Friday, May 22, 2009

Dreams get us through

I just did an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio in which the callers produced a fresh harvest of personal examples of how dreams help us to get through life.

A songwriter described how he has woken in the middle of the night with new songs playing in his mind. Sometimes they are complete, with words and music. Sometimes he has to work on them for a bit. He is in a long tradition of songwriters and composers who have plucked new pieces from their dreams. I was reminded on John Lennon's statement that "the best songs are the ones that come to you in the middle of the night and you have to get up and write them down so you can go back to sleep."

As we discussed diagnostic dreams, the host, Veronica Rueckert, recalled the case of a man who dreamed a rat was gnawing on his throat. Shaken by the dream, he sought medical assistance, and went from one physician to another until his throat cancer was detected and treatment began that he credited with saving his life.

David, an IT professional, recounted a situation in which his office was preparing to install a new system. The day before, his supervisor told him to go home and get some sleep. He took a nap and saw himself in a workaday situation. He saw and recognized the code he would be applying. Suddenly the screen in his dream went fuzzy and a voice said firmly, "NO. It should be like this." The code changed. When he went into the office the next day, he checked and found that the code they were working with was wrong. He made the necessary changes, as had been done in the dream. "Good thing you caught that," his supervisor told him. At this point, David explained that he had dreamed the correction. "Never heard of anything like that," the supervisor shook his head. "Maybe I should have my analysts do a lot more sleeping."

A woman caller spoke of a recurring dream theme whose full significance became clear to her only at the end of a long relationship. She dreamed again and again that her partner was missing. She couldn't find him or couldn't get through to him on the phone. Sometimes she felt he was hiding from her. By the time of the break-up, she had been compelled to recognize a long pattern of deception, and that in fundamental ways, her partner had been "missing" for much of the time they had been together. We discussed what is going on when a dream theme repeats over and over. I suggested that it's either because we need to get the message or because we need to take action on that message. We may have a notion what a recurring dream is about, but can't bring ourselves to do what is necessary - which would be very understandable if we dream our partner is missing. Like a helpful (and well-informed) friend who is looking out for us, the dream theme will come again and again until we do something about it.

At the end of the show, the host asked me to share a "big" dream of my own. How to pick one, out of so many? Yet I knew at once which dream I would tell, because earlier in the program - when asked to explain how dreaming can help to move us beyond hatred and war - I had quoted a phrase in the Mohawk Indian language. The phrase is tohsa sasa nikon'hren. It literally means, "Do not let your mind fall". We fall into Dark Times, in the traditional Mohawk cosmology, when we forget the higher world - the Earth-in-the-Sky - from which we come. Our ability to heal our enmities and grow as a life form depend on not-forgetting a higher source of wisdom and a higher order of reality. Dreaming is the main link between our ordinary minds and that higher spiritual plane, a way of not letting our minds fall.
So I told a watershed dream from my life some twenty years ago, in which I entered a space where a circle of people who lived very close to the earth were singing and drumming. I hestitated at the entrance of their longhouse, fearing I was intruding. But they welcomed me into a place they had waiting for me. At a certain point, I lay by the firepit, at the center of the circle. One by one, the dream people came to me. They took red-hot coals from the fire and placed them over my ears and my eyes, and on my tongue, and over my heart. They sang in their own language, which I could now understand: "We do this to open your ears, that you may hear clearly. We do this to open your eyes, that you may see clearly. We do this to open your mouth, so you will speak only truth. And we do this -" placing the coal over the heart "-so that henceforth you will speak and act only from the heart."
I did no analysis with that dream. Vitally energized, I jumped in my car and drove to a lake in a state park east of my home. I promised to the lake and the trees and the red-tailed hawk that came knifing through the clouds, "Henceforth I will speak and act only from the heart."
On the darkest days, a dream like this can be a hearthfire and a homing beacon. Charging us with the power of a deeper drama, inciting us not to let our minds fall - these may be the biggest ways that dreaming helps us through.


lee said...

Where is the art work from?

Robert Moss said...

This is one of my own dream pictures, one of a series of drawings I made from my dream of requickening - in which the dream people laid the coals over my eyes and ears, and in my mouth, and over my heart.

Nicola said...

Thankyou Robert for your dream story.
I really liked the art image especially the big friendly looking bear.

Carol said...

I love your dream picture with the curve of the bear presenting or maybe offering you with the heart, the intensity of the fire while the rest is softer and more in the service of THE FIRE. Such interesting and subtle shadings and movement, but the fire and the bear seem dominant. I'm feeling soft but powerful when I see this image. A willingness to recieve. As you might surmise, I love the visual arts and this one speaks to me.

Wanda Burch said...

We share so many examples of dreams getting us through, ranging from health related dreams to simple dreams of taking care of the day's business when we run into a snag. My son shares similar dreams, some appearing to be complicated such as one in which he saw himself rescuing his crew from a burning building by asking them to stay quiet and follow him through a long underground pipe. My son is in the Coast Guard and was caught at the time between warring crew chiefs. He recognized the importance of the dream in telling him to stay out of the personal conflict between the men and to make sure his staff did as well. He shared the dream with his staff and asked them to respond to no one but him regarding the volatile situation. All but one did as he asked. All but one remained unscathed in the aftermath.

These dreams, as you shared so beautifully, can be really simple as well. A neighbor was having a difficult time setting up her new Mac computer. She went to bed frustrated and thinking about the computer situation. She dreamed that she was in a car, having trouble with the driver and that she had to "load on" a new driver. She sat up straight out of the dream and realized there was a "driver" she had not "loaded." The computer was fine after she followed the advice shared with her in the dream.

Carol said...

One of my favorite dreams for getting me through, had to do with my daughter's wedding. I had a dream with various factions of ex's, in-laws, disenchanted family members vying for power. All were on various forms of horses, some Joan's of Arc, some in chariots, some on stallions. As I stood on the ground watching, an old, broken down Shetland pony emerged from the woods. She looked me straight in the eye and said, "Do not even think of climbing on my back." I knew I needed to keep my feet on the ground and not enter into the power games. This dream got me through a tricky, emotional time.

Robert Moss said...

Hi Carol - I love the simple and effective counsel of that old Shetland pony in your dream. I think I would have received and acted on the message exactly the same way in regard to the wedding of one of my own daughters, especially since her mother's family once raised miniature horses (Falabellas rather than Shetlands).

Wanda, I always so appreciate your accounts of your son - who I have long known to be a most gifted dreamer - brings practical guidance from the dreamworld into his very "manly" missions on the high seas. Real men are dreamers too!

Unknown said...

I woke late this morning and felt a panic about how I was going to get my son to school and myself to work on time. Then I remembered I was having a very long dream:

I am at a spa having a facial. In the dream I am saying I do not have time ( or money) for this. I am calmly told by the woman giving the facial, " Nonsense....relax and enjoy."

I realized I did, in fact, feel extraordinarelly well and refreshed. My son made it to school on time and I was just a few minutes late to work....big deal!

I feel grateful for the mini spa time and the helpers in my dreams that gifted me this.

Maybe tonight I shall get a tan on a beach in the south of France?

Robert Moss said...

Hey Susan - I love how you have figured out how to get all the benefits of a spa treatment without having to pay for it or even book an appointment. Now, getting an overnight tan on a beach in the south of France without having to pay for a plane ticket sounds like an even more delightful plan. I may just see you there :-)