Q: How can dreams best be used to evolve one’s spiritual being?
A: Maybe it’s because I just got back from my weekly yoga class at the Y, but for some reason your question makes me think of downward facing dogs and backbends. Hang in there with me for a moment, Evolving, Dear. That’s not as random as it might at first sound.
You see, we’re supposed to do yoga to become enlightened, right? We know there’s gotta be deep wisdom scrawled in Sanskrit somewhere between all those forward folds and cobra poses. But face it. We also love yoga because it’s a great excuse to buy fabulous form-fitting flared-at-the-knee Capris and pretty little Spandex tops. (Or is that just me and some elephant-headed god is going to toss a bolt of lightning at me for my blasphemous remarks? No worries. I’m willing to risk it for you, Evolving One).
The point is that just as some yoginis (yes, I’m guilty as charged) can turn this deep spiritual practice into an excuse to get a little fashion-crazy, so with dreaming too it’s easy to get lost in the metaphorical bling of the exercise. For example, some dreamers–(yup, I’m guilty as charged once more), can get so caught up in amassing closets full of dream journals, or flaunting their lucid dreaming prowess–that they seem to forget what we’re doing dreamwork for anyway.
But, Evolving one, as you seem to suspect, dreams are about more than just consciousness aerobics. In fact, as much as I love showing off my knowledge of Greek mythology as I delve into a dream’s archetypes and allusions, the real reason I’m hooked on them is that in dreams I get to slip into state of being in which consciousness is as detached from my physical body as it can get without me breaking any laws or checking out for good.
Dreams are in fact a nightly invitation to a spiritual training ground that’s as rigorous and profound as any master yoga class. It’s up to us to accept the challenge and deepen our experience.
Let’s go back to the sticky mat for a moment. In yoga class the teacher cheerfully invites us to bend our bodies into seemingly impossible contortions. Then, in the face of our burning muscles and shrieking joints she offers breezy instructions like: “Notice your body’s resistance, bring your breath to that area, and simply soften and release.”
At first you think she’s some kind of saccharine sweet sadist, but you go ahead and do what she says and next thing you know you can touch your toes, arc up into a backbend, or sit in full lotus position.
Let’s apply this same instructions to dreams and watch our spirits evolve. Try it: When you find yourself face to face with a monster, an enemy, or a dream character you have nothing but scorn for … soften and release. Consider the possibility that perhaps the character who represents you in the dream is wrong, and that the toothless old woman or the axe-wielding wild man in your nightmare is right. Where can you soften your resistance to a dream scenario? Where can you release a habitual judgments or attitudes and open to new points of view? Apply this principle to even the most mundane dream and the results can be soul-shaking and supremely growthful.
For me, a terrifying dream of being chased by a band of killers while I sped past a student from my poetry class, literally woke me up to the fact that if I didn’t start honoring my inner artist, I’d be murdering a precious part of myself.
A client I recently worked with found that the repulsive man who stormed into her home in her dream was really asking her to accept her own imperfections and embrace a more laissez faire attitude, rather than clinging to her impossible-to-meet joy-crushing standards.
Look into your dream, find the point of conflict, then breathe, soften, and release.
Yeah, I know, that’s more difficult than enduring the burn of chair pose. Ever hear of growing pains? Uh huh. Spiritual and emotional growth is uncomfortable, too, but if you breathe into the discomfort you’ll find yourself becoming increasingly (spiritually) flexible. You’re softening your identification with your ego and starting to align with your deep, divine, core. You’re taking an evolved stance, Evolving One, which is expansive, nonjudgmental, curious, and joyful.
Downward facing dog, anyone?