Shamanic Dreaming and Soul Medicine


portait of dr. Pat Gay

Dr. Pat Gay

This week features part one of a conversation with Dr. Pat Gay on shamanic dreaming, understanding dream symbols and how to establish a relationship with the dream world. Dr Pat Gay is a clinical psychologist and visual artist based in La Canada, California. She was initiated into the practice of shamanic dreaming by her grandmother.

Pat and I met in 2007 in St Louis, Missouri, where I attended a series of workshops she was giving there. During that time, Pat introduced me to shamanic dreaming which radically shifted my understanding of dreams, forever! What follows is part 1 of our recent conversation on dreaming, dream symbols and how to incorporate dreams into daily life.

ceramic high fire glaze mask

Dream Mask by Pat Gay

Pat, can you give us a little background about yourself and how you came to shamanic dreaming?

My grandmother was a medicine woman in our community and one of her core practices was working with dreams and as a kid I was a sponge and continued her practice.

What differentiates shamanic dreaming from traditional dream interpretation?

Dreams are alive, and their guidance is their medicine for the person who had the dream, yet when the dream is shared in community it becomes medicine for anyone who resonates deeply with it.

Traditional dream interpretation focuses mainly on interpreting symbols, whereas you focus on feelings and sensations as a key to unlock the dream’s message. Why is that?

Let’s say you dreamed of a spider and you look up “spider” in a dream book. That interpretation is useless because it has nothing to do with your soul’s experience or it’s truth.

The truth of the dream lies in your emotional and somatic experience. Do not think about the dream, or analyze it, just feel it. What are my emotions and how are my emotions shifting? How does this dream feel in my body?

Once you have the emotions and sensations how would you go about interpreting the events in the dream?

The core of the dream’s gift is in that scene which is strange, embarrassing, tragic or revolting. That is the deepest medicine because that is the scene that is revealing and asking for the deepest healing.

mascara de ceramica

Mascara de ensueño de Pat Gay

You embody the sensations and emotions of the dream as well as the symbolic environment and then relate it to your waking experience without being in a hurry. You keep and open question.

Yes, I keep an open question and I walk through the day with the dream knowing the answer will come.

You’re in a constant dialogue with a deeper dimension and it seems to me that the only person that can have that conversation is you. Right?

Others can help. First, when you share the dream say it in the first person, present tense. This is because the dream is alive here and now. Others are useful in promoting understanding not by interpreting or giving their opinions, but by feeling the dream themselves and thoughtfully asking questions that support you in uncovering your own soul’s truths.

You always encourage me to honor my dreams by bringing them into the world through art, or some kind of symbolic action, can you explain why that is important?

In dreams we encounter ancestors, mentors, lovers, monsters and adversaries whose intention is to support our healing and evolution. We honor their generosity and bring the dream guidance and support into this world through creative practices that symbolize and embody the medicine.

Dream Mask by Pat Gay

Dream Mask by Pat Gay

You also worked on an project that resulted in dream masks. Will you tell us about it?

A few years ago, I had a dream asking me to create a body of work that would be a vehicle for transporting the medicine of the dream into the waking world. After writing the narrative of the dream and making sketches I created a ceramic mask that incorporated the elements of the previous night’s dream. Over the course of a year I created about 80 of these high fire ceramic vessels. It was a year of devotion and thrilling to be a vehicle to bring so much healing into the world.

*The second part of this conversation continues next week, in the meantime, you can visit Dr. Pat Gay’s dream masks here and follow her on facebook.*

See you next week!!

This article was written by
Julia Zatta

Julia is a yoga anatomy teacher and bodyworker based in Barcelona, Spain.

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