Dreams reveal the image-content that our psyche is interested in or clinging to, energetically charged or potent images that symbolize some deeper meaning. This is our personal mythology. Why is it important? Because what we envision directs our action, even if we don’t realize it. Just consider the portent of all those hours of night visioning that you may barely remember. When an image appears in our dreams, it reveals something about our deeper influences and responses to experience. Dreams reveal this information beneath the censoring ego, (that conditioned part of us that self-consciously builds an idea of self based largely upon conditioned value-judgments).
During the day our senses interpret the world and we subjectively choose, according to whim and will, consciously or not, our pathway through the wilds. Every moment, waking or sleeping is filled with opportunities for choice, regardless of whether or not we recognize them and regardless of whether they are externally apparent. The essence behind the choices we make can be found in the direction and quality of our attention, the specific details and corresponding associations that magnetize our attention and to which we respond.
When we sleep, the self-conscious ego becomes temporarily quiet and sensory intake slows. It is during sleep that to the surface rise the hidden motivators of our actions and moods, the subterranean content that drives us and that is buried beneath the day-time deluge of information. In a sense, the sleeping dream is no less real than the waking one, which is to say, both are based wholly on our subjective perspective; one arises largely from the conditioned predilections, hopes and fears of the ego, the other surfaces largely from the energies and memory that is the river running beneath: the unconscious. One is driven by sensory input, the other by the energetic tides and imaginal rhythms of internal experience. Because dreams are comprised of content that runs beneath conscious agendas, they are a largely uncensored source of information…about our Self. As we learn to remember, recognize and then decipher our own dream symbolism, we liberate untapped potentials and begin to recognize the mythic nature of our life journey.
The Tibetans developed a series of practices called dream yogas, the primary focus of which is to ‘wake up’ from within the dream, (both the dream of waking life and of sleeping life). Sleep is recognized as a cleansing process during which anything unresolved from the day may be released, (or endlessly neurotically rehashed) as the sleeper moves through stages of sleep correlated with organ systems and corresponding qualities of mind. Thus, the quality and nature of a dream points to the actual state of the dreamer’s mind.
Cultivating awareness of the dream-like nature of reality throughout the day, impresses an understanding of the fluidity of waking and sleeping reality and supports lucidity, (the ability to make choices) within sleeping dream.
Try this: three times today, when you are triggered and experience an emotional reaction, (this can be small and internal, don’t wait until you’re breaking things):
1. Notice that you are triggered and stop whatever you are doing. Stop moving, stop talking and feel the currents churning within you.
2. Remind yourself that you are dreaming. In other words, your experience is subjective, another person might not even notice the thing that has hooked you, therefore it does not represent a solid, inherent reality. Just for a quick moment, look out from behind your eyes, soften them on the horizon and notice the strange and ephemeral quality of your situation, including the emotions flowing though it and you, the player/the dreamer.
3. At the end of the day, as you prepare for sleep, call to mind the memory of these moments. Ignore judgements. Just witness and remember other times when you did not pause and got carried away in a reactive experience.
4. Make a request to the dreaming mind, (or a dream guardian). Ask to realize your sleeping dream the way you realized the waking one.
Little by little, in sleep and waking, you will begin to remember that you are the dreamer dreaming your life.
For more information on Tibetan Dream and Sleep Yogas:
The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep book by Tendzin Wangyal Rinpoche