Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Dream groups as models for a new community

dream sharing at Mosswood Hollow

dream sharing at Mosswood Hollow

Community, as Peter Block defines it in a provocative  book, is about the experience of belonging. To belong is to feel at home, to know you are among family or friends. When something belongs to you, you are an owner; you have a stake in something. Playing with the word, Block notes that belonging evokes longing to be – to come fully alive, to embody fully a deeper purpose in life.

The model leader in the kind of community Block seeks to midwife is one who can bring the right people together in the right way, name the right questions for group exploration (“what can we create together?”) and listen as others find their voice and their power. Such things are best done in small groups, which Block promotes as the best agents of transformation.
It strikes me that dream-sharing groups are now at the vanguard in developing the kind of social space that Block advocates. Dream groups are typically small (six to twelve people) and establish a different kind of space, and a deep sense of belonging to an intentional community. They are circles in which each member receives the gift of deep listening, the chance to play leader or teacher, and the opportunity to tell their life stories and re-vision those stories.
In Active Dreaming circles, we recognize the need for strong leadership to provide the structure and dynamic within which extraordinary group experiences can be shared. This includes selecting and defining a safe and protected physical space. It means gently insisting on time limits (dreamers can get things done on time), building and maintaining circle energy and keeping everything moving for the two or three hours of a typical session, and making sure that everyone feels at home and that everyone’s voice is heard. Part of the leader’s job in an Active Dreaming circle is to ensure that a lively alternation of discussion, movement and conscious group dream travel keeps everyone alert and engaged..
Above all, the leader will enforce simple rules that ensure that no one present – least of all the leader herself – will try to claim authority over anyone else’s dreams or life story. We are only permitted to comment on each other’s material by saying “if it were my dream” or “if it were my life.” In this way, we offer associations and suggestions while encouraging the dreamer to claim the power of her own dreams – and to take the necessary action to embody their energy and guidance in the world. Finally, the leader of an Active Dreaming will give her power away repeatedly by inviting others to take charge in leading the processes.
In these ways, we fulfill Block’s definition of the mode of leadership required to restore and re-story our communities: “Perhaps the real task of leadership is to confront people with their freedom.”
The quotes are from Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers)
For more on community dreamwork, please see my book Active Dreaming, published by New World Library.
  • Robin O’Neal Kissel

    Wow, Robert. Believe it or not, I was sitting right next to Peter Block in an intentional small group community just last night…. and in the smaller group I broke into to discuss what is working about connecting people in community, I shared the power of connecting with others via the sharing of dreams.
    Peter Block’s newest book, which he co-authored with John McKnight (who was also present at our meeting here in Cincinnati last night) is called “Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families & Neighborhoods,” in which they distinguish the role of “connectors” (which could be, but is not necessarily, a “leader”) in communities.
    Now it makes even more sense that I had a dream last week where you and Peter kept switching back and forth!
    And here I am to “connect” the two of you and these conversations of dreaming and community – love it!!

  • Robert Moss

    Robin – I love it! Another of those secret handshakes from the universe. Dreams and synchronicity will always show us the way, if we’ll let them.

  • Savannah

    Love the synchronicity with Robin’s dream and community gathering! That’s an inspired and thought-provoking statement about leadership, and one which I have been blessed to experience in dream groups. I have found some are more reluctant about being confronted with their freedom and response-ability than others… :-) yet couldn’t agree more that creating a safe space allowing all to be heard and find personal authority and belonging seems like the only way to grow healthy, sustainable, soul supporting communities.

  • Julie

    I’m going away this weekend to start a “play group” with 4 other friends. We plan to “bond” this weekend and then meet weekly for 3-4 months exploring the mind, consciousness and hopefully dreaming.
    Last night I was reading through Dreamgates and came across the part about how to set the space for a group to meet. It was perfect. We have been talking about doing some “clearing” and setting our intentions at the beginning of the weekend, but didn’t really have anything specific in mind. The section came at the perfect time. Now we have a template to use.
    Today your post is about community and dream groups, again perfect timing! While our group won’t be focused solely on dreaming, the content and the kind of group we plan to create matches the kind of group you describe in this post. Thanks so much for the assistance and help in creating our group!

  • Robert Moss

    Julie – Sounds like a fabulous plan for your “play group.” I’m delighted to have been able to help contribute to creating the space for the fun adventures you’ll have.

  • Robert Moss

    Savannah – yes, the play of synchronicity is quite unmistakable this time, and is even more egregious for those of us who are playing in the Dreamwork Continued forum (at and caught Robin’s declared intention to track a certain person in the Multiverse :-)

  • Justin Patrick Moore

    And for Robin and I the multiverse was close to home. The polyphonic spread of play group spores and dream circles will help those who participate -and even those who may not- to become multi versed and well rehearsed for community challenges and opportunities. And in leadership open ended and not to terse.

  • Paulette

    Perfect timing for me. On Monday four of us will gather for a new book club (yes, to discuss one of your books, Robert — “The Three Onlys” — I think it will be good to remind ourselves that we are creating an intentional community by gathering to share our perspectives and thoughts. I think it would be a great idea for us to do some clearing and setting of intentions as we begin (Thanks Julie and Robert).

  • Robert Moss

    Paulette – Great choice for your book club :-) Have fun!

  • AA

    I am not an expert but reading above, it reminded me greatly of late psychologist M. Scott Peck’s idea of community-building.

  • hildegard roberts

    I often dream about being without shoes, barefoot, sometimes in church, and I feel really embarrassed in my dream. Any comments on what this may mean?

  • Robert Moss

    Hildegard – do other people notice or care that you are barefoot in these dreams? If not, then I would think that it would be okay to show more of yourself – to show your soul (remember that wordplay on soul and soles) On the other hand, these dreams might be a caution to consider carefully how to present yourself in group situations, especially in church, where people tend to go fairly formal and “covered up.”

  • Peter Block

    Thanks for the support for the work and the book. You are absolutely giving expression to the ideas in the book. The convening, all voices heard, hands off others dreams and the conversation about what is possible (a dream) is the work. Espcially in the patriarchal world we are changing and creating all at the same time.
    Robin put me on to you, and I am grateful.

  • Robert Moss

    Peter – So good to hear from you. Thank you for all you are doing and inspiring. Best wishes.

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