As a child Jane Martin would have dreams where she would suddenly realize she was dreaming. As she developed a professional interest in dreams and dreamlike states, she learned that these are called lucid dreams. “It’s so cool, she says. “It’s like living a whole other life.”
Martin became interested in dreams through a form of psychotherapy she practices called breathwork, which uses yogic breathing to induce an altered state of consciousness. In these states people experience the same kinds of symbols, visions, and archetypal images that they do in dreams.
For Martin, dreams are a message from the subconscious. “I just love the way the subconscious mind is so clever,” she says. “It is almost like it has its own language, and the language it uses to communicate to us is symbol.” Like other languages, this is one people can learn. And they learn to hear it directly from their subconscious minds.
Martin will offer a workshop on dreams and their interpretation, Saturday, April 17, at Volition Wellness Solutions, 842 State Road (Route 206). The workshop will review types of dreams, approaches to interpretation, symbol interpretation, dream control, facilitating dream recall, and incorporating the wisdom from dreams into waking life.
Martin’s interest in dreams is part of a lifelong quest for spiritual awakening. As a 15-year-old, she says she tried different churches, but found herself most comfortable at an ashram on Amwell Road in Belle Mead where she learned to meditate — a practice she has followed ever since.
After attending the University of Michigan for a year and a half, Martin got married and had three children. Dave is now 26, Julia is 23, and Lily is 18. After she had Dave, Martin started a mail order company, the Natural Baby Company, which grew to 80 employees. She sold baby items, and the business grew out of the natural parenting movement, which supports parenting practices like breastfeeding, “wearing” babies in slings, sleeping with babies in a “family bed,” and certain approaches to discipline.
Once Martin sold the company about a decade ago, people started asking her to help them get organized — figuring that if she could have had three kids and run a business at the same time, she must have a few secrets to share. So she created a workshop that she called, “End of the List Workshop.” Her preparations resulted in what are now 600 pages of material, which Martin would like to try to get published when Lily graduates from high school. “It is a series of psycho-spiritual exercises for putting intention into nine areas of your life — body, house, life’s work, kids, life partner, community, emotions, intellect, and spiritual experience,” she says. What she promotes is acting with intention in all of these areas, not just letting things happen to you.
As she conducted these workshops, she noticed that people were often unable to follow through on their intentions, due to some psychological wound or countervailing inner force that was preventing them. “I was frustrated because I couldn’t help them heal those wounds,” she says.
One day she was lamenting to her brother her frustration at her inability to make these inner blocks apparent to people in order to heal them. His reaction was a big surprise. “He stopped washing the dishes and slid a big manual in front of me,” she says. “He happened to be editing a manual for Carol Lampman for training people to become breathwork facilitators.”
Martin read the whole manual and then called Lampman. After talking to her for an hour and a half, Martin convinced Lampmann to let her join the training program where she would be an outlier — the sole newbie among 18 Ph.D. psychologists with 20 years of experience. In fact, early on she got so overwhelmed that she almost gave it up, but Lampman would not let her leave.
After the workshop Martin decided that if she really wanted to heal people, she needed a degree to provide some validation. So she completed a master’s degree in psychology at Goddard College in Vermont. The school is unusual and encourages intensive self-study based on contracts with mentors. That gave Martin the option to deeply study dreams. “I got to study Freud, Jung, gestalt, modern-science stuff, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead,” she says. “I would never have had a class like that in a normal college.” She completed her master’s degree in 2009.
In addition to her degree and her training of others in breathwork, Martin has been journaling her own dreams and interpreting them for a decade.
One critical function of dreams and their interpretation, says Martin, is to bring unconscious conflicts to consciousness so that a person can resolve them. She shares an example of the dream of a 21-year-old man during a breathwork experience. He “dreamed” of himself being in a cloud and looking down upon a white eagle, whose leg is chained to the ground and it is flying around in circles. Soldiers are shooting up at the eagle.
Martin used a gestalt approach, asking him to speak as different characters in the dream. He said, “I am the eagle, and I am white. I am pure, and I want to fly but I am chained. Not only am I chained but guys are shooting at me, and I don’t know why.” Then he said, “I am the soldier, and I’ve chained this eagle because it’s so powerful; it is dangerous and we have to keep it under control.”
Finally Martin asked him to be up in the cloud, identifying with his ego, and understanding the battle between id, represented by the eagle — “The child’s instinctual part is often represented as an animal,” she says — and the soldiers, who symbolize the superego, or inner critical parents who are trying to keep control and enforce a certain way of doing things.
From up in cloud the young man was able to explain to the soldiers that although the eagle was very powerful, it did not use its power for harm, and therefore it was safe for them to let the eagle fly freely. The young man thanked the soldiers for their protection, acknowledging and retaining some measure of control.
For the young man, this dream exploration was helpful, says Martin. “He was a very shy boy,” she explains. “This way he was able to come into himself more, have more fun, find what his passions are, and kind of blossom.”
Martin says there many different types of dreams. The big dreams, also called shamanic dreams by native Americans, were traditionally viewed as prophetic. Carl Jung called them mandala dreams. “They have archetypes, themes like death and rebirth, and integration of masculine and feminine energies,” she explains.
One of her own big dreams happened during a breathwork session. First, it combined male and female elements. She was in a bachelor pad — leather furniture, books on shelves, and a suave, professorial guy — that exuded male energy. Mixed up with this were feminine elements including women’s shoes, flowing dresses, and movement. In the dream she also saw a circular serving table with four small circles inside.
To interpret this dream, she partnered with a psychology professor who she calls “a maven of dreams.” Often, she adds, it is useful to work with someone else, because obvious interpretations of a dream may elude the dreamer but be perfectly clear to the partner. As her partner was “mopping up the dreams” for her, he made a chart of opposing elements in the dream. The man and the bachelor pad represented linear, male elements, and the dresses and movement, the female, emotional elements. The table was a mandala — a symbol of self and the wholeness of self.
Martin summarizes the interpretation: “It was a big dream in that it had all these opposing elements coming together, the yin and the yang — giving over to others or taking care of the self, the eternal polarity between self and other. It was trying to reconcile the big, archetypal issues of life.”
Another type of dream is a garbage dream. “It’s like throwing up all the overstimulation of the day — like a garbage dump,” she says. There is also the conflict-resolution dream, which offers different pieces of the self. “It is showing a subconscious conflict so you can resolve it,” she says.
According to Martin, another way that dreams can be helpful is for a person who has lost someone close but has not sufficiently grieved. Meeting people in a dream or breathwork experience is an opportunity to process all the stages of grief, says Martin, to resolve unresolved issues and then be able to let go. She remembers one client who had lost a baby 20 years earlier and had a major depressive disorder. When dream analysis allowed her to finish grieving the lost baby, she was finally able to heal.
Martin grew up in Lawrence, and she now lives in Titusville. Her mother was head of data processing at American Cyanamid, and her father was a genius inventor, whose patents were referenced over 100 times.
Martin puts her money on learning to traverse the barrier between sleep and wakefulness. To move conscious content into memory requires a certain chemical that is not in the brain while a person is asleep. So to remember a dream a person has to wake up a little bit, so that the chemical is flowing, but not so much that the dream will be lost. “You have to find that neverland place between sleep and wakefulness,” she says.
Martin offers the following instructions for remembering dreams:
1. When you realize you are awake, don’t move and don’t open your eyes.
2. Hold onto whatever you’ve got of the dream and go through it in your memory.
3. Revisualize the dream once or twice so you’ve got it good.
4. Grab pen and paper and a flashlight, which should be right by your bed, and write down everything you can remember: what happened, the colors, your emotions at different points in the dream. “Emotions are not translated in a dream; they are direct,” says Martin. “Sad is sad.” Also write down any numbers and people. “Sometimes people are mixed,” says Martin, maybe a cross between a person’s two daughters and her sister — everybody she feels she has to take care of.” Also record what people said — and little jokes that the subconscious mind made.
Of course, once the dream is down in black and white, the real work of interpretation is only just beginning.
Dream Interpretation Workshop, Volition Wellness Solutions, 842 State Road, Princeton. Saturday, April 17, 1 to 4 p.m. Jane Martin explains how to facilitate dream recall, types of dreams, interpretation, and how to bring your dreams into your waking life. For more information call 609-737-0356 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Register. $45. 609-688-8300 or www.volitionwellness.com.