. . . dreams are nothing more than a random potpourri of nonsensical brain mush.
Been pondering dreams quite a bit lately. The longer we’re awakened from the most realistic dream state, the more elusive its memory becomes. Is it all a bunch of white noise, the brain’s equivalent to a potty break? Or are dreams something more than that?
I’m reading a book by Daniel Pinchbeck, writer for the New York Times magazine, Esquire, Wired, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, etc., and though each theme of his 2006 mega-read has its own significance in my MVP gestalts – spirituality, psychology, evolution, love- the one that struck me most today was dreams. One of the dream lines has really resonated with me: “In indigenous shamanism, dreaming is considered a talent and a tool, a well as a skill that can be cultivated.”
Friends and loved ones have opened doors to various forms of dream training designed to help the seeker remember their dreams more clearly – and even control aspects of them. Lucid dreaming has always fascinated me and after writing the first draft of this entry, I may be inclined to delve deeper into the practice.
How to Lucid Dream
When I was younger, I had one recurring dream that I can recall to this day: I’m at the top of a building, sixty stories high, on a grey windy afternoon, surrounded by nothing but urban sprawl. This is my home. Atop the roof with me are my parents, busily BBQing food, smiling, laughing and chatting away. This is a strange scene since I spent the first years of my life either in a muddy garden outside Seattle or at my granparents’ beachfront home in the suburban ghetto of Ewa Beach. But this city rooftop is without a doubt the place I call home.
And though my parents are divorced when I have this series of dreams, this BBQ is perfectly natural. Their dynamic, like that of newlyweds. Suddenly, a wind rushes up and whisks away my favorite red jacket – which I swear I’d been wearing just moments ago. I see it fluttering away, just above my reach, and it lands perfectly hung on a metal pole, sticking out from the side of the building. As though someone hung it there as they walked in the door. As though it belonged there all along.
But I wanted that jacket back. I didn’t think twice in the dream, despite the precarious placement of said jacket, and the looming danger of a sixty-story fall.
Hanging off the rooftop, one arm clasping to the cold rough cement ground, the other arm reaching out through the choppy wind … I slip … and I fall. I fall all night until I finally hit the ground, sweaty, fearful, and more awake than ever before.
It’s a typical dream. And typical analysis concludes anxiety, instability, failure – and the Bible suggests falling dreams could indicate a fall from grace. Looking at my life at this time, my parents had just been divorced and though I was perfectly safe, stable and well taken care of by my mother in my grandparents’ house, something in the back of my mind knew a major bridge had been crossed. Of course, the dreams stopped eventually – right around the time my mother and I moved into our own home together, just down the road.
The next series of recurring dreams comes in my twenties. The theme is nothing like a ‘falling’ but of a ‘searching and finding.’ The locations differ, between 2-3 year intervals, but this concept of labyrinth leading to otherworldly experience is constant throughout the decade.
In my early twenties, I’m wandering the halls of a mammoth art exhibition. Subtle tones of red, purple and grey light pour through a pixilated darkness. I’m in an exhibition space, a hundred feet tall, elaborate sheets of material hanging from the tops of starkly angular 3/4 –height walls. The lights, angles and textures play off of one another to create a sense of mystery. I can hear whispers of acquaintances round corners, long shadows, mutate into invisible figures approaching in secret. A vast, dark, ceiling-less maze. I decide to float above it all, quieting the chatter, and lifting the veil of anxiety. I can finally see the exhibition space, the sheets and lights are like my playthings, no longer am I lost in them. I’m floating above them.
This dream kept with me to the end of the surreal chapters at Tufts University and throughout my career in music and film PR in London. Considering the smoke and mirrors surroundings of life at this time, the dreamscape makes perfect sense.
A similar dream follows me into my late twenties. The feeling is less airy – there’s an urgent undertone throughout. I’m in the most monumental library imaginable, with floors and departments beyond the third dimension. Ancient architecture juxtaposed against modern shelves, systematic organization, signs of technology in the computers, spaceship lamps and carefully-lit walkways. There’s a door I need to find. I’m on a mission. I run down corridors through section after section of literature, history, artbooks, philosophy. I’m near the end of my tither – madness is approaching – time is running short – and I find it. I jump over a shelf of reference books, and run down the hall. As I near the end of it, and step into the elusive final dimension, the sky opens into infinity and stunned in awe I feel something new and surprising. In the midst of every limitless bliss I imagined and hoped for, I’m utterly frightened – but I don’t run away. Infinity … envelops me.
I haven’t had those dreams in a while.
The most vivid dream to follow happened in Arizona when I made the best decision of my twenties – I’d train to become a yoga teacher, so I could share all the light it’d shed on my own life. Bizarrely, at the same time, I experienced my very first betrayal of a friend. And I was on the evil side of that coin. So to speak.
That dream goes like this:
Japan. 1192. Feudal lords rule through the samurai warrior caste. The night sky twinkles over traditional machiya homes. I am a ninja. Tip-toe-running along village rooftops, slicing through dense silence, I approach the scene.
In a dark empty room lay an elegantly kitsch woman in a shimmery blue cocktail dress. On her side, head propped up, large blonde curls cascading to the floor, she smiles knowingly at her husband. He’s sitting on a wooden chair in front of her, arms tied behind his back. Sweating profusely, his body is roped taught to the chair. Fear glistens in his eyes. Gag in his mouth.
I pounce onto his shoulders from the window above and slit his throat – left to right – in one seamless motion. Blood gushes from the wound, covering the scene in thick burgundy liquid. I actually see a frame full of pulsating gushing blood, as though it were straight out of a japanimation flick. I’m less than half his size, still perched on his shoulders.
My job here is done.
I awoke from that dream with the most horrifying feeling in my stomach. Was that really me? Was he representative of white male-dominated corporate America? Had he cheated on his wife, making me the ‘sword for hire’?! Ooooh. This would make an excellent graphic novella. A professional psychologist by day, a dream-infiltrating ninja by night. Ninjo would enter the subconscious landscapes of her clients’ minds and slice away all that holds them back and keeps them miserable. Healing through a dream-world protagonist of questionable morals! Could be the beginning of a very enticing … something.
In any case, dreams.
The last memorable dream I had was here in the UAE, the night my ex got married in England. I knew he was to wed that month, but I wasn’t sure of the specific date. In the dream, he tied the knot with a colleague of mine here. It was the same colleague with whom I share a common history of rape. I remember feeling shock, disappointment, dejection and pain. I woke up at 4am crying.
So I can’t believe that dreams are nothing more than mind poop. My personal experience with dreams has led to incredible epiphanies whereby new perspective opens the doors to my own mythological meanderings.
Though we think of dreams as limitless, they can be just as real as the ‘finite’ world we more commonly reside in. That fuzzy grey line between sleep and awake, between conscious and subconscious goings-on, is incredibly fascinating.
I must get my hands on a copy of The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep. The philosophy teaches us how to establish a continuity of consciousness during our sleep. By following the practice ‘all experience and phenomena are understood to be dream.’ According to Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, ‘this should not be just an intellectual understanding, but a vivid and lucid experience … Genuine integration of this point produces a profound change in the individual response to the world. Grasping and aversion is greatly diminished, and the emotional tangles that once seemed so compelling are experienced as the tug of great stories, and no more.” Mmmm, yes. Thinking of life as nothing more than a dream. Sounds like a huge weight off the shoulders of everyday reality.
For thousands of years, shamans and kapunas would use dreams for prophetic and healing purposes. If we’re open to doing the same, at least we could save a pretty penny on counseling!
Dreeeeeeeamweeeeavah! I believe you can get me through the niiiiighhhhhht!
And now I tell you openly, you have my heart so don’t hurt me …