Everyone has their own ideas of what dreams are, and what they mean – if anything! Dreams might be the most often discussed yet little understood phenomenon common to all humans – though animals also dream. Certain professions claim dreams as their exclusive turf to define and label – but seem to want to insist that dreams are always symbolic. That is nonsense.
What Are Dreams?
Though superficially dreams seem similar one to the next, not all are of the same character. Dreams can actually be many different things, from a random creation out of imagination and experience with no additional significance, to a spiritual experience that is actual. At times they seem to offer a door into an unexplored and supernatural realm; sometimes they offer a glimpse of incredible beauty. While most seem to be happenstance, some appear not to be. Here are some of the things dreams can be:
- Random creations of a person’s mind, recombining experience and imagination. This may be the most common type of dream. When remembered after awakening, often the events, objects and concepts make no sense at all, even though they made perfect sense in the dream. Some concepts can’t even be expressed! This is a fascinating aspect of dreams. The way I figure it out is this: if you suppose that each human being has his or her very own self-created spiritual universe, completely apart from the physical universe we all interact in, composed of the mind and anything else the person has put there, then it is possible to see that events, ideas, and objects can be created within that universe which bear no relation to our own, and can’t even be expressed in physical universe terms.
- A reflection of troubling or threatening events or ideas, or of delightful, pleasant or exhilarating events or thoughts, changed, mixed and magnified in the mind
- A reflection or elaboration of some actual incident or thought the person had while awake
- A response to a person’s conscious desire to dream about something specific, such as the creative development of a storyline that a writer wishes to explore. When I am in the frame of mind of creating stories, I sometimes dream a story. Sometimes I am viewing it as an outsider, and sometimes I am participating in the story!
- A recollection of an intense or beautiful experience or ability from the person’s distant past – even a past he doesn’t know he has, such as past-life existences. Over my lifetime, I’ve had vivid dreams in which I had the ability to create in art forms I didn’t know in real life. I have vividly dreamed of singing improvisationally in an intensely beautiful, otherworldly manner; I’ve improvised beautiful music on the piano; I’ve danced in a medieval castle with such grace and power that I literally flew; I’ve felt love as a spirit in an amazingly intense manner never felt while awake. From all of these dreams I gained a new reality: a wonderful sense that, having had these dream abilities and experiences, I had the potential to experience these sensations and abilities for real.
- A perception of one’s own spiritual universe, or those of others. When a person sleeps, it’s possible that his/her abilities, normally limited to those of their body’s senses when awake, can expand unfettered. In such a state, we can be in someone else’s presence, and perhaps share the thoughts and images of their own mind/universe.
- A trip to another place as a spirit during sleep (out of body, or through viewing at a distance). A couple of times, with my body asleep, I have found myself inadvertently in someone’s private space where I shouldn’t have been (OK, someone’s bedroom!). In one instance, the person became aware of me and demanded to know what I was doing there! It sounded like they were yelling, though it had to be thought transference.) I hightailed it out of there and awoke in my own bedroom! I have also felt myself (as a separate awareness) floating distinctly above my sleeping body that was lying in the bed – a most wonderful sensation.
- A communication from another person to the sleeper via the thought wavelength, where the recipient receives the communication in thoughts and images during sleep. A type of this kind of dream is a lesson sent from a spiritually aware person or teacher to the sleeper, in moving, living images in the dream, such as in story form. Such experiences can be interactive, containing 2-way communication, with both the teacher and the recipient affecting and changing the images in the dream.
- A dream foretelling events in the future. I believe it is true that some people have the ability to foretell the future. But I am personally not interested in this ability, because I also believe we all have the ability, even if not always realized, to change and direct our futures in directions we determine. We need not fear the future, because it is ours to create.
- A symbol of some existing condition or omen of a future event in the dreamer’s awake life. Here we get to symbols – things in dreams that stand for or mean something else. For example, different cultures or groups may have traditional understandings about dreams and what they mean. These understandings, being widely agreed upon in the group, therefore do prove true among their members, even if untrue beyond that culture. An example is one group’s belief, told to me by one of its members, that if a woman dreams about fish, it means she is pregnant. She related several personal experiences in which that actually had occurred. Her comments were a revelation to me, because it showed that the nature of dreams varied widely from person to person and group to group, and may indeed be carried along with a person’s culture.
As you can see, dreams can be useful and revelatory. They can provide us clues to our own spiritual natures that might otherwise be difficult to experience on our own. All that said, I have realized something very important about this subject.
We shouldn’t let ourselves become too caught up in thinking about dreams, introverting into them or our own minds, and in trying to figure them out or assign meanings to them. We should always prefer the real world by doing our best to live a vital, full, rich existence in it, filled with actual communication, face-to-face with other people and facing the real environment around us. We should live and love in the real world. We should put away the smartphones whenever we can and develop interest in and relationships with the real people around us. Talk to those around you, person to person. It’s true in all areas of life – if you don’t use it, you start to lose it. Engage in live communication! Therein lie the real satisfactions and happiness of life.
All the best!
Read my illustrated novella, The Way of the Eagle: An Early California Journey of Awakening.