Looking for Zen: Why Writing the Dream Works

From "Osho Zen Tarot"

The dreams were there even before I opened my eyes. In this one I was lost (not an uncommon dream) and searching for a Japanese restaurant that I eat in from time to time in waking life, called Zen. I woke that morning in a hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, where I was staying while attending a 4-day intensive on dreams. I was one year into a dream certification process and I was remembering an average of 6-8 dreams a  night, plus recording all of them in my dream journal. So by this particular morning, I was, frankly, tired of writing them all down.

I considered skipping my morning ritual of dream recording, just this once, using as an excuse the luxurious fact of waking alone in a hotel room in a new city. I could use that half hour instead to take a bubble bath, go outside and explore the streets of South Carolina, turn on the TV and indulge in what would be a rare treat for me—a half hour of watching Good Morning America.

But out of habit, or in response to some kind of dreamer’s guilt, I opened my notebook, picked up the pen from the bed stand, and began to write the dream:

“I am lost and looking for Zen.”

As I inked the words I could hear them in my head, and in that moment I began to laugh out loud.

“I am lost and looking for Zen!”

The cough of laughter was part delight in my mind’s skillful punning, and part simple surprise and recognition. Yes, it was certainly true! I was lost and looking not for Zen Japanese Restaurant, which occupies space on Main Street in my hometown, but I was lost in busy-ness and to-do lists, appointments and projects.

“I’m lost and looking for Zen.” The dream headline announced the news of my day. I was in need of Zen. That is, I wanted clarity, emptiness, hours in which to stretch out on the sofa with a good book, reading and dozing.

If I hadn’t written the dream out, I would never have heard its crystalline wisdom. Nor would I have benefited from its message. The moment one knows they are lost, after all, they are already on the road to being found.

Why is it, I wondered, that writing is so often the magic ingredient that brings a dream from mystery to meaning? The concept makes no sense on first examination. The dream, after all, swims up from a subterranean sea; a primal yet highly evolved world indifferent, for the most part, to written language.

Sightless and wandering, our sleeping mind feels along the ground with its fingertips, reading the Braille of the embossed terrain of our very existence.

The pen touching paper is the needle of the sewing machine that stitches our shadow to the soles of our feet, so we might walk together with hidden selves. The pen makes visible the amnesiac cartography of the dream.

Writing the dream unifies us: Left brain, meet right brain. Amphibious mind, meet the executive logical, planning brain.

The writing hand swirls these states of consciousness together into the same orbit, and the wisdom of the dream is brought to consciousness. Now we can hear ourselves—as we hear our dreams speak.

That done, it’s time to listen and act. For me I had my marching orders: I needed to take a step toward Zen.

©Tzivia Gover 2011


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4 responses to “Looking for Zen: Why Writing the Dream Works

  1. well, sometimes our to do list is zen, especially when food is involved…. 😉
    love this piece of writing. meaningful!

  2. A famous Chinese poet/painter from ancient times said, to paraphrase, “Go for a walk and see what you see, experience what you experience. When you come home, go to sleep. On awakening, paint what you saw and experienced in your dreams.” I love the idea of letting reality filter through dreams before expressing it.

  3. Pingback: “Hold Fast to Your Dreams” … or … Indispensable (CV) | All the Snooze That's Fit to Print

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