“Nothing in the body is static, not even your bones.”
Many dreamers I have worked with have had dreams with bees. Simple, honeybees. I have had a few myself – here’s one I remember:
I am a teenager, looking at a beehive. I feel I am in a museum and the beehive is behind glass. [There is a museum near where I lived at the time that had such a thing. I loved it.] A woman stands behind me, who feels encouraging. I reach out my hand to touch the glass, but there is no glass. Suddenly, I am in the hive with honeycombs all over me. I feel the buzzing of the bees all over my body. I hold my breath, scared I will get stung if I move, but the woman behind me is reassuring. A calm presence. I breathe and just feel the bees.
Because the way I believe about working dreams is to be with the dreamer’s association first, let me start by giving my own associations:
- I had been afraid of bees, especially as a kid. When I was a girl, I stepped on a bee, who, of course, stung me which caused my foot to swell up so much, I was on crutches for a week.
- They communicate with their bodies with dance. When a forager bee discovers a new source of pollen and nectar, she returns to the hive, legs and body ladened with pollen, and does a coded dance, named a waggle dance, to tell the other bees where to go.
- Bees, these kinds of bees, live in a highly constructed community, with each bee having their specific jobs. There is great ingenuity and intelligence in these communities (i.e. the way they keep the brood part of a hive cool in hot weather by buzzing their wings, keeping the eggs and larvae safe).
All these associations weave as part of my experience of the dream, of standing in the hive.
To find myself in the hive, covered with bees and sticky honeycomb, of course, provoked fear first, my own experience with bees. If stung, would I swell up? If stung, would I die? I had heard about people who were allergic to bees and, if stung in just the right place, could die from the sting.
Fear. Stopped breath, which is one way I respond to fear. One way I responded to what scared me as a child.
Then movement, I breathe again. I take in breath and something else happens, which is I just feel the bees. I learn I can lose my breath, then get it back. My breath, my breathing. My body.
That last moment, though, where I feel the bees and their buzzing all over my body. That moment. My experience of that moment. The feel (physical) and feeling of that moment.
I like to use the word Embodied with the kind of dreamwork I do because everything we are, experience, feel, understand, believe and all that happens to us, including physically, happens in the body. Everything.
Through the body, we experience the self and the world. Through the body, we relate our self with the world. Through the body, we experience trauma and love, hate and wonder, numbness and curiosity. Through the body, we heal. Through the body, we are harmed and sometimes are harmful.
Everything that happens to us, everything that happens that is us, everything that happens that we create, happens in the body.
Our dreams, then, work with us through experience – not through one, singular function.
For example, dreams engage our cognitiveness; dreams engage our intellect, dream even engage our conceptual parts of our brains. But these are only part of our experience and our way of knowing and learning and healing.
Dreams bring us into our entire bodies when they bring us into dreaming. Even in the dreams where we are numb or feel “disembodied” (i.e. like when we feel we are watching a scene but not in it), we are still in some experience of the body or our relationship to it.
So, dreams use experience to teach us about who we are, where we are, what we are doing and what can be different. Through the whole body.
At the time of my dream above, I was in a deep process of learning to be with my fear – to not let fear stop me. Another way of saying this – I was learning not to stop at the moment when I felt so scared, I lost my breath.
I had stopped there. For years, I had stopped precisely there and was still, in so many ways, holding my breath. It is what we do when we are in a trauma survival state or living from a trauma reference point. We cannot breathe deeply.
In that stopped place, I had kept myself moving through the world as if it were a museum, being with life, especially my life, as observer, unengaged. The only engagement maybe reading the little labels by all of the exhibits.
The movement of my hand to touch the glass, a gesture many of us feel when we are observing something living behind glass, is a bridge movement toward the living thing for me. In that moment, I have a desire to touch the messy, choreographed life I witness in that hive. The smell, the touch, the sound, the vibration.
So, the glass disappears and the gesture toward life is all the dream needs to bring me into the center of that life. Into the center of my own fear as well. Directly into my fear that, if I step into the world not as observer but as one alive, I will be stung (over and over again).
Which had been part of my experience in the past.
But this time. This time.
I have a woman at my back, encouraging and supporting me. She is not panicked so I do not have to panic. She holds the space for me to move from holding my breath to not. It was a new experience of the feminine for me. It was also a new way of learning to be in the feminine, too (I did not have to be in the world stinging everything and everyone in order to survive).
And what happens next is I let myself feel the buzz of the bees all over my skin and all over my body. It is like the buzz – both the beautiful music of it and the feel of it in the body – is gently shaking my body and doing something.
Is changing my body.
This is what we know about the body – that everything is moving. Even, as my daughter tells me, our bones. Every cell in every structure of this miraculous thing we are. Nothing is static.
For example, in neuroscience, one of the things we know (well, what we understand at this point) is that the brain contains approximately 80-100 billion neurons and each neuron can have up to 15,000 connections with other neurons via synapsis. Through synapsis, neurons chemically create and transmit electronic signals. Energy always firing and moving. (One paper I read about neurons called them excitable!)
When we learn something new, what happens to the neurons in the brain is that they form new connections, make existing pathways weaker or stronger, as need be. Unhooking existing connections that feed energy of the past. Create new pathways. They change shape as we learn and grow. We change shape. We change even at the cellular level.
That is so much energy – cells chemically firing signals, communicating, exchanging information, connecting and unconnecting. I can’t help but think of the hive and the bees. The buzzy, electrical energy of being in that hive.
In the dream, as I stood in the hive, I could feel the energy and buzz of the bees. I could feel the energy and buzz in my body. It was as if my whole body was being rewired. Taking the energy of the fear that used to stop my breath, stop me, and using it to rewire me. Not just using the energy of the old fear but also creating new energy.
Creating more space for me to breath.
More space for me to step into my body and my life.
The alchemical process of the dream – the buzz of the bees and how it helped rewire me in that moment – required not just understanding and cognition but an experience of the full body.
For change is experienced in the whole body – in all the excitable cells of the body not just in the brain but everywhere. Even in the structure of the bones.