Crowded Memories

Photo: puzzle pieces scattered on the table

Going through my boxes of old files in the basement, I am now working on files related to activism in solidarity with Indigenous people in Boston back in the 1990s. I found some correspondence with one particular activist, for example, and I am remembering the long process of getting to know each other, building trust, and finding ways to be helpful in that struggle. But when my ministry calling required that I move to another place (Cape Cod, at first, and then Maine), it meant that all of that relationship-building was lost, in a way, and I had to start all over again in a new place to build trust, to make connections, to find ways to be of use.

When white people are moved to act in solidarity with Indigenous people, it requires a lot of work to create relationships of trust. There is such a long history of colonization, of oppression, of theft, of genocide, between us–and a long history of “helpful” people doing damage. And yet, the more I became aware of that broken history, the more I have felt moved to participate in such solidarity. Not without mistakes. But I have continued in these other places seeking to build relationships of trust with other Indigenous people, doing the long work of decolonization.

I am not one who usually has spirit-filled dreams at night. Usually, in my dreams I am at a conference or gathering somewhere, along with a whole crowd of people, only some of whom I am acquainted with. I am trying to find my way around, or find food, or find my way back to where I was before–such mundane anxieties. Sometimes I meet old friends there. Often, I feel lost and overwhelmed by all the people I don’t know in places I don’t know.

I started feeling like that as I was going through these and other files from Boston. So many people with whom I have done work, shared conversations, struggled for justice, had significant experiences, lived in a household together, loved, hurt or been hurt by, and yet, I had forgotten so much of it. If I were not looking through these files, I wouldn’t remember much of what is in them. It all slips away with the effort and energy of building a life in a new place. Only a few relationships carried into long distance realities.

Sometimes I fantasize about not having moved everywhere, living somewhere and staying there my whole life. But I realize it is only a fantasy. This came clear to me a while back when I watched the movie Kuessipan, about two girls who grow up as best friends in an Innu community. In the description, “their friendship is shaken when Mikuan …starts dreaming of leaving the reserve that’s now too small for her dreams.” In reflecting on that movie, I realized, I would have been the one who left. In fact, I did leave a small town to go off to college, and I kept traveling to “bigger dreams.” I guess that journey is also in my blood. My grandmother left Canada to come with a foreigner to America when she was 17. Perhaps she too was seeking a bigger life, bigger dreams.

And now, here I am, sitting alone in the basement, going through memories, looking back on the many people I met over so many years. Sometimes I feel so tired. Sometimes I feel lonely in the midst of the crowded gatherings in my dreams. Sometimes it is a relief just sitting alone with the boxes, trying to make sense of the puzzle pieces of my life. It is a humbling journey. May Spirit help me to remain curious and grateful.

Imagination as a Tool

Imagination can play an important role in shifting our attention. If we want to find that which is larger than words, that which we cannot define or explain by words, we need to access the playfulness of the non-verbal mind. Images are one way that we can experience the non-verbal realms. Carl Jung taught us about the power of dream images to express realities which could not be expressed in words. In my dreams, I have experienced the power to fly, to light candles from across the room, to heal with fire in my hands. Our dreams can be a pathway into a different consciousness.

Candle flameSometimes, people shift their attention by calling upon an image of the larger reality. Some people call upon God to hear them and to speak to them. Others invite the goddess to enter the circle. Or we might say, Infinite Light, be here now, and light a candle. These invitations are also called invocations. It might feel silly to us to call out to someone or something that we don’t even know is there. But any time we invite the larger reality into the room, what we are really doing is inviting our hearts to shift their attention. We are re-tuning our hearts to notice the light that is already there.

The images are meant not to be objects to grasp in our minds, but tools for the imagination to awaken the mysteries of connection within us. So, if I say, “Spirit of Life, please open my heart to the wonders of your world,” I create an intention, a form that can hold the energies in a certain rhythm or shape. I open a window in my consciousness, to see what my literal eyes cannot. When we open the door, there is something that wakes up, something beyond what we can expect or explain. If we don’t open the door, we will never know what is out there, or in here.

Dreaming In Circles

Red Moon

Photo by Margy Dowzer

It is said that if a group of people sleep arranged in a circle—heads at the center and feet out like spokes—they create a dream circle. Two or more people in the group may have the same dream at the same time. I tried this once with a group of friends, but I must confess, it didn’t really work for me. Mostly I just had a rather poor night’s sleep.

But I like the metaphor. The word dream is used to describe both our strange nighttime adventures and also our waking hopes and visions for our lives. For me, dreaming in circles is about sharing those waking dreams, entering into the magic that can happen when we join our visions together. We talk and we listen. We plan and we act. We are energized by each other, and we grow strong and bold. When we dream in circles, anything is possible. Margaret Mead has said,

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

And here’s the important thing. When we dream in circles, the circle itself becomes the greatest magic of all. We wake up to the reality of our profound interconnection with all people and all beings. The circle is a symbol of this interconnection between people. In a circle, every person is linked to every other. Every person is equally valued and appreciated. Human beings cannot thrive as random individual strangers in a crowd; we are connected to one another at the deepest level, and we can only find wholeness through loving and mutual relationships. By sharing our dreams, we can come home to a community of love.