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, grabbing me in a final bear hug and I scream again. She reminds me of a homeless lady I used to see 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 a cart of 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 homeless for five weeks. It would take me three long rides on the F Train to haul my stuff in one jumbo suitcase and a small side kick. On my first trip, I made it to the last subway car 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 rushed and out-of-breath to notice what was going on. I was grateful to have a seat and plenty of room for my suitcases, and especially grateful to have escaped a bitterly cold wait for the next train. As I settled down, I began to notice a terrible odor. I looked around and noticed that it was just me and the homeless woman I used to see around town. Oh, that’s why everyone was baling 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. I stayed in the car for several more stops; however, being unable to bear the stench any longer, and I eventually changed cars feeling sheepish that I had “done charity,” then baled like everyone else.
I eventually got to my new place, emptied my suitcases and headed back to Queens for my second load. Off the subway at Sutphin Station, onto the Q44 bus, walk a half mile to the house, load up my suitcases, walk back to the bus stop, back on the Q44, back to the subway station, but definitely NOT the last car this time. I sit in what I think is a vacant car and wouldn’t you know, the same lady was there, again! I began to wonder if I was undergoing some kind of cosmic test. “Aw, shucks!” as I sat down. However, I decided that whatever it took, I would stay in the car this time, 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 stench from stinging my nostrils and lungs.
I made it! The train was still in motion when I stood up and rolled my suitcases near the door. There’s a still moment when I look at the lady as the train comes to a stop. She raises her covered head exposing her matted bangs framing her dark chocolate face with eyes strangely gleaming. She smiles, exposing startling and unexpected dimples; and with seeming capriciousness, she winks at me. I’m stunned with wonder.
How interesting, that of all the people I’ve ever seen or known, the homeless lady is the one who shows up in my dream while I’m sprinting with a bunch of boys in the gymnasium. My association with physicality and being in the gym brings memories of frustration and deep shame about my body and body functions. I was sexualized at an early age because of my pear-shaped body. Boys not knowing anything about who I was inside taunted and sometimes battered me because of my big calves, thighs and derriere, which made me feel self-conscious, humiliated, powerless. My five siblings were lean with more equally proportioned bodies, although I ate exactly what they ate. My mother prided her petite and toned physique, posting height-weight charts in various locations around the house. She projected her fear and shame onto my body, frequently 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 by age 11. By that time, the rape I had suffered in 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, grades 7-9. I hated going to P.E. Our girls’ P.E. uniform was a romper style with elastic in the legs. My 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 first started tumbling, and I lost momentum and got stuck at the top with my bottom up in the air. Coach Edwards swatted me on the butt with her paddle to “push” me over and everyone laughed. I was mortified, but so very 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 where they would gang up on me taunting, “elephant legs” and other things. We alternated P.E. and French 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 and wiping away my tears to appear as normal as I could when I got on the 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. 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 to celebrate my becoming. Like her, I was homeless—literally for five weeks, and metaphorically homeless in my own body, disembodied. On the subway, I saw the woman’s humanity underneath her condition, and so she reciprocally comes in my dream to witness mine. Maybe in her waking life she had known something similar to my struggle??
I wonder why, in the dream, I project my fear onto her each time she greets, really celebrates me with her bear hugs—an indicator of more inner work for me to do?? Ah, the lesson: to own where I, too, felt “homeless” so that the stench and humiliation and layers of “old clothing” can be removed, and finally released. And maybe then, I can receive from and celebrate with the woman, those hearty, robust bear hugs. The dream gave me an opportunity to do just that…reclaim the robust, vitalizing parts of myself that I had separated from during those difficult years. The “medicine” of the dream is to stay in the robust, “I Am” energy of the boys in the gym. Also, to remember the places where I, too, felt homeless and receive the bear hugs welcoming me home from the woman standing in the role of the Divine Feminine who knows who I am, underneath the old layers of my covers and compensations.
A next day I had the following dream:
Dream: I’m in bed with a man having a very 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, in awe. Liquid stool begins to seep from his anus. Somehow, I’m not repelled. The sight stirs a deep place in me. Another man is nearby…I don’t remember what he’s doing because I can’t see him, but I know he’s there. I see grayish turds that turn ashen white, then they turn to brilliant gold nuggets. I feel as if I’m seeing 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 thorough my legs and my feet. Oh my gosh, my fingertips. Everything’s buzzing.
The “medicine” of this dream is to see and feel the miracle of the excrement (i.e., the shame) transmuting into pure gold, and feel the energy moving through every cell of my body. Know that the shame is redeemed and life force and energy can freely emanate and flow because all my blocked channels are now cleared. Also, know the presence of the Divine Masculine who will always be with me and in me as I move forward in my life.
Another episode in the “healing theatre” of my dreams. Truly a continual and miraculous journey home.
Thanks for listening in!
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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 they lead. 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, unconscious and cellular memories. The key to moving forward in the most authentic and juicy manifestation of your personhood is to get unblocked from the material that keeps you stuck in the old ways of being. If you would like know more about Archetypal Dreamwork as a form of spiritual practice and means for inward journey and inner cleansing, please reach out to me via the form below, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am based in metropolitan Atlanta, GA, USA, but work with clients anywhere in the world via in-person visit, phone, or HIPAA compliant video conferencing online.
Much love to you,
2 thoughts on “At the Gym”
Great post. Wow. Thanks, Cheptu.
Hi Patsy! Thanks for visiting and reading. I love this work! Happy Valentine’s!