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  • Writer's picture Clark R. Mollenhoff III M.Ac., L.Ac.

Dream Time

Is it possible that dream time is an entirely separate lived reality with a mission no less important than that of our waking/conscious life? Just as we may take something from our dreams to illuminate life, do we allow our leanings in life to guide our dreams?

We only remember snap shots of our dreams and a disjointed narrative that relates to how we understand our waking world, but the parts lost are those unspeakable glimpses we cannot mobilize into speech. In our dreams, maybe we only remember traces from our waking-lives in small windows of people, emotions, fears, and loves. When we wake, all we recall is how our dream-world wrestled with its memory of waking life.

How important is our time spent in this underworld? We find out quickly how necessary it is if we deprive ourselves. Our sanity begins to unravel and then our bodies start to break down. I am more accustomed to think of sleep as a physical and emotional necessity, but what about a spiritual one. Most everyone has experienced insights from a dream that spoke to something meaningful in their waking life. How many of us have remembered glimpses of waking life while dreaming and distilled meaning to inform our path in the dream world? It may not be necessary to recall every dream or even spend time interpreting most of them, but I imagine there was importance in each dreaming. We only have awareness of 5% of our mental activity. The rest takes place below consciousness. Three, to eight, to eleven hours of our lives every night we live in an entirely different reality, another universe. We retreat into the deep mysteries of our brain and quite possibly our soul.

Is the brain simply a piece of matter, or a revolving doorway between two worlds that stays open as long as our lungs fill with air and our heart continues to beat. Our consciousness may move between these two worlds learning and living and communicating until our last breath. Then perhaps the doorway closes, and another is opened and we wake from the dream of another life in a brain and body so undeveloped that the memory of that life fades like the dreams we have each night. Maybe we wake in an entirely different state of existence all together. We place such importance on our waking reality. It has a persistence about it that demands our commitment so physically. It is often hard to peer into the mystery without requiring that it be explained and recorded in a way that proves the importance of gazing and wondering. Often times as we get older we learn to let go of childish dreams and imagination because we find out they don’t work in the gravity of our physical world. We begin to declare what is real and not real based on our five senses. These senses are further dulled with each step of progress into the civilized world of metal, concrete, and bright lights that stand like a barrier between us and the living breathing earth. More than half of our genes for smell are no longer functioning, which makes me wonder what other abilities we have lost by simply not paying attention. By not honoring our dreams with attention and respect I wonder if we lose touch with the inherent wisdom of our unconscious and are then driven by unresolved and misunderstood fears.

The impulse to communicate any of this lies somewhere between my habituation with my mind and its need of categorization and my defense of my childhood imagination. When we grow up, we hear that we have to look at things “the way they are”. Is it possible that when we saw the world with wonder and explored the sounds and smells and tastes and touches for the first time, that we were seeing it more clearly? Truth often gets relegated to one side or the other. We either prove what's true with measurements and language in this dense physical world or we speak of intangibles like love and God as truth. Is it possible that truth lies somewhere in between? Is it possible that our fulfillment in life is the blending of the two, the movement between them? Often times the words “spirit” and “soul” spark a passionate debate about reality and God that tends to get lost in the words and forgets what is being explored. In plain terms these words represent our quest to live more fulfilled lives in connection with the world around us. How we speak about dreams or inner healing, or “self-fulfillment” is not bound by the rules of the physical world. We can explore ourselves and the world around us in terms of poetry, music, dreams and mythology. It is a language created about the way we are moved by life, not a language about the measurements of life. It is the story we tell about our journey that speaks to the rich experience we feel in our hearts.

The practice of waking up in our deep unconsciousness and learning to dream in our physical wakefulness may unite us with ourselves and beyond in a deeper sense. One way of begging this practice is to be curious about your dreams. There are many books and dream guides that attempt to decode your dreams for you, however I suggest exploring the meaning of your dreams for yourself. I would invite you to look at your dreams with wonder. What were the emotions you experienced in the dream? What do the people in your dream mean to you? What does it make you think of right now in this moment? What feelings does the dream bring up for you right now? Let there be multiple meanings that shift as you explore. The process is not about figuring out the dream or what it was trying to tell you. The healing or growth lies in what comes up for you as you explore the dream. There may be old faces, feelings from the past, adventures, or terrifying escapes. What a wonderful reminder of all that goes on below the surface. The symbolism can be fun and can be useful in carrying that dream like a reminder or a totem into your waking life, but being too focused on the dreams meaning can distract from what it may be showing you. What comes up for you while you remember the dream? Pay attention to your body, breath, emotions, and thoughts. What types of thoughts come up? Are there any thoughts you don’t want to visit and quickly push aside, or concoct meaning for? Notice them.

There may be pain deep down inside us that we feel we are not ready to look at, and dreams will bring these to the surface. I understand not wanting to open some drawers of our psyche. I have filed many drawers away myself and close them right back up when they pop open. While it seems to be safer to keep some things below the surface, I believe that they are the very things that keep getting in our way. They manifest in many different forms of fear, shame, depression, anxiety and self-sabotaging habits. We mistake all of these uncomfortable experiences to be the problem themselves, but they are actually beautiful doorways that will lead us back to those original wounds. Those wounds never healed because at the time the only way we knew how to move forward was to leave them behind. They will tug at us through the cries of pain and struggle until we pay attention to them. I am not talking about dwelling or lamenting in the pains of long ago, but of allowing them to be a part of us that we care for and grow from. Over time, if we don’t runaway, these wounds begin to grow up alongside us and mature from the pain of the scared inner child or unconscious fear into deep wisdom that embeds our lives with meaning. If you look deeply into your pain instead of hiding from it you will find your soul growing. The soul of the dream-world wants to live through us, gathering lessons to return with into the deep.


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