Awake (& Alive) in the Dream

A dreamer’s reflections on ecology, activism, and becoming lucid

On Saturday night, during my stay at Rowe Conference Center for a weekend workshop to empower ecological activists led by Joanna Macy, I had what could be called a reverse lucid dream.

In a typical lucid dream, one becomes aware she is dreaming and can thus begin to exercise volition within the dream. In this case, during the dream I suddenly became aware that I was awake. The fact that I was, of course, incorrect, is not the point.

What is interesting however is that within the dream, when I (falsely) determined that I was awake, I had the same reaction I normally do when I’m dreaming and become lucid; I felt a rush of excitement and alertness. Whereas in a lucid dream I might announce joyously, “I’m dreaming, this is a dream!” In this case I called out in the dream, “I’m awake, I’m alive!”

Again, as in a lucid dream, each detail of the dreamscape, which I mistook in this case for my waking environment, took on a quality of ultra-real vitality. I stood at the foot of a staircase and in my newly awake and aware dream state I marveled at the grain of the wood on the steps below my feet, the gentle curve of the banister beneath my hand, and the rich hues of the carpets and walls. Most of all, I became acutely aware of the fact that I was present and experiencing all of this.

“I’m awake, I’m alive!” I exclaimed.

Waking that morning in a second floor bedroom of the farmhouse at Rowe Camp and Conference Center, where I’d been immersed in Macy’s program for environmental engagement in the face of devastating climate change, I realized the dream encapsulated perfectly the workshop’s message.

In this historical era of environmental plunder it is easy to slip into a communal dream and sleepwalk through our days, unconscious and disconnected, as all around us plant and animal species succumb to extinction.

But in the workshop with Macy, we were called to be present. Together we woke to the pain and suffering of our planet. We felt our frozen hearts melt into tears and laughter as we celebrated, mourned, danced, sang, played, told stories, and gave voice to each beautiful thing we would miss if climate disaster continues on its current course.

On the day of my dream, Macy led us through an exercise in which we took an imaginary voyage to the year 2214, some seven generations into the future, to hear from our distant progeny as they looked back on our time and wondered why we didn’t we do more—and how we managed to do as much as we did to protect the environment against the ravages of corporate greed. This exercise helped me feel how precious our existence truly is. Of all the people who ever lived on Earth, and all the generations who might come after us, we are the only ones here now to breathe air, drink water, and delight in the sunshine and breezes. We are the ones who carry life forward, and who can affect the quality of life that will be available to our heirs.

The dream gave me a new vision of lucidity, and Macy’s workshop renewed my motivation to carry it out. Yes, it’s exciting to wake within the dream—but it is even more so to wake within our lives: to feel the exquisite joy, pain, beauty, and fragility of our existence.

“I’m awake, I’m alive!”

These can be the watchwords of our ecological faith.

“I’m awake, I’m alive!”

These words can be a mantra keeps our spirits from drifting off to sleep as we confront the realities of our time.

“I’m awake, I’m alive!”

These syllables can shake us from our stupor.

Say it with me: “I’m awake. I’m alive.”

And so we begin to dream a new dream.


For another take on lucid dreaming, click here.

To learn about 350 Dreamers, a group that dreams together for global healing, click here.


Filed under Dream Life

3 responses to “Awake (& Alive) in the Dream

  1. Reblogged this on 350 Dreamers and commented:

    Sometimes it takes a dream to wake us up.

  2. Amazing how you become so alive in your dream, and the lessons for being awake in our lives!! Also sounds like a great experience at the workshop.
    Thanks for the encouragement to more fully acknowledge being awake and alive in this marvelous existence!!

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