The Field of Dreams Process
as shared by Shelby Devine
Shelby Devine is a California columnist who wrote the following series of three articles published shortly following the dream workshop held by Alice Anne in Florence, Italy.
Something big, of world-earthquake proportion, happened in Florence five hundred years ago. Something big, of world-earthquake proportion, happened in Florence in March 2006 as well.
Last month, Erin, Eva and I arrived in Florence for the week-long “I Dream of Shopping in Florence” extravaganza organized by our friend April Severson. The trip included staying in a hotel in central Florence, sharing most meals with the group, and going on a few shopping junkets, but the centerpiece of the trip was a five-day “dream workshop.” The workshop was led by Alice Anne Parker, a renowned psychic and author of several books, including Understand Your Dreams. As you might guess, the workshop was the particular attraction for Miss New Agey me, particularly since it fell on the one-year anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer. For Eva, it was the shopping. For Erin, it was the sightseeing; in fact, up until the night before the workshop began he continued to whine, “Do I have to go to the workshop? I would rather just walk around …”
We arrive in Firenze a day early, on the heels of three sunny, bliss-filled days in Lake Como, one of the most geographically stunning places on earth. The Italian and Swiss Alps shoulder up to each other at the Lake before sliding thousands of snow-capped feet straight down into aquamarine water. Think Lake Tahoe, but bigger and bluer and with even more majestic mountains and picturesque little villages etched from the stone bordering the lake, and you get some sense of it. I have been to Florence many times – it is where I met my first husband, and his family still lives there. I was hesitant to come here with Erin, concerned about what it would bring up for me, but as we begin walking around the city that first day, it is utterly charming and comfortable. I watch as Erin revels – every architectural detail, from the stone turtles hinging the iron grill of a window, to the magnificence of the Duomo – causes giddy, almost manic delight.
The next morning, Erin wakes up and tells me about the intense dream he just had – he is in the kitchen area of his childhood home, boxing with his father. This is something they always used to do when he was growing up. A television projects a baseball game, in which Don Mattingly is up to bat. Two women from his work – Candace, the owner of the company, and Sonya, the second-in-command – are there as well, watching him and his father. Sonya is smiling and nodding, encouraging the play-fight. Candace is observing, her features expressionless. “Well, I guess we’ll find out what that all means, huh,” he says.
At 9:30, the workshop group congregates in a side parlor of the hotel, sitting at little student desks arranged in a half circle. Nine women and Erin all eye each other somewhat self-consciously. Alice Anne Parker stands in the front of the room, watching us take our seats. Alice Anne is a slender woman with short, spiky, salt and pepper hair, and strong facial features punctuated by dark eyes that sear into you, alternating between bemusement, compassion, and a deep knowingness. She welcomes us, and begins. “So, I asked my spirit guides last night before I went to sleep – why Florence?” She says this as if she had just said, “So, I asked the hotel desk clerk – where is the Duomo?”
“And they reminded me that not only was Florence the centerpiece of the Inquisition, culminating with Savonarola’s Bonfire of the Vanities, but that Florence is the place that heralded the beginning of the Renaissance – a Renaissance of the Mind – that ensued quite rapidly in the wake of the downfall of the Inquisition.” She pauses to make eye contact with each pair of the ten eyes riveted to hers. “And the vibrational energies from that time are still very strong here. So are the parallels in our current world situation – the Inquisition was about religious fanaticism, about absolute power and the struggle for power – and we are seeing the same things in our world today.” She leans up against a table, placing her hands very deliberately, palms down, on each side of the table. “We all came back this time because we wanted to be a part of this … new Renaissance. It is building; energies are vibrating at an accelerated rate now, and in the next year and a half it is going to come to fruition, this Renaissance of the Spirit.” She pauses, but no one says a word, or even shuffles a foot.
“My guides told me that every one of you came to this workshop for three reasons: Physical health, inner peace … and strength. To gain health, peace and strength for what lies directly ahead.”
Alice Anne stands, smiles, nods at her rapt audience. “Now. So much of those elements are present in our dreams, even when we do not remember them. The dream state happens to all of us, all the time. It is where immense wisdom, healing, and energizing take place. Through this workshop we are going to learn this. Not in an intellectual way, but in an intuitive, visceral, non-abstract way. Each of you is going to choose one dream to share with the group for us to engage in this particular exercise. The dream can be one you have had recently, or, if you prefer, it can be the very first dream you ever remember having.” She moves over to a flip chart at the side of the room, uncaps a felt pen, and surveys the room. “Today, we will start with having someone describe their dream to the group, and we will walk through how to pull out particular key components or aspects of the dream. Then, we will split into smaller groups and each of you will do the same for one of your dreams. Then, tomorrow, we will begin the actual exercise of reliving the dream. Now – who would like to go first?”
Silence. Then, instinctively, I raise my hand – and jab a thumb at Erin. “Let’s do Erin’s dream.”
My hand has lifted of its own accord, and my thumb has jabbed westward, in Erin’s general direction. I have just volunteered him to be the guinea pig of the dream workshop in Florence, and I feel his body stiffen like a sentinel in his classroom-style chair. Alice Anne Parker, the psychic who is teaching this five-day workshop, swivels her neck past my outstretched arm and fastens her laser beam eyes onto Erin’s. There is a tense moment that passes between us three, when I am feeling a tad guilty for offering him up, he is feeling a tad irritated with me for putting him on the spot, and she is feeling a tad thrilled at the energetic, kinetic dynamic.
“Erin, would you like to tell us your dream?” she says, matter-of-factly.
There is one more moment that happens in which we are all on stage, our bodies poised, our minds still, waiting. Erin rustles in his seat, then nods. “OK,” he says, and begins to recount the dream he told me when he woke up that morning: Being in his childhood home, boxing with his father, the image of a baseball game on a silent TV, with Don Mattingly up to bat, the “two most powerful women” at his work both standing there, watching.
When he finishes, Alice Anne nods thoughtfully and smiles enigmatically. “Oooh, that’s great,” she says. She then turns to the easel and large sketch pad behind her, and outlines a process for deconstructing the dream. It is detailed in her book, Understand Your Dreams, and involves capturing certain images and events in various circles, then asking three key questions. At this point, she only focuses on the how-to, rather than the underlying meaning(s) or interpretation of the dream. “We’ll get to that tomorrow,” she adds, glancing back at Erin over her shoulder.
We then break into small groups in which each person takes a turn telling the one or two other people in their group a dream they would like to understand, while the listeners write down the key events and people in the dream being described. “Do not sit with someone you already know,” Alice Anne tells us. “Take this as an opportunity to open yourself a little to the people in this group that you don’t know … yet.
Because we are all creating and sharing this experience, all of it, with each other, and the sooner you feel comfortable with everyone else, the faster we will progress.” For the next several hours we do as instructed, while Alice Anne circulates between groups, asking as many questions as she answers. Upon hearing the dream I had the day before, about having my driver’s license and credit card stolen from my wallet, Alice Anne seemingly effortlessly allows me to understand how certain recurring themes of protection, identity, and opportunity have been playing out in my dream (and waking) life, over and over.
The next morning, after breakfast, we reconvene in the same room. While leaning back against the table at the front of the room, Alice Anne opens the morning session by telling a little bit about herself. She was a college English professor working on her doctoral dissertation when she first went to a psychic, who proceeded to tell her, “You’re not as smart as you think you are … you’re just psychic.” Stunned and intrigued, she started to explore, then train in, psychic ability, and for the past 25 years, in addition to doing psychic readings, has offered dream counseling and led dream workshops all over the world. She straightens. “Now … we are going to start with Erin’s dream that we discussed yesterday, but everyone in this room will also do one dream exercise like what we are going to do with you.”
She looks again at the various circles and words she wrote yesterday up on the easel. “OK, Erin, you will need to choose a person in this room for each of the following … yourself, of course, and your father, and the two powerful women you describe … and you will also need to choose someone to be the room itself, and someone to be Don Mattingly on the TV.”
He blinks several times, and then surveys the room. We are all women, all over 40, all somewhat timid in our chairs, afraid to meet his eyes, not sure what we are being “picked” for, what is going to be expected of us. “Um … well, I would like to pick April to be me.” April, who has been in her mother’s workshops before, rises and stands in the middle of the room. “Good. Now choose someone to be your father.” “Shelley.” He says, immediately.
“Shelley, please stand alongside April … now, choose the person who plays the most powerful woman at your company.” And on it goes, until the six roles are filled, and all of us are standing in the middle of the room.
“OK, Erin, now this is important – I want you to position each of these people and objects as you dreamt them, doing whatever they were doing in your dream.”
Erin moves me and April into boxing poses, with me actually delivering a friendly jab to April’s shoulder. He places Bea, who is playing “the room,” off to one side, overlooking everything, and Ann, who is playing “Don Mattingly,” off to the other side. On a third side he stands Eva and Christiane side by side, the two he has chosen to play Sonya and Candace from his work. He steps back and carefully studies each of us, then comes back to me and April.
“You two are boxing like girls.” He straightens our arms, our backs. “Stay like this.”
When he is finally satisfied, he looks at Alice Anne, who asks him if this now is as close as he remembers it, and he says yes.
Alice Anne then addresses the assemblage. “OK, everyone, now listen. This is not about acting. In fact, at no time do I want you to ‘act’ a part in any way. I simply want you to become very, very still … and feel. That’s it. Do not “think” – this is not logical, it is not linear. Just feel, OK?” Most of us grimace or sigh.
She then tells us to close our eyes.
And this is when it gets really weird. Because as soon as I close my eyes, I feel … different. Very different. I don’t feel like me anymore.
“OK, open your eyes.” She commands, and we all do. For the next hour, Alice Anne and Erin circle the room. Alice Anne whispers questions to Erin, who then asks them, such as, “Room, what are you feeling?” or “Sonya, why are you here?” and, again and again, the answers are surprising, unexpected. At first, or even for a while, everything seems like a kaleidoscope – all color and information, but no cohesive picture forming. Yet slowly, steadily, as the questions and answers mount, something begins to come into focus. And it is multi-layered, rich with meaning about Erin and his coming into his power, his adulthood. And while I am processing this, I am also experiencing the sensation of being his father, with a vastly different emotional landscape than Shelley’s. And while I am experiencing this, I am also sensing that everyone else is feeling their role in the same way. It is almost as if we are all in a semi-trance.
At one point, when it appears as though we are “stuck,” Alice Anne gets very excited. “Oh, whenever we get stuck – and we always do – that means we are close to getting it!! It means we are just one question, or one change, away from the whole picture!” She ponders the room, two fingers tapping her mouth. She then asks Erin a question, and he answers it by mentioning his mother.
“Wha – wait a minute. That’s it! Where is your mother in this?”
“Oh, she’s moved out by this time …” he says.
“A HA!!! Wait! We need someone to play your mother! Pick someone!” Erin picks Julia, a lovely woman with a sweet smile reminiscent of his mother’s. And sure enough, within five more minutes, after “Janice” answers a few questions, the breakthrough and subsequent release of tension in the room is palpable. We are all then told to relax and resume being us, and then each of us is asked to describe what we felt, what we experienced.
It is thrilling. Energizing. Amazing. It is unanimous. We all felt ourselves become someone else, with feelings and thoughts not ours. We all said things we would not “normally” say. Some even said things that were personal yet accurate, despite having never met Erin before yesterday.
We all helped Erin understand his dream in an incredibly powerful, memorable way. It is clear in his stunned face, his excited eyes, the sheen of sweat on his forehead, the way he keeps slowly shaking his head. Tina, one of the folks who were not chosen to be in the dream, mentions that she felt a little left out. Erin jumps in with, “No! Don’t you remember when your chair squeaked? Well, you are sitting exactly where the squeaky cabinet was in our kitchen!”
As we break for the day, Alice Anne draws Erin aside. “When is your birthday?” she asks, her eyes boring into his. “August 6th.”
“A Leo … hmmm …” she smiles that secret little smile again. “Well … not yet.”
It is the second to last day of the dream workshop in Florence. In the days following the deconstruction of Erin’s dream, just about everyone has had an opportunity to “act out” one of their dreams, during which workshop leader/author/renowned psychic Alice Anne flits around the room like a little sprite, whispering her ideas to the dreamer, who then poses the questions to the participants. The “reenact-ors” then answer, often with startling, revelatory results.
People keep choosing Erin to be in their dreams. He responds by frequently being the pivotal character, saying the most unexpected, unusual things that seemingly make no sense to anyone – except the dreamer. Again and again, his comments lead to the great “aha!” moment of breakthrough for the dreamer. It is also extremely enlightening to see him in this setting. He has deep, intuitive gifts that I’ve never recognized before. There is no other correct way to put this: He channels energy from other planes. He hears voices. He receives insights and information that our present world view says he could not possibly funnel. Late at night, we lie in bed and he trembles as he whispers to me incidents that happened to him while he was growing up. On many occasions he thought he was going crazy -- like knowing that something was going to happen before it did, or that he was going to run into someone he hadn’t seen in years, or someone would say something while he simultaneously “heard” what they were really thinking but not saying. In the dark, I pet his hair, slide my knuckles gently along his jaw, silent and awed; this man I have known intimately and intensely for nine years has a whole other universe inside him. As I listen, it strikes me that his calling is in the healing arts, not working for a company that sells CO2 monitors. Each day in the workshop brings new validation of his abilities, and as each participant seeks him out to share what he gave them, he literally begins to stand taller, shine brighter, and grow in confidence, presence, and sense of purpose. It is the most extraordinary gift of all.
Like a schoolgirl knowing I am going to be called on by her teacher very soon, I keep mulling over which dream to choose. There is the one I had the first day we arrived in Florence, where I dreamt that my wallet was stolen. But during the breakout sessions on the first day of the workshop, Alice Anne swiftly dissected and analyzed that dream for me, explaining that because I am experiencing so many huge changes -- recovering from a very serious bout with breast cancer, making a midlife career alteration, partnering with a man who is coming into his own real maturation and power for the first time – I am obviously, necessarily in the process of forging a new identity for myself. My wallet (filled with my driver’s license, my credit cards, my business cards, etc.) symbolizes my established, familiar identity, as well as the protections associated with that identity (status, wealth, security). It seems like a perfectly good dream to do for the workshop. Still, over and over in my mind I return to the first dream I ever remember – what Alice Anne refers to as your “Life Story” dream, and wonder if I should do that one instead. It has always held such power for me, and has been instrumental in my lifelong belief that there is more – much more – mystery in this universe than what our five senses absorb.
At lunch that day I find myself seated next to Alice Anne for the first time all week. Toward the end of the meal, she places a hand firmly on my knee and says, “So, we’re going to do your dream next … what dream are you thinking about?”
I shrug. “Well, I was thinking about doing the wallet dream.”
She cocks her head and one eyebrow, playfully purses her lips. “But…?”
“But … I was also thinking even more about doing my first remembered dream.” She immediately scoots a little closer to me and lowers her head in an invitation for me to do the same. I do.
“Tell me.” I do.
When I finish, she flounces her entire body back in her chair and theatrically rolls her eyes. “Oh My God … that is just marvelous. You must, you simply must, do that one, Shelley.”
When we regroup in the workshop, my foot can’t stop tapping, a sure sign that I am nervous, excited … and eager.
“OK, Shelley,” Alice Anne says. “You’re up. Tell us your dream.”
I survey the room of eleven people. All eyes are on me. I cross my legs, lean forward, clear my throat, and begin.
“I had this dream when I was about two or three years old … I am standing in my crib, holding onto the wooden sliding bars with both hands, looking across the room out my bedroom window, which is closed … it is dark in the room, lit only by moonlight. Very gently, I float up and out of my crib and through the window … and suddenly I am inside a spaceship. I am sitting right up in front of the dashboard of the spaceship, before a long, curved window that wraps around the front of the ship about 120 degrees, kind of like huge sunglasses … I don’t see anyone else with me on the ship, but I do see millions of stars out the window… it is silent, calming, and I am not scared at all … then, I feel the ship slowing, or sort of hovering in place. I lean forward and look out the window. Down below, I see a large clearing in a forest … the trees are Douglas Fir trees, very thick together, but on the ground in the clearing are a number of disc-shaped spaceships, all lined up in several rows … we start to descend towards the clearing … and that’s all I remember.”
When I finish, there is a long silence.
Alice Anne claps her hands a few times, as if to wake us all up. “O-kay…Well, we will need someone to be you, of course, and someone to be the crib, and someone to be the window in your bedroom. Then, we will need someone to be the spaceship …” She pauses, rearranges her body into that now familiar pose of hand over mouth and chin, stroking, as she ponders. She then nods, as if agreeing with an inner voice. “Yes, yes, we will also need someone to be the window of the spaceship. Then, we will need someone to be the forest, and, finally, someone to be the spaceships on the ground.”
I choose April to be me, and Eva to play the crib. I choose Erin to be the spaceships on the ground. As with every other dream, I arrange all the “players” into a stage set, exactly as they appeared in my dream: Eva behind April, the bedroom window across from them, the spaceship outside the bedroom window, the forest and other spaceships off to one side. Erin immediately, without me asking, seats himself on the ground, hugging his knees.
Alice Anne asks everyone to close their eyes. She instructs everyone to breathe deeply, to not think, just to feel who or what they are … just feel it. After a few quiet moments, she asks everyone to open their eyes.
She whispers to me, and I repeat the question aloud to April/Shelley: “Shelley, what are you feeling?”
April/Shelley’s face is alive with anticipation. She is positively beaming. Her hands lift up, clutching the wooden pegs of an invisible crib. “Oh, I am just so excited I can hardly stand it. It’s going to happen again. It’s happened many times before, and I can’t wait, I just can’t wait to go!” The shiver that shimmies all the way up my spine coincides with me remembering, vividly, “Yes … that is exactly how I felt …”
I don’t wait for Alice Anne to cue me. I ask Eva/Crib, “Crib, what are you feeling?” Eva/Crib begins to tremble, ever so slightly. Her porcelain face flushes pink. “I am here to protect Shelley … I take care of her, and I don’t want her to go …” Here her voice breaks. “But I know Shelley, and I know she is going to do exactly what she wants to do. I can’t stop her. I know …” She gulps hard, and her eyes suddenly glisten. “I know she is going to go.”
Elsha is the bedroom window. As with April/Shelley, Elsha/Bedroom Window is radiant. “I am so honored to be the portal! I am the way that Shelley gets … there, and it is just so – wonderful.”
Christiane/Spaceship says, “I am doing my job, the one specially assigned to me. I am comfortable and knowledgeable about how to do it.”
Anne/Spaceship Window says, “I am concerned about the force being exerted through me, and the possibility that I might crack.”
Bea, who plays the Forest, is smiling from ear to ear. “Tonight is a very special night. I am the witness to this extraordinary event. The spaceships have been here many times before, but tonight is of particular importance, and I feel honored to be able to provide space between my sheltering trees to allow this important event to happen.”
Erin/Spaceships pauses the longest. His face is white, and I see his Adam’s apple bob as he swallows, deeply. “I feel like I do not exist within the space/time dimension,” he says, quietly.
With every answer, a thrill builds inside of me – an almost vertiginous recognition of truth playing keyboard up and down my spine. And that tingle is palpably evident in every single participant in the dream as well … an amazing energy current is beginning to vibrate in this room.
Alice Anne and I quickly exchange an open mouthed gaze of amazement, as if to say, you, too?
April/Shelley exits through the Elsha/Bedroom Window and joins the Anne/Spaceship. She feverishly describes her wonder, her sense of joyous purpose, although the specific purpose is unspecified. The room’s energy intensifies tenfold as she continues on her journey. After she has completed the descending into the clearing, after Erin/Spaceships and Bea/Forest have announced that the mission is fulfilled, she proclaims, in the vehement voice of a three-year-old, “I don’t want to go back.”
Alice Anne leans into me, every muscle in her face twitching as if electrified. “Ask … ask the crib and the bedroom window if they would like to join the spaceship.” I do, and all four of them – the crib, the bedroom window, the spaceship, the spaceship window, respond as marionettes: jolting upright, nodding in unison, moving into formation, relieved at this perfect … answer.
But when the crib and the bedroom window get on the spaceship, the crib faces outward, towards the wall, and the bedroom window spoons behind it, so that both are facing one direction while the spaceship and spaceship window are facing the other wall. Alice Anne and I stand side by side, frowning, as if in a museum gazing upon a picture we are trying to make sense of. Our initial exultation at this joining is replaced by puzzlement. Something is not right, and we all know it. The silence lasts at least a full minute. Suddenly, Christiane/Spaceship breaks the quiet. “I feel like we should be facing each other.” The others immediately, naturally, turn so that Christiane/Spaceship and Anne/Spaceship window are facing Eva/Crib and Elsha/Bedroom Window.
And, just like that, the energy in the room that has been humming and building, explodes. We have lift off.
The breakthrough is exactly as I’ve seen it occur to many of the others in the room – a certainty that wallops you in the chest before settling comfortably, but powerfully, in your gut.
The crib represents my physical, material world – one of security, constancy, perception. But there is a portal to the infinite, the eternal, the plane of knowing that is outside the time/space dimension. It is exciting, and real – as real as the physical world seems to me. My life story is to recognize that these two dimensions are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are easily reconciled with no more than an instantaneous flash of understanding that there is only one reality.
Alice Anne and I throw our arms around each other’s shoulders, our eyes wet with emotion, and nod. Afterwards, every single participant describes their anticipation, then excitement, then the moment when we hit critical mass and the synergy in the room intensified exponentially.
We take a fifteen minute break. Erin and I rush to our room without saying a word. We have barely closed the door before our clothes are off, our mouths are on each other’s, and our bodies tumble onto the bed. It is here, in these five or so “time/space” minutes, that I immediately begin practicing the merging of the spiritual with the physical.