Lately I've been working on the topic of lucid dreaming, dream interpretation, and just generally remembering and recording the experiences from that "inner world." For reasons of my own, I'm approaching the problem with these fundamental axioms:
1) The experiences you have in dreams are real, at least for the purposes of examination.
2) Axiom 1 implies that the events are interesting. Therefore they are interesting.
3) The dream environment is highly malleable with thought. Think of flying and you'll probably fly.
4) Dreams can be depressingly mundane, or highly symbolic. The more symbolic they are the more you have to work to interpret them.
5) Symbolism in dreams is highly personal.
6) By consciously considering dreams important, you will remember them better and eventually understand them better.
7) Manipulating consciously in the dream world is a worthy goal, and a birthright. It just takes practice.
I like to explore the mountains, why not explore the inner dream world as well? I've vividly experienced the transformation of thought into experience from Axiom 3) above. Once I dreamed I was in the kitchen, and noticed that a package of chicken breasts had been left out overnight. They looked red and blotchy, and I turned away in growing disgust. When I looked back these "gummi worms" were emerging from the chicken and spilling onto the floor! From that point the dream drama became all about trying to kill them with paper towels, yuck. I felt quite clearly that the worms were a manifestation of my own thoughts. Still, it was amazing how "alive" they were, how 3-dimensional and real. This is the power of the mind.
I read a book a few weeks ago which offered a dream exercise: take a camera with you into your dreams. Try and remember that you have a camera, and with some luck you'll appear with it around your neck in a dream. With that acting as a cue, you should be able to take a picture of a memorable scene in the dream. The author of the book goes on to explain that the exercise is useful because taking these pictures is a skill, much like that which a photographer must develop in real life. He goes to a far-away country, and if he is unskilled the pictures he returns with are muddy and blurry. With increasing skill, his images become sharper. Use this as an analogy to improve your own focus in dreams, and the results may surprise you.
Well, okay. I was happy to try! But I didn't expect much because the key seems to be that you have a camera and remember it's purpose. You know how dreams go...the camera could very easily turn into a suit and tie with a stray thought, and usually my dream consciousness is not lucid, but carrying out tasks which seem very important to it, but which baffle my waking mind. Such is life in dreams! Only once so far did I have a lucid dream, and this was powerful indeed. But to expect to achieve that on any particular evening seemed outside of my reach.
And so it was. But if it ended there, I wouldn't have written this. I woke around 6 am, and dutifully wrote down a few unremarkable dreams. Falling back asleep, I went immediately into a new dream. From my notes:
"Later I was in dark water, swimming to light. Bashing at ice and breaking it to go up and breathe. I had Gunnar with me, he was nearing unconsciousness. I knew he had to get breath too from the small hole in the ice. I question whether he made it or not, because the memories from this point are bifurcated: I don't know what was real and what was something I wanted to believe.
I widened the hole...it was basically where two plates of ice met and a scrim of light ice was re-sealing the long crack in between them. I got out of the water, and Gunnar was out too, but unconscious, having swallowed too much water.
A very memorable part is the glimpse of the shoreline. I knew I needed trees desperately. I saw trees, a black band of them, but far away. But I had no fire. Here I started seeing visions of myself frozen. I seemed to struggle to get to the trees, but I don't know if I really moved to them or not...I have no memories of walking even though I wanted to desperately. More visions of frozen death. Now I imagined a house, like a faerie-tale. It had a peat roof, very rustic, but warm, with yellow light spilling out from the inside. I saw myself sitting in furs by a fire inside. But the vision of my frozen body kept recurring. In the house I wondered how I got here, and thought it strange that no one else was around. As a frozen man I had a beard. Gunnar died peacefully, but it seems that I struggled."
Weeks later, I remember this dream very well. It wasn't very emotional until the end. I was too busy trying to get out of the water to think much. It was only when I sat by the warm fire in the beautiful little house that I began to feel sadness. My vision flickered between the fireplace and the pitiful sight of a man frozen to death with eyes open on a patch of ice.
I woke up. Naturally I wondered about the meaning of the dream. I'd been learning about the notion of "simultaneous time," a metaphysical idea that our consciousness is ever-busy and exploring more realities than we (us here, gathered around computers) can reasonably hold in one mind. The idea of reincarnation is related, but in a curious way. Under this idea, we are exploring multiple lives at once. This takes away the somewhat depressing idea from reincarnation that the soul wanders through the centuries, making incremental progress and occasionally doing something bad, therefore losing karma points, and returning again and again in relatively higher or lower stations of life. If this sounds like a boring video game built around point-harvesting then well...anyway, the idea does at least tap into the notion that we are greater than one life. Another logical problem with my (probably simplistic) drawing of re-incarnation as generally understood is that you have to wonder why we aren't incredible Ghandi-like souls by now, assuming that we are on lifetime 13 or 14 at the least! The theory then leaves us just hoping to "remember" the previous existences and become suffused with knowledge about them, and then achieve enlightenment.
To my thinking, a better idea is that lives are lived, but by different related personalities. Like different leaves of the same plant, each leaf is a lifetime, each leaf both has it's own identity, the greater identity of the host plant, and a kind of sibling identity as it looks at the other leaves around it. Continuing the plant analogy, it is born and relatively soon attains an overall shape, with small leaves growing together from their assigned places. This is how nature works...emerging form from a creative and highly original template. Not growing one leaf after the other, in a neat, painstaking fashion.
Now I've already admitted I'm pursuing a very personal activity, and I've taken as axiomatic things which my readers never would. To these axioms I'll add that my "working theory" of existence makes use of the idea of simultaneous lives and related, but still completely individual personalities that participate in those lives. I was already thinking about this for months before the dream. So on awakening, and writing it down, it seemed to me not to be a symbolic dream, but a window into real experience.
I'm still figuring this out, but to me a "real experience" dream has the same elements that separate our daily life from a movie. In the dream world, a symbolic dream is like a movie in our real world. Full of events, no "boring spots," full of wringing emotion and drama. But the real world doesn't work like that. There are long periods where nothing happens...where we try to distract ourselves with a toy, or worry about situations at work, etc. Now, this dream of the icy death was dramatic...but it was the kind of unpleasant drama that accompanies uncomfortable situations in our real world. I had the exact same feeling of "how did I get into this?" and wishing I was somewhere else, somewhere warm. I also experienced the rather humorous duality of thought we get in real life ridiculous or dangerous situations. I was questioning, "is Gunnar really here?" I thought I might have lost my mind to picture him with me...for example, there is no way I could pull a heavy man like that out of the water if he wasn't conscious. But still I attended to the tiresome task of survival. No, it wasn't a symbol dream.
For me, it was a window into the death experience of a sibling personality. And under simultaneous time, it may have just happened. The events may have been "live." Perhaps the intensity of the experience from *his* point of view made it possible for me, someone searching and questing, already poking my flashlight around in these directions, to tune in to his intense and difficult experience.
Bear with me, because what left me thunderstruck about the whole thing only happened after I awoke and padded into the study to check the morning news on the computer. I scrolled through a few pages of uninteresting material and then came wide awake on my Facebook feed: my buddy Alain had posted a picture of the faerie house from my dream.
It was exactly the same!
The beautiful, brilliant peat-moss roof, with the sun shining on it through an opening in the forest!
Okay not exact. His house was a tiny doll-house. He had no light in the windows, where my windows were warm, and smoke came from the chimney. But overall, this was the house that my "spirit Norwegian" took refuge in as he contemplated the truth of his own death:
But that's not all. How did I "see" this house before seeing Alain's picture? It would make more sense if I'd seen the picture before going to sleep, and then placed it in my dream. We do that all the time. Well, somehow the picture was available to me, who knows how. While I was dreaming, Alain was uploading it, according to Facebook timestamps. Perhaps my consciousness, with all it's power, is simply scrolling through RSS feeds with it's free time...hmm...that sounds like me alright! :D
The part that blows me away though, is that this image...this faerie house, given life and warmth, actually *helped* a 17th century man, who died unpleasantly. I know it because I lived his thoughts. He was so comfortable in that house, so happy to be out of the cold.
In that house he could absorb the truth with some discomfort and dismay, but he was not unmoored.
Perhaps, in the life of a green plant, one leaf above will move aside over slow days that sun may be cast on a lower leaf. We see it as our duty to comfort each other in life. Why would it be different in other realities? Isn't this instinct something we value about ourselves, something that makes us human? My contention is that this is good and true. As greater spirits, we seek to bring more of ourselves into our physical reality. Here, I have been able to give a small gift to another leaf. Perhaps I'm wrong to think this man was a related soul. For example, I don't know his name. But I feel like I helped someone, and I did it with the tools I had at hand.
I had a photograph. A photograph from a dream.
Special thanks to Alain for the use of his beautiful photo!