On Dreams, Wholeness and the Wisdom of our Sleeping-Selves

When I was very young, I had a recurring dream about sharks. In this dream, I was standing on a very high bridge, and below me in the water I could see sharks swimming, circling. The sharks knew I was up there, and they were waiting for me. One night, the sharks started jumping out of the water. At first they jumped a few inches, barely making a splash. My bridge was very high, but I couldn’t walk away. I was stuck there, watching the sharks jump, and each night they jumped higher, and higher. As they jumped, I could see their teeth, and the deep red of their mouths, and each night they got closer and closer. The last dream I remember, they were inches from my face, and I knew that the next night, they would eat me.

This dream created an intense phobia of bridges in my waking life. I’ve mostly gotten over it (living in a city that is divided by a river, one must), but when I was younger crossing any bridge would send me into a muscle clenching, hard pounding, absolute panic of terror. My little brother loved to exploit this fear, and I have a vivid memory of a road trip to visit an Aunt in Virginia that involved crossing a 20-something mile long bridge. My brother and my family thought this phobia was hilarious, but to me it was very, very real. I still get the old fear, on occasion, if I am crossing an unfamiliar bridge that is very high and narrow.

My dreams have always been this real to me. They have always been vivid, and full of emotion. I remember a nightmare I had when I couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old in which I was riding in the school bus, and there was a giant earthquake, and the land all around us started to fall away, leaving only hot magma, until the school bus stood on a tiny sliver of land and I knew that next we would fall into the lava and be burned to death, like that terrible scene from Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. I still can’t watch that scene. I remember a dream when I was a teenager, and in love for the first time, and part of a very close-knit group of friends. I dreamt that we were all in a house, and we’d been shot, and we were dying and we knew it, and we had the night to say goodbye to each other. Just the other night I dreamt that my ex-husband and all of his cousins were trapped when a highway tunnel collapsed, and myself and another cousin managed to dig them out, alive, but my ex-husband’s head had been crushed by a falling rock. In the dream I was in hysterics, and I woke up crying.

My dreams have often felt mystical. I’ve had lucid dreams. I’ve had prophetic dreams, in which I dreamt something (always something simple and apparently meaningless) and the next day it came true. I only have one person close to me that has ever died, but I’ve dreamt of him many times, and in these dreams we’ve often had conversations about his death, as if I am actually talking to him from the other side. I’ve dreamt about the gods, and about ancestors of my spiritual tradition, and in these dreams I’ve felt that I was being guided and instructed. I guess it is an easier medium for them, since it bypasses the talking, logical day-mind that immediately tries to rationalize everything that happens.

I’ve always felt extremely grateful for my dream life. It truly feels like another life, one that is more magical and fantastic than I can experience with my physical body, though no less real. In my dreams there has been learning, healing, pleasure, joy, confrontation, sorrow, love, and reunion. I know that this dream-life is not something everyone needs or would appreciate, but I always feel a little bit sorry for people who tell me they don’t remember their dreams.

I’ve been writing a lot about my childhood the past few weeks, and a lot of dark and sad things have been coming up. It is nothing new to me, and while I am pleased to finally be able to write and process these things, I am tired of trying to deal with the things that happened to me. I’ve been trying to deal for a long time. I’ve specifically been wondering if trying to communicate with the person that was a primary cause of this trauma would be useful at all. She’s been out of my life for a long time and I really want to keep her that way.

And then last night, I dreamt of my childhood tormentor. In the dream, I was the age I am now, 31, and she was the age she was when I was a child – late 20’s. We sat on the front porch of a house, somewhere in the South, and talked. She was always very funny, and charming, and in the dream it came back to me how often I enjoyed her company. In the dream I was angry, and I demanded that she tell me why she’d done the things she’d done. She’d laughed, and with the wisdom of a dream-person – partly her 27-year-old self, but with the wisdom of divinity coming through to talk to ME there, in the dream – had told me that she had done the things she’d done because she hadn’t known any better, or hadn’t had the tools to be any better, and therefore, even though it is hard to acknowledge this, she’d done the best she could. We talked some more, about childhood things, and I found a deep hunger to be close to her and through allowing myself to be close to her, to have connection to my childhood again. To remember the good parts, of living in the South, of being a child, of being raised by her, even. We laughed and told stories and sat there, two women, drinking beers with our bare feet up on the porch railing, in short shorts, both of us funny, and quick-witted, and sarcastic and bright and alive. I remembered that she was all of those things, and I had wanted to be like her in all of those things – and now I find that I am. She turned and asked me how my life is now, and I told her about writing, about starting an astrology practice, about being a witch, about my dog, about my struggles to understand love and relationships, about finding peace and happiness, about my hopes and dreams. She listened, and commiserated, and laughed, and told me she was proud of me. And then we continued to sit, there on the porch, together, as the dream faded out.

I woke up and felt as if the dream had actually happened. I mean that, in my body, where it counts, the dream DID happen. I feel more resolved and at peace about the things that happened in my past than I ever have. I feel understanding and empathy towards her, and to my surprise I feel an affinity and connection with her that I didn’t realize I needed.

In a workshop this past weekend on Nonviolent Communication, my teacher said off-hand, as we were getting ready for a practice exercise, that sometimes when you bring a real-life conflict to a practice session, you are able to work things out for yourself in such a way that you don’t need to have the confrontation with the actual person. I found the truth in this last night. I give thanks again, as I always have, to my dream-life, and to my subconscious  and to the parts of my spirit that long for wholeness, and know better what I need to get there than my waking self ever will.

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