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Noticing the Spirits in Everyday Life: Process Work as Spiritual Practice and Antidote for Mild Chronic Depression

Rhea Shapiro

I dream I am standing in darkness far above the street on a wide stone plaza. It is open and spacious. I feel something at my knee. I look down and see a huge, larger-than-life black bird in the process of eating a smaller bird. As I stare in amazement the bird takes flight and then, up in the air finishes devouring the smaller bird.

This dream came to me in early 1989, just after I began my process work studies. Bird spirits visited me, their magical animal nature connecting me with the non-ordinary reality of the dreamtime. It is a mythic dream.

A larger-than-life magical spirit bird has caught and is eating a small, ordinary pigeon-like bird. The non-ordinary hunts and catches the ordinary. It is nourished by the ordinary. The small bird of everyday reality is food for the larger than life, spirit bird, nourishing the non-ordinary spirit.

The dream woke me up to this: pay attention to everyday reality because this is your food. Hunt the ordinary. It is needed to get to the larger magical reality. You will starve if you don’t do it. Your life will have no meaning and you won’t be happy. When you eat the meaning in the small a big spirit attitude will be yours.

The Problem

Unfortunately, there is little support for connecting with spirits in the mainstream consensus viewpoint. For example, when I go food shopping at the supermarket no one asks: What do the spirits want to eat today? None of the packaging states, “Eat carrots for deeper dreaming.” “Stay in the river of dreaming with blue yonder ginger ale.” The doctor never asks about possible spiritual or altered states related to a symptom. When I am explaining a worldly problem to friends, rarely do I hear: Far out for that mess! What will happen next? What do your dreams say?

Most of modern urban life seems to operate in the dimension of ordinary consensus reality. We are concerned with work, food, shopping, exercise, relationship or activism, but we forget that there is more to life than meets the eye. Most of us are living our lives in the induced hypnosis that this is all there is. I am writing about the challenge of living in a non-ordinary reality because it is a challenge for me. I often forget or can’t remember to focus on the dreaming spirits and the other worlds behind and beyond my ordinary experience. The dream is speaking directly to this difficulty, depicting the connection between ordinary and extraordinary experience.

I forget that these other worlds are magical and that I can discover them all for myself by following whatever is happening in the moment, as it arises. I lose that “Yippee! Here’s a mess or something unknown. Let’s explore!” attitude, basic to following dreaming and practicing process work. This is an attitude that says, “So what if you have some edges or boundaries! Let’s work and play with them, follow the unknown, shapeshift, be spiritual warriors, shamans and elders to follow the Tao, both spoken and unspoken, that ineffable river of experience that makes life richer and more livable.”

Personal Psychology and Mild Chronic Depression

Each of us has a personal history. It is an aspect of our everyday lives. Our early experiences can be anywhere from not completely supportive and loving to abusive. In my case, not unusual, family and school were both autocracies where freedom of expression and independent thinking were not encouraged. There was only one “right” answer, the one dictated by the autocrat of the moment. This autocratic mindset included all the -isms: age, class, race, sex and sexual orientation, health, and more. I grew up with all of these prejudiced attitudes.

In this atmosphere I was afraid of being excluded for being different or punished for being wrong. Even though I rebelled against the autocrats I still internalized their intolerance of difference and anything unknown. The unknown is never welcomed by the autocratic attitude, which needs to be constantly in control. Consequently, I internalized my own need for control along with an internal critic and a less than friendly attitude towards my inner life whenever it strayed from the straight and narrow. Today this becomes apparent when I try to cross the boundaries of my known world. For example, working with the unknown spirits behind a relationship problem or a symptom takes perseverance. Ignoring or trying to get rid of the problem is always my first approach.

Though I know life is a gift, living in its magic and feeling happy often seem just beyond my reach. I become depressed when my personal history and inner autocratic attitude take over and I am unable to connect with the power of the dreaming world. The inner autocrat doesn’t let me go deeply into unknown experiences. I get stuck in old stories, believing that there is only the one lackluster dimension of consensus reality. The day-to-day demands of work, school and home take over and the dreaming reality and the big spirit bird are forgotten. I no longer access my ability to shapeshift into the unknown, forgetting that I am also a spirit longing for other worlds and other realities.

Over time, my inability to access the dreaming reality behind my experience leaves me hungry for the non-ordinary and creates a mild chronic depression. I have lived with this depression for much of my life. Named and discussed by Arny Mindell in his classes over the years, mild chronic depression can result when personal history cuts a person off from the magic of non-ordinary reality. In my case, trained to be afraid of the unknown, I forget my wholeness and that my life has a deeper meaning when I become hypnotized by consensus reality and resigned to its one-dimensional existence. I am missing my dreaming self, and mild chronic depression is my body’s plea for a deeper awareness and focus. In this sense, mild chronic depression pushes me to remember the spirits behind everyday reality. My connection, or lack of connection, to the non-ordinary has an influence on my overall mental health. In cultures where dreaming or non-ordinary reality is not supported, mild chronic depression occurs in epidemic proportions. This is true for much of western civilization.

My mythic dream reminds me that spirits are always in the background and my happiness depends on feeding my everyday experiences to the big spirit bird. Focusing on dreaming and a more sentient reality is the antidote for mild chronic depression, connecting me with deeper dimensions of myself. The dreaming bird is always hovering nearby, waiting for me. Still, focusing on myself, trusting inner experiences despite the critical attitude and having the patience to stay with the unknown and unfold what comes up is always a challenge.

A central question arises. How do I continue to remember the dreaming being I truly am in spite of my personal history? Remembering is a spiritual act.

Hunting for Food

Thinking back to my dream I realize that one aspect of remembering the dreaming reality is the ability to hunt the small. The other day, I walked to the car and just before I opened the door, I stopped and noticed. I looked around myself. I saw the world around me. I heard the wind in the trees, felt the warmth of the sun on my skin, felt my feet on the pavement and my hand on the door handle. I felt my body and experienced the world in all its sensations and beauty. In that moment, I was present, noticing what was around me and in me. I was hunting the small.

What makes me able to stop before I get into the car? I remember my dream and the belief that there is something worthwhile to be noticed; that ordinary pigeons are around me all the time waiting to nourish my connection to non-ordinary reality. The belief that noticing everyday pigeons is the doorway to happiness motivates me to practice awareness.

Despite this realization I spend a lot of my days in ordinary reality. It is like a trance or hypnosis that everyone agrees on: We’ll all pretend that reality has only one dimension and we’ll just ignore all the other possibilities. For example, last night was difficult. I didn’t get to sleep till 2:30 in the morning. Then I woke up again at 8 a.m. The day before I had fallen and bruised my sternum. I could hardly move. Every time I did move my chest hurt. I was afraid. I couldn’t just get up. I sort of made my way out of bed. I didn’t focus on my pain, but tried to relieve it. I used ice, took a hot bath and tried to write this article, but all I could do on the computer was the games! Basically, I tried to tough it out, but it wasn’t working. I couldn’t think or focus. I was exhausted and in pain. This was a long moment of ordinary reality: trying to ignore what isn’t on the agenda for my day or for my life even when I can hardly function in the world. Ignoring all the other possibilities creates a mild chronic depression.

Then I remembered that ordinary pain is food for something bigger. Everything has a spirit within it. I began to focus on the pain itself. I realized that the scariest thing about a lot of pain was my fear that I would lose my self-sufficiency. This is why I tough it out. I am afraid of being out of control in my life.

If I could do this day again with more openness to other, non-ordinary realities, I might wake up and let myself cry and be afraid. I could go deeper into the pain rather than trying to get rid of it; the pain might teach me something. I could ask for help, understanding that I don’t have to be alone with the pain. I could decide to explore feeling afraid. Behind the fear of not being in control of the pain is not knowing what is happening. I can’t make it go away. Just being with the pain is unknown.

I begin to actually sit with the pain, just noticing it. A dull ache persists throughout my upper torso. I begin to cry. I hate pain, but I am willing to focus on it for a few moments. I decide to amplify the pain a bit so I can really feel it. I sit up straight and stretch my chest. This is when it hurts most. I decide to stay with the pain. After some time an image comes to me. I see my upper torso stretched on the crosspiece of a cross, like Jesus, crucified. But unlike him I want to cry and complain. I whine, “Help me, I hurt, I don’t like this.” Suddenly I realize I am smiling to myself. I actually like whining and complaining. How surprising! I could do it some more and enjoy it. This is not the usual, toughing-it-out me. I realize that I no longer feel so afraid and my chest pain is momentarily bearable.

Going into not-so-ordinary dimensions of my pain has a beneficial influence on me. I’m able to expand my identity. When I’m able to explore and interact with pain I meet new spirits, like complaining and neediness inside me. They feed my connection to the big spirit bird and make my own inner climate friendlier and more intimate. I feel more alive and less depressed. Going deeply into my experience connects me with the spirits that inhabit my everyday life. This makes me happy and contented.

Following my pain reminds me of the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, which focuses on following nature, in this case, pain, as it arises. The Tao is a mystical path whose simple (but not easy) goal is to believe in and follow the flow of nature however it is happening in the moment. There is no distinction between ordinary and non-ordinary reality. The Tao believes in the meaning behind all realities.

In process work we learn to follow and unfold the same mystical reality. In Dreaming While Awake, Arny Mindell writes about, “the ever-present power behind the everyday world that we forget to notice” (2000: 5). He calls this power the Dreaming, from which all dream spirits emanate (2000: 14-17). Process work trains us to notice and connect with this power by unfolding the energies found in the spirits of everyday reality.

Indigenous shamanic spirituality perceives spirit within all aspects of ordinary reality. All matter is imbued with aliveness. When I notice the energy of a tree or rock or pain, that energy can affect me and I can enter a world filled with magic and wonder. Process work also recognizes spirit in the everyday world; it then adds the important aspect of noticing it. When I notice a piece of nature, it can affect me through my perception of it. I become entangled with nature when I realize that what I notice is also in me.

For example, I notice the brilliant pink flowers outside my window. I love gardens and flowers. The bright color stands out. It catches my attention. The flower is flirting with some part of me that notices its color. My ordinary, mild chronically depressed self is unable to dive into that perception, forgetting that what notices the bright vibrancy in the flower must also possess that same vibrancy in order to recognize the brightness outside itself. Though I am usually quietly rational I do get excited about life. I love to sing loudly when I am alone in the car, dance with the trees in the forest and sometimes scream self-righteously in a relationship conflict. The brightness of that flower is in me. My non-ordinary self is reminded of my own passion and vibrancy, seeing background parts of myself in that bright pinkness. In the moment I feel a ripple of energy in my body as I contemplate my own vibrancy. I am the one who sings, dances and yells like a banshee when I feel like it. The big spirit bird is happy when I connect with my dreaming self.

Spiritual Practice: A Teddy Bear and  Loving Inner Atmosphere as the Needed Attitude of Big Mind

I am using the word spiritual to mean connecting with the power of the Dreaming world. This power is larger than life and encompasses both ordinary and non-ordinary reality. A spiritual attitude holds the big picture which includes the whole world and me in it. The smaller part of me forgets about the rest of the world, sees only my small, ordinary self, and can get stuck in its chronic depression. Like the Buddhist concept of “Big Mind,” a spiritual attitude has patience for and believes in all my parts, even my depressed self. Out of this belief a sense of compassion for all realities develops.

This reminds me of another dream, a recent one:

There is a big road along which a large migration of people is passing, including myself. We are all headed somewhere unknown. As I look down I see a teddy bear in the middle of the road. I pick up the teddy bear and continue the journey.

I pick up a teddy bear that seems to appear out of nowhere just as I pass by. It feels like a gift; another spirit come to visit. The essence of a teddy bear is playful and loving. I am reminded of Winnie-the-Pooh, a friendly little bear in a series of popular children’s stories by A.A. Milne. Pooh’s curiosity and mischievous nature take him from one new adventure to the next. Pooh as a dream figure supports me to be open, curious and go into unknown worlds. My dream also points to a playful, loving attitude towards myself and the people around me. This is the inner atmosphere I need to counteract the autocratic coldness I have towards myself.

A teddy bear is a cuddly friend. I am not alone in an inner sense when the teddy bear attitude is present. I can rely on this friendliness rather than my not-so-friendly, inner attitude when it gets stuck in personal history. I need a loving, cozy openness towards myself and towards focusing on what is not supported by my personal history or the consensus viewpoint. It is the compassion of Big Mind in the guise of an ordinary teddy bear that helps me focus on non-ordinary reality. This compassion is a spiritual attitude and when I approach the unknown with love, openness and a sense of play, the Dreaming world opens itself to me. All people need this spiritual approach as they move in the direction of the unknown.

How will I remember this supportive and fun-loving attitude? It is the ability to love life and myself in the face of autocratic inner critics, failures and wrong answers, illness, worries about relationships and the world, non-support of the unknown and sometimes a general boredom or just giving up.

The following is a possible dialogue between the “Little Mind” and “Big Mind,” inner parts that live in each of us, yet may be unaware of each other. Creating a dialogue between the two voices provides a warmer inner atmosphere; more open to diving into dreaming.

Dialogue between the Big and  Little Parts of Myself

Little Mind: Maybe going into the unknown is not so useful. I get confused and lost, bored and stuck. What if I fail? I’m afraid I’ll never find the “right” answer.

Big Mind: I see you are pressured by your need for the right answer. This is a mis-education experience. I support all answers, wrong and right.

Little: Yes, I’m afraid of making mistakes, but I don’t believe you. Nothing will change. I don’t have enough discipline and feelings scare me.

Big: Yet, you are a feeling person and there is a yearning to go into these realms, to a deeper level. Something holds you back. Is it anger/fear of old educational abuse? Is it the family indifference, the coldness, loneliness?

Little: Yes, it is all of that. I don’t want to get in trouble. Who knows what is out there? It takes too much effort and feels far away.

Big: It sounds too difficult. Let’s hear it for losers! Enjoy it! Otherwise the critic has a field day. I’m here to keep you company. Let’s explore the Dreaming world together.

Little: Hey, why are you going to stay around?

Big: Because I am part of you and we haven’t yet connected. You don’t have to do it alone. From now on I’ll be there, supporting you and the world around you.

Little: Is it possible?

Big: Yes, we are together in this. I am the part of you that can hold all of your experience and help you learn to believe in what is happening to you. I can learn what it is like to be bored, afraid or angry from you. We can learn together.

Little: Thank-you. I appreciate your ability to support yourself and me at the same time. I need that, but am not always able to do it. And I like that you are changing too.

Big: Yes! We are connected and can influence each other. I’m glad to know you.

Little: Me too, I’m glad to know you. Let’s go together into the unknown!

This simple internal dialogue supports noticing and exploring the Dreaming world. The “Big Mind” is modeling a loving detachment, easy openness and willingness to change from the inside out, including even its own change. In this way, it models a new kind of relationship to life that the “Little Mind” or ordinary self can also learn to use.

The Big Mind attitude also helps when I am in an outer relationship conflict with another person. For example, I thought an old friend was no longer interested in our friendship. I wanted to see her more than she was able to get together. I felt hurt and angry and told her so, thinking she wouldn’t care one way or the other. She took her side, explaining not only her busy schedule, but also that she cared very much about our friendship. We each tried to see the other’s point of view. I still felt hurt and now she felt guilty, not a good way to end our meeting. Then my Big Mind began to see the bigger picture. I realized that getting together regularly was not the only factor in our relationship. I remembered that we have known and loved each other a long time. Working on the conflict helped both of us reconnect with the importance of our friendship. I was able to feel her love when I felt a larger spirit holding all sides of the conflict.

This large spirit also has the ability to see itself in the other. When I think about what disturbs me about my friend’s behavior I realize it’s that she thinks about her needs before me, her old friend. “Hmm,” thinks my Big Mind. “Can this be me? Perhaps I need some of this?” Actually, I often focus too much on others and not enough on myself. Mild chronic depression results from this outer focus when I forget my inner world. I need some of my friend’s self-focus. In this outcome my larger self opened to what was disturbing me as a part of myself. The spirit of self-focus behind the conflict is a part of me that I need more of. I feed my deeper self when I can dive into what is disturbing me and become it.

A spiritual attitude brings a loving compassion for all parts of myself and has the curiosity and openness to be able to remember dreaming. This is a compassion that affects my inner atmosphere as well as my relationships. Connecting with the spirits behind my experience reminds me that I am more than my personal history. I can be anything that I notice and my universe has the chance to expand in every moment.

The Practice in Spiritual Practice

Practice refers to remembering the dreaming being I truly am, both in a moment-to-moment awareness and day after day, in the long term. Because my personal history is often unwelcoming to the unknown, practice takes up the challenge of living with a spiritual attitude in daily life. There is a call from my mild chronic depression, which is signaling me from underneath my personal history to stay awake to the Dreaming world. It is my practice that answers that call.


When an aspect of the Tao or nature flirts with me, as pain or a bright flower, I do the following: I try to remember I am hunting the small and notice what nature is sending me. What is the essence of that spirit and what is it trying to communicate to me? I begin to wonder about and explore the unknown. Very soon I come to the edge of what I know or am familiar with. All my personal history critics and belief systems rear their heads and begin whispering in my inner ear, “You can’t… What if…? Someone will…” and I get stuck. I must come again and again to the boundary of my known world and continue on, trusting the process of change and staying open in the face of sometimes ferocious defenders of the status quo.

As I discussed earlier, the relationship with my Big Mind, who is not caught by these voices, is helpful. A larger view supports a love of the mystical and at the same time accepts what is personal-history based, knowing wholeness is made up of all the parts. That bigness helps me stay with the unknown, in spite of personal history, and to go all the way down and in until something new happens; new information arises. In my inner work with pain, feeling and seeing myself stretched on a cross I discovered new parts of my wholeness. Complaining and feeling weak are valuable aspects of myself I have been ignoring. Being able to allow weakness is healthy and can lead to asking for help and not feeling alone. Being open and curious about myself and the world in each moment allows me to enter non-ordinary reality. My life becomes richer and more full as I interact with reality and allow myself to move with and through its infinite permutations.

Here is another example of a momentary awareness. I see and hear the buzzing of a honeybee on a summer day while I am gardening. We are sharing the garden as I dig around in the dirt and it collects pollen from the flowers. Will I remember that the bee and I are dreaming together? There is a momentary bee power in my neighborhood with which I can connect if I am able to stay awake and trust my awareness in the moment. I ask myself: what made me notice the bee? Did the bee notice me? I heard its buzzing. Can I become that? I have to do it, but something in me hesitates. Doubt arises. Is it worth it to follow a bee? Is it important enough? Spiritual enough? I remember that the big spirit bird and I will starve without the spirit food we need. I persevere in my practice.

I remember the bee and regain an attitude of experimentation and play. Lightness results. I heard the bee buzzing so I begin to buzz for myself: “bzzz, bzzzz, bzzzz.” Suddenly my imagination kicks in. I am a dive-bombing bee headed for the nearest flower. I dive in with gusto to collect the pollen, at the same time noticing that my bee-self is unafraid, joyful in the task ahead. This is just the attitude I need: a joyful trust in nature and the ability to dive into the unknown whenever it appears.

Again, remembering and entering the unknown are spiritual acts. When I trust the Dreaming world behind ordinary reality the unknown will show me its magical aspects. Each time I confront an edge or boundary when going beyond my known world there is an inherent crisis of faith and the repeated need for a willingness to step off the cliff again, confronting the world anew. At the same time I am challenged to love myself just the way I am, with all my imperfections and inabilities.

The Big Mind attitude over the edge might look like: “Gee, what an interesting creature I am; something more to explore; another part of my wholeness bumping me on the nose.” The little mind attitude of my ordinary identity with its mild chronic depression says, “Oh well, another honey bee, another symptom, another relationship conflict, that’s life. What can you do? Not much.” As a hunter of spirit powers I know that sometimes my personal history is in ascendance and everything seems too hard or not worth it. Still, I persevere in the cultivation of openness to each moment and the continuous possibility of connecting again with the spirits behind non-ordinary reality.

Long-term Practice: Working with Fate

Making the effort to stay awake over the long term is another aspect of practice. Carl Jung believed that each life has a myth or pattern that holds a life’s fate and a task that grows out of that pattern. All major life endeavors and relationships also have myths. Early dreams show us these patterns. The mythic dream I had at the beginning of my process work studies shows me the way to counter a life-long mild chronic depression. The task over time is to feed the non-ordinary spirit by unfolding the unknown in ordinary, everyday life. Yet, the societal mainstream and my personal history are little interested in the non-ordinary, resulting in my own long-term internal boundaries or edges to the unknown.

Following a mythic pattern supports a long-term spiritual practice as I discover that the spirits behind life’s events are connected and form a story and a meaningful whole. In the background, a dreaming principle that is different from my intentions or ideas about myself organizes my life. The spirits of life patterns appear not only in dreams, but also in chronic illness, addiction, relationship and world problems. These spirits are lifelong companions challenging us to connect with their energies and live more of who we are. Our symptoms, nightmares and enemies are worthy opponents who can guide us to a richer and more whole life when we unfold and make meaningful the messages from the spirits behind the disturbances.

For example, the pattern in my big dream connects ordinary and non-ordinary reality. The spirits behind my dreams, symptoms, relationship problems and experiences in ordinary reality feed the big spirit bird. If I don’t hunt the small and go deeply into non-ordinary reality I become bored with a mild chronic depression, but when I do go deeply into my experiences I am living not only in ordinary reality, but also exploring a deeper non-ordinary spirit world. This brings nourishment and happiness.

Dedicating oneself to one’s life myth means hanging in and trusting the ride even when it gets rough, when life edges prevail and something is not happening right now. I might be able to live that energy in the next moment, or in a year, or a lifetime.

The medieval alchemists believed a problem or process had its own solution. By believing in nature and heating up or amplifying the energy or spirit behind a problem, transformations occurred. Some alchemists worked with their own body processes, as “prima materia,” the original material, hoping to achieve immortality. Others believed that by heating base metal, gold could be made. Still others searched for the “philosopher’s stone,” or wisdom. The never-ending process of following, amplifying and unfolding the nature of a substance or problem is the goal of alchemy (Mindell,1985: 118-19).

In the twentieth century Carl Jung realized the alchemical process was a metaphor for life’s mythic transformations of the personality (1985: 121). Process work, a descendent of Jung’s teachings, also believes that we struggle, cook and transform our disturbances into the gold of a new identity able to hold all our experiences.

The following is a recipe for cooking myself. It is a practice and dedication to living my life myth. It is a type of personal alchemy: turning raw matter into gold.

To follow the unknown I have to stay in the pot, turn up the heat and cook. Add a cup of relationship conflict, thinking it’s the other’s fault. I turn up the heat and the pot bubbles and boils; gets really hot. Add another cup of illness. Although I am afraid I feel the pain, lose all awareness, can’t stand another moment and still stay in the fire; suffering at the edge of my known abilities, hanging on as though my life depends on it, which it does. The big spirit bird is waiting to be fed. Can I perceive the spirit in the ordinary? Maybe I jump out, cool off a bit and dive back in. It’s practice with bodily pain, painful relationships and then a moment of Big Mind in the guise of a teddy bear dream spirit. Practice with the spoken Tao, learning and building skills. But then, it’s about failing, being stuck and being a wreck, about finding an open, loving attitude in what appears to be a complete mess. Suddenly I realize the problem is not just the other. I too am the problem. I am the other. Something else happens. Perhaps a chronic symptom changes, but maybe it doesn’t. Yet, I cook and change, buzz with the bees, becoming momentarily joyful and light. I am somehow more myself. It is a strange and awesome moment when I am in the unknown and feel that, although I am afraid, something is right. This is an unspoken Tao. What it takes to live at and over the edge of the known world is something that can never be completely spoken! Heating up with life’s gifts and challenges cooks and changes me. The big bird is feeding and I am boiling away, happy in the Dreaming world.

I am willing to cook myself because I have a life-long commitment to following the nature of my experience and a belief in its deep aliveness. Process work teaches and supports me to attend to the Dreaming universe. I trust the spirits that emerge from that universe and persevere with long-term problems and edges to the unknown because they are just there, there again and still there. My focus may not change the everyday aspects of a problem, but will change my attitude to those aspects as I develop an ongoing relationship with the background spirits behind the problem.

Conclusion: Mystical and Ordinary

A spiritual practice is awake to the mystical life in ordinary reality. Process work teaches us to hunt the meaning in everyday life in order to connect with the unknown. The big spirit bird of my original dream is eating the little everyday bird, mystical and ordinary forever connected.

My personal history creates boundaries to the unknown and gives me both a mild chronic depression and the chance to work with myself. The Big Mind attitude can hold my inner critics and controllers, loving both success and failure; embracing all of life’s experiences, whether easy or difficult. As the symbol of a teddy bear, my Big Mind is playful and loving with a willingness to go into the unknown. Detachment sees the big picture, supports personal history, but is not stopped by it and dives into all experience.

Practice includes both a moment-to-moment and long-term awareness: staying awake to flirts that catch my attention and relating to the non-ordinary over time. Remembering that events are not random, but connected by a pattern gives form to seeming chaos. A theme and task emerge. This article is part of my task: connecting the small and the large and sharing that journey.

Everyone has a consensus reality identity. Armed with our intentions and agendas, we navigate the highways of life in motorized vehicles intent on reaching our goals. The Dreaming world is all around us. Process work supports both the ordinary and non-ordinary worlds, orienting us in the magic that is waiting to be discovered. The large spirit bird of my dream is contented and fed. Finding the deeper meaning in the small brings happiness.

Entering the Dreaming World

Here is an exercise to momentarily connect with the non-ordinary in your life. Think of something or someone that disturbs or excites you. It can be a body or relationship problem, an object, color or sound that flirts with you and catches your attention. Notice exactly what catches your attention. Is it loud, shiny, soft, proud or complaining, fast or slow, sad, angry or happy, small, light or dark? Now, make a motion with your hands that embodies the energy you have noticed. Let your hands become that energy for about a minute. Have fun! Your hands have captured an aspect of yourself with which you might enjoy experimenting. It is the spirit of the problem or aspect of nature that you are noticing. Can you become that a little more? Could you use this energy in your daily life and/or your relationships? In the world? What would it be like to try a little bit of this energy today or tomorrow? If you hesitate, it could be an edge. What might be against using this energy? Can you do it a little bit anyway?

For example, I noticed a buzzing bee while gardening. The buzzing caught my attention. When I allowed myself to experiment with buzzing I felt energetic and joyful. These energies are an antidote to the fear and doubt created by my personal history and I need these energies in my pursuit of the unknown.


Rhea Shapiro, M.A., is a certified process worker living in Portland, Oregon. She comes from a Buddhist background, has a passion for theater and has a private therapy practice. She says, “Finding the spirits in everyday life always makes me happy!”