I feel myself being gently pulled out of the dream, but I want to stay with it, enjoying its energy and trying to hold every detail: the island across the waves, the buildings on the rise above the sand dunes, the palms swaying in the wind. Is this the beach in Brazil where I'll be leading a workshop later this month? It is very like it.
I let the scene go and proceed to describe it to the women who were with me in the dream. One of them needs some counsel for a friend who is going through a painful life passage. The other wants to explore some marketing ideas we began to discuss in the beach dream.
I stretch, and open my eyes, and sit up in bed. I am now in a spacious, pleasant room where more than a dozen happy people are gathered around the walls. They seem to have been waiting for me to wake up. They are all students of mine, and all but two are women. I joke that it is my good fortune in life to go everywhere surrounded by beautiful women. We are in the midst of a retreat I am leading. Our laughter is interrupted by a matronly figure, the manager of the place, who comes through a door to my right I had not noticed before to remind us that checkout time is 12 noon.
Oh, very well. I go out through the door she used to get my stuff together. I go outside the house, and now seem to be in a different country. I overhear part of the conversation of friends
in that country and get a picture of a certain situation that may be useful. I leave them to it and go back inside the house. Funny, I can't seem to return to my room the way that I left it. The layout of this house is rather unusual. When I stepped outside, I was in another country. When I go back in, I am not where I was before.
I rose from this dream this morning, in my regular bed, in excellent spirits. I amused myself by counting the number of dream scenes that opened from each other here. There was (1) the scene on the wild beach (2) the scene where I am discussing this with the two women who were with me on the beach; (3) the bedroom with the party crowd; and (4) the outside scene where I listen to the conversation of people from yet another country, apparently in that country.
I smiled at a very familiar motif. Remembering a dream inside a dream is a common experience for me. So is telling a dream inside another dream. This sometimes triggers dream lucidity in the narrow sense of becoming aware that you are dreaming inside a dream. Sometimes it brings the ability to navigate and draw knowledge from multiple realities in whatever state of reality and consciousness we happen to be in.
Back in 1994, I dreamed that a sea eagle was wrestling with me on a beach for possession of the Australian hat I used to wear in those days. The struggle felt altogether physical. I reported the dream to a large audience in an auditorium at a conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams (ASD). Then I woke up in my bed, several months before that conference took place. The tussle with the sea eagle helped to prepare me for a very important life transition that was going to require my return to Australia. The scene where I told the dream, within a second dream, had more than entertainment value (though I never underrate that).
When I recorded the dream, I noted that I was speaking in an auditorium with chairs bolted to the floor in tilted rows under sterile lightning. This was quite the wrong environment for the workshop I had agreed to lead at the ASD conference, in which I planned to have people choose partners and journey together with the aid shamanic drumming. I called one of the ASD organizers and learned than the scheduled location for my workshop was identical to the auditorium in my dream. It was now time to tell the dream in which I was telling a dream to someone in the dream of waking life. By doing that, I was able to have my workshop venue changed to a dreamier space.
I opened an old journal at random to find another example of telling a dream inside a dream. I immediately came upon this report, recorded on November 17, 1995:
I am being piloted by an elderly professor in a small seaplane over a mountain range. As we dip low, over the reddish peaks, I remark that this reminds me of a dream in which I was flying in a similar plane over a cordillera, and how this kind of plane has always appealed to my sense of romance and adventure. We swoop low over a body of water. The sensations of flight and movement are wonderfully vivid. “This is like a dream!” I exclaim in delight.
It's like a dream because it is a dream. Like life.
It's like a dream because it is a dream. Like life.
To go through a succession of dreams-within-dreams may be to transit multiple levels of reality. It may be the innermost dream, accessed through many courtyards of outer dreams, that corresponds to the deepest level of reality. We talk of "false awakenings" when we dream we woke up, only to find later that we were still asleep in the physical world. This was my condition in the room of the happy dreamers in scene (3) last night. But wait a bit. Am I sure - are you sure - that getting up today was not a false awakening?
Image: Mystery Island seen from Praia Morro das Pedras (c) Robert Moss