[This post is somewhat longer than usual, since it’s a whole “sermon” that I presented at Eastrose Unitarian Universalist Church. It’s about the value of paying attention to dreams and other life experiences, about “dreamwork as spiritual practice,” about what “bad” dreams have to offer, and about the transformative gifts that special, numinous dreams bring—to our lives, and to the world.]
What is useful or meaningful about paying attention to dreams? The same question might be applied to waking experiences, and it really comes down to the larger question: What is useful or meaningful about paying attention to anything? The world’s spiritual traditions agree that paying attention to our lives—being mindful, aware, present—is essential to living fully. Life itself becomes meaningful only when we pay attention to our experience.
Dreams are experiences, in every sense. When we pay attention to dreams, we open ourselves to a fuller life—more meaning, more options, more learnings, more openings, more genuine connection. We spend a third of our lives in sleep and dreams, and during that time, we are having experiences, whether we remember them or not. In dreams, we can experience perceptions in all five senses; we can experience emotions; we can experience states of being that enlarge our understanding of ourselves, others, and the nature of reality: states of being such as love, awe, compassion, grief, gratitude, wonder, humor, joy.
We can also experience unpleasantness, confusion, fear, shame, revulsion, and rage. Events occurring in a dream have almost exactly the same effect on the brain as events occurring while awake; to the brain, dream events are real events. By paying attention to what goes on in our dreams, we give ourselves the opportunity to live that third of our lives as fully as we might live our waking lives. Continue reading