God or  a higher power. Some important considerations would be if you or someone else was sailing the boat, if it was drifting, the type of boat, etc. Depending on the context it can indicate safety and/or mastery over your emotions.

Did you go underwater? Being underwater in a situation like snorkelling can indicate a contemplative phase or a time where you are examining your emotions and life journey in order to grow. Conversely, if you dream of drowning, it can indicate being overwhelmed with ‘drowned’ (or unacknowledged) emotions, or something significant coming to an end or death.

If the water is dark, dirty or cloudy it can represent confusion, or frustration at not being able to see to the end or the bottom of something. If it is clear, it has the opposite meaning; truth and clarity are guiding you.

Here’s to acknowledging the ethereal, mysterious and potent messages that come through for us in our dreams….and hoping you all have a blissful slumber

Peace

 

 

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Angels and Archetypes, a Tribute to my Son

Angels and Archetypes, a Tribute to my SonI’m in the process of working towards an exhibition I have entitled “Angels and Archetypes”. It has caused me to really look at what is at the heart of my artwork and why I am drawn to certain images and themes. Most of the paintings are from 2018, however, there are some I have included from earlier. They are all linked by their archetypal element- people, places, animals and objects that have a symbolic meaning. The archetypes highlight the connectivity of human beings, since they are found in the collective unconscious, a place of myth, legend, dreams and folklore.

This exhibition is dedicated to my son Jordan who died tragically in a car accident in 2016. It feels like a wonderful way to honour his continuing presence in my life, not only as my son but now as a guide and source of inspiration to me. He is a creative soul, blessed with an inexhaustable curiosity about the world and everything in it. I wonder what he is doing now. I hope he is playing music and making new discoveries, free, unfettered and joyful. I know he is beside me always giving me so much encouragement. My creativity will always be a way to connect with him while we are separated in this life.

So much love to you my son, always, always.

 

 

My Counter-Intuitive way of Dealing with Artists’ Block

The term-“artist block” is one that every creative person has heard, and carries with it a sense of frustration and artistic desolation. It’s a term that has been in the back of my mind, daring me to tackle it and rise above it.

Lately, I have simply surrendered to it, which runs counter-intuitive to the common advice given on the subject, suggesting that the artist should “just turn up” to their creative practise regardless. A kind of fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality. And there nothing wrong with that, it does work- I’ve tried it in the past. But I guess that’s not where I am at the moment.

I wanted to divorce myself of the label “artist” as part of my identity. Funnily enough, as I write this it occurs to me that perhaps this was necessary so I could grow as a person.

In December I ditched my studio space in Fremantle. In January I ditched my home studio, replacing it with a beautiful, funky lounge room. I decluttered all my art supplies, leaving me with just the bare bones-journals, pencils, paint and canvas. In March I ditched my gallery space in Fremantle. I gave away some artwork here and there, which has been liberating and kind of joyful, too. Ditching and giving. Throwing away the superfluous, gifting things that hold meaning and value.

I’ve just been finding the whole process of trying to sell artwork….soul destroying.

I still paint occasionally- only when I really want to- and I just set up in my dining room or outside. But mostly, it’s all about sketchbook doodles, writing down dreams, thoughts of travel and trying to find the still small voice again.

The below image is from my sketchbook, done on a plane trip on my way back from Bali.

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‘To Remember a Dream’

One of my oldest friends also lost her son in a car crash, just around the corner from where my own boy drew his last breath. She shared a dream she had, describing how her boy showed her how he is watching over her life, and how this is true for all heartbroken mothers. She said “they love us, they really know us, they are proud of us”. What a comfort when other grieving mothers share their hearts.

I find myself looking for Jordan everywhere, so I guess this painting is making my friend’s dream ‘real’ for me. I’m reminded of a quote by one of my favourite painters, Marc Chagall. He said,”If you can’t see angels you should paint them”. I will never see my boy again on this earth, hear his voice, touch him or breathe his scent, so this is my way of bringing him close. He is like an angel to me now, in a way. But it’s hard to imagine what he is really like; I believe when we die all of the parts of us that are flawed and broken are healed. Is he still Jordan, but more ‘himself’ than ever? I feel like a child trying to understand things that are beyond me.

I wish I could remember my dreams in more detail. My boy showed up in my dream last night, we talked about lots of things (actually I talked the most, he was just with me, his presence, listening)….but I asked him at the end, “is heaven beautiful?” He paused, face looking really fresh and calm, “Yes, heaven is beautiful”.

I miss you my son.

Remembering Jordan

Creating art has changed for me in many ways. My eldest son, Jordan died in a car accident in March this year. He would have turned 26 on the 18th of March. For a few numbing months, lost in the shock of it I thought I would never paint seriously again. I remember in those first few weeks I took to watercolours, but in my mind they were just doodles. I felt I’d lost my mojo. I was and often still am overwhelmed by the grief that can be so intense words alone cannot describe it.

I’m back painting again. I only have a very short attention span nowadays, preferring to numb out emotion through whatever means easily accessible (food, alcohol, Netflix. Anything mindless) . But I’ve come to realise that through creating artworks ‘about’ Jordan, I’m also creating new memories ‘with’ him. This is an important distinction for me, and I suppose it is based on the belief that he is still ‘alive’ in the truest sense.

After a death you are still in a relationship with the person, however, now because of the chasm of death, that relationship is connected through pain. That’s why many grieving parents say they will never ‘get over’ the loss of a child, and they don’t want to either. That child is a part of you. A deep and indelible part. A parent-child relationship is an unconditional one where the parents’ role as nurturer causes such a strong psychic connection that their concern is always centred around the child’s safety and thriving.

We are accustomed to, as parents, to worry about our kids. We can be heartbroken and concerned for them. We suffer with their sufferings and rejoice in their triumphs. This doesn’t change after death. Through my artwork in some ways I’m saying, “are you ok Jordan?” “You are loved” “you are remembered” “You are amazing” , and a wonderful quote from one of his friends, “heaven adores you”. I suppose art has given me a way of nurturing him, including him and yes of course, remembering him and his time on planet Earth. I want him to be forever remembered by everyone who knew him. And if you know me I want you to know him, too.

When I studied art therapy I learnt about how art can facilitate these ‘altered states’ It’s not as mystical as it sounds. Altered states are just below the surface of our everyday pragmatic existence. You experience them when you are deeply involved in something. It’s a chance for your subconscious self, to come to the foreground of your awareness. This always happens when we dream, because we have no filter and our minds are not preoccupied with the mundane. When Jordan left us I realised how often I straddle these two states. I long to become aware of the spiritual, to learn how to notice little things he may be saying to me. Yet I am so deeply aware of how difficult this is. It’s frustrating, when we are alive we are truly bent away from seeing anything spiritual. So seldom do we scratch the surface of our existence. The times he has sent me a message, and I have been ‘awake’ enough to receive it, are held very deeply in my heart.

Because being creative helps us access this ‘altered state’ or dreamlike state of awareness, it has helped me understand my own pain, just a little bit. I’m someone who will feel something deeply then minimise things once I’m past the pointy end of my pain. A painting holds up a mirror in this way. When you are very emotional anyway, you develop tools to numb things over, so validating an experience is important. On another level, there’s the things we don’t know about the ocean that is our psyche, and engaging in art can be surprising. It can reveal things previously outside of our awareness.

So many people who have lost their precious children have also lost purpose. What’s the point? What’s the point in doing anything? Everything is meaningless. Life is about surviving until we can be with them again when we die. It’s only been nine months for me. So I have no answers and I feel like this often too. All I know, really on a very basic level, is I’m grateful for my art. I don’t even care what others think about it now. At the end of the day, it’s a comfort. It’s a comfort because of the tangible link it has to the Spirit. Music is the same, as is writing.

I will always remember Jordan saying-not that long ago- “oh cool mums getting her paints out. I love it when mum paints!”

Exploring dreams through art

Today was my first adult workshop I have facilitated in a very long time, and it was such a joy. My initial undergraduate degree, before teaching, was in counselling, and I have had a huge interest in art therapy. That said, I wanted to create a space that allowed for healing or growth through art, but as a by-product of the art exploration process itself -rather than being the main focus. I don’t want to go into a recount of our artistic musings today, rather, I just want to reflect some thoughts I am left with….

We need to be gentle with ourselves, our unique viewpoints and experiences. Everyone has creative inklings and expressions that are precious. The world needs to hear or see them.

Our inner critic needs to go on holiday sometimes.

Clarity is found sometimes in the most mundane pockets of our lives.

Our subconscious or dream life is not shy, sometimes the things we need to know are right in front of us.

There is a collective subconscious when we share dreams.

Finally….I’m just blown away by how amazing and intricate we all are, and what a privilege it is to watch creativity unfold.

Intuitive painting: exploring dreams in art

Come and explore dreams and find out how to utilise them in our artwork. You will have the opportunity to explore collage techniques, and other mediums that work well with acrylic paint. Your final outcome may be abstract, representational or somewhere in between. Dreams have been used by artists for centuries for inspiration and artistic content. Think of Dali, Chagall, Klimt, Rousseau, Munch, Kahlo….

You don’t need to intentionally ‘remember’ or write down your dreams to attend; we can uncover the wisdom in our dreams simply by being in the ‘here and now’ (the ‘Gestalt’).

This is not an ‘art therapy’ workshop as such, however, the mere act of committing ourselves to creating has wonderful benefits. Making art is an amazing vehicle that helps clarify our thoughts and feelings and also lays down neural pathways for problem solving and healing.

Date: Saturday February 20
Time: 1:00-5:00 p.m (afternoon tea included) Venue: My home Studio (Alyssa’s Art Garden), located in Medina (south of Perth).
Cost: I am offering my first workshop for free, since I would love your feedback so I can make them super awesome and relevant! I would ask, though that you bring your own canvas (a good size is 40 x 60 cm)
Register: Contact Alyssa on 0409 497 739, or msg me on my Art garden page.