Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Tag: daydreams

Smoothing The Transitions

pillows 01After a long phase of insomnia, I’m finally sleeping very well. The trouble isn’t with sleeping, it’s with getting up in the morning! I wake slowly, still melted by sleepiness, still brimming with dreams. As the cold realization that it is time to get up begins to creep over me, I resist mightily.

First there’s denial: “Maybe I’ll check the clock and it will really be 2:00 AM….” Then anger: “Why should I have to get up? I don’t want to get up! I won’t get up!” Then bargaining: “Maybe I can sleep late this morning, then get up a couple hours earlier tomorrow?” Then depression: “What if I never get up? What if I just stay here until I die?” Then, finally, reluctant acceptance: “Okay, here we go. Push back the covers. Feet on the floor. Up, up, up!”

Sound familiar? Well, eventually, it dawned on me that I could make things a lot easier on myself. I realized that although I do need to get up, I don’t necessarily have to leave my delicious dreamy drowsiness behind. I can move slowly, savoring the sleep sensations and dream impressions as I begin my day. This is a revelation! Even if I have to get busy immediately, I can still smooth the transition by imagining this is all part of a dream…

I greet our three cats sleepily in the hall, and feel that they are strange, soft creatures of the night, coming to bring me gifts or messages. When Toby hollers a loud hello, it’s a wild cry of joy that makes my nerves tingle. When Fern nudges my ankle with her wet nose, and Annie bustles past me into the bedroom, I feel myself surrounded by impulsive, encouraging energies. Sounds and smells of alchemical experiments emanate from the kitchen, where Holly is making coffee. In the bathroom mirror, I look like someone else. Washing my hair, I feel the slippery suds and it seems that my mind is being soaped and rinsed along with my oddly heavy head.

The minutes go by, I go from room to room, and each time I turn on a light, the scene changes. For a little while, things are wonderfully strange, and then, gradually, I’m awake and it’s just the usual morning routine. Continue reading

Dream Fragments Squeezed Between Waking And Sleeping

Dreaming and waking are on a continuum, and often the distinction between them is not entirely clear. The vivid images or sounds that we sometimes experience as we are going to sleep (hypnagogic “hallucinations”), or as we are emerging from sleep (hypnopompic “hallucinations”) can be just as bizarre as any dream, but can also seem very much like random waking thoughts or sensations. Often, they are extremely fleeting and easily forgotten—so we might not even notice that we are dozing and our thoughts have become dreamy.

egg 01This often happens to me when I am meditating. I am trying (often trying too hard) to keep my mind alert and open, and to be aware of thoughts as they arise and pass. But fairly frequently the thoughts carry me off into elaborate planning or worry, and it takes a while for me to remember that I’m meditating and return to the breath. Then, just when I feel that  my mind is growing more steady, and the thoughts are coming and going without my getting too attached to them… Oops! My head drops heavily forward and I jerk awake. Sometimes, I can sense the sleepiness coming even before I begin to feel drowsy, because I notice that the passing thoughts are getting more peculiar... Oops, again! I startle awake, and feel embarrassed even though no one is here but me. Was I drooling? A deep breath, and try again. I can feel myself trying, trying, trying... And the fragmentary thoughts and images stream by…

There’s a duck trying to lay an egg that is much too big for her. She is straining hard, squeezing her eyes tight with the effort, grimacing…

I snap back to alertness, just as I’m asking myself whether ducks can grimace. It’s easy enough to take these brief images, or dream fragments, and unfold them just like any other dreams. Continue reading

Dreaming and Daydreaming to the Sound of the Ocean

desk and oceanI’ve got the window open to catch the breeze, but I’m easily distracted by sounds outside—tinny jangle of radio plus the occasional weed whacker—so I’m listening to some white noise of ocean waves to muffle the noise of the neighborhood. What kind of dream might this be, if this were a dream? I hear the shush and rush of ocean, and imagine waves lapping at my back door. There’s a print of the ocean hanging above my desk, facing me—so I can easily imagine the waves sweeping in from all directions. This is okay, because it’s warm and sunny. The breeze is easy, and the waves are gentle. My desk is a dinghy, riding in and out with each sliding swell. This is great. But it’s a daydream, not a dream.

What’s the difference between a daydream and a dream? Here’s one way of making the distinction: a daydream is an imaginative diversion, while a dream is an actual event. I make up the scenes of a daydream, and they tend to make sense, because my conscious mind tends to make sense of things. But with a dream, my conscious mind is present more as observer (the one who may or may not remember the dream) than as creator. The dream occurs in the same way that daily life occurs—I can assent to it and participate wholeheartedly, or I can dissent, and wrestle with it until I wake up, but it doesn’t require my consent in order to continue. Continue reading

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