Dreamyoga: The Ones That Scare Us

Via Linda Buzogany
on Mar 5, 2011
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(photo courtesy dianerupnowphotography.com)

Jungian Psychology forever talks about vessels and containers, as does yoga, religion, and alchemy.  I can’t say I understand it completely in practical terms but I think it has to do with making an instrument of yourself. 

I’m trying to be a good vessel, but I’ve been a resistant vessel lately.  A scared vessel.  It began from a dream.

It is in dying that we are born to eternal life

I am sliding off the edge of a tall apartment building.   I am injured, on my back, struggling to grab onto something. 

The building tilts and I slide precariously off the edge now, my legs dangling over.  The fingers of my left hand are the only thing preventing me from going over, but my grasp is weak.   I begin yelling for help to those below but I’m on my back so the sound goes up and they can’t hear me. 

 I yell louder to the sky, as clearly and as loudly as I can, but to no avail.  My weak fingers will not hold me there much longer, not much longer at all.  Suddenly I am above myself looking down at my body as if from above, lying there in a sort of sprawled savasana.   I come back into my body and am staring straight up into the sky.  I feel completely at peace. There is nothing else to do but wait for it.    

In my waking life, I’ve never actually dangled, hovered that close to death.  I’ve had no acute threat to my physical life, but the dream gave me the experience with all the accompanying emotions, just as if it actually happened.  For a few moments, I actually was injured and struggling, dangling at the edge.  For a few moments watching myself from above, I actually did feel the peace of acceptance they say comes just before.  Dreams have a way of invoking a biological mix of emotion in your cells, and the concoction circulating through my blood when I woke hung me over for a good part of the next day, leaving a deep sense of foreboding that something bad would happen, like someone might die or get sick.

Over the next several days, it was hard to take long, slow, deep breaths in my yoga practice, and even harder outside of my yoga practice.  I noticed weakness in the asanas, pain and tenderness in my body, the general constriction fear creates – actual physical effects, from a dream.


Here’s how it went when I told my Jungian teacher, who is way more wise than he sounds in this exchange:

“I agree with you, something’s coming,” he said after examining this dream and several others over a span of a couple months.

 “Like what?”  I asked.

“Could be anything.”

Like something bad’s going to happen in my physical life?  No, he thought more like something in the psyche.  I was going to struggle.  It was going to be painful. 

Can’t. Wait.

“Like what from my psyche?” I was grasping for something concrete.  

“I don’t know,” he said studying his notes with a perplexed look on his face.  Something needs to integrate. He said it would feel less threatening when it was conscious.

“Any kind of timeline for when it gets here?”

“Could be any time.”

 Where there is darkness, let there be light

Carl Jung thought the function of a dream was to transform the personality into a more balanced, integrated whole.  Much of who we are sits below the surface, outside our awareness, unacknowledged by the one walking around in daily life, like aspects of ourselves we have disowned because we don’t like them. 

We might not think of ourselves as mean, for example, because we don’t want to acknowledge the harm we cause to others by our thoughtless comments; or we don’t realize the ways we distance ourselves in our closest relationships; or we act in ways that ensure our deepest insecurities play out.  Our dreams will point to which of our psychic imbalances is ready to be integrated, faced, or made conscious, the vessel most likely made ready now to contain the new growth by efforts in our outer life.

Once brought into the light of consciousness where we can see them, we can actually do something about our usual, knee jerk unconscious reactions. When we see that we contain equal parts meanness as we do kindness, for example, the mean comments will no longer be made, or you’ll catch yourself sooner.  You’ll apologize if you slip. 

Outer practices we do (yoga, study, meditation, prayer) serve as a kind of heat which creates the pressure necessary for these unconscious contents to come forth, one by one.  Anxiety is one way we experience the heat.  Jung even said tension, pressure, and anxiety are necessary for the unconscious psychic contents to squeeze through the boundary to consciousness. 

 Where there is doubt, faith

 But all of that is small comfort when you’re experiencing the anxiety.  Raising our consciousness is hard, humbling work. You don’t think to yourself while you’re struggling with difficult feelings, ‘Hey, great news. Unconscious psychic content is attempting to integrate.’ 

So now there is nothing else to do but wait for it, this painful, vague, diffuse, unidentifiable thing emerging.  I’ll watch my dreams closer to see what comes out of the darkness, freaky as it may be. My attention has been called to prepare for it, to watch for it.  The dream has shown me where to focus my concentration, my meditations. I will be with the anxiety when it rises, allowing the breath as much as I am able despite weakness, restriction and fear.  When whatever comes wants to come through, I will try to allow myself to go over the edge.  Expand my vessel.     

Make me an instrument of Thy peace

~St. Francis of Assisi, 13th century 


About Linda Buzogany

Linda Buzogany is the author of The Superman Years about self care during crisis and illness. She is a licensed therapist and psychology professor in Colorado.


10 Responses to “Dreamyoga: The Ones That Scare Us”

  1. This is an area of Yoga so unfamiliar to me that I learn a ton every time I read one of your intriguing articles.

    Here's a provocative thought. Has anyone ever suggested that to scrutinize dreams more carefully and to shape our consciousness around them might actually interfere with their natural Jungian function of creating balance in our psyches?

    I kind of feel this way about my own dreams. I don't particularly want to try to remember them or analyse them or control them.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  2. linda buzogany says:

    Morning Bob,

    Do you mean, do we f&*# ourselves up by giving so much credence to a dream? A valid question.


  3. No, not credence. Mere extra attention. Since for me it's a very unnatural thing to do, and since the Jungian theory is that dreams help establish balance in some mysterious way, how do we know that artificial emphasis on analysing our dreams doesn't in itself throw the natural system out further out of balance?

    Just something I'm thinking about. I love all your blogs about Dreamyoga, precisely because they are so contrary to my own inclinations.

  4. Char PSI Tutor:Mentor says:

    I think Jung would disagree, as unconsciousness is part of that natural system and bringing aspects of our Self into consciousness is part of the individuation process~ we are meant to get a little unbalanced during the creation of balance~ order from chaos, our consciousness is nourished from our unconsious~ we ignore parts of ourselves when we ignore our dreams, IMO.

  5. Char PSI Tutor:Mentor says:

    Great post Linda~ all the best sailing this sqall/storm. Rumi and others speak of a light so bright, it appears black. That alchemical black sun~ integration for sure ~:-)

  6. I wonder if dreams are a result of an overacting mind. Bad dreams are a reflection of our anxiety.

  7. The process of dream analysis, etc. from a psychological perspective is different from the dream yoga practices transmitted in authentic spiritual traditions. Even when we are talking about open-minded, cool perspectives, like Jung's, who fancied himself a bit of a yogi, it is still a different ball game.

    I am not saying that the psychology stuff is not useful, but it is an error to call it "dream yoga." Though I am not in a position to be giving out details of these practices, in a general sense most of the instructions include intentionally NOT getting involved with the "story" content of the dream at all.

    I graduated from a masters "transpersonal" psychology program where it was also very popular to confuse spiritually sensitive psychological dream work, and actual "dream yoga." I also graduated from a 7 year program of "Tantrik Yoga Studies", with a teacher that has received transmission in dream yoga practices from Indian Tantra, Vajrayana Tantra, Bon, Orthodox Daoism, etc. NONE of these practices resemble much of anything I learned in dream and consciousness classes in graduate school.

    Both practices – spiritually aware dream work, and dream yoga – are very useful and appropriate for different people in different times and situations. I am not knocking the work that the author of this article is doing, but am merely bringing attention to this common confusion. Best Wishes, yogi

  8. Thanks for this very interesting commentary, Energy.

  9. linda buzogany says:

    Thanks for this comment…an important clarification (which is discussed in an earlier article); focus here is on basic foundational practices…increasing dream awareness, etc. You're right, the Tibetan dream tradition says dream yoga frees us from the story all together; I use the term dream yoga to refer to attempts to join the inner and the outer. Thanks Energy of Mind.

  10. Hilary Lindsay says:


    I rarely remember my dreams but I have both reoccurring themes and a tendency to pick up a dream left off the night before, the second I close my eyes. That can go on for days.

    Thank you for your stories enlightening dreams in any way. I know little about my own other than they point up my fears.