In our current worldview, dreams are considered nonsensical and irrational. They don’t satisfy our requirements for “reality” and are judged as irrelevant to our daily lives. But in the view of many peoples throughout history, we’re dreaming all the time. Unaware that we might be dreaming, we call our dream “reality,” and in so doing, consign other states of awareness — the “realities” of primal peoples, the ecstatic journeys of shamans, the consciousness of the night — into the trash heap of the “unreal.” Regarding other perceptual possibilities as threatening or unimportant, leaves our own vision circumscribed, and makes us destructive and dangerous to all those whose consciousness roams outside our fenced-in yard of respectability.
In consensus reality — our daily dream — the elements of the world (the nouns of existence) are separate. I am myself, a tree is a tree, a stone is a stone. This disconnection is relatively permanent — it will be there tomorrow and the next day and the next — unless physical interactions intervene to change it. A stone can be broken, crushed into gravel, ground into sand. The tree can be cut into lumber, chipped into mulch, burned to ash. I can die, be eaten by worms, decompose into soil.
Dreaming awareness differs radically from this waking “reality.” In the dreamscape, everything changes constantly. We – the dreamers — can transform shape or appearance; have different points of view. Our perception could be local or non-local, our awareness not attached to or contained in “our body.” And the world shifts with us, as objects and scenes mutate, move, and morph along with every other part of the dream.
Like rivers, dreams are far more than nouns. They are activities, verbs, processes; and in this non-separated, non-dual awareness, we can be the dreamer, the dreamed, and the dream. To primal peoples, sages, shamans, and mystics, the fluid, mutually-defining and interacting relationship found in dreams represents another way to perceive and assemble the world. With its shape-shifting boundaries of inner and outer, you and me, self and world – it approximates the way the universe actually works far better than the static and separate “dream” people call reality in daily life.
With landscapes more than three-dimensional and horizons vast and infinite, the dream world possesses an ecology that’s deeper and richer than the circumscribed expanses of the day. Their panoramas are potentially as real — and in many ways more so — than the unchanging and soulless flatland of physical reality in which we moderns have become imprisoned. Dreaming encompasses a far larger, not a lesser, universe than the one we are used to.
Today, most people live in the smallest psychic space of any humans in history. They’ve lost connection to the great cycles of the seasons, sun, moon, and stars; find themselves unable to listen to or value the wisdom of their bodies, feelings, or imagination; and have become strangers to, or threatened by, alternative reality states and other modes of perception sought by people throughout the millennia. In many cultures, shamanic, mystical, and non-ordinary states were highly valued and sought for the wisdom, healing, and inspiration available there. And in these more soul-oriented cultures, methods for inducing dreaming — through plant medicines, fasting, ordeals, religious trance, etc. — were highly developed.
In the dreaming universe, the windows of the imagination are flung open. Images, associations, and possibilities refuse to stay in line. They proliferate, run wild, and overlap. Creation is present, palpable, happening now – it’s not just a historical event. In this world of great forces, the unknown dwarfs the known, and magic and mystery abound. The universe and landscape are alive; the possibilities are endless.
In the classrooms of science you study water in a test tube, but in the dream you can be the ocean itself. There, you must discover how to flow, dissolve, swim, and surrender, for if you stay in your head you might drown. And on this journey to explore, experience, and learn, curiosity and wonder will make far-better guides than facts.
In the world of dreaming, the self is multidimensional — a verb more than a noun, an act more than an “it.” Reality is alive — it senses, reacts, and responds — and “inner” and “outer” shift, mutually define, and weave through each other. It’s an oxymoron to “know oneself” as a separate entity when the separate self doesn’t exist. Within this field of possibilities and potentials – many currently undiscovered and unexplored — I will not “find myself” in isolation, for the world outside changes, catalyzes, and evokes in me things that have yet to come forth.
In this state of being, relationship becomes vital and important. Since all aspects are relative and existing in relationship to each other, the feeling of aloneness – chronic in modern life – has no basis. When everything is related, all the many forms of being become relatives. Reclaiming our innate capacity for dreaming and relaxing the rigid grip of consensus reality allows the universe to become re-enchanted as we become part of the family of life again.
Sparrow Hart — July 5, 2017
If you’re interested in a workshop that explores these multiple realities, click here.