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Riding the Inner Dream Horse to Health and Wholeness
by Laura Baughman, CDT, RN
Editor's Note: Inspired by a presentation she attended about dreams and physical health, Laura Baughman learned about the symbolic significance of dream horses in diagnosing physical (as well as emotional-spiritual) health.
During the 2010 International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) Conference in Asheville, NC, I attended a presentation by Stephen Parker about Vasily Kasatkin and the prodromal dream accounts Kasatkin collected from his patients. Prodromal dreams warn us of illness or health issues before we begin to notice physical symptoms. These dreams often come as vivid nightmares that may worsen if we ignore the message. Parker has posted a collection of these fascinating dreams on his website at http://www.dreamcurrents.com. Many contain images of animals attacking or biting. Animals such as crabs, spiders, and rabbits may enter dreams as symbols that represent cancer.
During the presentation, Parker challenged us to “pay attention to our inner horse”. He maintains that dream horses may reflect our inner strength and stamina, and the image of our inner horse may be an indicator of our general, overall health and wellness. Intrigued by this, I began to comb my dream journals for horses.
The first horse I found was a beautiful, white, winged horse. He visited my dreams in the few first months after I started doing dreamwork. It was a time when I was just beginning to realize the enormous power of dreams. In the dream, he flew into my yard and I joyfully exclaimed, “Oh Pegasus you’re here! You’ve come!” I was awed by his graceful power and I had the feeling of joy that comes with welcoming and old friend home after a long absence. I think Pegasus may reflect the condition of my spirit during that time. My inner journey had begun to take flight. For a brief while I felt free, soaring in the beauty, the mystery, and the magic of this newly discovered dream world.
I also discovered dream horses after my return from medical mission work during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. I went through a culture shock after arriving in Haiti and being exposed to the extreme poverty and devastation; I had never experienced helplessness before. I dreamed I kept trying to get back on a large black horse with a blue saddle. No matter how hard I tried or how many people helped me, I could not get back on that horse.
Afterward, my return, home felt surreal. Nothing seemed quite as important anymore after witnessing the everyday struggle of the Haitian people to survive. Initial feelings of guilt for leaving Haiti turned to a kind of frozen numbness. I dreamed I found a shattered, concrete statue of a horse. I knew I had to take the broken pieces home to my basement and put the horse back together.
Many dreams and many tears later, my most recent dream horse appears as a beautiful strawberry- blond mare playfully carrying a young girl on her back, as she runs through green, open meadows. The image represents me, a contented grandmother, a lot more gray than strawberry blond now. Nonetheless, I think my new dream horse offers a pretty good picture of how I’m feeling now.
I don’t think any of my dream horses pointed to physical issues. They reflected instead my emotional and spiritual states. But I think they are all connected. Emotions can affect us physically, and physical problems can affect us spiritually. Wholeness and optimal health rely on us giving equal value and attention to all three. Vasily Kasatkin said, “Dreams are sentries that watch over our health,” – specifically, I would add, the health of our mind, body and soul.
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About the Author
Laura Baughman is a member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams and a Certified Dream Therapist. She facilitates dream groups and educational workshops on a variety of dream topics. She is also a registered nurse with 25 years of experience in Home Health, Critical Care and Emergency Nursing.