There is an intimate connection between darkness and dreaming, and both of these essential elements and qualities of human life are woefully weak for many of us in modern-day life. In the hustle and bustle of doing and achieving; in the high techie-ness of our daily lives; in the many demands and expectations our society and we ourselves place upon the 24 hours of a day – many of us pack as much as we can into every moment. We do so at our own peril; at the risk of our own health and sanity.
Dreaming offer us the possibility to re-embrace our own nothingness and void, to allow ourselves to float effortlessly and without rational guidance for a while in that rich space of the dreamland – dark and ripe with soul promise.
As I wrote in my column last month, I have been taking an amazing dream course with one of the masters of dreaming – Robert Moss. As the once a week, on line course has developed, I am so grateful to the way this course has re-encouraged me to dwell a bit more in that dreaming place (both while asleep and while awake).
I will confess that at first I felt a bit guilty, like I wasn’t really doing what I should be doing in the mornings before I have to head off to work. You see, Robert has taught me that it is in that liminal realm right between sleeping and waking where some of our richest dreaming takes place. He has also reminded me that dreaming, like anything we humans do, takes discipline.
Lots of people tell me that they don’t recall their dreams. Some say they don’t dream (which is impossible, all humans dream according to dream researchers), others say they “don’t have time” to remember them because when they wake up, the dream images and impressions float away. Indeed, this often happens unless one cares about their dreams to spend a bit of time with the dream to anchor it in the realm of materiality. Writing a dream down is very helpful. Even if you don’t remember the entire dream – a fragment, a whiff, a single image, can contain so much. This simple practice, if done consistently and with intention over the course of several days and weeks, can help strengthen dream recall. It is also really fun and interesting to read back on your dreams later – it can be surprising how insightful they can be.
As interesting as actually remembering a dream is the feeling of that state of dreaminess. That space and place where we straddle being awake and asleep. I have been spending more time there. The last few weeks when I am barely awake, I have rested there, willing myself to relax into that state for a while. So instead of popping up fast, forcefully, and doing my morning meditations, I just stay in bed, but in a directed way.
This is a place of such creativity. In a way, it is another type of mindfulness meditation. As a writer, I long ago learned that whenever I was looking for inspiration and direction for my writing, the best strategy was to stop writing, stop thinking, and lie down in my bed in the darkness with an empty mind for a while. And the inspiration would always come to me like a flash of insight. As Robert Moss reminds us, we don’t just dream when we are asleep, we can actively dream while awake.
An unexpected outcome of my recent dreaming incubation has been that I notice improved physical health, including some chronic pains in my foot that have nearly disappeared. I have experienced other subtle and positive changes in my sense of well-being.
The other day I read an interesting article written by a psychiatrist from Australia that was part of a series about depression. This psychiatrist claimed that the chronic shortage so many of us are exhibiting in Vitamin D levels is not due to the lack of sunshine. In fact, he said that in Australia, with lots of sunshine, there is an epidemic of vitamin D shortage. He postulates that this is due to the lack of darkness in our lives. He points out that human beings until recently spent at least half their time (and sometimes more in the winter season) in near darkness. As a species, we are programmed to have that much time in darkness and our body needs it to regenerate itself and be healthy. The advent of electricity and, even more seriously, of LED screens is throwing our systems off, as people use these screens in the dark hours – sending strong light signals to our brains right at a time when we should be in darkness. This, he says, is causing our Vitamin D to get out of whack. It is also causing depression and other mental illness.
Linking dreams and darkness, perhaps spending a bit more time in the dream realm, in our own place of darkness and inspiration, may not only be interesting but also have some unexpected health benefits – even helping to stabilize our vitamin D and other vitamins in our bodies. It may also help to decrease depression.
Printed in the Monadnock Shopper – 2/10/2016