Say “dreaming” and people often think of the esoteric, something abstract, “woo-woo”, and “out-there”. In fact, dreaming is extremely tangible, practical, and right-now. If you want to change your life, dreaming is an important way of doing it. Here’s 5 reasons how and why.
1. Deciding to pay attention to your dreaming is deciding to pay attention to your Self. Making dreaming important is making your Self important. All too often we crush our desires and goals before they have a chance to materialize by simply dismissing our Selves. We feel we aren’t important, we aren’t good enough, we don’t deserve it. This perspective helps no one – it keeps in shadow what we can contribute to others and it stunts our own growth. Deciding to pay attention to our inner life, our dreaming, is a step toward Self-acceptance, validation, and moving out of the shadows and into the brightness of engagement.
2. Dreaming enhances your creativity. All of us are creative beings. All of us. Some of us choose to make a living from it, but all of us are imaginative at our cores. The question is not “Am I creative” but rather “What am I doing to block my creative expression”. All blocks are externally generated. They come in the form of belief systems we’ve picked up from others (“Your brother is the creative one in the family”; “There’s no market for that type of painting”; “Artists never make money”), or challenges that we let stop us from our past (“Every time I played the piano my dad said I wasn’t good enough”; “My second year art teacher said my painting was crap”; “I got five rejection letters from editors”). Taking on someone else’s fiction as our own truth means living a story; choosing to live our own life is to experience life script-free.
When we dream we release into the world of all possibility. The critical self, the old belief systems, the past challenges are no longer there to control the dream – they may show up as aspects of the dream waiting to be transformed, but they don’t stand at the gates preventing the flow of images and experiences that dreams provide. Simply the practice of releasing into that space of non-control, of simply experiencing images without goals attached, allows us to enter our waking creative relationship with the same open-minded, expanded perspective so that our creativity can flow freely.
3. Dreaming reveals patterns. Living someone else’s script inevitably leads to repetition. After all, that script was written a long time ago, and until we pick up our own pen there’s no fresh material and nothing to do but simply re-stage the same stale story again and again in different situations. The boyfriend that can never commit, the jobs that never come, the mother that always criticizes, the anger that always blows up every conversation. These are scripts. It’s hard to see them when we live them because they have real names attached to them – Bob, Intel, Sally, my lunch with Eric – and real moments in different locations that trick us into thinking they are unique. Dreaming succinctly takes the essence of the patterns and puts it in front of our faces as a movie theater so we can watch them with just enough remove that we get it, and just enough emotion that it is visceral and important to us. Once we get it, we can change it… but we have to see it first.
4. Dreaming provides solutions. Stories abound of famous inventors, writers, scientists, and more who have “discovered” solutions to their problems through dreams. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) dreamt his poem Kubla Khan precisely; Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894) taught himself to dream plots for his books and credited the idea of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to his processes; Einstein dreamed the Theory of Relativity; and physicist Niels Bohr (1885–1962) dreamed one image that led to his Nobel-Prize-winning Quantum Theory, to name but a very small few.
Beyond the famous, nearly everyone I have ever worked with has an experience to tell me where they once were stymied by an issue in their life only to go to bed and “magically wake up the next morning” with the answer – whether or not they remember the exact dream. One reason for this is that we step back from the problem and out of all the emotional entanglements of it by “sleeping on it” – often discovering what was there all along. Dreaming reveals new perspectives, which leads to inventions and discoveries. And dreaming is limitless – its possibilities are endless, and the very act of dreaming reminds us that we, and our imagination, are also. Simply allowing ourselves to be capable of finding solutions often leads to finding the solution.
5. Dreaming shows us our possibilities. We are our own biggest roadblock. So often we pigeon-hole ourselves into small definitions, uninspiring jobs, lackluster relationships, and the safe ways out. And often we do this because, over the years, we’ve forgotten what we are capable of, what inspired us as children, what pricked up our ears of curiosity. Dreaming reminds us of our essential Self, dropping in our laps a post-it note to not forget what makes life worth living. The banker continues to dream of playing the clarinet, the aging executive the household full of children, the recluse stepping on stage. Time moves swiftly, and if we don’t pause to reflect and re-route we will end up where we never meant to go. Dreaming shows us how to get back on track.
If you don’t have a dreaming practice, start one! It’s as easy as getting a notebook, putting it by your bed, and writing your dreams. And in the words of Dr. Seuss: “Oh the places you will go”!