What Are Dreams (Actually), and Where Do They Come From?

(travelblog.org: vulcan osorno at dawn)

Hello fellow dreamers,

At the end of the movie, when Dorothy returned from her sojourn in Oz, her aunt and uncle and their 3 farmhands were there to greet her at her bedside. On waking, she was told by her Auntie Em and the kindly doctor (who looked remarkably like the Wizard) that she had been hit on the head during the twister and had passed out for a time.  When Dorothy insisted that she had actually been off traveling in a strange and wonderful land “…that was sometimes scary, but mostly very beautiful”, she was assured by all present that it was “just a dream”.

Alice, of Wonderland, and later Looking Glass fame, is described as getting very sleepy while reading a book “without pictures”, and nodding off either just before -or just after- she spies the white rabbit and goes down the rabbit hole after him. Was that a dream too? Or “just a dream”? Curious and curiouser…

Shamans and mystics from cultures throughout the world speak to us of the dream world as a very real place, a parallel universe, if you will. Judeo-Christian mystic tradition tells us that our soul can leave our bodies at night and travel in astro-realms. (Which is, by the way, the reason you are not supposed to wake a sleeper up too suddenly: Because the dreaming soul is connected to the body by a thin silver thread, and too sudden a wakening can snap the thread and the soul would not be able to find it’s way home back into the body.)

Lynn McTaggert, in her landmark book on non-local consciousness “The Field”, writes: “Deep in the rainforests of the Amazon, the Achur and the Huaorani Indians are assembled for their daily ritual…at dawn… as the world explodes into light, they share their dreams…The dreamer is the vessel the dream decided to borrow to have a conversation with the whole tribe.” The dream is not an individual possession, it is owned collectively by the whole tribe. I love that – “the dreamer is the vessel that the dream decided to borrow”. Doesn’t it feel like that at times?: That we are but a vessel when we wake with the sense that something came through us, rather than from us.

So, what is a dream actually? And where do dreams come from? Michael Harner, anthropologist and shamanic practitioner writes that one of the core principles of shamanism is that spirits are real, and that spirits produce dreams. Shamanic theory states that the human soul and other spirits that have an attachment to the person can produce their dreams. This is a way of understanding those vivid visitation dreams we sometimes get of departed loved ones- that their spirits still have an attachment to us. That is an infinitely comforting thought to me.

Our bodies talk to us in our dreams. Patrick McNamara, a neuroscientist at Boston University School of Medicine, encourages doctors to routinely ask patients about their dreams as a way of assessing mental status (Boston Globe, 2/3/14). “Dreams are faithful reports of a patient’s emotional life,” he states. We also know that unresolved emotional baggage from days or years before can show up in our dreams, trying desperately to get our attention by keeping memories of events or the feelings about the events alive until we resolve them. This is the essence of PTSD dreaming.  We can also get medic alerts through our dreams, long before a symptom sends us to the doctor.

Philo, an ancient philosopher says that there are three kinds of dreams: 1.) Those that originate within us, 2.) Those that originate in the angelic or spirit realm, and 3.) Those that originate from God. Our prophets and holy men and women are often cited as having conversations with God either in a dream, or as a waking dream day-vision.

In a modern sleep lab, scientists can now chart the exact portions of the brain that are involved in dreaming and chart the REM cycles on a graph. There are those in the scientific community who maintain that dreams are merely random neuron firings of the brain (I report this in the spirit of inclusiveness, however as a spiritually oriented therapist dreamworker, I would not put myself in that camp.)

Whether our dreams come from within our brains, our bodies, the spirit realm, or the Divine, the worlds we visit in our night journeys have gifts and messages for ourselves, our communities, and perhaps for the world. Awake to your dreams! Use their messages to heal, to grow, to explore, to journey, to connect with all manner of strange and wondrous beings. Go down the rabbit hole and over the rainbow to see what you may find. Then come back and tell about it. (tip of the hat to Mary Oliver)

Sweet dreams

Linda Yael

What’s In A Name? A “Dream by Any Other Name…”

“Sweet dreams are made of these…”

 

Welcome to the dog days of summer,

Summer time- this one’s just for fun.  I started thinking about how many different ways we use the word “dream” in our language.  This little word can have so many different meanings—so versatile!  It seems that we are fascinated with this whole concept of “dream states”, and use the concept for a variety of feelings and ideas.  The most common meaning for the word “dream” is of course the kind we have at night, but the word is used to refer to so many things I thought it might be fun just to look at them.  I invite you to add to the list.

The origin of the word “dream” in the English language is from the Middle English “dreem” (1050) and originally meant joy, mirth, and gladness.  In Hebrew the word for dream is “chalom” (rhymes with shalom), and it means both dream and vision depending on how it is used, and the context of the usage.  The bible has translated the same word differently according to who was speaking.  Joseph and Solomon were said to have “dreams”, while Elijah and Moses were said to have “visions”.  Martin Luther King had a dream “…I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s creed…that all men are created equal.”  This was his vision for the future; we can hope that he was prophetic in this.

So, we have night dreams, we have visionary dreams, and we have “day dreams”.  We have day-dreams while we are awake, and our mind is taking a little trip on it’s own away from wherever we actually are.  Daydreaming has been used to refer to simply looking out the window and “spacing out”, and also to “wool gathering” or musing on our own more interesting thoughts or fantasies instead of paying attention to whatever is happening in the room right now.

Then there is the concept of dreams as “wishful thinking”- as in, “I’ve been dreaming of going to Greece for over 20 years.”  Related, but slightly different, is dream as what you aspire to; a strongly desired goal or cherished ambition as in “I’ve always dreamed of touring with a rock band” as you practice your guitar riffs.  Realizing these ambitions and satisfying a wish are also referred to as a “dream come true”.  And what is “the American dream” anyway?  Westward expansion? a house in the suburbs?, making it big?  What is your dream–do you have a dream garden, or a dream vacation, or a dream date?

My daughter was given an assignment in her English class to write about what is meant by the idea of “dreams deferred” while studying the book “A Raison in the Sun”.  Mama’s dream in the book is to have a nice house with a garden; Walter wants to be the man of the house, and Bethena dreams of becoming a doctor- something which a black southern girl of that era could “only dream of”.

On the other side of the spectrum, the word dream is also used to refer to bunk, garbage, a waste of time, as in  “Stop dreaming- that will never happen”, “It’s just a pipe dream” or “Stop dreaming and do your homework.”   In this category may also be the concept of being unrealistic, or suffering delusions “You’re just dreaming- snap out of it”.  It is interesting to me that the same word is used to refer to very opposite concepts and ideas- why do you think this is so?  If some one is “living in a dream world” is that a positive or negative thing?  “Dreams” and “hallucinations” are sometimes used interchangeably.

Then we have perfection, or “It’s too good to be true” (as in “This is my dream job)”, a beautiful love object (“He‘s so dreamy”) and something that works very well and smoothly (as in “It runs like a dream).  When we imagine something that may be beyond our present reach, we are said to be dreaming about it (“You’re just dreaming”).  On the contrary, when there is something we would never do, we say “I wouldn’t dream of it.”  “Dreamy images” are usually vague or blurry.

And just think of the songs with dream in their title, or part of the words!: “Daydream Believer” (The Monkeys),    “…Whenever I want you all I have to do, is dream a little dream-of you…” (Everly Brothers),    “Last night I had the strangest dream, I ever had before, I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war…” (I think maybe by Arlo Guthrie),    “California Dreaming” (The Mamas and the Papas)    “Oh What a Day for a Daydream” (The Lovin Spoonful),    “Day Dreaming “ (Aretha Franklin),    “Dream Lover” (Bobby Darin),    “Dream On” (Aerosmith),    “In Your Wildest Dreams” (Tina Turner w/ Barry White),    “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” (Stevie Wonder),    ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (Eurythmics),    “Sweet Dreams’ (Beyonce),    “Teenage Dream” (Katy Perry),    “Dreamlover” (Mariah Carey),    “Dreams” (van Halen) and so on and on and on…

I bet you can you add to the list.

And sometimes we are able to succeed “beyond our wildest dreams”.

 

Sweet dreams,

Linda Yael