Born into contemporary western culture, my elders didn’t encourage dreaming as a beneficial psychological practice. In the modern west, time spent asleep is viewed as unproductive, and dreams quite frightening (we’ve learned to hold most dear the illusion of control). We brag about how little sleep we get as if we’re competing for burnout-of-the-year, but this time spent “asleep” is valuable: it is the opportune time for genius to come into us. Yes, genius is out there, waiting incomprehensible to the ordinary mind, waiting to manifest in our most powerful creative mental state: dreaming. Transcendentalist Frederic Hedge remarked: “Dreaming is an act of pure imagination, attesting in all men a creative power, which if it were available in waking, would make every man a Dante or Shakespeare.”
I like to imagine I was born into a society rich in a dream sharing tradition. All of the ritual intent, the unique visions, a community overflowing with love for shared experience — not privacy and dread of someone finding out your darkest secrets. It’s human nature to share dreaming experiences, and to value them just as much, if not more, than our waking experiences (the brain reacts to imaginal and physical stimuli in many of the same ways). On a large scale, rigid personal expectations, social categorizations, and political-economic systems replaced the original human software that so valued dreaming. We’ve lost sight of the source material, and now we must search ourselves to find it.
Among a myriad of other functions, dreams challenge us to conquer fears we shy away from or indulge pleasures that we repress and others demonize. When we pay attention to our dreams and both their literal and symbolic messages, we are able to self-heal, ultimately becoming strong, balanced, soulful and creative humans. Dreams begin in the space between the unconscious and conscious, between logic and magic, a consciousness where we often see the truth of our unique human condition honestly reflected in a ubiquitous mirror. Dreams awaken us to the greater reality of being, consciousness inclusive of the unconscious forces that shape our realities.
When we say unconscious, don’t think boxing ring, think psychiatrist and master dreamer Carl Jung: every being or entity has a “shadow” side that goes largely undetected by the ordinary mind. We are also impacted by, and participate in, the collective unconscious. We are vessels on a vast sea, all influencers and influenced. We are most receptive to navigating, and even mapping this sea of interconnected consciousness when dreaming.
Every living human dreams. Whether or not these experiences are recalled upon waking is up to the individual, and even multi-year “droughts” are common (souls are easily crushed under the weight of ego). With practice dreams are successfully recalled, their insightful pictures and songs guide us, and their synchronicities appear in waking life reaffirming meaning and purpose on our own personal journeys. If you followed my thread here, you see that our personal experiences are tied to the collective. A self is made up of both collective unconscious antimatter and your soul’s unique phenomenon.
At Eat Dream Be, we view the “personal journey” as the journey within, individuation or actualization: familiarization with one’s own psyche and the collective unconscious in one consciousness in this lifetime or epoch. In Tibetan Buddhism, a tradition whose wisdom we consider quintessential to our patchwork mythos, dreaming is a bardo state preparing one for death, rebirth, in cyclical recurrence. Considering my goals for this lifetime always reminds me first of Hermann Hesse’s protagonist Sinclair in Demian: “I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?” It’s difficult because so often we lack the confidence of voice and openness of heart, our imaginative fruits rotting in a pile of expectations, categorization, and structure. When the heart speaks we become empowered. We feel self-awareness and creativity welling up to produce a voice that architects happiness in our lives.
With practice, you can be listening to, and encourage the voice of your “true self,” your soul. When you’re able to hear your voice, your song, you are powerful. Have confidence in yourself, in your thoughts, in your dream images and your attempts at interpreting them. Share your experience with others and breathe life back into the human dreaming tradition.
You are a story, start reading it. Start dreaming. It’s with a warm heart we begin these musings. Stay in touch for more words to vitalize your own dream practice.