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All the time. It is miraculous. —The Power of Myth (PBS, 1988)
Making Roooooooom For Myself
I erupted into tears on a quiet airplane somewhere between Los Angeles and Dallas, out loud, making a spectacle of myself and causing alarm in the concerned middle-aged woman seated next to me.
I tried to hold them back—I’m not the type to cry openly in public—but it was too late—my tears had a mind of their own.
It was 1990, I was 22 years old, and I’d just finished my gig as a back-up dancer for the pop duo, Bordeaux. I was covered in bumps, cuts, and bruises from rolling all over the stage and knocking into any props and scaffolding that got in my way. In those days, it seemed I was always having to put make up over
the purple and red marks on my body– not from abusive boyfriends, but a combination of hurling myself into my performances, and more embarrassingly, from my own clumsiness. Yes, dancers are supposed to be graceful. I guess I was what you’d call selectively graceful.
To me, my body was a thing that had rhythm and an ability to improvise when the spotlight was on. I was told it was a sexy body – the kind that turned heads, opened doors, and elicited cat calls I pretended not to notice. My body was a means to an end— it was an ‘it’—a thing that hooked men’s attention and the envy and sometimes admiration of women, but it also disobeyed and betrayed me. No matter how much I dieted, exercised, starved myself, or strangled it with saran wrap on hot summer days, it refused to be skinny – the way I most wanted it to be. My body was hell-bent on being voluptuous and curvy. Unfortunately for me, this was decades before the Kardashians and J-Lo brought curvy into fashion.
A friend had given me The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell for my 22nd birthday. On the airplane, I took the book out of my backpack and skimmed through the pages to look at the pictures. Yes, I’m that kind of reader. If there are pictures, I’m compelled to take them in first. As I perused the images, I was struck by a series of goddess statues. Not so much by the images, but by the captions beneath them. Allow me to paraphrase:
The Greeks honored the female form and literally placed them on a pedestal. Breasts symbolized nurture; the torso symbolized the womb of creation; arms were for holding, comforting, embracing a world in need; legs were for taking a stand, protesting injustice; eyes beheld beauty and visions of what was to come . . .
I closed the book and put it down as a strange sensation overtook me – an iceberg in the center of my chest began to thaw into hot liquid that streaked my face. What was happening to me?
It had never occurred to me that the female form, much less my female form, could be something sacred…to revere…to honor…to put on a pedestal…to inspire. Discovering that the female body could symbolize something holy was like finding out the world wasn’t flat but voluptuous and round … like me.
I tried to stop my tears, but it was too late, and, on some level, I didn’t care. This was an overdue cryfest. Convenience be damned!
The concerned, middle-aged lady next to me offered a tissue and asked if I was all right. “Yes, thank you,” I sputtered between sobs and nose blowing. “I’m fine, at least I’m going to be fine. In fact, I might be finer than I’ve been in a long time.”
I wept as silently as I could for the remainder of the flight. I began to apologize to my body for referring to it as an ‘it’. I slowly scanned each part of my physical self in my mind, and to every bump, bruise, and cut, said a silent “I’m sorry.” From that moment on Joseph Campbell had my attention.
Soon after, “the airplane incident” I found a therapist I loved. I knew she was the one for me when I saw, The Power of Myth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces prominently displayed in her office. She asked me about all my bruises and bruises and told me in her honey-like voice, “Kelly, you need to make rooooooooom for yourself.” I shared with her the excruciating nightmares I was having. She told me, “A nightmare is an unfinished dream…you get to choose your ending.” Then she gave me the assignment to repeat this phrase throughout the day, silently to myself: I am a hero on a hero’s journey.
I felt a little like Stuart Smalley (Al Franken’s sappy character on Saturday Night Live) chanting this affirmation…because I didn’t feel like a hero at all…in fact, I felt like the exact opposite. However, in spite of my resistance, over time, it began to sink in—and I started feeling better, stronger, more integrated. Little by little, with therapy, 12-step programs, shamans, crystals, meditation and every healing modality I could get my hands on, I began making rooooooooom for myself, so much so that I became a certified clinical hypnotherapist, with an emphasis on dreamwork.
Over the past fifteen years I’ve written six books on dreams. Brick by brick, and step by step, that affirmation took hold. And today, the core of my work is the weave between dreams and the Hero’s Journey. To date I’ve shared this work with people in workshops and individual sessions—helping them make rooooooooom for themselves and realize they are a hero on a hero’s journey. After all, they say you teach what you most need to learn. So, after two decades of teaching this, I can proudly report, I have not a single bruise on my body (that I can see). I may not treat myself with the reverence Joseph Campbell did when he wrote about the goddesses in his books, but, I’m on my way.
THE DREAM JOURNEY
Dreams have been at the center of my work for the past twenty years. I had the godmother of realizations when I understood the hero’s journey is not just a model for empowering our waking lives, but one that maps the transformational potential of dreamwork. I could suddenly see how every symbol that shows up in our dreams is a neon sign pointing out what stage of the hero’s journey we are in.
Dreams of deep water tend to relate to the belly of the whale. Trying to answer or make a phone call can be symbolic of a call to adventure. Rushing in late to an exam ties into the road of trials. Receiving recognition, such as a raise or award, often represents the reward stage. The hero’s journey adds an essential filter through which we can decode dreams, and our dreams reciprocate by revealing where we are on our hero’s journey.
This discovery was a revelation for me, because in one fell swoop, dreams and the hero’s journey, two modalities that have meant so much to me, suddenly came together like pieces of a glorious jigsaw puzzle.
DIFFERENT YET SIMILAR
Regardless of race, politics, age, gender, or religion, we dream every night, and there is a hero in all of us. Dreamwork and the hero’s journey are equal opportunity frameworks for anyone with a pulse. They both awaken us to a more empowered life. Here are a few more fundamentals that dreams and the hero’s journey have in common.
- woven into our deep unconscious
• spoken in symbolic language
• meeting us on a soul-ular level
• making sense of our challenges
• transforming us from victims to victors
• testing us, teaching us, guiding us, helping us, healing us, revealing our next step
• supporting our process of becoming awakened human beings
• requiring our conscious attention
• delivering us back home to the ordinary world, with an elixir to share with others.
HOW TO WORK WITH THE HERO’S JOURNEY DREAM ORACLE CARDS
This deck combines elements of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey with dream symbols and wisdom to:
- Springboard your intuition
• Illuminate your ability to interpret your nighttime dreams • Amplify your higher guidance
• Awaken your wisdom
• Activate boldness and heroism in your waking life
Each card offers an affirmative thought about an aspect of dreams and the hero’s journey. This insight relates to your waking life, to help you with your hero’s journey in the light of day.
This symbol relates to the relevant stage of your hero’s journey. The interpretation given is suggestive of what the symbol might represent in a dream. These meanings can help you decipher the card reading as well as your dream imagery. You can use this deck to explore your dreams by finding the symbols in the Dream Symbols Index at the beginning of this guidebook and allowing the associated cards to stimulate your understanding of what the dream holds for you.
A short, affirmative statement to anchor the essence of the card in your daily life. Repeat the mantra silently in contemplative meditation, carry it with you like a touchstone, or memorize it so you can say it to yourself throughout your day. Allow the mantra to color your thoughts (like wine through water) and align you with the resonance of your most awakened, heroic, dreamy self.
There are four cards for each of the twelve stages of the hero’s journey, plus four major arcana cards. In a sense, the major arcana can be looked at as bouillon cubes that contain the entire deck within them. The remainder of the cards reflect the twelve stages of the hero’s journey and are numbered chronologically. The cards are listed from 1 to 52 here in the guidebook where you will find an inspirational quote, message, dream symbol and mantra for each. This text will help you create a relationship with The Hero’s Journey Dream Oracle, and if you so choose, to engage with your dreams in a more meaningful way.
Kelly Sullivan Walden has been analyzing dreams for 20 years and is the author of 7 bestsellling dream books and two oracle card decks, including her latest, The Hero’s Journey Dream Oracle. If you’d like Kelly to decode your dream, message her at:
Kelly@KellySullivanWalden.com or www.Facebook.com/KellySullivanWaldenDoctorDream