Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Tag: dreaming while awake (Page 2 of 2)

Threshold Experiences: Dreaming and Waking

crater wallIn the previous post (“Threshold Work As Spiritual Practice”), I was thinking about how an everyday familiarity with “small” threshold experiences can help us when we are thrown into more intense and overwhelming threshold experiences such as a life-threatening illness, or the death or loss of someone or something significant in our lives.

Now I’d like to consider some examples of those “small” thresholds. On a daily and nightly basis, we encounter in-between places—where the ordinary suddenly seems strange and surprising, or oddly off-key, or wonderfully new, or just uncomfortably indescribable.

Dreams are definitely thresholds like this. In the midst of a dream, I find myself thinking: “Wait, this can’t be happening!”

Someone gives me a paper bag with a fish in it, and, after carrying it around for hours, I suddenly  realize that the beautiful, silver creature is still alive and flexing… The fireplace is the size of the whole room, and we are walking around inside it, tiptoeing gingerly among the coals… Two rhinoceroses come out of the woods and walk down the path toward the lake… I am about three years old, riding a bus alone, and I am also my middle-aged self, sitting across the aisle and worrying about that child… We’re exploring a perfectly-preserved shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean, and have no difficulty breathing underwater…

In Tibetan dream yoga, a central practice is to learn to ask oneself repeatedly during the day, “Is this a dream?” By doing this on a regular basis, especially when something unusual occurs, we learn to ask the same question when we realize that something peculiar is happening in a dream—and so, “wake up” to the fact that we are dreaming (lucid dreaming). The deeper aspect of this practice, however, is to learn to question our waking state as well… Until we discover that our waking “reality” (the world we think we know) is also, in a sense, a dream—a tenuous, transitory condition, a threshold experience. 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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