Have you ever wondered about the sacredness of your sleep? Aside from it being the number one stress reducer in the body/mind… what about that wondrous space where dreams merge into alternate realities and our frontal cortex and it’s ego counterpart finally gets to go nighty nighty …
Neuroscientists (Newberg/Waldman) describe our waking consciousness “as the farthest removed from the reality that exists outside the brain… consciousness represents a limited and somewhat fragmented view of reality that is discrepant from the holistic view generated by nonconscious processes in the brain.” Einstein has been quoted as saying, “the significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them… and some researchers even go so far as to call sleep our real awake time, given how active our brains are during this state.
I do have the good fortune of a rich dream life and have had since my earliest days. My dreams are filled with detail, nuance, symbolism, beauty, imagery and loads of feeling. During the decade or more that I have dream journalled I have come to consider my dreams as important to my life as any meaningful relationship. I have also discovered that dreams come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some dreams are just bits and pops of the days busyness or life’s upcoming events, others are inspired by food or drink, many are opportunities for deeper psyche integration and inner connections and a smaller percentage are actually prophetic.
These prophetic dreams too come in categories of depth and layers of meaning. For example I had a dream several years ago of a man delivering a package in a bright pink shirt. The next day, at work, a man delivered a package in a bright pink shirt. You might think, as I did… big whoop! ….the package of office supplies wasn’t exactly a revelation.
Some prophetic dreams have more personal significance and meaning such as the time I dreamt of a friend experiencing deep sadness and loss. She was devastated that her horse had died. I woke in the morning feeling I would make an effort to connect with her. Later that day she called me to say her horse had died in the night and she was devastated- the prophetic part for me, was that I didn’t even know she had a horse.
I see dreams as holding the potential to connect to life outside the limitations of the conscious or waking mind. All dreams allow us to enter a space/time continuum outside the conditioned constructs of our economic chronological time. The highest levels of physics describe time as existing at once. In this way the “prophetic dream” becomes a glimpse of a reality already in existence. … and the key, as with everything, lives within the interpretation.
A few nights ago I woke up suddenly filled with complete dread. My body was cold and clammy, my heart racing, breath jagged and shallow; it was 0300! Ugh… A series of nightmare images still danced through my head like sugar plum fairies… polar ice caps melting, animal extinction, rising global temperatures, polluted water, desecrated landscapes, habit destruction, the end of natural beauty, a bleak future, lack of oxygen….. lack of oxygen…lack of oxygen….as I lay there breathing deeply, trying to calm down, I was overcome with feelings of sadness and loss.
I wondered why we aren’t supporting each other more openly and socially around the issues of climate change and environmental concerns in general. After all it is a topic that will affect every single person, plant, animal and creature on this planet…regardless of race, economic status, age, culture, country … surely this is a cause to join us. ..?
Thinking beyond the practical I went back to the dream itself and to the anxiety it temporarily created. As I see it anxiety can arrive from three main sources. In the first type, what I call top down– the awake mind creates a series of scary scenario’s and the body responds in turn. The second type, what I call bottoms up, is when the body releases stuck emotions, and the sensations of this cause us to feel overwhelmed or frightened. The third type, which relates to dreaming, is when we receive information subconsciously and our conscious/awake mind, which is where the ego lives, feels threatened. Animals, children and various intuitive people are more easily susceptible to this type of information.
Over the past year in particular many people want yoga, mindfulness and breath to help them with their anxiety. Statistically speaking anxiety is on the rise not only in adults but in children and as the growing uncertainty of our future continues, it makes perfect sense. One young woman recently described her anxiety as the feeling of stepping off a cliff again and again…a perfect descriptor both literally and figuratively. Like stepping off a cliff, anxiety is the body/minds experience to lack of ground…. but instead of considering the obvious…racing thoughts, too much change too fast, heart beating wildly, shallow breath, no time to compose, relax, come to stillness or integrate with a deep nights sleep … I’d like you to consider the ego’s role in all of this.
Rather than seeing anxiety as the problem itself I see it as the symptom. I would go so far as to say that if we had no modern technological communications (computers, phones, TV, satellites etc..) and no one was debating climate change, global warming or whatever buzz word it is now, people would still feel it happening… just like animals sense a storm, earthquake or tsunami, we humans receive just as many messages from our earthly environment, the difference is that our conscious/awake/egoic minds filter these messages out. Sometimes this is helpful, other times it’s taken too far. The ego is like the wizard of oz…or our computers operating system, while serving a purpose…it’s nothing compared to the hardware or to the operator.
The soulful energy of the earth, our actual ground, and all its connections… our food, water, the beauty of nature, plants & animals, our own bodies and all that deeply nourishes like sleep and dream, is profoundly challenged in our modern culture. People are constantly losing their ground to phones, and computers, economic efficiency, phony food and their own threatened egoic mind run amuck. There is an inherent disconnection from true ground (inner and outer) in our modern culture that needs to be re-claimed or we may continue to approach emotional chaos…along with environmental chaos, the least defended of us, like our children, are already living this.
How do we connect to true ground? … we can connect to the experience of our breath, learn techniques to feel the body and understand it’s subtlest messages, we can experience nature, work in a garden, tend to plants or animals, create meaningful real time, real touch, relationships, eat slow nourishing meals, enjoy our own solitude, discover our hearts truth, sleep deeply… continue to move into the realm of mindful living and shift from activities that keep us locked in the conditioned busyness of the culturally conditioned awake mind …an elusive world separated from the bodies ground and the ground around us.
And what about my dream? … well it isn’t entirely prophetic given those realities already exist, but the pace and tone of these environmental dreams definitely has my attention. In that timeless time of the dream there is never certainty about “when”. I have no control over “when” the dreams happen or when the contents manifest… sometimes its 24 hours, sometimes it’s a year later…. All that is not conscious is a grand sacred mystery, and personally felt, a world much more alive and interesting.
As you consider what is sacred in your own life I challenge you to re-consider the quality and the depth of your sleep. Whether you remember your dreams or not, sleep is the primary sustainable space for healing, harmony and re-connection to yourself beyond the ego. Think of it as a sacred gift you give to yourself and support it and its value in others. And putting aside the numerous mind/body benefits; sleep just feels good!!!
“If you want to change the world; you must first start by changing yourself”.