We all dream every night, whether we remember it or not. This is an innate experience. No human has ever had to join a mystery school or study esoterica to have a dream. Yet, dreaming is hardly given a proper forum for research and study in our modern lifestyle. At best, our science considers dreams to be the result of random neural firing in the brain.
Random neural firing? What does that even mean? Well, the scientific theory puts forth that when we sleep our body is undergoing regeneration, daily clean-up of the dead cells and useless information collected throughout the day. So, as our brain is doing some much needed house cleaning (apparently achieved by firing the “clogged” neurons) we experience a fantasy reality called a dream. Really? That’s it?
For many of us, a dream does often contain remnants from our day, like the taxi ride you took or the book you were reading. I believe these occurrences are the basis for the materialist view of dreams as lacking substance. You have to understand the paradigm from which science operates. Science is meant to be an analysis of reality but due to the limited human perception (ie, we seem naturally consciously aware of only our physical focus), the ‘nonphysical’ aspects of our life are neglected. This seems absolutely ridiculous to me because our entire experience of reality is based on something that has no apparent physical cause (the mind). But again, due to a lack of consistent and common conscious experience of things ‘nonphysical’, it is assumed that mind is also an accident, a “ghost in the machine”. It’s understandable really. I mean, what is the one thing you can’t touch with your fingertip? The tip of your finger. So it goes with mind (which is used here to mean consciousness as filtered through the ‘ego’). You can contemplate mind, but you can’t really “put your finger” on mind and this leaves us using mind in every moment of every day without any real contemplation of that state of being. Perhaps there are more devious forces at work, but we’ll leave that for another discussion.
If we step back from the modern scientific paradigm of reality being entirely based in material reality and posit a singular assumption, that mind is a non-local phenomenon, we can shed a different light on the innate experience of dreams. When we put mind and subsequently consciousness in the “superior” or “commanding” role, then the innate experience of a dream becomes very different from the random neural firing that our best and brightest claim as the source. What we’re really skirting around here is the existence of a nonphysical reality, which is the overall topic of research on this blog, but for the sake of this article I am only going to talk of the nonphysical in regard to dreaming.
In indigenous cultures around the world, dreaming takes on a seemingly superstitious connotation (to the western mind). In these traditions, dreaming is often considered as much more than what [westerners] call ‘a dream’. For example, Australian Aboriginals use the term ‘dreamtime’ which refers to a greater reality, a nonphysical reality that is home to what Jung terms Archetypes or universal symbolic energies/forces. This is a quote from the movie The Last Wave by Australian director Peter Weir:
“Aboriginals believe in two forms of time; two parallel streams of activity. One is the daily objective activity, the other is an infinite spiritual cycle called the ‘dreamtime’, more real than reality itself. Whatever happens in the dreamtime establishes the values, symbols, and laws of Aboriginal society. It was believed that some people of unusual spiritual powers had contact with the dreamtime.”‘
In my experience, this ability to contact dreamtime isn’t a special skill reserved for the shamans and priesthood, but is in fact a natural ability possessed by every man. It happens to be those born with very active ‘psychic’ skill and those chosen to become the shaman’s apprentice that traditionally are capable of making contact with ‘dreamtime’. However, in both cases, deliberate contact requires training, the development of a skill. Even those who appear to be some ascended evolution of our species must undergo training to learn control and focus. So, I don’t see any reason you or I can’t learn this same skill through proper training.
Dr. Sheri Rosenthal, a master Toltec teacher and student of Don Miguel Ruiz (author of The Four Agreements), describes the concept of Toltec Dreaming or Active Dreaming:
“Toltecs saw [dreaming] as a twofold process. First, they saw that we were responsible for what we dreamed in our minds and that that was dependent on where we chose to focus our attention. For example, choosing to be happy is as easy as putting our attention on what is beautiful in life, rather than putting our attention on believing our fear-based beliefs and emotions. Even more important, they saw that we could use our attention to take our focus off of the world our physical eyes assemble for us and instead put our focus on the world we can see if we use our spiritual eyes.”
“Second, they saw that by changing the way we dream in our virtual reality (our mind), we ultimately change what we project out onto our physical reality. This, in turn, affects the entire way we co-create our lives (what we choose to create and manifest). For Toltecs, the goal was to be free to express their lives without the limitations of their programming, to be truly happy and express their unconditional love without fear. To do that, they needed to get control over their attention. This is where the practice of Dreaming came into play.”
In both of these traditions, dreaming and the “locale” of the dream environment plays the role of provider to the people. These dream realms are the source of the manipulation of physical, objective reality. As backwards as we may think these people are, their cultures have lasted for millennia, which puts our measly culture to shame. I don’t believe these cultures could have withstood the ages of “conversion” attempts by dictatorial empires had their paradigm of reality not existed in close resonance with their experience. I also feel that this is observable in our own culture. We have a severe experiential dissonance relative to the “natural order” around us and this is reflected back to us in our reality. Consider what both of these indigenous cultures say in regards to the formation of our objective reality. The substance from which our objective experience spawns, exists in this ‘dreamtime’. These cultures give proper attention to the ‘dreamtime’, we do not. Subsequently, our focus is overwhelmed by physical experience or experience through the ‘ego’, our survival programs. So, what little of our focus trickles through to the dreamtime is filtered through this dependence on survival mechanisms. Now look at the reality that is reflected back to us, the reality that we have created by not attending to our dreamtime. We live in a world of fear. War, famine, pestilence, rape, murder, hatred and an endless roll of -isms. We have learned to define ourselves through physical terms, through superficial qualities and this energy has become very powerful in dreamtime, thus we live in what can only be described as ‘hell’.
Let’s look at one line from Dr. Rosenthal’s description:
“For Toltecs, the goal was to be free to express their lives without the limitations of their programming, to be truly happy and express their unconditional love without fear.”
Siddhartha Gautama (or the energy he is supposed to represent) tells us that life is suffering. However, the Toltecs express that life is not suffering, but rather the focus of attention in the human species seems to be directed toward suffering and can be re-directed. Perhaps the Buddha was just misunderstood, misquoted or mistranslated…… Yet , we suffer. Our lives as humans are lived in subservience to the paradigm of a physical-only reality and we suffer for it daily.
Doesn’t it seem that there is a correlation between acknowledging this nonphysical reality and prosperous, purposeful life? So how can we start turning our reality around? By giving proper attention to our nonphysical reality, the apparent source of our life force, our experience of reality. This is already something that we do every night, when we dream we are taking excursions into this dreamtime. Does it make sense that a nonphysical component to our being needs rest and regeneration like our physical body? No, of course not. Our nonphysical aspects aren’t subject to the reality of the physical. We’re in a whole different reality paradigm here. So why would our mind shut off when we went to sleep aside from those random neural firings that it trys to decode? IT DOESN’T!
When we sleep, our focus of attention leaves the physical (because it’s not needed) while the body undergoes automatic processes of recuperation. However, due to the rampant denial of all things meta-physical (beyond physical), it’s like our mind has been programmed to just completely turn off our awareness of the nonphysical environment when we sleep. But this isn’t irreversible! The trick is to just start giving your dreams more attention. The simplest way to do this is to start a dream journal. Write in it every morning as soon as you wake up. Doing this consistently tells your subconscious that your dreams are important to you and you wish to strengthen that connection again.
So, once you start interacting with your dreams again, how do you make sense of them!? Recall what was said of the aboriginal view of the dreamtime, “Whatever happens in the dreamtime establishes the values, symbols, and laws….[of your reality]”. So these seemingly random and abstract dream memories must be important to your life as a ‘multi-dimensional’ being because this is the source of values, symbols and ‘laws’ in your reality. Why, then, are our dreams so difficult to make sense of? Well that’s the key phrase right there, “difficult to make sense of”.
As I have stated, the dreamtime paradigm is very different from the paradigm we hold of our ‘physical’ reality. For example, communication in the nonphysical is non-verbal. Human language is one of our biggest limitations. It is ultimately impossible to articulate perceptual experience into words. This makes the true communication of an experience to another person beyond fathomable. Seriously, have you tried to explain experiences of the ineffable to another person? It can’t be done. The reason is that most of that experience happens through perception, through feeling and intuition, which are qualities that are beyond words. Now, extrapolate that concept to dreams. Your dreams are coming from a place of pure perception. Your ‘ego’ free self experiences these messages and fully understands their nature, but then it has to find a way to get that message back to your conscious awareness. Not an easy task, I assure you. Your physically focused awareness thinks in terms of language, in terms of linear memory. So, when your mind returns focus to your physical awareness after a dream (it’s really all happening simultaneously) it uploads the experience into your physical brain for processing. You might wonder why this step is even necessary. Because of that dependence on the survival programming of the ego, we are caught in a very limiting dynamic between mind and brain, self and body. Our ‘ego’ self has more control, or rather we have little control, of our focus and so dictates the allocation of personal power/attention. Bless our non-local mind, it does it’s damnedest to get these fundamental messages about our experience in reality past the firewall of the ego. It’s efforts are certainly not in vain, as we do remember dreams. But in order to understand the message provided, we must understand how our dreams wind up the abstract messes that they are.
The process by which an abstract concept is solidified into linear thought relies on a person’s memories. Your memories, though they seem entirely linear, are much more than just a visual representation of an event. your memories hold power, they hold the entirety of the perception of a specific event. Naturally, the very emotionally charged memories are easiest to find in the file cabinet. But your recent memories are often easy to access as well. When your brain is trying to make linear sense of these nonverbal messages it’s receiving, it has to find a way to translate an experience it doesn’t have ‘record’ of, an experience it has never experienced. The only way it knows to do it is by translating it into memories of your experiences that have a similar perceptual energy. It scans your brain for a memory that most closely expresses the perceptual energy in the nonverbal message. This includes all memories and the entire perception related to them as well as all thought-forms you remember (your contemplations and imaginings). Maybe I have a dream where I’m flying in space. You’re first reaction might be that this translates to something involving exploration or something to that effect. But, if I create an abstract representation in my mind (if i imagine the same scenario) and I analyze how the scence affects my perception. How does it make me feel, including sense memories and intuitive “knowing”. Perhaps I don’t feel explorative but rather serene, a very different feeling. It’s not the literal dream that needs to be interpreted, it is the feeling of the dream. And a note on dream interpretation. I hope this bit has made clear the personal and subjective nature of dream environments makes interpretation by anyone else but you and your intuition is utterly useless. This entire process is your brain’s way of trying to make sense of a perception it has never had before, then we have to dig deep within our memories/subconscious to find the reference.
There is an aspect of this ‘dreamtime’ that I have thus far neglected to mention. The impression one gets of the contact that these indeginous peoples make with ‘dreamtime’ is much more conscious, controlled and intentional; they are consciously aware, they are actively dreaming. There are many names for this experience, Astral Projection, Soul Travel, Out-Of-Body Experience, Phasing, Journeying, etc. As I will surely explain further in later posts, there is no difference between dreaming, lucid dreaming, OBEs or any of the other terms. Each term is used (erroneously in my opinion) to describe what is just a different degree of focus strength. A ‘dream’ is like the first moment after you wake up when you’re not entirely aware of your surroundings or even if you’re actually awake yet. Lucid Dreaming might be considered as being like the moments after you’ve been awake for a few seconds. Your awareness is there, though it’s still a little foggy and you probably couldn’t perform any complex cognitions. An OBE then would be like “full waking awareness”, you are fully aware of your surroundings and have full cognitive capabilities (though they may feel a little different). Still the same experience though, but as I said, more on that later.