Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Perchance to dream

Everyone has a theory, scientific, metaphysical, biological, psychological, spiritual or otherwise about why we dream, what dreams are meant to accomplish, and of course what dreams mean.

Here's what I know: dreams are free entertainment, oh man they are so creative! They are often more creative than anything I could come up with while conscious. I don't know why, but this simple truth about the fantastical nature of dreams leads me to believe that dreams bring integration and healing to the dreamer.

I used to work diligently with all my dreams, using various techniques to peel back the layers of meaning. A particularly effective way towards greater understanding is to write down your dream in as much detail as possible, in present tense as if it were happening now. Add the phrase "part of me" after every noun. Add "ego part of me" after the words "I" and "me."

Try it - wow, is it interesting.

There are many techniques for dream interpretation. Try them! It's fun. I would caution against depending on books that tell you exactly what your dream symbols are meant to convey. It's cool to get a general idea as background for times when you're stumped, but symbols are personal as well as collective. Sometimes in your dream, a cigar is just a cigar.

If you can't remember your dreams, set your intention to remember. One function of consciousness is deciding what we don't need to remember. If you tell yourself you want to remember, you will. It works, believe me. Keep a pad of paper and a pencil by the bed. When you wake up, jot down whatever comes to mind - oftentimes, middle of the night thoughts are interrelated to an ongoing dream. When you wake up, take a minute before jumping out of bed, ask yourself, "Where was I just now?" Let images and scenarios rise to consciousness. Write them down. Many people who never remember their dreams, once they put their mind to it, begin retrieving large amounts of dream material almost right away. Bits and pieces sometimes come back during the day. Notice when that happens, spend a minute with whatever you've remembered, write it down. Dreams are a treasure chest of fabulous intrigues, strange symbols and bizarre plotlines, well worth remembering, if you ask me. You have to write them down because dreams are quicksilver. They can dissipate like fog burning off in the morning.

How do I benefit from remembering and working with my dreams? I am entertained, first and foremost. What's wrong with that? Dreams are part of personal expression; people who don't dream, literally, become very mentally ill. I don't know if you can actually die from dream deprivation, but it's not good for you. As long as it contributes to my mental health, then hey, my dreams deserve examination, yes? I say yes.

I have had some "true" dreams as one teacher called it - dreams of prophecy. I had a repeating dream for years in San Francisco that for some reason I had decided to move east of the Mississippi River. Indeed this came to pass, though, in the dream I wasn't happy about it, because of the extreme humidity. In "real" life I love living here, except in August. It was a true dream!

The ego part of myself decided to move east of the Mississippi River part of myself in spite of having to contend with the extreme humidity part of myself. Hmm. An interesting way to look at it!

These days I pick and choose carefully among the dreams I decide to explore. This is a life stage thing - after fifty, time is limited. We older folks think hard before engaging in anything, to make sure it's worth the effort. Dreams that stick with me all day, or leave behind a disturbing or joyous emotional resonance, deserve my attention.

My dream life is rhythmic; I'll dream a lot for awhile, then the dreams drop off for a time, only to return, when they're ready, en masse. I always loved the image from Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale, "The Snow Queen," of dreams as shadow horses racing into the homes of dreamers, racing away before dawn. That image resonates.

Dream a little dream today, please? It's your birthright! Enjoy.

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