Icons of a Dreaming Heart:
The Art and Practice of Dream-Centered Living
We are accustomed, it is now part of our culture, to imagine dreams as some kind of ‘messages’ from the ‘unconscious’. Sometimes, they really get our attention and won’t go away. Still, the prevailing notion is that if dreams do mean anything, they must be ‘interpreted’, put into our present ways of understanding, taken out of their own way of presenting themselves. Renee Coleman explodes and breaks through the very notion of ‘interpretation’ which has become an actual block, a barrier to dreaming having immediate significance in life. Dreaming, she convincingly shows through intense and dramatic demonstrations with her dream groups, presents, presences, the action of imaginally real companions. Dreams are real! They are not separate from life but rather ever-present promptings to enter further and further into the fullness of life. How Dr. Coleman lets the characters, actions, circumstances, and the very worlds of dreaming reveal themselves constitutes the essence of this writing. There is no theory here. We are taken into a new kind of attentiveness, available to everyone. We learn a deep listening, being penetrated, coming into immediacy, intimacy, complexity with each and every character of a dream and what those characters are doing with us. We come to experience the dream presences as quite autonomous from us, visitors, not from ‘elsewhere’, but ever-present visitors asking to be noticed. The great secret, now revealed in Icons of a Dreaming Heart, is that in saying ‘yes’ to the beckoning of dream presences, in our noticing, caring, attending, we are changed, down to the very core of our being. And we begin to have moments, incredible moments, increasingly extended moments, of realizing how unbelievable rich, unendingly so, life can be.
What Others Are Saying . . .
“Behold a beautiful book: fresh, alive, penetrating, subtle. It’s not just about dreams, but about life’s daily waking dreaming, the mysteries that permeate our days, the images that swarm around us. It’s written as narratives folded into narratives, always captivating and educating, always enticing and even entertaining. I fell into its stream and wanted it to go on and already imagine its sequel.”
One of the things that really strikes me about Icons of the Dreaming Heart is the structure of the book itself. Coleman skillfully weaves insights, personal stories, poems, quotes and more into the setting of a dream group. Not only do we get to see how she guides her participants to engage their dreams as living entities, we also are introduced to a different way of looking at dreams as something more than content to be interpreted.
The setting of the dream group provides the warp of the piece and everything else is the weft that gives it so much color, texture and vibrancy. Coleman is a terrific storyteller and that exceptional skill is augmented by perfectly placed quotes, poems, history and her teaching. For me, it had the sense of being a work of art.
Coleman’s writing transcends the medium of the literal word to become a sensory experience. Though there is much to engage the intellect, this book works at subtle levels that instruct and convince without being confrontational. This book touches into the paradox of dreaming that is both embodied and beyond the body and so embraces the mystery of being. It is like going on a road trip of the spirit with friends who are motivated by the simple joy of discovery.
When we speak of the soul, we need to find ways of “feeling our way,” as Coleman puts it, into the soul’s way of communicating. Yet so often, we fall back into didactic ways because that is familiar and so much easier. This book never takes that easy way.
I think because of her acting background, Coleman understands intuitively that effective communication is always embodied. Her writing springs from the instincts of a polished performer, which makes this production worth much more than the price of admission.
“Reading Renee Coleman’s amazing book instills in me a deep envy of those who have had the opportunity to be in one of the dream groups she leads with such evident love both of the participants and of the mystery of dreaming. But somehow, magically, the book draws us into that same world, so that we, too, come to fully experience the enormous difference between thinking with our dreams rather than about them. I am especially moved by how she imagines us as “human dream-catchers,” calls upon us to befriend our dreams, listen to them as though our lives depended on it, tend them as living beings that love us and invite us to love them back. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned from Icons of a Dreaming Heart that every night is indeed a “holy night.”
“Our dreams speak to us in clarity we do not usually see out of our lives. Icons of a Dreaming Heart: The Art and Practice of Dream-Centered Living discusses the power of dreams, using them as a picture of our lives, and letting them guide us. Touching on what dreams can do for us, to incline us to go in certain directions for our happiness, Icons of a Dreaming Heart is a driven and enticing read of spirituality, well worth considering for inspirational collections, highly recommended.”
“What I enjoy very much about Renee Coleman’s first book, Icons of a Dreaming Heart, is its prose texture as well as its insights into the thin porous line between waking and dreaming life. It has a conversational structure, no hard sell, and her illustrations from various dream groups she has worked with offer the reader concrete renderings of the power of dreams, which is to say, the power of myth in dreams.But even more, her natural teaching and coaching/coaxing style breeds in the reader, as it did with participants, a safe and secure feeling of openness, which is absolutely essential in this form of working with the most tender places of the heart: one’s dreamscape. Whether one is seeking some guidance about their own dreams or wishing to eavesdrop on conversations of others about their dreaming being, Renee’s book invites and encourages a depth of presence that dreams seem to insist on if they are to open to their connections to waking life. Such narratives bear witnessing and this book witnesses both powerfully and well.”
“The Dream work of Renée Coleman’s group is perhaps an initiation into the capacity of imagination, the organ for perceiving imaginal reality. Such an initiation is not any kind of learning-intelectual, practical, pragmatic, or physical. It is an alchemical transforming of our very being. The real secret of Icons of a Dreaming Heart – a completely open secret, available to anyone- is that imaginal being comes about exclusively through the action of love. Not sentimental or emotional love, but the love of the heart- of the thinking heart and the imagining heart. It is a new mode of consciousness, available to anyone.”- From the Foreword