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Heart of Dreams - Remembering REM

Asklepia Foundation
"Journey to the Healing Heart of Your Dreams"


Healing in the Heart of Dreams

by Graywolf Swinney, M.A.
c1997, Asklepia Foundation

In 1984 in my therapy groups, I was using primarily Gestalt process in working with dreams.  One morning, rather than following the usual Gestalt practice of exploring the relationships and conflicts between symbols and parts of the dream as is usual Gestalt practice, a client and I ventured more deeply into the experience and being of one of the dream's symbols.
We journeyed together into the heart of the dream itself, and found a healing state of consciousness that was profound in its impact and implications.  As with the belief of the the ancient Greek Asklepian dream healing myth, where the healing god Asklepios worked his healing magic from with the dream itself, this  healing state, too, was buried deep in the dream far beyond its outer manifest form and any interpretation or surface manipulation.

In the dream, my client, strapped to a platform, was being drawn feet first into a wheel of rapidly rotating razor-edged knives.  I had been exploring shamanic philosophy and practice for several years because of my discontent with the limits of psychological science and practice, and in keeping with this bent, rather than have her become the knives and begin a dialogue, I suggested she let herself be pulled into the whirling blades.  I had in mind the shamanic principle of having her face directly in the dream what she most feared.  In truth, it was also a moment of strong intuition and curiosity as I felt myself drawn inexorably into the flashing, spinning blades.

She reported being slashed and cut into tiny bits with blood and flesh splattering and scattering all directions, but strangely, the predominant sense she experienced and reported was a sensation of the icy coldness of the blades.  I encouraged her to pursue it, to give in to that sense-image of icy coldness.  As she did, she soon became a layer of ice, frigid, rigid, and very, very hard and cold.  My interest intensified since in a sensory sentence this was the therapeutic issue that had brought her to seek therapy: she was a very hard, very cold, and a very frigid woman.

I knew from our previous sessions that her condition stemmed from early and continued molestation by her several older brothers.  In two years of therapy, although we had attained much insight as to the origins of her problem and had even made several emotional cognitive breakthroughs, we had not reached a place of deep healing with which either of us were satisfied.  Nor in truth did it seem likely that we would.  This shared experience of incompleteness was typical and was the reason for my interest in other healing practices.

"Stay with it," I urged.  "Go even deeper into this sense of cold, become it."

As she did, and as I encouraged her to go even further, she reported first a sensation of falling into bottomless, dark absolute zero cold, then entering and becoming the water beneath the ice and feeling warmer as she did so.  She reported, in this state, a deeply felt sense of flowing, flexible, and wave-like boundaries.  I watched her rigid body deeply relax and soften, changing before my eyes.  I encouraged her to remain in this state for as long as she needed and sat back and watched the unfolding a new body language.

When eventually she came back from that state of consciousness, she was a different woman--flexible, flowing and a softer self.  Her deeper spirit shone through and in time her behavior and self-image began to change.  This new sense of self was deep and continued to evolve.  The work itself had been like Dr. Simonton's and other similar guided imagery work I practiced then, but was also somehow different in a way I couldn't yet define.

I began exploring this shaman-therapist technique, and the more I explored, the more remarkable the process seemed.  Physical as well as emotional and mental diseases yielded to new and profound senses of self and relationship with the outer world.  The changes that took place were most often deep and continued to evolve long after he journeys ended.

In my search to evolve and describe the process I was exploring, I eventually encountered Chaos Theory and in a moment saw the perfect fit.  In conjunction with quantum and relativistic notion I had already been studying, I finally had a model to explain the Creative Restructuring Process that I have described in various article.  Although much of it is presented as metaphorical, I the notion that the relationships between chaos, creativity, new science, spirituality, and therapeutic effects may be more than just a metaphor.

These relationships may reveal the mystery of the connections of consciousness, chaos and creativity in the natural healing process, and may identify the nature and processes of the mind-body connection.  One  might also substitute the phrase "placebo effect," or "spontaneous remission," for natural healing process in this context.  And it is a healing process that exists within each and every dream we have.

The idea that healing takes place within the dream itself is both old and new:

The ancient Greek and Roman healing paradigm was based in this notion both spiritually and in practice.  Dreams were never interpreted in the original dream temples.  According to myth the mortal-god Asklepios, who was the illegitimate son of Apollo and an earthly mother became such a powerful healer in mortal form that the Gods in Olympus petitioned Zeus to remove Asklepios from the earthly realm.  It seems he was stealing souls from them.  Zeus complied and slew Asklepios with a thunderbolt.  However, the agony and pain that erupted from mortals over the loss of this great healer evoked compassion on the part of the Gods.  Asklepios was allowed to return and continue healing mortals but he was only allowed to do so in their dreams.

Greek and Roman healing practice served this paradigm.. Practitioners were known as therapeutes.  The physicians or Asklepiads used a variety of herbs, physical treatments, and various incantations acting as the earthly hands and minds of Asklepios.  However, when these ministrations did not work it was taken as a sign that the healing was to be performed directly by the god himself.  Therefore the patient was sent to an Asklepian Dream Healing Temple.

After confession, purification, and other means of inducing healing dreams, the patient was allowed to sleep on the Kline or divine couch for the healing dream.  When the Priests awakened the dreamer to share the dream, there was no interpretation or analysis offered; the priests only looked for signs that the god had indeed visited the dream.  If so, healing was assumed.  The success of this paradigm was attested by the Priests of hundreds of Asklepian Temples.  These Temples proliferated throughout the Greek and Roman Empires.  Hundreds of thousands of documented instances of profound healings were recorded by the supplicants and stored in the Temples' archives.

Modern research, too, has revealed the healing nature of dreams.  Experiments have shown when people are deprived of dream-time, even though allowed sleep, after about a week, hallucination and mental/emotional problems begin to appear and intrude.  Within a couple of weeks, the immune system weakens and there is greater proneness to illness and fatigue.  Even an unremembered dream heals; we need dream activity during the night to heal and process the day's traumas.  The power of dreams is not limited to just this.

Dreams are altered states of consciousness in which we transcend space and time as we know them, states in which such phenomena as clairvoyance and prognostication occur.  These phenomena cannot be explained satisfactorily by linear cause and effect, though they are consistent with non locality in Quantum Physics and the nested realities of complexity and Chaos Theory.

Deep healing is a sensory phenomenon and so are dreams.  Our senses let us know when we are sick.  Senses show us we are well.  Mind and intellect can't do it.  A dream begins as unstructured or chaotic consciousness energy (creative potential) that becomes shaped by the deeper consciousness structures that exist deep within the psyche.  As this energy filters to the surface, its shape is in turn further refined and shaped by the structures in the mind until it appears as the remembered dream.

But just as it is revealed, these consciousness structures of the psyche and mind, that shape the essence of our character and personality and indeed also somatic essences, the shape and content of the remembered dream, too, is determined by these consciousness structures.  Since the roots of dis-ease, both somatic and mental-emotional reside in these deeper structures, they influence the shape of the dream, which is in essence a map of the self.  But, the map is not the territory.  Reading a map does not get us anywhere!  We have to enter into the territory to experience it.

So to identify the surface manifestations of the disease structure in the dream, and follow the sensory path that leads to the roots is to come face to face with the essence of disease.  One step further and we return to the unstructured or chaotic consciousness that precedes all structures.  Some might call this spirit or soul, or perhaps even God.  Dissolution into the chaos brings new and healed structure into being.  This is the realm of matter-energy-cconsciousness and is the domain of quantum reality and chaos theory; the realm in which reality is recreated from moment to moment and all possibility exists simultaneously.  It is here, in this state, that healing occurs.  And it is in our dreams.

copyright 1997 by Asklepia Publications
All Rights Reserved

What's New with My Subject?


by Graywolf Swinney

Do you remember REM?  To review, REM stands for rapid eye movement and it is associated with dreaming.  But I don't mean do you remember the last dream you had, I'm referring to the early fetal REM.  It was a long time ago, in fact, it was so early that you were only forming into a being.

In developing the Consciousness Restructuring Process of natural healing, (which has been discussed in several articles in Dream Network Journal), which uses the awake side of REM as the consciousness state for the inner journey, I noticed several interesting things.  One of these was that inevitably we would return to fetal sensory memories, and in fact to the even earlier pre-fetal consciousness memories of conception in order to find the fundamental consciousness structure that held the dis-ease state.

I intuitively knew that REM consciousness was crucial to attaining these memories, and to the subsequent healing dynamics that resulted from these encounters.  Seems my intuition was right on, and has been verified by recent findings in science about REM.  More about that later.

First, however, a brief description of the CRP will help set the context.  The Consciousness Restructuring Process is a means or process by which one can engage the homeostasis principle, or the body's own natural healing propensity.  Starting with a dream symbol or a symptom of the disease, or even a feeling, one explores the sensory-consciousness patterns underlying it to its root pattern or structure, which we have labeled as the primal existential sensory self image.  This self-image contains all the consciousness structures of self, including those of our diseases.

Use of imagination is encouraged in the journeys; fantasy and attempts on the part of the journeyer to "fix things" are discouraged.  This is because it is the ego mind that wants to fix things, and the ego mind covers only a limited and narrow band of the consciousness spectrum.  Fantasy is also an ego-controlled process and only serves to preserve the ego's existing structure.

Imagination, however, is a voice of one's creative spirit and a close relative of REM.  REM consciousness provides a more sensory body and neurally oriented pattern of the dis-ease, a truer and more fundamental experience of it.  It further gives access to pure fundamental consciousness memories and structures.

We consider consciousness to be an energy form arising from an infinite and universal consciousness field, or implicate consciousness.  Consciousness energy can take on structure to form energy and matter configurations.  It is the basis of all structures, of the universe itself.

Using the imagination, this sensory pattern is followed to the roots of the symbol or the symptom, which are really the same things.  The dream is, at its base level, no matter whatever else it may also be, a manifestation of the self.  All parts of the dream (no matter how strong our denials) are in reality formed by the deep consciousness structures that also form our personality, behaviors and somatic self.  The dream is thus another experience of the self, except more primal and less ego controlled; it is much like an impressionistic self portrait.  At some point in this inner journey process the awake side of REM engages, and why this is important will soon be apparent.

When this root pattern or primal existential sensory self-image is reached, it is fully identified with, and taken one level deeper into transpersonal and undifferentiated consciousness.  This next level of undifferentiated consciousness is at the quantum level of reality, where the stuff of self has not yet committed to being either energy (mind) or matter (body) and it is at the very edges of infinite possibility or chaos (complexity).  It is also where the wave fronts that eventually become reality emerge and interact to form the standing waves that are the hologram that is self.  It might also be considered to be the "implicate order" of self.  The term implicate order was coined by physicist David Bohm to describe the field from which the hologram of reality emerges  into spacetime.

The next step is to take this image of dis-eased self into the chaotic consciousness (implicate consciousness), and in this alchemical universal solvent, the image and the dis-ease within it dissolves.  Then as chaos theory predicts, from the chaos or implicate order emerges a new structure, which becomes the new felt self.  This new primal existential sensory self-image begins to reform our body chemistry, muscle and organ functions and our personality presentation.

This occurs through changing the neural firing patterns that form and hold this disease image in the brain and nervous system.  This in turn affects or changes the entire brain and nervous system, including the hypothalamus, pituitary and pineal glands, which are an integral part of it, and thus the mechanical functioning of the body and the mind.

The neural structure mirrors this consciousness process and becomes chaotic before assuming the new more healed and flowing pattern.  Eventually this new image filters up to somatic and personality levels of consciousness structure and the organism recreates or heals itself from this very primal level, from the inside out.  In fact, this is how the brain works with the body, creating images to which the somatic and behavioral self conform.  For example, in moving one's arm to turn a page, the brain creates an imaginary image of the action, which the body duplicates.  Thus inner process leads outer process.

We noticed when we first began using this journey process that our clients were creating very profound healing in themselves, both somatic and psychological in nature.  Among the more notable remissions reported were: diabetes, cancer, scoliosis, chronic back problems, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, multiple personality, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and a host of other partial or less dramatic remissions.

The question of how this CRP process aided in these remissions became my quest of the past twenty years.  It has led to the ancient Aesculapian Dream Healing practices, as well as into Relativity, Quantum and Chaos theories.  Most recently it has also suggested Holographic theory which is remaining a viable model.  However, through all this, I was intrigued by the fact that the Journeys took place in the awake side of REM consciousness, and unless this state was involved, the depth and integrity of the healing was diminished.  Recently data about REM consciousness has been put forth, which provides hard data supporting the CRP, the theories about its probable mmechanisms, and the role of REM in it.

To begin, Dr. Allen Hobson, a noted sleep and dream researcher, states that, "REM may stimulate immature brains while they're in utero."

It has also recently been suggested by Dr. Mark Manhowald of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorder Center that:

"The fetus is in REM consciousness during most of its term in utero.  Because the new baby's brain begins development with only the basics, like a new computer, the life process, [REM], programs the brain with capabilities in each developmental stage and continues doing so after birth."

My view is that it is probably an entrainment phenomenon that is the mechanism for this.  Entrainment is the phenomenon in physics in which two periodic wave systems close in frequency to each other, soon become synchronous, that is oscillate with completely the same frequency.  It is the principle behind the automatic fine-tuning on an FM receiver, by which, if you get close to the frequency of the sending signal, the tuner automatically tunes in to it exacly.

However that may be, this data offers much food for many interesting speculations.

FIRST:  This mean that if we want to reach the fetal memories which are so important in the development of both our body's physical and personality structures, then our best shot at reaching them is in the consciousness state in which they were fed or programmed into our being.  REM consciousness is critical then to the remembering of these earliest experiences.

Dr. Stanley Krippner and Dr. Montague Ullman, while at the Maimonides Dream Laboratory, suggested in their early worked that the [REM consciousness] was a psychic state.  They, for example, demonstrated that two people in REM were capable of picking up on, or sharing dream experiences, even when separated from each other by walls and space.  So from this we can postulate that a fetus in REM is quite probably capable of picking up on mother's dream states, and quite possibly father's, even while separated.

Since dreams are also known to be necessary in dealing with waking traumas and events, the fetus is exposed to all of the experiences of the mother's and father's waking life through their dreams.  Thus the earliest programming of the fetus is very much determined by both of the parents, their life styles, emotional conditions, and events occurring in and requiring dream processing from their waking lives.  That is, of course, in addition to the physiological conditioning through the chemical environment created in the womb by mother's experiences.

In a very large sense, through REM, the fetus is tapping into co-consciousness with the parents and perhaps even into the collective consciousness of the species for programming its earliest fetal development.  This, as suggested by Dr. Manhowald, continues on after birth.

One very poignant example of this is offered from a client suffering multiple personality disorder.  Her mother also suffered from this disorder, and my client's experiences as a fetus were of having no set personality model from which to program her personality, nor of a stable chemical environment in the womb.  The mother was also having love affairs, which the father knew of, and he was greatly disturbed by them.  The mother had been raped prior to my client's conception, and was still affected by this.

In working with my client and hearing the stories about her own early life and experiences, it was apparent that she had literally come forth from the womb already afflicted by this disorder.  We had to go back well into the earliest fetal and prefetal consciousness structures for her to release and heal her disorder rather than merely putting a superficial fix on it.  She carried both her parents' burdens into birth and to her present.  Reaching these mechanisms through REM consciousness and the journey process was critical to her being able to reach, release and transform them.

Using the awake side of REM was crucial to the process for several reasons.  Her dreams were superficially not about either these earliest or consciousness structures.  Dreams, on the surface level, most often reflect recent experiences and only through deeper work in the structure of the dream itself touch on the earliest consciousness structures, which in turn determine our reactions to these recent experiences.  Thus to work at the surface level only, as for examples with dream interpretation or analysis, which operates at intellectual levels, or gestalt dream work, which works at the emotional-experiential levels, or lucid dreaming which works at ego-experiential levels, is insufficient to reach the early experiences and structures needing release and transformation.

In awake REM consciousness, using the imaginative sensory nature of the journeys, with the help of a mentor she was able to reach the primal consciousness that formed the basis of her multiple personality structure.  The ego minds (there were twelve in all) were able to follow the process without directing or controlling it to allow the eventual emergence of one whole self.  This was also necessary in order to transform the coping mechanism of creating other personalities when in pain or threatened, the coping mechanism she had been programmed with in the womb.

SECOND:  REM consciousness is associated with womb experiences such as the generation and development of the nervous system and tissue formation.  The nervous system and personality development, we know, are very susceptible   to the mood and experiences of the organism.  These are the matters with which much of psychiatry and psychology deal.  And tissue formation is also associated with mood and experiences.

For example, Dr. Carl Simonton demonstrated this in relation to the development of cancer and its remission.  In one example, he demonstrated that many if not most cancers developed within two years of a major loss such as death of a spouse or loss of one's career through retirement.  He also demonstrated that remission of the cancer was very much facilitated by visual imagery combined with other informational and therapeutic psychology.  Norman Cousins demonstrated that healing could be induced through genuine good feeling such as laughter and peace of mind, and positive attitude.  He healed his own cancer in this way.

We know from chaos theory that any complex system is very much influenced by minor perturbations or differences in its initial conditions.  This is known as the "butterfly effect."  The human organism is certainly a very complex system, and so very much influenced in it development by events in its earliest developmental conditions.  Thus in these early conditions of REM consciousness in the womb, our future physiology and personality are greatly influenced by our experiences as a fetus.  Our future illnesses are quite probably programmed into our consciousness structure, and thus also our neurological and tissue structures, during these sensitive initial conditions.

Return to these consciousness structures in REM consciousness could very well allow us to rewrite our past, and to do so in the state that is associated with the formation of the nervous system and tissue development.  Since this consciousness is associated with the development of new tissue and the nervous system, it stands to reason that we can most probably also regenerate them from this state.  Further evidence of this is: that this is the consciousness state in which we have noticed such profound self-healing in the CRP Journeys with our participants.

We also have validation of that from dream deprivation studies, which clearly show that the mind, the nervous system and eventually the body and physiology deteriorate when the organism is deprived of REM sleep.  It has long been an observation in medical therapy that sleep is regenerative, and that people recovering from illness need more sleep and thus REM than usual.   This further points to the importance of working directly in REM consciousness.

THIRD:  Several pieces of data from various sources suggest the use of awake REM consciousness that allows us to fully experience transformative experience and affect our long term memory.  It is known that while in REM consciousness, the muscles are buffered the nervous system, that is we can be running in our dream yet the leg muscles may only twitch slightly.  This allows the brain then to input much inner information without engaging us in outer activity.

It has also been postulated in the field of Neuropsychology that one's psychology is incapable of distinguishing between dream experiences and outer experiences.  We note here that it is our experience that programs us, and becomes the neural circuitry that shares both our personality and body chemistry (through the pineal and pituitary glands both of which are part of the brain's structure).  Dreams have very little impact on long term memory; however, the awake side of REM consciousness, as used in the CRP Journeys, does impact long term memory.

Putting these data together, we can in REM consciousness, re-experience our very earliest trauma's from a virtual reality-like perspective without involving our musculature, and also experience very deep shifting of our energy and consciousness structures while retaining this in long term memory.  In the journeys, REM facilitates functional neural plasticity.  Thus the journey process can permanently affect the brain and its neural firing sequences and thus the operation of the pineal and pituitary glands.  Further, we can retain the memories of these healing and transformative experiences as new neural patterns.  We establish and exercise new 'circuits.'

FOURTH:  From studies in the field of Neurofeedback, and the interface of chaos with the brain, and its role in its functioning, a number of researchers have reached some tantalizing conclusions.

Although measurements of brain waves have resulted in division and categorization of them into certain frequencies or states such as the alpha, theta, beta, and delta generation, and this appears ordered, such is not really the case.  The frequencies of the brain waves vary randomly within a given state; that is, the distance between peaks is highly variable and disordered.  When these frequencies are used to program a fractal program (the mathematics describing chaos theory theory) it becomes possible to measure the degree of chaos or complexity in the brain's functioning.  These degrees of complexity are known as dimensions and the higher the dimensionality, the more complex or chaotic are the firing patterns of neurons in the brain.  The highest dimension of complexity measure in the brain has been nine.

Lower dimensionality is associated with illness and dysfunction of the brain, for example epilepsy, comas and strokes.  (Some forms of meditation are also associated with lower dimensionality or linearity).  Similarly dysfunction such as obsessive compulsive behavior may also be associated with linearity or lower dimensionality.  On the other hand high dimensionality is associated with healthier brain functioning.  The highest levels of dimensionality are associated with processing and assimilating new information, and creativity.

Chaos theory itself implies that the more complex a system is, the more self-correcting it is, .  This is because disruption to a linear system will throw the whole system off course, but only affects a portion of a complex system, which soon adjusts to "fill in the gap."  In a way this is the reverse of the butterfly effect and operates in the complex system once it is past its initial conditions.  The important data to note is that:  The highest level of dimensionality measured in the brain, that is a dimensionality of nine, occurs on in REM consciousness!

In the CRP Journeys, we observe that chaotic consciousness was the state in which the healing transformations occur to the primal existential sensory self image, or at the initial conditions of the system, and that REM consciousness is necessary to the process.  This has been reported in several previously mentioned DNJ articles by the author.

In even more general considerations, this gives reason or in part implies the mechanisms through which dreams do their healing and regenerative work.  Chaos is always associated with change but is usually seen as an aftereffect.  This information implies that chaos, as we have maintained, is actually the mechanism of the change itself.  REM consciousness is the most chaotic or complex state of dynamics measured in the brain.

So do you remember REM?  You should!  It could change your life.  It could be the basis of your healing and evolution.  It is possibly the most important and yet one of the undervalued consciousness dynamics available to you.  And it is with you every time you go to sleep in every dream you have.