It is daft of me to attempt to write about dreams and their value in 1001 words but I will try.
We all dream; this is fact. I could give the science behind it but this would take up too much word space. Scientists have now determined that dreaming most often occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Particular brain wave and cortical activity occurs at all stages, phases and cycles of sleep – REM activity has its own particular function. The ancient brain inter alia seems to be at work in REM sleep.
My dreams have always been of interest to me (at least!). Dreams of others are also of interest to me. Dreams are extraordinary creations, tapping into the mind’s great capacity to recall, to imagine, to evaluate and to integrate. It’s no wonder that dreams have been a source of inspiration for artists and philosophers, scientists and inventors.
*a few examples:
Robert Louis Stevenson, the prolific author of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, wrote that he got many of his best stories from his dreams –
German chemist Friedrich A. Kukele visualized the molecular structure of benzine (a closed carbon ring) in a dream –
Young Albert Einstein dreamed that he was sledding down a steep mountainside, going faster and faster, approaching the speed of light, which caused the stars in his dream to change their appearance. Meditating upon that dream, Einstein eventually worked out his extraordinary scientific achievement, the principle of relativity –
Jack Nicklaus told a friend that he had improved his golf swing after dreaming of a new way of holding his club –
Ok, so what about us?
The Talmud states: ‘An unexamined dream is like an unopened letter’.
Socrates states in Plato’s Phaedro: ‘An unexamined life is not worth living’.
Statements from long ago. Do they mean anything in a world greatly changed from that time way back?
Many of us say ‘I don’t dream’ or: ‘I don’t remember my dream’ or: ‘I remember only a fragment which seemed to have something to do with the office’ or: ‘it was just a regurgitation of something that’s currently happening’. Or: ‘I remember my dream, but it was so strange and weird that it had nothing to do with me’. Or: ‘it was so banal that it really can’t mean anything at all’. Or: ‘thank heavens it was only a dream and has nothing to do with my real waking life’. Or: ‘I keep on having this recurring dream – I wish it would go away because I really don’t know what it means’.
Or: ‘Dreams? Bunkum.’
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
You are the author of your own dream. The dream does not come from somewhere else or from someone else. It is you having the dream. Or, ‘an other’ part of you is having the dream. A vital part of you – an essential part of your psyche and inner world – is partly revealed in your dream. At night time when all is still, without any conscious will on our part, our body, brain, mind and soul enters an ‘other’ world, a world as real as the one we live in our waking lives. Our day ego takes a backseat while we sleep – and dream.
Our dream world is a much neglected one. This is surprising since it is a font of wisdom and wonder, accessible to anyone who takes their dreams seriously. It holds as well a promise of unearthing hidden treasure.
Who are those people in my dream? Are they part of me? What/who do they represent? What am I doing in this peculiar/ridiculous/unknown/familiar place? Who are those unfriendly people? Why are those people, long dead, in my dream? Why I am I naked? Teeth falling out? Why am I sitting for an unprepared exam? Is this dream trying to tell me something? Is there a dialogue? I seem to be both participant and observer – what does this mean? How do I relate to this dream? What are the images, what is the feeling tone? Am I comforted or fearful? If I were to give a title to this dream, what would I call it? Is there some sort of theme here, also from previous dreams? Is my unconscious world trying to tell me something? And what is my unconscious anyway?
Committing one’s self to engaging in one’s own dream is hard work, from the beginning. It means writing it down so that it is not forgotten even at 02.14 a.m. And if woken again to write that one down too. If the dream gives you cause for pause, then know that there is meaning in it. It is essential not to make any immediate interpretation. We all have our blind spots. We cannot see behind our own backs. The dream needs to be mined. One needs to keep digging. One needs to ponder, consider; and ponder and consider a great deal more. Like any work worthy of merit, painstaking detective work is required to decode the material. There are no short cuts.
When looking/pondering/considering the dream in the cold light of day, it is important NOT to bring our conscious waking attitude to the possible meaning of the dream. An ‘other’ attitude to the meaning of the dream is required. A different language is required, one that does not use logic and reason, cause and effect. It is better to bring an attitude of ‘unknowing‘ to the dream, giving it time to unfold. Sometimes a dream is understood only retrospectively, many years later.
Dreams reap their own rewards. Fragments of the whole seem to be retrieved when we pay attention to our dreams. They show the way, your way, however dimly and narrow the road perceived – but a sense of more authenticity seems to be in the air in our daily lives.
So, pen and notebook, torch, intention, attention, curiosity and a dollop of trepidation (like all travellers going into the unknown) before Morpheus embraces you … happy harvesting and may your dreams inspire you.
*All the material in this blog is excerpted from my essay titled: ‘Dreams – The Inner Way’ in my book, and is far in excess of 1000 words – more like 10,000 words. I barely touched the surface there. 36.