At the Gym

Dream: I’m in a gymnasium with a bunch of guys exuberantly sprinting from half-way down the court, like “suicides” for basketball practice. Each time I get to the line at the end, a large obese woman lunges toward me and grabs me in a frontal bear hug. She scares me and I yell out. This happens several times. When it’s time to leave the gym, I sprint to the door and the lady reappears again, seemingly from out of nowhere, and grabs me in a big bear hug. I scream again. She reminds me of a homeless lady I used to see on the subway in NYC.

Years ago, when I as living in New York to do my clinical pastoral residency, I would frequently encounter two particularly intriguing homeless persons. One was a man and the other a woman. One black, one white. I never saw them together, but what immediately struck me about each was their stature. Both were very large—tall and hefty—which I could never determine if it was from obesity or from the many layers of dirty, smelly clothing they wore. I’d run into them in various places, usually with their bags and cart loaded with personal items.

One weekend in early cold February, I was in the process of moving my belongings from Queens, where I had been house-sitting, to Manhattan, where I had just found a place to stay after being virtually homeless for almost five weeks. It would take me three long rides on the F Train to haul all my stuff in one jumbo suitcase and a small side kick. I made it to the last car on the train just in time before the doors were about to close. As I boarded, I noticed everyone making a beehive out of the car, but I was too out-of-breath to notice what had happened. I thanked the Universe for a seat with plenty of room for my suitcases, and I was especially grateful to have escaped a long wait for the next train in the bitter cold. As I settled down, I became aware of a terrible odor growing exponentially. It smelled of urine, feces, dirt, decay, spoiling food—the worst odors you could imagine, all emanating from a single source. I looked around and noticed that the homeless woman I used to see around town was on the train. Oh, that’s why everyone was bailing out of the car when I got on….

We stopped at the next station, and I noticed how riders would continue to avoid the car. They’d step off and walk to another car as soon as they entered, or change cars through the gangway doors once the train was again in motion. I had planned to change cars, too, but seeing that everyone else was doing so, I somehow wanted to stay present and not “abandon” the homeless woman. On a side seat facing her, I beheld a head slumped down in slumber and safety out of the cold. I felt relieved that she had found respite, at least for a while. I stayed for several more stops; however, being unable to bear the stench any longer, and I changed cars feeling sheepish that I had “done charity,” then baled.

I eventually got to my destination, emptied my suitcases and head back to Queens for my second load. Off the subway at Sutphin Station, onto the Q44 bus, walk a half mile to the house and load up my suitcases, walk back to the bus stop, back on the Q44, back to the train station, but definitely NOT the last car this time. I sit in what I think is a vacant car and look around, and wouldn’t you know, the same lady is there, again! And people heading into the car would head right back out after seeing her and/or smelling the odor. I began to wonder if I was undergoing some kind of cosmic test, or something. I decided that whatever it took, this time I would stay in the car, for the entire l-o-o-o-o-n g ride back to Manhattan. I did just that, breathing as shallowly as I could to prevent the stinging stench from reaching my lungs.

I made it! The train was still in motion when I stood up and rolled my suitcases to the door. There’s a still moment when I look at her as the door opens. She raises her covered head exposing her matted bangs framing her dark chocolate face with eyes strangely gleaming light. She smiles, exposing startling and unexpected dimples; and then with seeming capriciousness, she winks at me.

How interesting, that of all the people I’ve ever known or seen, she is the one who shows up in my dream while I’m sprinting with a bunch of boys back and forth on the basketball court. My association with physicality and being in the gym bring unpleasant memories about my body. I was sexualized at an early age because of my body shape. Boys not knowing anything about who I was inside taunted and battered me because of my ample calves, thighs and derriere. I felt powerless, singled out, humiliated. My five siblings were lean with more equally proportioned chests and hips, although I ate exactly what my siblings ate. My mother posted height-weight charts all around the house and projected her fear and shame onto my body, endlessly tugging at my tops and dresses that would “ride up” because of my heavy bottom. Somehow, she was always trying to cover it up and clamp it down—making me wear a girdle around age 11. By that time, the rape that I had suffered in terror, silence and secrecy had already occurred, so I was very self-conscious, and instead of celebrating the body God had given me and the changes around coming into womanhood, I internalized that my body was bad and a source of betrayal.

The gymnasium in my dream reminds me of the gym at my junior high-school. I hated going to P.E. Our girls’ P.E. uniform was a romper style with elastic in the legs. My very generous thighs caused the elastic to ride up and painfully cut into my crotch. My derriere filled all the space and every bit of ease in the seams. I was constantly pulling down the elastic bands which would only ride up again, leaving raw, tender welts in the creases of my thighs. I remember doing forward rolls when we started tumbling, and I lost momentum and got stuck at the top with my bottom in the air. Coach Edwards swatted me on the butt with her paddle to “push” me over and everyone laughed. I was mortified, while at the time grateful that the boys were on the other side of the gym and had not seen it. The 7th grade boys teased me unmercifully, not just at P.E., but also in French class (we went to French on the days we didn’t have P.E.) where they would gang up on me taunting, “elephant legs” and other things. P.E./French were at the end of the day, 6th period, and every day as soon as the dismissal bell rang, I would gather my belongings as quickly as I could and run across the school yard to my bus crying from embarrassment and misery and wiping away my tears to appear as normal as I could when I got on the school bus to finally go home.

So back to my dream. I’m now back in the same gymnasium no longer being persecuted by the boys, but actually on the team with them in all my vitality and uninhibited expression. I am not deferring to them nor hiding in shame and veiled misery, but equal and sprinting with newness. These boys are my allies, my new teachers. And of all people, the woman from the NYC subway entering my dream as the Divine Feminine to redeem me from the place of my shame and celebrate my becoming. On the subway, I saw her humanity underneath her wretched condition, and so with reciprocity, she comes to witness mine. I wonder if, in waking life, she may have known something similar to my particular struggle.

I wonder why, in the dream, I projected my fear onto her each time she greeted me with her bear hugs—an indicator of more work for me to do?? Ah, the lesson: I needed to embrace my own humanity underneath my own wretchedness before I could truly accept her celebration of me. The dream gave me an opportunity to reclaim a part of myself that I had separated from during those difficult middle school and junior high years. It’s interesting that in a subsequent dream, excrement flows from a hermaphrodite’s body, turning into ashen turds that transmute into pure gold.

Dream: I’m in bed with a man having a very intimate and sensual encounter. We’re both naked. He turns over on his stomach, exposing that he also has a vagina. I’m startled by this…very curious, this odd discovery. Liquid stool begins to seep from his anus. Somehow, I’m not repelled, and the sight stirs a deep place in me. Another man is nearby… I can’t see him, but I can feel his protective presence. I see grayish turds that turn ashen white, then they turn to brilliant gold nuggets. Am I witnessing a miracle? Something washes over me, inside of me, filling me from my gut upward to my heart, then to my head, outward to my shoulders, my face and nose, downward through my legs and my feet. Oh my gosh, my fingertips. Every cell in me is buzzing.

This dream reflects a big clearing of shame that used to be tied to my body and body functions. More than a cognitive reckoning, but an alchemical cellular transformation that restores energy and life force that can now emanate everywhere because all the channels are cleared. My shame is now transmuted into gold. The energy of both dreams stayed with me for several days. I can still feel some of it in my hands and fingertips as I write this post. Dreams can heal, things can change. I feel energetically different, and I can receive from and celebrate with the woman, those hearty, robust bear hugs.

Another episode in the “healing theatre” of my dreams. Truly a continual and miraculous journey home.

. . . .

I am so very excited to share this alchemical part of my journey with you. I really want you to know that you can be cleansed and healed by your dreams if you develop the practice of following where and how your dreams lead. I’ve been doing this for over ten years and it never ceases to amaze me, the capacity that is present for us to be cleansed of every shadow that lurks in the hidden closets of our cognitive and cellular memories. If you would like to ask me anything, or if you would like to know more about Archetypal Dreamwork as a form of spiritual practice and means for inward journey and inner healing, please reach out to me via email at, or use the form below. I am based in metropolitan Atlanta, GA, USA, but work with clients anywhere in the world via in-person visit, phone, or HIPAA compliant on-line video conferencing.

Much love to you,

2 thoughts on “At the Gym

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