In a book called Intimate Death (Knopf), Marie de Hennezel, a French psychologist who has worked for many years with the dying in what the French call “palliative care centers”, describes her meetings with a dying man who always begins by sharing his dreams. In one dream, he is an actor in a Fellini film called something like “And the Ship Sailed On”. He notices two pairs of legs in the dream. One set is emaciated and deformed like his physical legs, which have been wasted by his disease. The other pair of legs is beautifully shaped and healthy.
Marie and the dying man clearly enjoyed talking over this dream. It contained several gifts:
– The image of the ship and the crossing, which is a common (and usually helpful) rehearsal for the spirit’s crossing to the other side
– The movie theme, suggesting that all of this is a divine drama, in which we must give the best performance we can!
– The beautiful new limbs: the promise of new life in the celestial body.
This story from France is a reminder that dreaming is an excellent preparation for dying. Our dreams open paths into the deeper reality – indeed, we travel those paths every night, even if we don’t remember. Our dreams also introduce spiritual guides who can help us make the transition to worlds beyond the physical. Dreaming, we are constantly rehearsing for the big journey into the life beyond our present life experience.
But what about the millions of people who don’t remember dreams, or say they don’t dream, and don’t meditate or have any kind of practice to prepare them for the decisive move into the dreamworld that follows physical death? These are often the people we find clinging as desperately as the drowning to the things of this world before and after they die. Scared of dying, they hang on and hang on, exhausting the emotional (and sometimes the physical) resources of those who love them. After death, when they wake up to the fact that they still have bodies – of a certain kind – and can still experience pleasure and pain, they often become confused about their condition. Having had no schooling in the existence of the energy bodies, and the reality of dimensions beyond the physical, they imagine they are still alive and merely have more trouble than usual in getting people to listen to them and attend to their needs. You can find lost and confused souls like this literally sitting on the couch trying to watch TV – or trying to share a drink with the guy at the bar – or trying to tell their kids or grandkids how to dress and whom to date.
We need many, many more people in all walks of life who can help to prepare others for the journey through death. One of the most powerful and effective ways I know to facilitate this is to transfer a dream to someone who lacks a dream and needs one badly. There is a beautiful of what I know call the Dream Transfer technique in my book Dreamgates in which a woman tells and retells a happy, sensual dream of plunging into a different element to her elderly, fearful mother – until her mother makes the dream her own and eventually opens a path for her own dreaming, along which a guide with a familiar face appears to her and assures her she has a friend on the other side who will help her through the crossing. The Dream Transfer technique has become a key element in my new workshops and has multiple applications, not least in bringing through healing images for others. Check out the workshop calendar for details of where you can receive first-hand training in this powerful practice.