MysticMag has the pleasure of chatting with Tayria from Bridging Worlds. With a Ph.D. in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, Tayria Ward brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her work. After three decades in the Los Angeles area, where she served as a minister and professor, Tayria relocated to the ancient mountains of Western North Carolina in 2004. It was there that she established Bridging Worlds Mountain Retreat Center, dedicated to bridging inner and outer worlds.
Tell us, please, about your work, what you do, what you are passionate about.
Currently the focus of my work is in helping people to discover the meanings and messages in their dreams, both the dreams of the night and the dreaming dimension of the psyche in waking and sleeping. I’ve been working with my own dreams consistently for nearly 50 years. They show me the way, the path to consciousness, healing, awakening, wholeness.
At mid-life I entered a doctoral program in Depth Psychology in order to study more intensively the work of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, taking on this study largely because of my deep interest in dreams. During those years I had an awakening of my own inner indigenous self, the deeply indigenous aspect of the soul and spirit which is at the core of every one of us. No matter our ancestry, all of our early ancestors lived in an indigenous way. This is our true inheritance, our deepest truth and nature. This awakening led me to work with shamans and teachers from many different cultures and traditions: Native American, African, Mexican, South American, Australian. It has been a long journey of discovery. The dream work and the indigenous ways are completely intertwined and coherent with each other. Indigenous people speak of the Dreamtime. In this dimension of the world and of ourselves great wisdom abides. This dimension not only offers us practical solutions to the dilemmas of our everyday life, but also is the dimension where the dead are alive, the ancestors speak, and Otherworld beings can be communicated with.
Can you share with us snippets of your own personal journey and your connection with the elements?
The awakening of my own indigenous mind and nature (a story that I write about in my dissertation, which is available on my website) came not long before the dramatic unraveling of my life as I had known it. I don’t necessarily think of that awakening as causative, but more as prescient. I experienced a complete breakdown at the time of the unraveling. Nearly all of the structures of my life and beliefs, what I thought I knew, any certainties, my sense of identity, all of it crumbled.
During that period, the only place that I could find an experience of stability, a sense of peace, healing or strength was in raw nature. There I felt sane, as if all of the trauma took a back seat. That was my medicine. That became my teacher, healer, friend, mentor, guide. I felt known there, and understood.
I decided to design my own vision quest while under the tutelage of a Nigerian mentor I was working with. I went into a remote place in wild nature all by myself for 10 days without any human contact.
There I had experiences of very intelligible and direct communication from the natural world. Those voices that we have shut down because of our over-emphasis on human language, human thinking and the idea of the superiority of all things human came alive and spoke. It didn’t take long. Two or three days in, human worries and considerations fell far into the background while the voices of all that I was present to came fully alive. This is the way indigenous people live, historically and currently. The voices of trees, plants, animals, wind, stars, sun, moon and weather are in vivid communication with each other, and we can enter that conversation if we allow ourselves to drop the hubris of our human-centeredness.
A little frog moved into the watering can that I used to bring water from the nearby stream. That frog was the sweetest and most intimate companion during those days, fully present. I still tear up when I think of it.
I undertook that vision quest in the late nineties. I have been working with all of this intelligence increasingly through the years since then, including moving out of Los Angeles in 2004 into a remote spot in the mountains of Western North Carolina where I established a retreat center, Bridging Worlds. I lived there for 9 years, conducting retreats several times a year, and otherwise living completely alone in wild nature.
Now I live in Asheville, NC, where I work mostly helping others with their dreams and the dreaming way of knowing and being. My connection to the natural world continues to be my sanity, my comfort, my passion and my best friend.
Can you share some insights into the importance of recovering a meaningful connection to the natural world and how it impacts our well-being and personal growth?
I think that it is an imperative for our survival as a species on this planet that we recover a meaningful connection with the natural world. Our human cultural resources have lost their integrity with nature and therefore cannot be trusted to help us through the climate catastrophe we are rapidly heading into if we do not wake up. Yes, the debt limit, the political wars, medicare and social security, the whatever-is-in-the-news-of-the-day issues all matter, but none of them will matter anymore if we don’t have clean air, water, soil – the most basic elements necessary for our survival. If we can’t breathe, what will we care about jobs?
Let’s get first things first. The first thing is to re-establish our connection to the natural world. I guarantee you, if we had been listening to our instincts, connected to nature and our dreams, we absolutely would not have poisoned the waters and air and soil. We would have known it is the exact same thing as injecting poison into our own veins. We are all one system of life and cannot be separated from it. The idea of separation and human superiority is a pathology, completely insane.
How does depth psychology and dream analysis help individuals in hearing the voice of their deep self? Could you provide examples of how this process has supported personal transformation?
Depth psychology might be said to be the psychology of the unconscious, working with the parts of ourselves that are unknown to our conscious mind and our sense of self and identity. These parts are what move and drive our thinking, emotions and motivations – and we aren’t even aware of what they are! Buckminster Fuller once said these words, which have been important to me since I heard them from him as a teenager:
“99.9 % of all that is transpiring in human activity and interactions with Nature is taking place within the realms of reality which are utterly invisible, inaudible, unsmellable and untouchable.”
Sensing the truth of these words, I have spent my life trying to understand how to get in touch with that 99.9%. I undertook a very intensive spiritual journey for 20 years before I began my studies with depth psychology and indigenous ways of knowing.
What we can see, touch, hear, smell and think with our rational mind is the tiniest fraction of what there is to know about ourself and our world – yet humans have decided to focus completely on that extremely narrow fragment of reality and act as if that is all there is. No wonder we have gotten ourselves into terrible predicaments, both personally and collectively.
Awakening to and exploring the other dimensions of our true nature is a wondrous adventure, even as it is rigorous and often terrifying too. Dreams and depth psychology help enormously with that.
You ask for examples; I can mention some recent ones. I have experienced two recent dreams in which I was bitten by a snake, venom injected. I was not terrified and it was not painful, but it was clearly a big event in the dream. The times in the past when I have had such dreams, I observe in the weeks and months afterward that I am shedding a skin, a very real transformation of consciousness takes place. Snakes are ancient symbols of the goddess, and are symbols of sloughing off some old outworn attitudes or thought systems so that new ones can emerge. So, having these dreams of late, I am aware that something is changing in me and I will anticipate and cooperate with the change rather than worry or resist it.
In another recent dream, I am in a car hanging off a cliff in a very dangerous situation and the person driving the car doesn’t seem to care at all. Later in the dream I find that the situation I was in was just a movie set, the danger wasn’t real though it appeared so at the time. I have had more than one dream lately of optical illusions. They all remind me to consider that things aren’t always what they seem. Look deeper. Know that “reality” as we experience it has many layers, and first impressions can be wrong.
This is why it is good to keep a dream journal. You can watch for themes in the dreams as they come through, and see how they develop, and what later clues arrive. It helps us in our conscious situation enormously. They are like a best friend and therapist, an angel and guide.
Bridging worlds and connecting with Otherworld dimensions are intriguing concepts. Could you elaborate on what these dimensions entail and how they can enrich our understanding of ourselves and the world around us?
I named my retreat center, and my work, Bridging Worlds as I see what I am endeavoring to do within myself, and assist others in doing, is to bridge the worlds between the visible and the invisible, the conscious and the unconscious, dreams and waking, the indigenous mind and the domesticated mind, culture and nature. These may seem like opposites, but they definitely are not; they are all on the same spectrum of the reality we exist within.
Quantum physics and the new sciences describe matter and energy as the same thing, different aspects on the same spectrum. Solid matter is made of waves. We are not just solid, we are waves and frequencies of energy. The wave aspects of ourselves can be in touch with wave aspects in the realm of being we exist within, elements not made of matter but of energy and frequencies.
People say that seeing is believing. I believe the opposite is also true – believing is seeing. The brain cannot pick up what it has no concept for. If we have no concept for it, we can’t see or imagine it. If we develop a concept for what is unseen – say, angels and ancestors – then the brain can pick that up. If we believe, if we know it is possible, then we are able to see or sense it. Researchers now say we have far more than just 5 senses. Depending on what study you read, some will say we have 53 senses, some say over 300 senses. We are NOT limited to sensing and knowing only what our classical 5 senses can pick up.
Indigenous teacher and author Malidoma Some said that in the indigenous mind, matter is simply a shadow of the spirit world. A shadow is not the source of itself. In the indigenous awareness, the seen and the unseen, the visible and the invisible, matter and Spirit are interrelated, and both are highly perceptible terrains. If the mind is trained, as it is in the West, to focus only on matter and what is visible, the mind has the narrowest perception possible. It becomes barely accessible to other realities of which it is ever a part.
The dreamtime way of knowing is pre-rational, instinctual, dream-like, and does not fit the narrow confines of strictly rational thinking. I like this quote by Freidrich Neitzsche: “As a man now reasons in dreams, so humanity also reasoned for many thousands of years when awake.” These ways of knowing are our birthright and original nature.
Deciding to not include communication and attention to the multiple dimensions and realities that make up who we are and the world we live in, to me, is like choosing insanity over sanity. No wonder depression and mental health issues are such a problem.
Let’s get in touch with the vast world of love and support that is available to us. We just have to open our minds, to desire and intend to explore the world with this intention and the wondrous path opens.
Community support and engagement are vital aspects of your work. How does the love, empathy, inspiration, and support of a community contribute to the healing and growth of individuals involved in your programs?
As we embark on this journey of recovery and discovery, people can feel crazy and unhinged as they explore outside of the narrow band of reality they have been raised within, and that most of the other people they know are still living within. We need to connect with other adventurers – loving, empathic, inspired explorers – and engage the interesting and exciting conversations that come with these adventures.
I cannot tell you how many times in my retreats and in private sessions that people tell me deep, fascinating, powerful, breathtaking and meaningful stories, and then say I have never told anyone that before. Or, there are only a few people in this world I can ever talk to about this. This breaks my heart.
People would be thrilled at my retreats to find a gathering where others are interested, have respect, hear each other’s stories and feel permission to tell their own. To me it is tragic that people have to feel such isolation, and need to keep silent the essential and brilliant aspects of their knowing and experience.
I recommend for everyone to find a circle of friends and like-minded, big-hearted people who will help each other to gain confidence and discernment as new (but truly ancient) ways of knowing and being are recovered.
Dreamwork is a significant focus of your practice. Could you explain how listening to and working with dreams can offer valuable insights and guidance for individuals on their life journeys?
Dreams have been respected as guides throughout human history until only the very modern era. All of the world’s mythologies, religions and scriptures speak of the dreams of the people and the prophets. Joseph was told in a dream to marry Mary, a pregnant teen woman. He was told in a dream to take his family to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. Mohammad received the Koran in a dream. Buddha’s dreams were the foundation of his teachings.
My sense is that when the religions decided that they didn’t want the people to have a direct experience of the divine, but only one mediated by a priest or authority that they then have to pay tithes to and obey, interest in dreams was discouraged, and even forbidden.
Dreams are our daily and nightly access to the divine voice, to other dimensions of reality, to the deepest aspects of self and soul. They speak in a symbolic language; they should not be taken literally. Dreams always have a message for us, an important one. They are ever leading us on the path of becoming who we are meant to be, to become “Nobody but yourself in a world that is trying to make you into everybody else,” in the words of e.e. cummings.
Dreams are a language that seems foreign until you begin the journey of discovering it. The language can be learned.
Since selling my retreat center, my work largely for now is with teaching about dreams and what I have learned through my journey with the indigenous mind, the Dreamtime, and dreamwork. I conduct, along with my dear colleague Jocelyn Star Feather, a monthly Global Community Dream Symposium in which people from all over the world come together and listen to the dreams of the community for inspiration, wisdom and guidance. I also work with clients in private hour-long sessions.
You can find out about how to join us for the Dream Symposium on my website www.tayriaward.com. They are free. Also, you can hear free videos and lectures of teachings I have given on all of these subjects on the Videos page of my website. And, you can reach out to me by email at [email protected] if you want to learn about private sessions. I also give tarot readings. A dream guided me to study the tarot and I have done so for more than 25 years. I find the tarot messages and dream messages are coherent and supportive of one another.
I encourage all of your readers to listen to their dreams. Put a pad and paper next to your bed, take notes on whatever you can recall as you awaken, and then write the narrative in a dream journal. Let the images and symbols speak to you. Ask why this dream comes right now, understanding that its timing is not random; it is for a very good reason.
As C.G Jung says, “Go to bed. Think of your problem. See what you dream. Perhaps the Great Man, the two-million year old [person inside of you] will speak.”