Last night I led an advanced training for a circle of students in a spacious room with arched windows overlooking an old European city. The room and the students were familiar to me from other dreams but not from regular life. The training was successful. We had to take special care with a woman consumed by grief; a mothering nurse in the group was very helpful. Another of the women students sought private time with me to talk about her relations with the beings she called "pixies"; she proved to be a walking folktale. I came back from the dream with the sense of virtue that comes when you have completed a challenging task before other people have started their day. I also felt a bit jet-lagged as if I had just flown back in Europe. I rested in bed for an hour before walking the dog.
Dreams are social as well as individual, transpersonal as well as personal. They may be entirely real experiences in other orders of reality. I have no doubt that I led that group in an alternate reality. I am curious to see whether some or all of it plays out in ordinary reality. If that starts to happen, I will be on the lookout for the woman in grief and the pixillated lady.
Some psychologists might call last night's dream "compensation", in the sense that in dreams we may live parts of life we have been denied or have denied ourselves in the physical world. So the ascetic (as in a famous Théophile Gautier story) is a lecherous Don Juan in his dreams, or the invalid is climbing the Himalayas. Before the pandemic, I was traveling seven months out of twelve, leading workshops all over the world map. Since March last year, I have not been to Europe or boarded a plane to any destination. So I might accept the idea that leading that in-person training in Europe is "compensation". However, my dream is "compensation" in more than the sense of fantasy. I am quite sure I was in that space, doing that work, helping students with their issues, listening deeply to their stories. It is a workaday dream. Since I love the kind of teaching I do, having to work at it as the price of a dream getaway is a price I am happy to pay.
We lead many lives in our dreams, and we miss so much if we fail to notice this vital aspect of dreaming. People are forever asking me about the "message" a dream may have for them, or the meaning of a symbol. I find myself responding, again and again, that while a dream may indeed hold a message, it is first and last an experience playing out in another reality. We want to ask questions like Who, What, Where, When? And then: Can this play out in the future in physical reality? Is it part of a continuining life I am leading somewhere else? Is it complete in itself or is there something I now need to do, perhaps to bring a gift or a lesson from another life into this one?
Photo of Prague rooftops by RM