Follow your dreams … No, really! (“On the Path”–A Corner View* post)

IMG_1892Some people say, “Follow your dreams,” and they are just parroting some expression they heard. But when I say it, I mean it! My dreams have led me to jobs, to relationships, and right up the path to the front door of my new home when I was looking for a place to live five years ago!
IMG_1911

I believe that dreams, especially persistent, memorable, or unusual ones, are trying to get our attention. It’s as though a deep and timeless part of ourselves, the wise self that lives within each of us, is speaking to us through stories and scenes.

Each dream can act as a steppingstone, leading us along our soul’s path. Some dreams will beckon us to take a turn in an unexpected direction, others will offer course corrections if we’re wandering astray, or affirmation when we’re on the right path.

IMG_2840Like the best friend who will tell you if you have spinach stuck between your teeth, or a label sticking out on the back of your shirt—dreams won’t let you fool yourself into thinking you’re doing better than you really are. But, they’ll also never criticize without offering constructive help in the form of images, puns, or stories that point us toward our strengths and sources of sustenance and support.

Our job is to pay attention to our dreams; to listen to them with an attitude of curiosity and nonjudgmental consideration. Over time you will learn to decipher their messages and meaning; you’ll start to understand our own dream language, and thus have new channels of information, wisdom, healing, and guidance available to you.

Have you followed a dream lately? Tell us where it led you!

*Corner View* is a weekly appointment – each Wednesday, where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme. This week’s theme is “Path”.  

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Your Brain on Dreams

Deficient, or just plain different?

Throughout history, dreams have alternately been hailed as messages from the gods and dismissed as random hallucinations. But rather than place dreaming on a mystical pedestal, or look at dreaming as a deficient form of consciousness, let’s instead look at dreaming as an alternative form of consciousness and a different way of thinking.

Your brain on dreams

Sure, equating dreams with thinking might seem at first to make dreams less interesting or less meaningful. But I believe that understanding the brain basis for dreaming makes them all the more intriguing and significant.

After all, knowing the science of how the heart works, and the biochemistry of oxytocin which is released when we embrace another person, or even when we pet a dog or cat, doesn’t make love any less desirable, mysterious, or spiritually significant, does it?

guy w teddy bear

Likewise, understanding a bit about the brain science of dreaming will deepen your connection to your dreams.

The logic behind those illogical dreams

For example, ever wonder why dreams seem to operate in their own world of crazy logic? Well that’s because at least two important regions, the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the precuneus, are de-activated during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the period when most dreaming takes place. This makes it difficult to fully exercise short-term memory when we dream, both within the dream and upon awakening. Thus you might dream your college professor is dancing with your deceased mother, even though the two of them never met in waking life. This also helps to explain why it’s difficult to recall dreams on waking. Making decisions or directing our will is likewise difficult while dreaming because of these changes in brain activity during sleep.

The dreaming brain is highly active and operating with a different chemical makeup that gives it a distinct array of abilities as compared with the waking mind. But a lot remains the same, too. Thoughts, attitudes, memories, and feelings result from brain activity when awake. When dreaming the same is true—just with altered brain activity. If we see these alterations as imperfections, or evidence that the brain is simply firing on too few cylinders, it is easy to dismiss dream content and write it off.

If, on the other hand, we accept dreaming as a different but valuable form of consciousness, there is much to learn, wonder at and explore.


Adapted from Consciousness in dreamsKahn D1Gover T. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20870068

Freud v JungCatching up on my reading, I came across this in The Sunday New York Times Magazine’s story, “Tell it About Your Mother: Can brain-scanning help save Freudian psychoanalysis,” by Casey Schwartz:

“Throughout Freud’s writings… again and again [Mark Solms, neuropsychologist and Freud scholar] said that he was eagerly looking forward to the day when it would be possible to reunite his observations from the psychological perspective with the neuroscientific ones.”

The day has come! This is an exciting time to be exploring dreams and the unconscious, taking advantage of what we know from science, psychology, and mysticism.

Read the full article, reflect and enjoy.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Strike a (Dream) Pose

The Yoga of Dreams

In Yoga, postures are physical poses that we practice for improved health and over all well-being.

Dreamwork, too is a practice to help us improve our health and well being. Bringing conscious awareness to our dreams means paying attention to how we go to sleep, what we dream, how we wake up, and how we respond to our dreams in our waking lives.

Posture refers not only to how we carry our body, but the word posture also refers to a spiritual attitude. In that sense, conscious dreaming is also about posture—in the sense that it’s about the position we take toward sleep and dreaming. In particular, it is a mindful approach to entering dreams in order to align with our true self and our divine aspirations.

In dreamwork we pay attention to our dreams to further our commitment to self-study and self-reflection. As a result we develop more mental flexibility, clarity, and ease.

What is your current posture—or attitude—toward your dreams? Do you believe your dreams can assist your spiritual development? Can you stretch your mind to have a more open and nonjudgmental attitude toward dreams and dreaming?

Learn more about how to develop A Mindful & Yogic way to sleep, dream, and live better at these upcoming workshops:

Weds. May 27 at VegaYoga in Holyoke, Mass.

and November 12-15 at Sivananda Ashram and Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Guru at the Door

In the wide-awake world of constant connectivity and 24-7 access to entertainment and information, we tend to treat our dreams as if they were flotsam and jetsam, washed up by some mysterious tide, and we carelessly rinse them away with our morning shower.

But if instead we welcome those dreams with curiosity and a smile, we just might find that they can serve as welcomed companions—even wise gurus—that can support and sustain us throughout the day.

dream guru

zzZZzz

Open the door to your dreams: The first step to developing a healthy relationship to your dreams is to pay attention to them. Today, tell your dreams to someone, or write them down. When you let your dreams know you are listening to them, they’ll respond with images and stories that will support and sustain you throughout your day.

 ZZzzZZ

Learn to develop A Mindful Way to Sleep, Dream, and Live Better at one of these upcoming workshops:

Weds. May 27 Dreamasana at VegaYoga in Holyoke, Mass.

November 12-15, The Yoga of Dreams at Sivananda Ashram and Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Long Time Gone (& back again)

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to post here. Those of you who know me know there’s been a lot going on in my waking life (almost as much as in my prolific dream life!).

But before I tell you how glad I am to be back, I’d like to put in a word for silence – or the space between words; the lacuna between one thought and the next; the dreamless sleep that hammocks us between bursts of dream.

The beautiful spring flowers that we’ve been enjoying in these past weeks remind me that the snow covered winter landscape was in fact incubating vibrant dreams of color and beauty all through those gray, icy months. In the deep darkness of silent sleep, untold wonders are sending forth shoots that we will soon see blossom.

And so, this time between blog posts has been an opportunity for me to regroup and reflect on what it is I most want to share with you about dreams.

And here it is: I want to help you see the benefits that being fluent in your own dream language can afford to you.

I’d also like to help you begin to see dreams as not just something that happens to you when you close your eyes and go to sleep—but instead, I want to help you recognize that dreaming is a state of consciousness that you can enter into and engage in mindfully, and as such, that it can help to support and sustain your intentions for integrating body, mind, and spirit in a healthy and holistic way.

In the coming days and weeks I will share some posts with you about how to make dreamwork a part of your life, in the same way that a yoga or meditation can be woven into the fabric of your daily routine.

In the meantime, it’s good to be back.

IMG_5098

Welcome back, dreamer: Have you been a long time gone from your dreams? Let your dreams know that you want to rekindle your relationship with them: Place a notebook beside your bed, and write down your intention to remember your dreams tonight.

 

ZZzzZZzzZZ

Enjoy a musical interlude with the Dixie Chicks as you peruse these posts: Long Time Gone.

ZZzzZZzzZZ

Learn to develop A Mindful Way to Sleep, Dream, and Live Better at one of these upcoming workshops:

Weds. May 27 Dreamasana at VegaYoga in Holyoke, Mass.

November 12-15, The Yoga of Dreams at Sivananda Ashram and Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Q&A: Help! I Can’t move!

Ryan Hurd, today’s guest blogger and expert on Sleep Paralysis, sheds light on a sometimes-frightening sleep phenomenon

Q: What if any relationship exists between sleep paralysis, which I’ve experienced when I was 15-40 years old, and dream states?

A: Sleep paralysis is deeply tied to dreaming. In fact, the easiest way to think about sleep paralysis is dreaming with your eyes open, while also experiencing the muscle paralysis that comes with dreaming sleep. Body asleep, mind awake.

Most of the time, sleep paralysis (SP) is a harmless symptom that occurs when the brain does not shift its neurochemical gears all at once. For most, SP comes when sleep is disrupted and we are stressed, bodily and mentally. In these cases, SP can be managed by attending to personal sleep health as well as stress management. However, for thousands of others, SP is not so gentle, and is a symptom of a larger health issue such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea, as well as other health conditions that rob the body of healthy sleep. In these cases, SP is treated clinically to manage the symptoms, although there is no cure.Sleep-paralysis-book-cover-300

The feelings of paralysis, which can also feel like a weight on the chest or throat, generally last less than a minute or two. Dreamers say, “I feel like someone is holding me down!” The paralysis is actually a normal part of REM sleep, which we experience every night unawares. With the big skeletal muscles offline, the sleeper is free to engage in the energetic REM state without fear of acting out a dream, so as not to be a danger to self or sleep partners. But during SP, the sleeper can feel not only the paralysis but is also well aware what is happening, giving the episode a strangely lucid feel that some people say is “realer than real.” Others are adamant, “It was not a dream. I was awake!”

Beyond Paralysis: Fear and the Stranger in the Room

The defensiveness of being awake and aware is probably due to the more unusual qualities of SP that are not really hinted at in the bland medical term.  Many feel terrible and heightened fear, sometimes strong enough to be labeled death anxiety. Others detect a “sensed presence” or stranger in the room, the uncanny feeling that they are not only alone, but being watched keenly by an evil presence. This aspect of SP is no doubt the root of hundreds of ghost stories and folklore.

About 20% of sufferers of SP experience not only the awareness of the paralysis and mental clarity and the fear, but also strange dream-like visions, known as hypnagogic hallucinations. This is where SP really begins to sound more like a vision state than a dream. The hallucination generally is a person, or perhaps I should say an entity, as the personage can be an animal hybrid, an ethereal spirit, or a pale and thin toothed alien other. The paralysed dreamer sees the entity standing over them, and may also watch helplessly as the entity holds them down. The occurrences can get violent, and in fact often are sexually violent.

In Medieval times, the entity was known as the incubus—a male demon that sought out unsuspecting female dreamers. Men were similarly visited by a succubus, who could be alluring but may morph into a terrible form during the sexual act.  Dozens of “supernatural assault” traditions are known around the world today. In the West, sleep paralysis symptoms can be seen in alien abduction lore. What is unclear today is how common are sexual hallucinations that come with sleep paralysis, and indeed, how many of them are nightmarish compared with more pleasurable experiences.

On the Bright Side

In my studies, I have been surprised to discover that there are also completely positive accounts of sleep paralysis-related visitations, including ancestral visits, deceased loved ones, sexually healing encounters, as well as contact with positive healing figures such as angels and medicine men.

By affirming that one is safe within the sleep paralysis encounter, and with an attitude of curiosity and courage, many dreamers have found sleep paralysis to be a portal to several other extraordinary states of awareness, such as mystical guided journeys, lucid dreaming, and out-of-body experiences.

Personally, I have had both the positive and the negative encounters, and sometimes, even after all these years, I get frightened and must resort to ejecting myself from the encounter. At least, I figure, I can try again, as it seems I another encounter with the creatures of sleep paralysis is just around the corner.

For more on this topic, check out my book on the topic: Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night.

About the author:ryan-hurd-headshot

Ryan Hurd is editor of DreamStudies.org, a website dedicated to sleep, dreams and consciousness studies. He is also the curator of Dream Studies Press, where he has published several ebooks and showcases other interesting dream-related products. Ryan lectures internationally, and teaches at the Rhine Education Center. He is also a current board member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, and a member of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Crazy Good: Dreaming of Mom

I had a crazy dream the other night.

I dreamed my mother called me on the phone and we were laughing and talking.

Which might not sound so strange to you. After all, people dream of all kinds of crazy things—like flying through the tree tops, or showing up in high school English wearing nothing but their slippers, or kissing the president of the United StatesIMG_5102.

But this was a crazy dream—because my mother has Alzheimer’s disease and aphasia, and it has been years since she’s known how to dial a phone. Plus, her speech is reduced to just a handful of one-syllable words, and more often than not, even those don’t make any sense.

In the dream, however, I was able to ask my mother questions and best of all, she was able to answer me. We haven’t had a conversation like that in a very long time.

I woke up happy and full of energy

A Freudian might say this had been a wish fulfillment dream. Others would say it was just random neuronal firings—no meaning.

But to me, after seven years of standing by as this disease slowly takes my mother from me, the dream was like a refund. A repayment of funds owed to a dissatisfied customer. It’s a golden coin I slip into my pocket and rub against my thumb anytime I need to be reminded: I still have something precious. Something that shines. Something to hold onto.

So when I say I had a crazy dream the other night, I mean it. For me, that dream was crazy good. It allowed me to remember the cadence of my mother’s voice. It allowed me to experience something I can’t experience when I’m awake.

 ZzZzzZZzz

What kind of crazy dreams have you had lately? Share them with us in the comments section of this post!

 ZzZzzZZzz

If you have dreams of your mother…or if you’re a mother who dreams…join me for a workshop on Mothers and Daughters Dreaming at the SOUND center in Newtown Connecticut on Sunday, May 3.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized