Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Tag: remembering dreams

Indescribable Dreams

web 01Where do I begin? How can I convey this dream experience to you, when I can’t even quite catch hold of it for myself? I’d been asleep for only an hour or two when I had this dream. Then, I woke for a few minutes, with the dream still fresh in my mind—but, not exactly as a memory…. In a sense the dream was still happening, even though I couldn’t quite remember it. I soon slipped back into sleep, and this peculiar dreaming experience seemed to continue in some way for the rest of the night: throughout my other dreams, and through my brief periods of wakefulness, and maybe even during the stretches of deep, “dreamless” sleep. I woke in the morning filled with the essence of this amazing dreaming.

But what was the content of this dreaming? It’s so hard to describe.

There is an awareness, in the dream, that “I” have left my physical body and am now just consciousness, taking many different forms. There are rich interactions with others, and I feel myself as a sort of “me” character, but also as every other character, and as the context, and as the communication itself that flows among us. We are in a large stone building, in an echoing room. I am aware of being the echo. We are outside, sailing through the air, over water. At one point, there’s a huge dinosaur-like creature, swimming in a narrow waterway—I see this as if from far above, and at the same time I am the creature swimming, and the water, and the surrounding landscape. There’s a thought that my physical body is still around here somewhere (sleeping in bed?), and I will be able to return to that body. But also a sense that when the body dies, there will still be this consciousness—there is always this consciousness—and it won’t be lost. There is complete freedom in this experience,but also total immersion.

This dreaming might be considered a “numinous dream,” a “Big dream.” Experientially, it is equivalent to a spiritual epiphany, the kind of mind-opening breakthrough into a larger conception of self and reality that William James described in his classic text, “Varieties of Religious Experience.” And, for me, it was wonderful. It gave me a direct sense of being a part of something beyond my ego-identity, something vast and fascinating that I could trust absolutely. Never mind that I can’t fully remember or tell what happened. It was the kind of experience that makes the idea of our ultimate interconnectedness immediately real, rather than an abstraction.

However, I doubt if I will include this particular dream among the “Big dreams” that I keep with me and share, and use to remind myself of the potential for profound spiritual experience. Why not? Well, because this dream does not have a frame of reference, a storyline or a structure that makes it possible to describe it, or even recall it, in any way that is recognizable to waking consciousness. So, the dream lifts me up and gives me a glimpse of something, but when it sets me back down on the ground, I don’t know how to frame the awesome expanse of sky and clouds that surrounded me up there, in terms of the streets and people and buildings that surround me down here. They’re different worlds, and there’s no evident connection between them. Continue reading

The Dreams We Don’t Need To Remember

tree rootsWhat if I rarely, or never, remember my dreams? In “Inviting Dreams” you’ll find some good ways to look at the dreaming process, and some practical methods for making dream recall more likely. But right now, I’m looking at this question from another angle: What is happening in those dreams I don’t remember? Are they still “working” at another level of awareness, even though I can’t access them consciously?

Even those who are practiced in the techniques of dream recall, and those with a vividly-remembered dream life most of the time, will have phases when only fragments, or nothing at all, remains of their dreams in the morning. I’m going through this myself lately. Last night, for example, there were a lot of dreams, but I can’t get any of them to take shape in my mind now that I am awake. Something about sweeping up shreds and shards of something… I struggled with it for a while, then let it go. Many nights have been like that in recent weeks, and although I have had several meaningful dream memories, for the most part there’s not a lot to get hold of.

This is okay. In fact, this is good. (Or maybe I’m just trying to reassure myself?) Actually, in my experience with my own dreams and the dreams of others, I’ve seen clear evidence that going through times when few, if any, dreams can be recalled is natural, and even healthy. I also think that if you’re one of the people who really can’t remember any dreams at all, that can be okay, too. Dreams are part of a process that is larger than our thinking and remembering minds. That process goes on and does its work—and we live parts of our lives in the dream world—whether we remember dreams or not. Continue reading

Tuning In To Dreams

My work revolves around dreams, so—wouldn’t you know it?—I’ve been having insomnia. Sleep deprivation is not good for dreaming. The sleep I’m getting is fragmented and shallow, tinged with fatigue, and really, really frustrating because just when I’m slipping into a snooze, one of the cats lets out a friendly little noise, or a neighbor’s car door slams, or I sneeze… and I’m wide awake for another couple of hours.

Squirrely bits of dreams keep squabbling for space on the telephones lines of this tenuous sleep pattern. Okay, I’m overdoing it a bit here, but have you seen what happens when two squirrels meet on a tightrope like that? Crazy acrobatics—and somebody usually ends up dangling. Anyway, with this thin, disrupted sleep, the dream stories never get going, and I can’t catch many of the images, even though they leave me with emotional fall-out and a speeding heart. Continue reading

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