• Elizabeth Harvey

Holding Gently: A Transformative Dream

Updated: Nov 19

For years dreams have been an important source of meaning for me. Sometimes a certain dream seems to have an enduring message that continues to apply to various life situations and contexts, or it seems to map to an existing mythology.


I’d like to share the story of one of those special dreams that I had several years ago, and some of the meanings I’ve found in it. My purpose in this is to extend an invitation to others to consider their dreams in new ways and perhaps share their dream explorations with others.


A hatched white dove egg held in the palm of a hand
Holding Gently

In this dream, I was walking along a dirt path in a natural place, with tall green grass, trees, and a lake nearby. I found, on the ground in front of me, a duck egg, cracked open lengthwise with almost half the shell missing. The duck inside took up most of the shell and looked embryonic, wet. I picked up the egg and cupped it in my hands to get a better look.


At first I felt disappointed, as though the duck would never make it, and “too bad the egg got broken!” But then the duck started to develop in fast-forward, cupped in the palm of my hand in the broken shell. Warm light energy surged up into my hands and through the developing duck. I didn't do anything, I just kept my hands still, open and extended, gently supporting the egg.


The duck began to wiggle and emerge. It dried off and its feathers were fluffy, fuzzy, and bright white, with some tall, frothy black feathers sticking out from its head. It no longer looked like a duck. This small, lively, unidentified bird leapt out of my hands and went straight to its mother, a large swan-like bird next to the lake. I felt hope, amazement, and excitement.



What stayed with me was that I was had not been required to do anything; in fact there was no effort I could have made that would have produced this unexpected outcome. My job was just to gently hold and support without grasping or crushing the egg. With that alone, a tremendous surge of life force came forth to bring the small, vulnerable bird into a lively state.


And the outcome may have been different than expected (not a duck!) but it was beautiful and full of life. The baby was able to return to its source, its mother, in a warm safe nest next to a life-giving lake. It felt like I had been a surrogate mother to this tiny creature for the time it was in a precarious state, but ultimately, it did not belong to me, and was not mine to own or control.



The dream had an unmistakable Ugly Duckling theme, reminding me of a message related to the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale[1]: don’t come to conclusions too soon on how something may turn out… including yourself. I realized that when I was struggling with my own progress in some way, I could picture myself as that tiny duck in the egg. I could be kind to myself and ensure I received the support I needed to fully develop. The same idea can be applied to supporting others on their growth paths, too. When new life is coming forth, it is a fragile and precious time that must be protected.


About a week after I had the dream, I was reading Florence Williams’ book The Nature Fix, a wonderful exploration of how nature supports wellbeing, health, and creativity. I came upon a passage making reference to J. R. R. Tolkein reportedly drawing inspiration for Middle-Earth symbology from the Finnish creation myth, the Kalevala, in which “the world is born from the cracked egg of a diving duck.” What a synchronicity [2]. I was filled with wonder.


The story in the Kalevala was new to me: I looked it up and found a story of water-mother, nesting duck, broken eggs, and unexpected transformation. This is part of the story from Rune I, Birth of Wainamoinen [3] :


And the eggs fall into ocean, Dash in pieces on the bottom Of the deep and boundless waters. In the sand they do not perish, Not the pieces in the ocean; But transformed, in wondrous beauty All the fragments come together Forming pieces two in number, One the upper, one the lower, Equal to the one, the other. From one half the egg, the lower, Grows the nether vault of Terra: From the upper half remaining, Grows the upper vault of Heaven; From the white part come the moonbeams, From the yellow part the sunshine, From the motley part the starlight, From the dark part grows the cloudage; And the days speed onward swiftly, Quickly do the years fly over, From the shining of the new sun From the lighting of the full moon.

Claudine Desrosiers - Série poème végétal. Techniques mixtes sur papier. (Plant poem series, mixed media on paper).


How powerful it is when something broken becomes transformed. After the dream, I began to find hatched bird eggshells on the ground surprisingly often. I would hold them in my hand in just the way I did in the dream, and take in the reminder to hold gently whatever was in my life at the time, including myself. And to know that healing and transformation can happen in unexpected ways.


I later learned of a Sanskit term related to the concept of holding gently: aparigraha. The gist of this term is non-grasping, non-possessiveness, non-greediness. I encountered this idea in books by Tosha Silver, who elaborates on ways of incorporating it into all parts of life, and allowing ourselves to be transformed through it. This is a powerful practice to release the suffering we cause ourselves through trying to relentlessly control outcomes. This is not a call to passivity, but an opening to new possibilities beyond those that our own ego clings to.


People and cultures have many different names for how they describe the source of creation and healing. I will never cease to be fascinated by how humanity’s stories converge around common themes as we see in myths and ancient stories from around the world, and yes, in dreams.


I’m grateful for the duck egg dream and its lessons. It was a unique experience of the energy behind creation and transformation that left me with a new feeling of vitality, interconnectedness, and awe. I welcome the chance to hear your stories of how you might have similar experiences in your life and work, and how you might also find meaning in dreams.


[1] See https://andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheUglyDuckling_e.html for a translation of The Ugly Duckling from the Hans Christian Andersen Centre.

[2] A concept developed by Carl Jung describing “meaningful coincidences” in which events occur that have no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related. See Jung, C. G. (2010). Synchronicity: An acausal connecting principle.(From Vol. 8. of the collected works of CG Jung)(New in Paper). Princeton University Press.

[3] Crawford, J.M. (1888). The Kalevala. Retrieved February 10, 2018, from https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/kveng/kvrune01.htm.

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