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Monk in the World Guest Post: John Spiesman

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for John Spiesman’s reflection “Dream, Dream, Dream.”

As noted by Christine Valters Paintner in The Soul’s Slow Ripening (Sorin, 2018), dreams were respected as signs and invitations from God to a calling bigger than our human mind could possibly imagine (p. 13). Dreams, as Christine notes, give us insight into the soul’s longings – and call us to say yes to gifts and calls which can only be born through us. 

This is echoed by the Rev. Bob Haden in Unopened Letters from God (Haden Institute Publishing, 2010), who notes that Hebrews and early Christians believed that dreams are the primary way in which God speaks. Haden reminds us of the third century Babylonian sage Rabbi Hisda’s teaching – “A dream uninterpreted is like a letter (from God) unopened.” (p. 1)

Dreams come to us as metaphors, which Haden reminds us of is the primary language of the Divine. Haden notes that “Dreams tell it like it is.”  Dreams alert us when we have taken a path in life that may not be right at this time, and they provide many clues about life’s path, and how we can re-center.  Even nightmares, says Haden, come in the service of healing and wholeness (just like all dreams). 

Christine reminds us that all the Celtic harvest festivals begin with a celebration the night before (p. 14). The night celebrations remind us that everything begins in darkness and emerges into light – even from the great womb of our birth (p. 14).  We are invited through scripture to embrace the night for in the darkness our dreams come as gifts. The darkness, notes Christine, brings forth our dream wisdom.

Angeles Arrien, cross cultural anthropologist, educator and author, invites us to understand dreams ad gifts of preparation – an invitation to deepen our soul journey (Eliason, 2016).  Arrien, as noted by Eliason, describes discernment as “being open without scrutiny, judgement or suspicion” (p.45).  Discernment invites us to assess with curiosity, rather than critically. Arrien suggests that in discernment we are called to ask ourselves 

  • Is my response in the realm of my comfort zone, or a growth experience?
  • Do I have a gut feeling about the situation?
  • Do I have clarity of mind, openness of heart, and is my gut aligned with my mind and heart? (p. 46)

And so it is with our dreams, which come for our health and wholeness – every time.  As Jeremy Taylor reminds us – A dream never comes to tell us something we already know, and the dreamer is the only one who can say with certainty what meanings a dream holds (p. 3). 

Around this beautiful time of Samhain, which coincides with the celebration of All Saint’s Day, I find the veil to be very thin. Christine notes that in ancient Celtic wisdom, this thin time is one in which the wisdom of our ancestors is closer to us – we are reminded that we are not alone, and are together with the cloud of witnessesjust through the veil (p. 120). As we enter the Celtic new year, and into a time of darkness, we are invited to a time of listening for voices we may not hear at other times of the year – these as Christine notes, may by the sounds of our own inner wisdom or even the voices of those who came before us – our ancestors (p. 120). This is truly a time of our soul’s descent, and a time to pay very close attention to our dreams as they come in health and wholeness, and to reveal many divine mysteries. 

A couple years ago around Samhain, I received this beautiful dream.

I am in my backyard cleaning up the fall leaves, and I come across a path that I had never noticed before. I follow the short path and come to an enclosed artesian spring well. The well is enclosed with stone all around, and yet there was no door. I enter and the water draws me to place my hands in it. The water is cool and crystal clear. As I return to the path to take me back to my yardwork, an old man hands me a folder paper saying “this is for you.”  I open the paper to find this text: “ I will show you the path of life. In my presence is fullness of Joy.”

What a gift this dream has offered for discernment – a path, a direct message, water, and an ancient well!  What more could a dreamer desire?

As I thought about this path, it is a journey that I and my ancestors take together. It leads me to something new and invites me to freely move. Since this is a path, I had yet to discover, I knew that there was a new and perhaps uncharted journey with which I might be unfamiliar. This path led me straight to a well of cool, clear water – an invitation to increased life depth and knowledge that in doing so I will be sustained and nourished. Deep water invites me to explore my unconscious self – and the possibility of fertility, growth, creative potential, new life or healing contained therein. And finally, the old man – that symbol of wisdom, and a man of few words – invites me to connect with my inner guidance and highest thought and offers a gift. I am invited to explore life’s path perhaps on a deeper, broader, and even more mysterious level, and I am assured that this is indeed for my own health and wholeness. 

Recalling dreams can be a challenge. Some tips I have found helpful are first setting and keeping a consistent sleep schedule. The more consistent I am, the more I can recall my dreams. In addition, I set an intention each night when I ask the Dream maker for a dream, to write the dream in my dream journal and to work with the dream. I need to be sure to be ready and willing to receive the message of the dream and equipped to work with that dream message through the lens of my health and wholeness.  In the morning, and especially when I begin to awaken, I make sure I never jump out of bed. Lying in bed and slowly allowing myself to awaken helps recall both dreams and their symbols and images. I make sure to have a journal close by so that I can write down everything I remember – even if it is just a symbol, a word, or an image. Finally, I give gratitude to the Dream maker for the dream I have received.

Jeremy Taylor (2009) reminds me that it is important to affirm each dream as a gift, and to recognize that there are multiple meanings of a dream – there are layers, and the dreamer is invited to explore all kinds of possibilities. This is a journey of discovery! Taylor reminds me that dreams bring things to my consciousness which to this point have been unconscious inviting me to new insight. This is my opportunity to embrace and honor my dreams, and to use them as tools for my discernment, for my health, wholeness and evolution of consciousness. 

May this Samhain be a beautiful time of awareness of our ancestors and those we love who have gone before.  May we be blessed by the Dream maker with many dream gifts – and, above all,  may we never leave these gifts unopened.

Holy Dream Maker,
Creator of all,
Be with us as we open our hearts and minds
to the divine wisdom in our dreams.
We thank you and honor you.
As you guide us in the way to
health and wholeness,
may we be open to 
the blessings of your message.
                             Haden Institute Dream Prayer

Selected Bibliography:

Ackroyd, E. (2007). A dictionary of dream symbols. Sterling Publishing, NY.

Eliason, M. (2016). Reflecting on the teaching of Angeles Arrien. Createspace Independent Publishing, SC. 

Haden, R.L. (2010). Unopened letters from God: A workbook for individuals and groups. Haden Institute Publishing, NC.

Hoss, R. J. (2005). Dream language: Self understanding through imagery and color. Innersource, Ashland, OR.

Taylor, J. (2009). The wisdom of your dreams. Warner Books, NY.

Valters-Paintner, C. (2018). The soul’s slow ripening: 12 Celtic practices for seeking the sacred. Sorin, Notre Dame, IN.

John has journeyed in formation as a spiritual director, and in dream work through The Haden Institute. Formed in the Jungian Mystical Christian tradition, he welcomes and accompanies journeyers who long for a deeper relationship with the Divine.  John’s interests include spiritual symbols and ritual, church wounds, vocational calls, the Celtic Anam Cara and Celtic Spirituality, the sacred masculine journey, the empath’s journey, as well as intuitive dream work, and dream work in psychotherapy.  John has been a career educator, and currently serves as a Licensed Independent Social Worker, pastoral counselor, spiritual companion and dream worker in Ohio, USA. He can be reached through his website:

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