Dreaming is healing. Our bodies speak to us in dreams, giving us early warning of symptoms we might develop, showing us what they need to stay well. Dreams give us fresh and powerful images for self-healing. Dreams are also the language of the soul; they put us in touch with wells of memory and sources of creativity and energy far beyond the clutter and confusion of the little everyday mind. Beyond this, dreams are experiences of the soul, and can take us – sleeping or hyper-awake – into realms where we can have direct access to sacred healers and teachers.
These themes and possibilities come vividly alive in Wanda Burch’s brave and beautiful book She Who Dreams,, which is both the narrative of a personal journey into healing through dreaming and an incitement to bring the gifts of active dreaming into our everyday lives.
I have been sharing dreams with Wanda since early in 1987, and I know the depth of experience and the deeps of dreaming from which this book flows. Her dreams diagnosed a life-threatening illness (breast cancer) a year before the doctors found symptoms. Her dreams guided her choice of treatment, gave her powerful imagery for self-healing and recovery, enabled her to grow a creative relationship with her physicians and awakened her to a deeper life and a vital engagement with the world as a dreambringer – one of those who creates a safe space for others to open to the gifts of dreaming, and can bring a dream to someone in need of a dream.
Her personal story is quite fascinating. Her first dream mentor was her Irish-American grandmother, a “wise woman” of the Alabama hill country. Later she met the dreamers of the Iroquois, one of whom appeared at her back door in the form of a white wolf.
But it is the story of everyday trials, more than the extraordinary elements in this book, that will touch the hearts of many readers and bring them practical guidance that is urgently needed. Wanda shows how dreams can get us through.
After Wanda’s dreams had provided specific diagnosis of her illness – but before her doctors had confirmed that diagnosis – she followed a waking dream by flying off to West Africa as a volunteer with an archeological team. On the eve of her plane trip, I wrote a quotation from Plotinus in my journal: “The soul has the power to conform to her character the destiny allotted to her.”
This, on its deepest level, is what you will find unfolding in her narrative of a journey into healing through Active Dreaming. Wanda tells her story with absolute candor, sometimes seasoned with sardonic humor. She doesn’t flinch from describing her moments of fear and bitter disappointment, the times when she felt her best dreams had ceased to work for her.
Anyone who has undergone an illness like hers will be grateful for the honesty and practicality with which she describes the everyday ordeals and humiliations she suffered. Don’t expect soap bubble romance or easy miracles in this book. As Wanda tells it, her dreams led her down a hard road. In place of a miracle, she devised what she tellingly describes as a “healing cocktail” in which she was able to draw on her dreams and inner resources in support of the medical intervention she believed to be unavoidable.
No easy road, but one that led her out of death, by giving her the courage and clarity to conform her destiny to the depth and character of soul.
Her account of the dreams in which she was reminded of the terms of her soul’s contract and finally permitted (after profound ordeal and testing) to negotiate a life extension is breathtaking. She and I both believe that her terrifying dream encounter with the envoy of her personal Death literally enabled her to extend her tenure on life, and avoid the death, at age 43, for which her dreams had been rehearsing her for two decades.
Wanda’s decision to write this book and to share her gifts as a dream helper with those around her – as she does with great generosity in many environments, with neighbors and colleagues, with cancer patients and survivors, as a workshop leader and dream counselor to Iraq war veterans – are part of her honoring of that tremendous dream. Her story encourages us to examine our own sacred contracts and recover the knowledge that belonged to us before we entered this life experience.
When you have finished reading this book, you’ll have no doubt about the healing power of dreams. You’ll have received powerful confirmation that in night dreams, we have access to a personal doctor who makes house calls, provides an impeccable diagnosis of our physical, emotional and spiritual condition, and doesn’t charge a cent. You’ll know that dreams can provide accurate diagnosis of our ailments, often long before physical symptoms have developed. You’ll have learned that dreams are a wonderful source of fresh, spontaneous imagery for healing – imagery the body believes because it comes from deep within ourselves.
One of Wanda’s most valuable contributions to the literature of healing and recovery is to show us how we can use the self-healing tools that flow from dreamwork to support conventional medical treatments, smoothing the process and reducing adverse side-effects. For this alone, She Who Dreams is an invaluable resource for healthcare professionals, therapists, healers and caregivers.
Adapted from my Foreword to She Who Dreams: A Journey into Healing through Dreamwork by Wanda Burch, published by New World Library.
Wanda Burch will be my guest on my Way of the Dreamer radio show, LIVE on Tuesday, January 8 from 9:00-10:00 a.m. Pacific, 12:00-1:00 p.m. Eastern. Listen, call in or access the archive anytime at healthylife.net.