Would you believe that we are all living a dream? That we are mere actors on a stage and the real us is somewhere else in this world; that we are just a projection, an incarnation of a part of us? That we incarnate on earth to learn to ‘live’ within a limited and difficult environment (and where we seem to have temporarily forgotten our true nature)? That our life on Earth is just a brief moment in a much larger existence - there are other dimensions of existence that we live in before and after we come to this world? That in between lives we return to a kind of heaven where we debrief, see our old friends, plan the next life and then move on to a new journey? People who have had a ‘near death’ experience report that it felt more real than ‘life’ and they ‘understood’ things from an unexplainable perspective. If all the above is true, then the ‘reality’ of our life on Earth pales when compared with our broader existence. It’s like being in a play or a simulation, which may have meaning of its own, but there is so much going on beyond the stage and the simulator. Is our time in this world somewhat scripted and purposeful? Are we here to learn some lesson or accomplish some spiritual task, before moving on to another existence? Is this world an illusion? Does this earthly world, like a magician, use some kind of ‘misdirection’ to get us to focus on the more trivial aspects of existence and ignore its more fundamental and important aspects? Could it be that we are sleepwalking, as in a dream, in this illusory world, and that we only ‘wake up’ into a real world when we die? Did that dream world have to be created? Probably not, because it is all in our mind. Even the physical world exists only in our mind; it is the imagination of our cosmic mind or spiritual consciousness. Physical matter does not ‘exist’, and even our body is an illusion. Bill Hicks aptly remarked that ‘we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death; life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves’.
Commonly seen as a conduit to another dimension of us, dreaming is a mysterious aspect of human biology that has countless cultural, social and symbolic meanings. Whether as a connection to our spiritual self, our soul or to a deeper part of our psyche, dreams allude to the presence of hidden messages. Like participating in a treasure hunt, we race from clue to clue, desperate to decode the embedded secrets in our dreams… before they disappear. Dreams communicate layers of emotive messages through colour, sound, touch and sight, in unusual combinations that are difficult to comprehend. Dreaming is a biological and spiritual form of dialogue with our unconscious. Some dreams are epic narratives, with complicated plots, while others are simple but disquieting. We all dream, but we have divergent abilities to remember our dreams and to distil possible meaning thereof. Is dreaming a skill to hone, a neurological byproduct, or an unrecognised sixth sense? Dreaming often presents a bizarre embodied perceptive - a glimpse into another realm of our existence. To understand this multifaceted language using our waking minds is challenging; the experience needs to be read in a more sensorial way. However, the mystery of what, how or whom we are in communication with, and the potential significance of this knowledge, is a riddle that still confounds us. Medical studies in rapid eye movement sleep, the physical state in which most dreams occur, have led to greater knowledge of the biology of dreaming, but virtually no insights into the dream itself. During sleep the dreamer is in an organism state – a state of the entire body. This physical state differs from the ways in which our body and brain are regulated when we are awake. More recent investigations into the brain by psychologists have revealed detailed information regarding the parts of the brain that are used during the different phases of dreaming. A consistent theme within ‘dream investigation’ is the idea of dreaming as a kind of processing tool. We do not turn off thought; it just takes a different form. Our hallucinatory narratives are not completely cut off from reality; they are rather a different manifestation of it. This alternative reality offers an opportunity to our consciousness (some of which is aware during sleep) to process (the day’s) emotion and the cognitive world free of the contextual inhibitions that are imposed during our waking life. However, this raises the following questions: Is the dream state more authentic, honest and trustworthy? Would increasing our ability to access our dreaming mind create a more intuitive way of being? How might increased awareness of our dream state enhance our ability to navigate life? Would connecting to our unconscious encourage us to broaden our range of perceptions and feelings. Can we access greater depths of our intrinsic experience in order to ‘explain’ our unplanned and unconstrained impulses?
Traditional views of dreaming in psychology provide insight into our contemporary relationship with dreams. Freud viewed dreams as evidence of our unconscious selves, as results of repressed desires. Dreams became part of a psychological investigation for diagnosis. Freud’s view of dreams as manifestations of our un-vented psyche differed from Jung’s belief that dreams are linked to a greater collective ‘unconsciousness’. For Jung, dreams contained representations of the instinctive, emotional parts of us, which revealed themselves as symbolic archetypes inherited from ancient images, myths and lore. In both cases, however, dreams contain information relevant to understanding behaviour in our waking life. The key is to understand the language and symbols through which our dreams communicate (like ‘falling in a deep gorge’, ‘being swept away in swirling waters’, ‘being chased’, or ‘teeth falling out’). The content of dreams often seems to be a representation of common anxieties, and therefore many people have claimed to have similar dreams. However, the meaning of such dreams is different for each person. While some believe that dream symbols have a common, collective meaning - if you dream this, it means that – others believe dream content is highly subjective. For example, if someone with a paralysing fear of dogs dreams about a dog, that person will have a very different understanding of the dream from someone who adores dogs. The sensorial experience surrounding the symbol is equally, if not more, important. We may have a dream laden with confusing and violent imagery, but feel extremely calm. But how we feel in these dreamscapes is real; the reality is the reality of our feelings. Like recurring dreams, which do not often change in plot, but can change in temperament and perception. The act of dreaming is a way to communicate with our higher self and to develop intuition. Through practice and guidance from a spiritual teacher, practising Dream Yoga can help bring together the conscious and the unconscious, helping us gain mastery over our mind. The enhanced dreaming ability can release us from our mind’s tricks, which hinder our capacity to see our unconscious clearly. The understanding of the messages in our dreams requires more the taming of the beast of our conscious mind, than than the decoding of some secret language.
Whether grounded in neurobiology or mystical experience, dreams are a fascinating and mysterious aspect of being human. Each night we delve into the depths of our mind and body to experience its full creative and expressive potential. Regardless of memorial evidence each morning, these episodes impact our waking life by helping us process emotion, explore alternatives and make new connections. It is through this alternate sense, experienced free from conscious constraints and through an unconscious mind/body intelligence, that we access information to increase the understanding of our self. We can draw our awareness to conscious influences – aspects or events in our waking life that may influence the content of our dreams. Watching cartoons, science fiction or horror movies before going to bed may explain the medium our unconscious is using to communicate with our mind. As we become more familiar with our waking patterns and influences, this lucidity can increase the depth and method of conversation we have with our unconscious. This shifts the emphasis from the dream narrative or content to sensorial cues, which are difficult to translate. Describing these experiences strips away the embodied experience that holds the message. Even the memory of a dream misses the complete sensory configuration; it is difficult, if not impossible, to recreate a dream’s curious music of sensory transpositions in our waking life. The separation and cultural hierarchy of our senses contributes to how we perceive our dream and where we lay emphasis. Dreaming is a form of self-healing and inner guidance, by way of reconnection with our soul or greater self. Human beings have the ability to transcend time and space while re-connecting with the soul. Dreaming is the retrieving of pieces of the soul that have literally gone missing. Time is another fascinating aspect of dreaming. Even in terms of duration, dreams do not seem to follow our normal experience of time. Despite intricate narratives, significant conversations and detailed experiences, dreams can occur in a matter of just minutes. Our measurement of time does not seem to apply, and time becomes multi-dimensional - the past, present and future become equally accessible during the dreaming state. It is the dreamer’s ability to exist in the future that makes ‘realised’ souls experience the feeling of having experienced something before – via the memory of their dream of the future. There is another aspect of dreaming. Every cell in our body communicates with the others via beams of light, similar to the way that cell phones function. Every cell is our body is made of liquid crystals. The body is quite literally a Biological Internet. There are trillions of little ‘yous’ within the seeming one whole you, and your body is quite literally a hologram made of pure energy. As a matter of fact, the entire universe is contained in every single cell of our bodies, and every aspect of the physical universe is inherent within every cell in the exact same holographic manner. At the macro level it is all an illusion...a dream!
Dr. Rajesh Bhola is President of Spastic Society of Gurgaon and is working for the cause of children with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities for more than 30 years. He can be contacted at email@example.com