Three weeks ago I attended a memorial for my dream teacher, Jeremy Taylor, in Petaluma, California, about a 50 minute drive north from my apartment in Oakland. The event was held in a clubhouse outside of town. As I parked around the corner and walked towards the doors, there was a light drizzle. I felt anxious and uncertain, tempted to run. I didn’t know anybody or what to expect.
My main concern was feelings. As a 55 year old male, I have spent my entire life getting in touch with those buggers. Jeremy had touched me. If I cried, I wanted that to be okay.
The event was hosted by Travis, a fellow dream worker, artist and author. Travis set the tone by reading poems out of “The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart”, a poetry anthology edited by Robert Bly, Michael Meade and James Hillman. I thought, “Hmmm. That’s a men’s work bible. This is going to be interesting.”
Several attendees rang chimes to the four directions. There was a West African chant, and Travis drummed and later played a didgeridoo. He talked about the role of grief, and its importance for connecting with the dead. He shared that even saying the words “death” or “dead” made him fearful of judgments, self and otherwise. Afterward, he framed the service around the radical, if obvious, notion that any and all feelings were appropriate.
Jeremy had meant a ton to each of us. There was ample room for people to share tears and appreciation for the many gifts he brought them. There were around 40 of us. For me Jeremy was a kind, gentle and brilliant man who taught a method of dream work that was simple and inclusive. His “If this were my dream….” or “In my imagined version of this dream….” seemed obvious when I first experienced it in my 30’s. His method, called projective dream work, made so much sense that I did not realize how radical it was. Now, I am a marriage and family therapist, and I know. He took dream work out of the hands of professionals, and placed it in our hands, everyone’s hands, the world’s hands.
Jeremy welcomed everyone’s perspective. When he disagreed, he shared his opposition in neutral, loving ways. So much so that I am sure that I missed many of his rebuttals.
At a weekend dream work retreat at the San Damiano Center three years ago, I asked him what he thought about mindfulness meditation. I was going on a 6 day silent meditation retreat following the weekend. He said, “I know many well intentioned people who run to do good works whenever they have an uncomfortable feeling.”
His comment flew by me. I thought, “Yes. I do, too, but what does that have to do with mindfulness meditation?”
Three years later I know what he meant. Jeremy believed that anything leading to denial and repression backfired. And that anything could be used for that purpose. In answering my question, he was saying that, like any practice, spiritual or otherwise, meditation can be used to avoid one’s feelings.
That’s why he loved dream work. I have become a believer. I still meditate, but less and with less structure. Dreams and self-expression have become my spiritual practice. Dreams drop me into my feelings. They take me to the root of my traumas, denials, kinks and resources. They are forever bringing me to the places that require my attention and healing.
Jeremy encouraged dream work with friends, family, and even work colleagues (with the caveat that they understand that dreams will bring up their dirty underwear!). And they do, over and over again. How great is that, to find something, anything that keeps me honest!
The memorial was an opening for me, and I think for others. One of my favorite movie scenes is from Princess Mononoke, a 1997 anime movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki. In the climax, the Goddess has its head cut off by capitalists looking to make a profit. As the head is placed in a container, the lid bursts in an upsurge of plasma light that spreads across the countryside. The explosion leads to a universal blooming to the four horizons. It seems the Goddess cannot be killed.
Jeremy would agree.