God's Gift of a Dream Life
Nowadays when the word "dream" comes up, we mostly mean an aspiration, the American dream. Recently at the Democratic convention, in a dramatic coincidence on the night of Senator Obama's acceptance speech, we were all reminded of the anniversary of Martin Luther King's great speech, "I Have a Dream."
However great that secondary connotative meaning of dream as aspiration, it has almost overshadowed the most mysterious thing of all, the plain fact of the dream itself, the fact that every night, as our own sleep science affirms, every single one of us, the billions of us on the planet are having billions of dreams. The American dream is not only political: it also includes this, our dream life; the private dream experience, the whole gross national product of dreams. And what do we do with them? Are we wasting them? I sometimes fear so, that dreams are also endangered species.
As I go talk to people about dreams, the most common question is, "What if you don't dream?" The truth is, unless you are on certain medications or have a serious brain condition, you do dream. The problem is that you don't remember you dreams. More's the pity, for I have come to know that dreams are still today what they once were more commonly in the ancient world, the world of the Bible for instance and the world of Homer. They are the doors and the gateways to another dimension of experience and feeling, of great significance. I believe our experiences in dreams are one way in which we access for ourselves powerful experiences of personal epiphany, revelation and prophecy. Dreams give us vivid experiences that are at the core of all religions: experiences of awe, of unfailing love, of terror too.
The rabbinic sages state that dreams are 1/60th prophecy (as they say sleep is 1/60th death) and what they meant is that dreams still hint that there is a world of experience beyond the flat and material everyday life. Through my work with dream clients, I have seen how dreams open up people to a journey every bit as significant and powerful as any journey taken by day, a journey into the feelings below our emotional numbness, a journey past obstacles and oppositions, to the core feelings that , whether we know it or not, guide us by day. And then, even deeper, into experiences of the soul.
I cannot explain in this brief space how the journey works, except that it generally needs a teacher or guide. but let me say the gifts I have found in my own dreams. First, the gift of the warning dream: the difficult dreams in which our behavior is exposed without excuses or justifications: our lying or our hypocrisy, our greed or our excessive sentimentality, or our failures to love. If we can face what our dreams actually show us about our behavior and take that behavior seriously, we can change.
The second is the gift of the dream that shows us who we are in essence, that is that shows us the nature of who we were born to be, and who we are in the largest and most generous eyes. I call that the dream of the situation of the soul, and it is like the dream of Joseph, who sees that he is like an upright sheaf of wheat, even though in his actual waking life he is despised by his brothers. That is a precious kind of dream to have, a core knowing that gives us strength in adversity.
And finally, there is the third gift, which is the gift of knowing our inner life has its own reality and validity, that the angels that came down the ladder are real angels, and the God who appears in so many shapes to reassure us, makes the same promise made in Jacob's dream, "I am with you and I will be with you." And that is the biggest gift our dreams can give.
Posted by: Paganplace | October 3, 2008 6:24 PM
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