The Welcoming Prayer by Father Thomas Keating begins like this: Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! I welcome everything that comes my way today because I know it is for my healing. Well that's all well and good when good things happen- when the kids get good grades, or membership in an honors society. It's all well and good when the car runs properly, the house is clean and I'm in an exercise rhythm. However, when things go badly or unexpectedly- when a parent dies, when a tire goes flat, when overeating becomes a habit instead of a once a year at Thanksgiving pattern--Well, it's harder to welcome everything that happens to me today.
Harder than welcoming everything are the next lines of the Prayer: I let go of my desire for power and control. I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure. I let go of my desire for survival and security. I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself. To welcome and let go is
"one of the most radically loving,
faith-filled gestures we can make
in each moment of each day.
It is an open-hearted embrace
of all that is in ourselves and in the world."
So said Mary Mrozowski, one of the founders of Contemplative Outreach along with Father Keating. Here's a link to learn more about The Welcoming Prayer:
Evidently working with dreams entails the same approach as the Welcoming Prayer. Dream Work involves welcoming sometimes disturbing images or fearful feelings. It involves looking at all the dream may be offering, playing with images, learning from them and then letting them go. At the first Intensive for Dream Work Training, I learned from Kathleen Wiley, Jungian analyst and family therapist, that "dreams always come in the service of wholeness." Dreams bring the conscious and the unconscious together in service of our healing. Dreams don't lie or distort, their goal is to create consistency between one's inner and outer world. This is where Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung parted ways in terms of their approaches to psychology. Jung maintained that the self and ego are always moving, drawn toward wholeness. Freud did not agree. Freud tended to associate dreams with pathology and illness while Jung viewed that which is needed for healing to be found in all the sick, weird, shadowed, sublimated opposites of which we are afraid. The desire to refuse to look at troubling images and feelings is actually the sign that we need to examine the image or feeling! In fact, if I haven't explored my own troubling images and feelings like despair or anger, I cannot sit with another person in their despair or anger. That is what most convinces me of Jesus' Saving Power is that Jesus knows what it means to be fully human. He knows what it means to suffer, be frustrated, feel complex feelings, rejoice, raise objections to injustice. Because he knows these things as a full person, I can trust his goodness for me, believe in his unconditional love and amazing grace.
Dreams are God's images, messages to us, just as they were for Jacob and his ladder (Genesis 28), Pharaoh and his skinny and fat cows (Genesis 41), the wise men's map to go home by another way and Joseph's dream that protected Jesus from Herod's slaughter (Matthew 2). Dreams tell us the truth about our deepest selves and if they are moving toward our wholeness and our healing...Isn't that God's intent for us as well? "We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to God's purpose." (Romans 8:28) And we know through Joseph's amazing story in the Hebrew Testament that God sent Joseph before his brothers to preserve life, a remnant of family. Even though Joseph's brothers' nefarious acts toward him were meant for his ill, God turned them into good (Genesis 45).
It may take years for me to welcome everything that happens to me today for my healing. It may take years for me to let go of my desire for security, my need for approval, my compulsion to change myself and other people. Perhaps this happens one dream at a time...
Grace and Peace,
Pictures are of parts of Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center, Hendersonville, NC