Four Levels of Dreaming

We can look at dreams as speaking to us on four distinct levels simultaneously.  When we understand this we can begin to understand how we dream all the time – day and night.

The first level is the level of story, or pshat in Hebrew.  This is the level of “what happens”.  It is the linear version of what we’ve experienced.  Example: I went to the store, there I ran into my boss from work. We had a brief argument about a project.  I didn’t buy anything because I couldn’t find anything good enough to eat. Then I’m in my living room and my dad, who died last year, is there telling my little girl she isn’t doing her project good enough, but all she is doing is coloring in her coloring book!  She stops what she is doing and I wake up.

The next level is the level of pattern, or remes.  This is the level where we see what repeats in the dream – in other words, the patterns.  Patterns show us where we are stuck.  In the example above, having a conflict with an authoritative male is a pattern (the boss and then the father). More importantly, so is not finding anything good enough – the food isn’t good enough; the coloring isn’t good enough.

The third level is the level of the deeper meaning, or drash.  Here we begin to put the pieces together.  We explain what it is to have these patterns – how they are contextualized, how they affect us. In this level we step up to the vertical, to the new perspective. In our example:  My inner me has constantly stopped my own creating, my own ability to find what truly nourishes me, what makes me live, because of taking on the criticisms of my father that what I do is never good enough – of believing that I am never good enough.  This belief has led me to reproduce the relationship in my workplace, believing I am not good enough in the face of my boss.  Thus the pattern of “not good enough” is what is holding me back, keeping me stuck.

The fourth level is the level of mystery, or sod.  Here we step into the “what’s new”, having discovered both our pattern where we are stuck, as well as the deeper meaning behind it.  Sod asks: Now that we know this, where are we going to go with it?  How are we, and our life, going to change as a result?  In our example, the coloring in of my life is happening in my living room, and so is the pattern of stopping myself. The pattern is still living with me, even though the original seed of it (my dad) is no longer there. So what could happen if I let the dead be buried and return to my own living, my own room/space, my own coloring in whatever vibrant colors I choose to characterize my life?

These four levels of dreams can be applied to our waking lives.  We live a linear life.  We go to the store, we go to work, we stop at the gym, we come home and eat dinner.  But we also live a life of deeper meaning.  Within this linear string of events are experiences that can tell us about ourselves and invite us to grow if we look for it and allow them to prod us forward.  Along that linear string of events we are stuck by patterns. We also can find the way out.  If we take the time to look at our lives from these four levels, we can take a step up to the vertical and live a more conscious, directed life that will take us to a place of meaning, which is the place of mystery.

Here’s a challenge exercise: Take 10 minutes to write the anecdotes that spring to mind of one day, or one week.  Read them back to yourself as if they were a dream. What patterns do you see?  How do they play out? What deeper insights do they give you?  What way-out of the patterns do you see that you didn’t see before?

By the way, each of the first letters of the four names of the levels of dreaming – prds – make a new word: Garden.  As in Garden of Eden. When we take the time to work with our dreams, surmount our blocks, and move to the level of mystery – and when we apply this to our waking lives – we move to a place of the Garden – the place of creation and growth.

Feb, 03, 2016

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