The Dreaming Body
The Dreaming Body

Dreams in the Body

Dreams express body experience and body expresses dreaming experience

When you listen to a person talk about their dreams you can start to understand something about their immediate process. If they talk about a recurring dream or a dream that they remember from childhood, you can understand something about their long-term process.

I was supervising someone whose client had a dream about walking outside of her house to check out a building that was being built too close to her house. She looked at the back porch of her house and thought that she had to rearrange it. It was too cluttered and there was some sort of a fence that was too close.

The supervising therapist did a good job of unfolding another part of the dream that I'm not mentioning here, which was, in many ways the more accessible part of the dream. I was curious about this part so at the end of the session I asked the client how her tail bone and sacrum were. She said that she had recently been in a car accident and her sacrum had been hurt. It felt like it was all jammed up there and pushed into one side.

Dream symbols and body

A more complete work would have been to ask her to associate the back porch with her body, where would it be. I was guessing into her experience since we had little time. This time I made an educated guess that panned out.

I suggested that she make more room for her tailbone and sacrum (the sacred bone because of the forces that it holds up). She imagined having more space and said that it felt better. The deeper work would be to work with the body experience of spaciousness and not having enough space being jammed up.

Processing the Dreaming body

I'll have a lot more to say about this on this blog but I'll address it briefly here.

Making more space for the coccyx (tailbone) and sacrum would be a good step in finding out about the experience of rearranging the back porch. But this alone wouldn't unfold the experience of the back porch being too crowded. Both of these "dreamfigures" or parts of the dream are potentially important since both are represented.

Deep Democracy

What is making the experience of crowing. What experience in that is trying to become known? This attitude that everything is meaningful and potentially useful and part of a person's wholeness is part of what Arny Mindell would call deep democracy. Practicing deep democracy means valuing all of the experiences. They often need to be unfolded to find their importance and meaning and to take them beyond being just disturbing.

The Grounded Therapist

"Advanced" issues

When I taught one of a series of advanced colloquium classes at PWI in December 2007 on movement and bodywork, I found myself wondering what "advanced" meant. The advanced issue that I personally was working on is a challenge from Arny and Amy Mindell to integrate Process Mind in teaching Process Work. I asked the question: how do I integrate what I learned in the early Dreambody days about structure of processes with the newer "Process Mind" and Earth-based experiences. How do I help students use the tools of each in service of the other?

The Challenge

There was a voice in me that challenged this formulation and said that I should make it practical and targeted at helping students with problems that arise around movement and bodywork issues when they are working with their clients.

Breath, Grounding and Center

So I asked myself, aside from skill  development, what were some of the things that come up in supervision and therapy related to bodywork and movement? Something general and physical. Breath was one, people often have breathing problems related to health problems, or to anxiety, or in the course of a session people have other experiences with their breathing like constriction or feeling blocked. Grounding and center often show up in the way that people feel in relationship to their work world, their relationship life or their general sense of being on their path, or in relationship to their mortality. In the class I had previously taught I had a lot of satisfaction working with yielding into gravity and finding a deeper direction as a therapist there. I'll write about that later.

My Goal

My goal was to help make practical and tangible the use of structural tools with Process Mind. In addition I wanted to use an exploration of body experiences related to "breath, grounding and center" as alternate inroads to Process Mind. Finally, I wanted to have fun, indulge the impulsive spirit in me that is not always practical but often creative. This resulted in the use of a lot of multi media. I had slide shows at the beginning of the class of different places on Earth that I collected from friends and from my own collection. I used film, sometimes playing a client myself, but mostly videoing work in the center and then playing it back on the projector, (thanks Caroline for getting us one with a wonderful screen) and finally in putting all the class materials on my website where only the students could access them including videos from the class, class powerpoint notes, resources and related web links, and handouts.

The format

Due to some unpredicted circumstances, we met 3 evenings a week for 2 weeks. We all loved the focus and intensity of this. There was nothing going on in the center, indeed the office wasn't even open the second week. We were there with our focus and intent. That was thrilling.

The dual direction approach

In the class itself I wanted to fill out different aspects of the area we were studying so I used different approaches. One approach to learning started with body experience and altered states that supported Process Mind. The other was to return to structure whenever possible to hone skills, help with the ability to think about a process in order to make choices when needed, and to layer that with individual Process Mind experiences.

Process Mind

Amy and Arny Mindell have a lot to say about Process Mind Here is a somewhat quirky and eccentric view of it. Sometimes I like to think of Process Mind as what your life looks like after you remove everything, (ie, to find the essence of "you"). After experiencing that essence and getting good contact with it, you remember your normal everyday life. There's a change in how the world looks after this. For example, to a person with a job difficulty their problem might look like a tremendous challenge. Then they find their essence or deepest part. They embody it and find their sense of home there. When they come back and look at the job difficulty from the new perspective and it's no longer a challenge in the same way that it was; it can even be part of their deepest enlightenment.

This view is essential for Process Workers. The work depends on being able to leave the normal world of experience and to include a broader view or experience of reality.

The body part

In my class I had two major approaches to body experience. Every class started with a body experience that lead the student in an experience of their deepest part of themselves, their Process Mind. One of the ways that Arny and Amy Mindell are accessing Process Mind is to begin by asking what is the deepest part of yourself right now. I was looking for other ways to do this as well.

One day we focused on breath by finding something in our breath that was the deepest part of our breath and unfolded the experience.  One day we on Process Mind through grounding by having an experience in the body of grounding. How did we do this? I  suggested experiences that supported grounding on a physical level. This changes the way our body feels. We worked on the experience we felt in our bodies that was different from our "normal" body experience. People felt things like ease in their bodies, lightness, a sense of verticality. connection through their bodies into the Earth. We unfolded these to find the experience that was their Process Mind experience.

So each class started with a Process Mind experience.

The structural part

One day I made a video of myself being a client. I used a tool that I developed for the class. I went and got a magnetic white board and a bunch of magnets. I made a bunch of laminated cards in 3 different colors (I cut three from a sheet of card stock lengthwise and smaller ones made from calling card blanks). People could write on these cards with dry erase markers, you know, like in the sushi restaurant when you order on an eraserable card.

The Fake Client

I asked them to watch the tape of me being a ficticious client and to record any "experience" that they noticed. They were to write one experience that they observed per card. They were to put language experience on one color, ie, the things that the person said that are either experiences that they identify with or that they don't identify with. They were to put signals on another color and experience that they couldn't put into these two categories, like atmosphere, mood, their own reaction or some other intangible, on a third color.


Then in groups they sorted the information that they had before them. They spread the cards on the floor and sorted out the duplicates. They used their remaining cards to sort experience that the person identified with from that which they didn't. They looked at  the channel information and made hypothesis about the primary and secondary process of the person based on how they sorted.

Remember the magnetic white board?

Then we took all of the information, we collected the ideas and put it on the white board, making a beginning idea of the structure for the work. We made one side of the board the primary process and the other the secondary process.

This was a dynamic way to practice structural analysis. Because the materials we used were big and interactive it required that people move around. For some, this was a little uncomfortable at first. It's a way that people get to learn from each other and debate their views.

Since it was a presentation of the client with no work done with her we worked only with the beginning of the work not the work as it unfolded.

Bringing it all together

One of my favorite exercises was working on amplification. We were observing a client and working with how to amplify a particular movement. We broke up into dyads to experimented with amplifying the movement that the client had been doing. As each dyad was done they wrote on the board what they had done; what techniques or skills they had used. They did very well with this.

In the beginning of this class we had been working with grounding. I asked them to remember their Process Mind experience that they had had in the beginning of the class and to go back to that experience finding their sense of home. We returned to the same movement and amplified it again, this time "using their Process Mind with the intent of contacting their client's Process Mind". They again wrote up on the board what they did. This time the feeling of the work was completely different. They had a much more satisfying experience and felt that, even though we were doing something so artificial as amplifying a movement that wasn't either of theirs, and doing it repeatedly, they got to something meaningful.

The list on the board included skills for amplification just as the last list had, but this time there was a different sense to it.  I can't speak for the individuals who worked but the feeling in the room was that something had happened.

The Grounded Therapist

This may be one of the ways we can accelerate our teaching, to help people be grounded in their sense of being at home. To me that's what grounding is, finding home in the Earth and physically connecting to it.

The ability to use process mine for therapeutic intervention is often interrupted by things like "feeling a pressure to perform" or an "insecurity about skills" or feelings of "responsibility for someone else's wellbeing". These are sometimes part of what needs to be addressed in a therapist's personal work. However, finding a center, grounding, or a sense that your breath is filling your body and free to travel in and out goes a long way toward creating a sense of home and purpose that  transcends these temporal problems.

How I got into Process Work

In the early 1980s, after being certified as a Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst, I taught in the dance program at a university in Washington State. I was an artist – a dancer and choreographer trained to teach dance. My choreographic work centered on a series of dances that blended my interests in social activism and spiritual development with using mixed media in dance. As a dance teacher and choreographer I was thrilled to be a part of people’s discovery of a new range of what they could do and be.

One day, in a LMA class on movement qualities, I was helping a student who had a predominately light, delicate, and diffuse movement quality find her force. I was standing in front of her, facing her with my hands on her hip bones. She was walking toward me, tentative, testing, slowly increasing the pressure. I resisted her progression forward, matching her growing strength. Suddenly she gave a huge thrust. She found an amazing power in herself that pushed me the entire length of the room and pinned me to the wall. She gave me an amazed look, then burst into tears. I was horrified that I had done something to hurt her. She was crying and upset. I don’t remember what happened next, but I do remember I felt I lacked the skills to help her with her new experience of her power. She had been transported into a new experience. It was as if there were two worlds, one where she was delicate and the other where she was pushing me against a wall. But they didn’t have any relationship to each other. This ‘transportation’ between worlds is something that movement is particularly good at. I needed skills for processing it with her.

I started taking workshops in just about anything I could find that might help me with the gap in my knowledge. I tried Gestalt Therapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I even did a family work seminar with Virginia Satir even though it didn’t seem to fit my current interests. Despite all my explorations I couldn’t find a connection between psychology and movement that made any sense to me. Then I followed a friend’s suggestion to check out Arny Mindell. This first exposure to Process Work looked magical, and exactly like what I was reaching for in my work with body experience and psychology.

Process Work seemed so intuitive, natural, and easy and Arny was one of the most interesting characters I had met. He mentioned that they were starting an Intensive course in Zurich in April. Without thinking I said that I would be there. I went back to the university where I was teaching and the head of the department graciously allowed me to leave in the middle of the school year to attend. He also gave me the opportunity to choreograph and produce one last concert called ‘Dancing the Edge’ in which I was already trying to integrate what I had learned at that first workshop.

The day after the final performance I packed myself off to Zurich. On the opening night of the course, in his welcome comments, I remember Arny saying something like, ‘you are about to get into something that is easier to get into than it is to get out of.’ I thought to myself that I was already in something, Laban Movement Analysis, which had shaped my world view in ways I would never be able to leave behind. This feeling that I was layering on another transformative worldview has never left me. It propels me into research in which I try to reconcile the differences between the philosophies.

That first night of the Intensive Course I went to bed and had a dream. Amy was burning her notes in a wood stove and Arny was making music on an electric piano. He asked for my help with the music. As I woke up I was setting out to do that.

I have returned to this dream many times over the years and found that the creativity of going beyond my notes and making ‘new music’ has been a theme in my development in Process Work. The thing that impressed me in the dream was the walls of the room. They were made of very small patches of material that created an overall pattern, like a patchwork quilt. It was an incredible amount of detail. It was like looking at a magical painting.

I woke up the next morning and presented myself, pen quivering with excitement, for the first class of the intensive with Joe Goodbread. I found myself dumbfounded and delighted by the detail of the work. There was a ‘system’, a set of skills and perceptual tools that I would be able to learn. Joe was teaching us about the difference between states and processes, the role of beginner’s mind, and awareness in working with people. He was helping us learn to use careful observation to follow what is happening in minute detail. His message was to embrace what we experienced and he helped us find ways to believe in the wisdom of what we found; to let Nature in the form of movements, symptoms, and disturbances, be our guide. It felt like I was learning to be of service to Nature - being given tools to follow her. This introduction to process theory was also the beginning of a life partnership with Joe. While my first impression was that Process Work relies on the practitioner’s intuition, I was now discovering how it employs awareness to follow nature. The awareness tools and skills we were learning lend solidity to intuition.

About five years ago a new phase of study started for me when I began to wake myself up at night moving. One night I would be slipping into the most exquisite relaxation, another I felt like I was the whole universe breathing in and out, like a quantum singularity. Then there were the nights I woke up with undulations and vibrations in my spine. It was like something was instructing me through my body movement in the night waking me up to the deepest parts of myself.

This phase of my studies has brought me back to the roots that brought me to Process Work. It challenges me to live the passion of the two worlds that ‘are easier to get into than to get out of’ that seem to have attached themselves to me. The class that I taught at the Process Work Institue is part of growing into this new world.

The Origins of the Dreambody

The Early Days – the Dreambody

The body has always played a central and critical role in Process Work. It was in his initial exploration of the dreamlike experiences of body symptoms that Arny Mindell tested his theory that dreaming happens in waking life. He found that when a person’s subjective experiences of her symptoms are unfolded they reflect the experiences unfolded from night time dreams. For example, a man who had fainting spells said that in his childhood dream – the first dream that he remembers in his life – he had fallen to the ground. These two experiences, when unfolded, shared a sense of leaving or dropping out of normal reality. When he started ‘dropping out’ and becoming less focused, the fainting episodes became less frequent.
Arny’s close observation and unfolding of what people do – how they formulate their experience in words, their metaphors, little expressions, inexplicable and mysterious accidents, mishaps and synchronicities, the signals and double signals that they make – coupled with the notion that dreaming is happening all the time, led him to unfold these experiences as dreams in order to find the meaning or messages of them. He called these experiences the Dreambody. From this study of everyday experience he saw the Dreambody’s importance in understanding the meaning of life and helping people connect to the direction of their life energy and deep personal satisfaction. Movement and bodywork is powerful in this process because it provides direct access to experience which circumvents the filters of the everyday mind.

Applications of movement in Process Work (in progress)

Applications of movement in Process Work


How it shows up


What to do

In “normal” sessions working with primary and secondary material where the kinesthetic channel is unoccupied.

·         Language, shows up in verbs.

·         Shows up in secondary movement

Working with signals that relate to the structure of the work. Movement signals and body experience often are over a person’s edge. Mythic sometimes.


Stop for a moment and think about what the structure is. Make a hypothesis about the signal and how it is “over the edge” for the person.

Allow yourself to not know what it is and what it means at the same time.

Focus on secondary movement and unfold it




When someone says that they don’t know what to work on.


When there is an atmosphere or mystery that is difficult to contact

Using movement as a blank access. Being able to see patterns in movement and to help make sense of them.

Learn more about what you are seeing.

Ask about experience that flirts with you. Help the person go back to the experience and unfold it. “Hold it” as if it were the most sacred thing in the world.






When someone interprets their movement or their dreams or other secondary experience.

Movement and body experience as a way to process “known” experience. Often experience is interpreted by the PP and the experience in movement or body experience is marginalized.

Asking the person to “put aside” what they know about the experience. Appealing to mystery. Let’s go into the experience and see what the body is thinking or feeling.




When someone wants to know more about an experience but you have gone as far as you can in the “normal” channels.

Unfolding experience that is more CR or dreaming. When you feel the experience needs more unfolding. Use body experience and movement to help the person leave the realm of words.

A lot of people have thought a lot about their situation. They have thought out all of their experience. This is a good time to help them find a deeper experience of it.




Something strange happens, there is a synchronicity, other weird event.

When you see mysterious signals.

Just dropping the content to unfold the mystery.




The effect of a movement or body signal may only be felt by you. It creates a sort of mood in you.

When you feel out of sorts.

Look for a signal in the other person that is incomplete. For instance people will often be sitting very low in their chair and you are in a way, under the spell of a mood or depression.



Welcome to Dreaming Body     

The physical body is a dynamic, sometimes blissful, sometimes challenging world of experience. For the most part it is viewed as a means to live and get around. It's kinda like an interface device between the inner and outer world.

One of the things that I've been trying to integrate into my thinking and being is the idea that it is non-local. In other words I can sometimes experience my body as part of someone or something else. This could be seen as quite an "out there" idea but when was the last time you cringed when you saw someone get hurt? At that point your body and the other's body merged. Not that you can have exactly the same experience but your body "dreamed" with the other's body.

It gets more strange than that but more on that later.

This is just the beginning of the dreaming experiences that are associated with our bodies. Just about any experience that we have in our bodies is dreaming. So much of what our bodies do, feel and experience is out of our control. This is a wonderful place to come into direct  contact with dreams. One of the big contributions that Arnold Mindell made in the early eighties is his discovery that experiences in the body are directly related to experiences that you find in your dreams -- even things like symptoms, habits and addictions, and movement patterns.

More soon ---

-- Kate