© Julie Garvey
“If you bring forth what is within you What you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you What you do not bring forth will destroy you.” – The Gospel of Thomas
Twenty-six years ago, I was faced with a very difficult choice, one of those huge, life-transforming choices. They are never easy to make and just the process of having to make them can result in a spiritual and emotional paralysis. The stakes are high and the fear of making a mistake can suck every ounce of energy out of you.
I had a dream: I was standing on a small ledge on the side of a sheer rock face. I was safe in the short term but unquestionably, I could not stay there forever. Eventually I would starve, and if I were to fall asleep, I may fall off and land on the sharp, jagged rocks hundreds of feet below. I stood with my back to the wall for some time and the light started to fade.
Looking around for a way out, I noticed a rope suspended to my right. The only problem was that the rope was considerably out of reach, and in order to climb up it to safety I would have to take a huge risk and leap. What a terrible decision to have to make, whether to stay where I was, temporarily safe but ultimately assured of death, or whether to risk everything in a bid for safety and risk the possibility of immediate death.
I chose to leap for the rope, and I made it, using all of my strength to pull myself up to safety.
When I awoke the next day, I knew what my decision must be. I knew this, not because I could interpret dreams, but because I knew how I felt. I recognized which choice for me would be the passive choice and which would be the risk. Another person may have chosen differently; it’s a very personal matter.
Dreams can be a beautiful source of metaphor, full to the brim with information and unpolluted by the constructs of the conscious mind. They often hold the answers to the questions we have about our journey and ourselves. They point us in the direction that is right for us. There is no question that dreams open a portal for us into our subconscious, but after all, dreams are just metaphors and metaphors are tools we are using day in and day out.
But for an individual to learn how to get into dialogue with their subconscious, symbolic self requires practice, mindfulness and a curious spirit. We can capture the essence of an experience and select the right metaphor to convey the intensity of our feeling about a subject.
Understanding Your Own Symbols
Think of the difference in intensity between saying, “I feel like I am wasting my time” and “I feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall”. Invariably we use metaphors without being aware that we are using them or why we select the metaphors we do.
Something within us is picking our language, picking our symbols and communicating in exactly the right imagery for other human beings to ‘get’ what we are saying. Often the only person who is not privy to this communication is us.
We all have a rich and powerful symbolic life and access to our own personal guidance. Some of us ‘feel the weight of the world on our shoulders’ or feel at times that ‘our hands are tied’, some of us are the mothers or fathers of Tasmanian devils or ‘work for complete jackasses’, some of us become ‘incandescent with rage’, while others are ‘as sweet as pie’, but possibly ‘bubbling just under the surface’ and ‘ready to blow’ at the ‘drop of a hat’.
We use symbols and symbolic language constantly but are seldom consciously aware of this fact, seldom conscious of how we truly feel. We each walk in a world of our own construct, interpreting every experience through our individual filter and, just like snowflakes, no two of us are exactly alike.
Each one of us is a puzzle, an enigma, a paradox, the biggest mystery to any of us is ourselves. We consciously know what we want and unconsciously set about not getting it. That is because we are usually not conscious at all, we are simply awake at some times and asleep at others.
On our journey to becoming fully conscious, we `peel back the layers’, ‘take off the blinkers’ or ‘rose tinted glasses’ and constantly ‘look within’. Many of us are unaware or unwilling to admit that we have a shadow, that part of ourselves we denied early in life and continue to deny now in the headlong rush to form and protect an acceptable image of ourselves.
So what is the value in knowing one’s own symbols? The value is that this knowledge provides us with an opportunity to evaluate how we order our world, our relationships, our occupations.
Recognizing our symbols allows us to interpret the experiences of our lives and to expand our awareness of why we say the things we do, make the choices we make and get the results we get.
By knowing what is true for us today, we have the opportunity to transform our current situation and bring it more into alignment with where we want to be at the deepest, purest level of our being. Recognizing and working with our personal symbols gives us the opportunity to get into dialogue with ourselves, so that we are no longer driven by forces beyond our conscious awareness.
By tapping into our own best counsel and following our inner compass, we cease to need others to help us make decisions, determine why we can’t find happiness, and uncover the reasons we self-sabotage.