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Elan Vitae


  • Shena Driscoll Salvato


The feeling was palpable, visceral. While it had only lasted a few seconds, even in my dream state, I had experienced it. From what I can recall, I hadn’t asked for it, longed for it, or even called it in. Not knowingly, at least. Not in that first instance, at least. Not in ways that I have attempted to revisit it again since that strikingly clear moment. Perhaps, though, that is why it came to me that night: so clearly and attentively focused on my new role as mother of two, my days full, my body exhausted, my heart open, my mind uncluttered. In all of this fullness there was room for the experience to make its unexpected appearance.

In the dream, there I stood: arms to my side, feet firmly planted on the ground, and I launched myself upward. As I felt my heels rise, the arches of my feet bending to lift me to my toes, I had a knowing like I had never experienced before: I could. I was able. I would do the seemingly impossible. But there was a moment, though, just before my feet left that edge, when I felt and thought to myself, “I can’t do this. This is impossible. What do I think I’m doing?” But then I did it. My toes lifted from the ground and I kept going, and going, and going. Gravity did not return me to my starting point. My heart opened and expanded with the knowing that, not only could I do it, but I was doing it. I was flying.

And that was it. The dream ended as unexpectedly and abruptly as it had begun. When I awoke, I knew I had experienced something I had never before experienced in this lifetime. How could this have happened? Why I had not experienced this before? How could something so seemingly impossible feel so real? I wanted to do it again. I wanted to revisit that light, liberated feeling of my toes lifting from the earth, launching me into the sky. Each night I called it in, asking to go back there. Despite my trying, it never returned to me nor I to it. In a later conversation about the mystery of the elusiveness of this dream, the question arose: why not instead revisit that feeling during my waking hours?

Rather than simply revisiting the feeling, I thought about what I could do with my body to take me back there, to rekindle that experience. Recalling that feeling of certainty and confidence in my chest, I stiffened my arms to my sides, fists clenched for the ride, chin held high, shoulders thrown back, and smiled. In that instant, I revisited the gloriousness of that sensation, not in another dream, but while I was wide awake, at will. The beauty of this realization was that I could revisit that experience at any time, in any place. There was no wishing, no waiting. What had made the most profound impact on me was not the flying itself, but the feeling deep in the core of my chest that I could do it. Dream Stances had been born.

That one Dream Stance led to the creation of others. I began recalling other powerful dreams I had had in my life: meeting my now husband; knowing I was with child; first seeing my daughter and later, my son; remembering the tune of a song I could not recall. I returned to the sensation from the dream, the feeling, and moved my body into a position to revisit and capture that experience, the essence of that feeling. I connected one movement to the next and my Dream Stance Sequence came into being.

Profound waking moments called to me, too, and each was given its own stance: knowing my now husband was the one, sitting with my grandmother before her transition out of this world, basking in the awe of the ocean on the shores of a quiet island in the Bahamas. I now have nine in a series that I practice. In no time at all, no matter where I am, they revive me, ground me in the present, remind me of the miraculous possibilities of life and bring me home to myself.

To create your own Dream Stances:

  1. Allow yourself some quiet time to recall your most profound dreams: ones that left you with a powerful knowing, a visceral feeling of the miraculousness of your human experience. Write or draw enough details so you know which dream it is (for your benefit alone; it does not need to be understood by anyone else).

  2. Choose one of those dreams and revisit it, feel it. In your mind, step back into that space and experience.

  3. While either sitting, lying or standing (whichever is most comfortable for you), move your body until you find a stance that allows you to fully express that knowing kinesthetically.

  4. Experiment with it it until the movement and feeling are integrated.

  5. Continue practicing your chosen stance until it feels intuitive.

  6. When you are ready or are feeling called, repeat with another dream.

  1. Then allow yourself some quiet time to recall your most profound waking experiences: ones that left you with a powerful knowing, a visceral feeling of the miraculousness of your human experience. Write or draw enough details so you know which experience it is (for your benefit alone; it does not need to be understood by anyone else). Revisit and apply the steps for the creation of your Dream Stances.

Practice your Dream Stances whenever you are feeling disconnected from yourself, when you need a physical or emotional boost. Consider adding Dream Stances to your daily morning or evening ritual or practicing them whenever you need to return to yourself. Your Dream Stance Sequence is yours alone. No one else knows the feeling you’re experiencing. No one else has had the combination of profound dreams and waking experiences that you have had. Let go of your attachments, open yourself and call it in. In retrospect, that’s what I had unknowingly done when these dreams or waking moments came to me. Consider it a celebration of your humanity, a way to come home to yourself.

Coming Home to Self

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