My father used to entertain me with his two favorite stories. The first was about a man who dreamed every night that he was a butterfly. The vision was so real that when he woke up, he was not sure if he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he was a man.
The second was about an image that had fascinated him as a child. It was a Quaker oats box which had a drawing of a man holding a box of Quaker oats that, in turn, had the same drawing (but smaller) of a man holding a box of Quaker oats, etc. He would tell me that he would look at the image and wonder how far that image repeated. Where did it begin? Did it stop or go into infinity?
Our dreams are very much like these two favorite stories from my father. First of all, dreams are their own reality – while some may just be a rehash of events from our material, day to day life, others give us a flash of something more profound, more expansive, more intense than our so called “real life.”
Dreams encompass both infinity and zero, and all possibilities between. Some dream researchers contend that dreams are human’s last unexplored realm – we may have reached the moon and planets and the deep ocean depths, but we have yet to truly explore or understand our own dreams.
Some dreams can be great healers, provide guidance, help us create something new, answer questions. Many of the important discoveries and creations were birthed from dream visions. While you may be thinking primarily of the arts (where dreams often provide great inspiration), did you know that the sewing machine, the structure of the benzene molecule, the concept of nerves transmitting signals chemically, and the theory of relativity were all developed based upon information culled from dreams?
Indeed, many treasures and pearls of wisdom can be found encoded in our dreams. We humans have known this from our very beginnings. For all humans until the very recent onset of modernity, dreams were avidly shared with family, groups and communities. Around the breakfast table, under the stars, sitting by the fire, trying to decide actions – dreams were discussed and their messages explored since great wisdom was known to reside in the dream realm – portal to the sacred and the deep mystery.
In many indigenous cultures, the word used for their healer, their shapeshifter, their diviner means literally “one who dreams.” They recognize that learning how to work with dreams takes much learning, practice and skill and gives one great power.
A decade ago, I began to study dreams, prompted by the suggestion of a well-known Brazilian oral historian – Jose Carlos – who told me of his research on dreams of Brazilian migrants in the United States. When I asked him what he could learn from this dream research, he told me that you can learn so much. And he shared a story of how he had found out from a woman’s dream about a son she had had to disown because he was gay and had AIDS. “In dreams,” Jose Carlos told me, “you cannot hide anything.”
The more I have read and learned about dreams, including my own, the more it seems to me that some of the much needed healing for our culture and communities may lie in our dreams – in acknowledging our dreams, in sharing our dreams, in cherishing our dreams.
So many people I speak to about dreams say that they don’t remember their dreams, they rarely recall them, they never dream. This paucity of dream recall that reigns in so many of us is a sad part of our culture and lifestyle, and it has been called a “dream drought” by some dream researchers. This lack of attention and importance given to our dreams may even be a contributing factor to mental distress and even, perhaps, the near epidemic use of chemical substances to create altered states of mind.
In my next two columns, I will continue to share more about dreaming and its role in health and well-being. I am currently enrolled in a course by Robert Moss, one of the great dream facilitators and scholars. Let me finish this article with a few short quotes of his:
Dreaming is not fundamentally about what happens during sleep. It is about waking up.
Dreaming is the most common alternative state of consciousness among humans, and it does not require drugs or equipment. To get really good at it, however, requires practice, practice, practice.
Dreams are not on our case, they are on our side.
We need to take dreams more literally and waking life more symbolically.
Skye Stephenson, PhD, enjoys writing and sharing knowledge about the spiritual and
\]sacred uses of stones and crystals. She offers individual sessions and group workshops on crystal healing; she also has been involved in crystal layouts and sacred ceremonies for places in locations locally and globally. She is the author of several books as well as a crystal card set. Contact at: firstname.lastname@example.org