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Paying Attention to Dreams.

Paying Attention to Dreams.

Paying Attention to Dreams.


I walk in the dark night, staying next to buildings lest I cast a shadow. Seeking to blend my footsteps into the rhythm of the subtle night sounds, traffic, other people walking on ahead of me and behind me perhaps also seeking anonymity, I walk carefully, heading towards the unknown. My clothes are filthy. I carry nothing. My whole body is alert, my senses heightened and everything in me craves something familiar, something or someone welcoming.

Finding myself in a subway. I sit amidst other humans and try to shrink into myself so as not to bring attention to my presence. My head down, I feign sleep as men come through the car I ride and ask to see Identification papers. Having no papers, I am taken out of the subway. I see my family in another grouping of people being herded away. I scream and no sound leaves my voice.


This is a variation on recurring dreams of flight I have had for several years now.. Some involve me trying to flee with my daughter who is in a wheelchair. Some involve me climbing up stairs that become mazes. Leaving with no clear understanding of where I am going, but the sheer necessity of needing to flee from chaos, disruption and violence. Leaving and struggling to leave, struggling to land, and fearing separation from family.


I wake to find myself in my warm bed, my husband beside me, my little dog curled up in his comfortable dog bed.



Paying attention to dreams, often writing them down in the morning is a regular practice. I don’t always know what they mean but they evoke powerful feelings and I believe they can be messages. There are many theories of dreams from  Carl Jung’s theory of dreams tapping into the collective unconscious to the research showing dreams playing out life events (Cartwright)

From a Psychology Course from Lumen Learning, here is a breakdown on the posited theories on dreams:

activation-synthesis theory: states that dreams don’t actually mean anything. Instead, dreams are merely electrical brain impulses that pull random thoughts and imagery from our memories.
collective unconscious: theoretical repository of information shared by all people across cultures, as described by Carl Jung
continual-activation theory: proposes that dreaming is a result of brain activation and synthesis; its assumption is that, during REM sleep, the unconscious part of the brain is busy processing procedural memory
latent content: hidden meaning of a dream, per Sigmund Freud’s view of the function of dreams
lucid dream: people become aware that they are dreaming and can control the dream’s content
manifest content: storyline of events that occur during a dream, per Sigmund Freud’s view of the function of dreams
threat-simulation theory: suggests that dreaming should be seen as an ancient biological defense mechanism that provides an evolutionary advantage because of its capacity to repeatedly simulate potential threatening events, thus enhancing the mechanisms required for efficient threat avoidance.
Regardless of theory, I reflect on the knowledge that there are currently over 86 million people, including children that are displaced by famine, violence, instability and war.
I listened to a podcast driving in my car last week highlighting the plight of people with disabilities in the Ukraine War. Most of the shelters don’t have access to wheelchairs. Medication that people need to treat chronic issues and disease is scarce or not available. Most of them are trapped unable to even seek shelter from bombs and shrapnel. There remain refugees in places that we don’t hear in the daily news. Ethiopia. Somalia. Syria. Southern Sudan.
One of my dear friends entered this country at the Southern Border through crossing the border into Mexico from her Central American country and risking her life as a solo female traveling to her husband.
Her story is harrowing, heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time. She faced both the best and the worst of people in her journey.
This is a story that benefits all to listen and learn.
Who are we in these stories of fellow humans that are called undocumented, refugee, immigrant?
If someone in her situation were to meet us in a time of need, would we represent the best or worst of humanity?
In my dream last night, I was alone, standing with nothing. I had managed to get away from the men looking for ID, but not without injury. In my dream (as dream life often creates bizarre interactions), a girl I went to high school with saw and recognized me. Silently, with deliberation, she held out her hand to me and led me to safety, to food. The next iteration of my dream found me, with her help, finding the scattered members of my family.
Voices weigh in and everyone has an opinion lately on refugees. Many voices speak to the needs of folks that are already here in our communities that lack basic necessities and the limited resources of a community such as the one I live in, Johnstown, Pa.
I challenge the notion we have not yet done everything possible to lift up people on the margins.
I challenge this belief that serving one population takes away from serving another.
I challenge the idea that that is impossible to provide sanctuary to those in need of safety and stability.
Have we really looked and brought in all the resources/time/energy/money let alone systemic transformation to build a more equitable society for the people that are already here?
Are we even willing to do so?
Perhaps it not so much a lack of resources but a lack of creative imagining of collective care that links, government, churches, non-profits, schools, communities and families together in ways that are not cumbersome by the many hoops required to access support.
While we have not housed refugees, we have on a limited income welcomed people into our home, including strangers, including people from different cultures, traditions, and speaking different languages,  one, an immigrant here legally although with very little English, had been lured into forced labor trafficking.
This has not always been easy or convenient, but it has enriched our lives, opened our hearts and truly oriented us towards a global citizenship, a sense of being in this world together, not only with our immediate neighbors, but in a larger sense of connection to fellow humanity.
Waking this morning, I lay in bed and let my dream sink in, the details, the feelings. I don’t know fully what I believe about dreams and can see the many dreams I have with this recurring theme falling into possibly three or more of these theories. What I do know is that these dreams inform my heart.
What I remember most in my dream, is the feeling of being lost, disconnected from the world around me and the hand reaching out to me lovingly and firmly, inviting me to sanctuary.


Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen, B.A. Political Science/Sociology, is a Certified Music Practitioner, Sound Healer, Reiki Master, and Registered Yoga Teacher with a trauma informed/social justice framework. She has 20 years experience of working with some of the most amazing people on the planet; hospice patients and their families, patients in a variety of health conditions, survivors of sexual abuse, adults with mental illness and most recently, incarcerated women. Rachel is also passionate about supporting and working with caregivers to reduce burnout and compassion fatigue. Locally, Rachel teaches Creative Movement at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA. Regionally and nationally, she teaches and presents at conferences and retreats, weaving live music, yoga, and creative movement into themes of compassion, self acceptance, and transformation. Rachel is committed to engaging people from all walks of life in the healing arts to create healthy, diverse, and joyful communities.