Monday, July 20, 2009

To sleep, perchance to dream

I felt the headache even before I was half-conscious this morning. It sat there heavily on my forehead, pressing darkly across the bridge of my nose. Two round, dull pain points marked the spot across the bones of my brows.

I'd been aware of the pressure while I was sleeping, and it made its way into my dreams. I'd dreamt I had a headache, and lo and behold, when I finally struggled into consciousness, there it was.

Did I create my own headache, dream it into existence? Or was it already there, and just picked up by my subconscious and worked into my dreamworld?

I've always had a very vivid dream-life. Sitting here today, I can still remember the recurring childhood dream I had about a pirate ship tossing about on heavy seas. And through my adolescence and twenties, even early-thirties, I had a recurring dream about my teeth falling out; and even now I can run the tip of my tongue over their sharp broken edges while the coppery blood fills my mouth.

I remember specific moments in dreams, like they actually happened. And particular words, or the way I felt. Sometimes I'll confuse a dream with real life, or start telling a friend a story, and realise actually I am opening a door to my subconscious and that this never really took place in the waking world. Or I'll see an object - house, dog, car, flower, painting - and it will give me a start, because I'll recognise it and realise I've seen it before in a dream. A situation will come up and I get the shiver of deja vue as it plays out just as it did in my sleep. I've had dreams that have come true.

And on occasion, I'll be doing something ordinary, like the ironing, or taking part in a discussion at work, and all of a sudden I'll become aware of a dream going on in the background, just beyond the horizon of my mind. Often it's a continuation of what I might have dreamt in the nights previously, and it just bobs up, like a koi breaking the surface of the lily pond, and crosses over into my conscious mind. That's a weird sensation, I can tell you.

I once had a dream about my then boyfriend, and we were just doing some stuff together, and when I woke up I otld him about it and he said Yep, I just had that dream too. And we confirmed it by checking little details with each other. That really opened the doors of my perception, to misquote Aldous Huxley. (An aside for all the other Jane Austen fans out there: did you know Aldous Huxley once wrote a screenplay adaption of Pride and Prejudice?)

I often fly in my dreams, and those are the moments I feel most powerful and capable - there was one about 9 years ago where I feel I finally articulated some kind of internal potential. I also breathe underwater quite regularly. Though for every power-filled vignette, there are an equal number of mundanities, like grocery shopping, or going for a walk, or having a meeting at work. But they're all rendered in crystal-clear detail ... like a high-resolution, super-movie-Imax-version of real life. Like acid.

I kept a dream diary for a number of years, because it felt as though everything that happened in my dreams was so vibrant, so real, so laden with symbolism, that it had to mean something for my actual, waking life. I love reading over it every now and again, because reading those dreams is like living them again.

And the point of all this musing about dreams? It comes down to this. If you ask me, I don't think we're here on this earth to do all the stuff we do while we're awake. Our jobs, relationships, homes - yes, even crafting - those are just superficialities wrapped around the real reason we're here.

People say we sleep to recharge, to process memories and emotions, and heal ourselves. It's when all kind of mysterious processes take place, not just in our bodies but in our minds, too. It's why sleep deprivation is a form of torture ... and I'm sure every new mum would agree with that view.

I say it's more than that. I think the best parts of our lives take place while we're asleep. Without sleep, what we feel is the pain of our souls screaming in anguish and dislocation, needing the balm that rest provides us, by guiding us back to the hearts of ourselves. All that other stuff is what we do to keep ourselves busy (and ok, alive and nourished and safe) in between the dream times. It's what fills up the hours before we can get back to bed.

Dreaming is where we live out our real and best lives. Where we reach the depths of our minds, and the heights of possibility that exist to us.

Dreaming, we are our true selves.

1 comment:

Gina said...

Felicity, you're a fascinating thinker. I enjoyed chewing through this post and trying to view the world through your perspective. I too am a vivid dreamer, always have been, and have had cycles of recurring dreams.
I must admit however that I am baffled by your view of sleep and dreaming as the ultimate reality. I want to unpick this perspective more, to try to understand it. For to me, viewing our physical, relational life as superficial, and our sleep and dream life as true reality, is a puzzling take on life. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the opposite! To believe that the hazy, lonely, introspective place that is our own dreaming-space is my real and best life is thoroughly jarring, thoroughly alien, thoroughly depressing.
If this is truly your perspective, why do you poor so much energy into the thousand things you do, so competently and beautifully, and the relationships you maintain?
Genuine questions. I love a mind that searches for truth, even when I can't understand its conclusions...