Dreaming with Martha A. Taylor, USA
Martha, what do dreams mean to you?
I find attention to my dreams to be quite a magical experience. They have given me a whole new way of seeing not only my own life events, but what goes on in the environment that influences me. It’s like a different vision. I love the creative way my dreams respond when I incubate for something I am puzzled about. Dreams offer me the opportunity to explore the unconscious. My life is richer and deeper as a result of dreams and the ways I have chosen to work with them. I often re-enter a dream as I am waking up to ask what certain characters are in my dream for. I especially enjoy observing how I fall asleep at night and the kind of images that pop up in that process. I am learning to respect these as part of the dreaming process.
Do you record your dreams every morning? When did you start keeping your dream journal and why?
I record my dreams every night when I remember them on my iphone voice recorder. I don’t always get a chance to write up the report and process it right away, but usually record within a few days. I started keeping a dream journal in the early 1980’s. I was in the process of getting Jungian therapy to help me decide about leaving the convent. I wish I had all those dreams now. The work was very helpful and did confirm my awareness (that I didn’t trust then) that leaving was what I wanted to do, and did do shortly after that. It began a process of appreciating how much information dreams give me.
As a young woman you entered a convent and became a nun. Did dreams play a role in your decision to join and/or then leave the order?
Dreams did not play a role in my decision to join as I wasn’t aware of the relevance of dreams then. I have memory of a dream or two I had earlier but not about the convent. As mentioned above my dreams did give me insight about leaving the order. Although the following was not a dream, but almost a dream-like occurrence that might have been relevant to my entering a convent. I remember saying the rosary (beads with reflection on Christian mysteries) every day in the evening when I was young because it was important to my parents. When I was about 11, I went almost into a trance with my meditations about these mysteries. I was so touched by this that I never forgot its power. Something bigger than me was moving in me.
In my simplistic perceptions I have always thought that nuns live in a convent and spend their days praying. But I believe that as a nun you were very busy and did a lot of travelling?
Prayer and meditation did play an important part of our day with the goal of having it inspire what work we were called to. There is, however, a difference between contemplative and active groups of women religious. It is the contemplative ones who spend the majority of their waking life in prayer. I was in what was called an active group. Yes, while in the convent I was very busy and was sent to many places having little idea of how I would accomplish what I was asked to do. I was asked to create home health agencies in Indiana, and then in Washington DC for the homeless. When I was in Africa for two years I served in a Government hospital in a remote area. When I returned from Africa, I was asked to assist in a hospital that had been destroyed in an earthquake. It was there that I opened a Pediatric Dept. in a new hospital there. Because I loved working with children, I had a good time with that.
Entering the convent to leave it twenty years later seems to point to a serious change in faith. Has your faith in God changed over the years and did dreams in any way play a role in this?
Yes, it is true that my faith changed over the years and that I eventually decided to seek a broader expression of it. I found that Christianity was only one way of expressing myself and my callings. It feels better to me to incorporate many different paths of expression. I believe my dreams play a role frequently in all the ways I express myself. I love the freedom to move between different expressions. What feels unchanged is my desire to act compassionately in this world, and to find ways to participate in sharing my gifts.
Later in life you worked as teacher and taught children about dreams. How did children relate to dreams? How did the school and children’s parents relate to dreams? What did this experience mean to you?
I taught a class to children that I had been volunteering with for over a year in a small private school. This class of boys and girls were from 8-10 years and responded very favorably to their dreams, and were always anxious to tell them in class when given a chance. These dreams had relevance to what they were experiencing, like bullying on the playground, and issues with parents. They wrote stories about their dreams and acted out the stories with other kids. They loved this, and learned from it. The school was very interested in allowing me to teach the kids. I did not interact too much with their parents, but the parents cooperated with the assignments I sent home. I did later speak with a few parents who were very pleased with what their kids learned. I found this experience very important in my own appreciation of the relevance of dreams to everyone. I was quite surprised with how responsive and open they were to explore their dreams.
You now live in a small country town in Virginia, surrounded by fields and forests. I believe you also grow your own vegetables. Do you feel that your close connection to the natural world affects your dreams and your relationship with them? If so, in what ways?
Living in this particular place in the Appalachian Mountains has grounded me in ways that were unknown to me when I lived in other parts of the U.S. I love to walk so spend a lot of time outside every day, and also spend time with my hands in the earth growing plants and flowers. The fact that these things help me provides a space where my dreams can grow. It gives me a background and ground for dreams if that makes sense. I have important dreams that involve the ground and growing things. Being able to walk by the part of the Little River on our land also seems important to me. Water appears very often in my dreams.
You’ve been active in the World Peace Bridge Group for many years. In what way is this group meaningful to you?
The importance for me has grown over the time I have been on the Bridge. I have become more comfortable in sharing these deep parts of myself as I have listened to the dreams of others. I have learned so much from the reflections of the others both on my dreams and those of others. My hope and continuing goal is to promote my own growth toward peace and to follow that up with action. I believe my dreams for peace offer something to the bridge and the parts of the world especially children that reach for peace. These are always intertwined.
I know you as a regular fellow participant at the Psiber Dreaming Conference. What is it about this conference that brings you back year after year?
This is a hard one to answer succinctly, because almost every part of it is amazing. It is so hard for me to put limits on the time I spend there. I could be on the site full time and all the rest of my responsibilities would suffer if I did. The conference inspires me, gives a lot of fun and lightheartedness, helps me decipher some dreams with lots of suggestions, and teaches me through the talks.
What is your favourite book on dreams and why?
There are many wonderful ones, and am not sure I can name my favorite. A recent one I find amazing is by Rubin Naiman called Hush, a book of bedtime contemplations. I loved Robert Waggoner’s book on Lucid Dreaming. I also learned volumes from Patricia Garfield’s book Your child’s dreams. I have to mention the new book Sleep Monsters and Superheroes edited by Jean Campbell and Clare Johnson. I have a fascination with child and their dreams. This book is full of so much experience and information.