Q.I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing dreams from waking reality. I can fool myself into thinking I’m dreaming when I’m awake if I try. It’s kind of disconcerting and un-grounding, like reverse lucid dreaming. What can I do to strengthen the boundary between dreaming and waking?
A. Dear Boundary Issues,
Here’s what I’d like you to do: Take a walk outside today. Find yourself a collection of smooth, solid rocks, scoop them up and put them in your pockets.
No, I’m not being facetious, and I’m not speaking in metaphors. Go ahead, get outside. Select some pretty stones, smooth stones, stones that sit nicely in the palm of your hand—and pocket them. Let them help hold you on this earth.
This isn’t punishment or penance of any sort. I’ve prescribed this same therapy for myself from time to time. Now that you’re settled firmly on this sweet blue planet, let’s talk.
You see, Dear Boundary Issues, while I spend a great deal of my waking time and energy spreading the Good News about dreams: how we should pay more attention to them, honor them, talk and write about them … there are times when I know it is wisest to pull back a little and put our slippered feet solidly on the hardwood floor of waking reality, and honor time we have here, as well.
Dreams and waking are two ends of a continuum of consciousness. We slip in and out and between these states all the time, moving from focused problem-solving, to relaxed day-dreaming, to fantasizing, to going to sleep and having ordinary dreams, lucid dreams, and more. This is healthy and usually quite productive.
Skillful dreamers can slip in and out of various states of consciousness with relative ease. This can be a way to access hypnotic states, trance states, healing Shamanic journeys, and more. When done with intention, agility, and perhaps even a bit of training—this is a wonderful gift to have.
Then again, confusing wake life with dreaming can be a slippery slope to psychosis. Thinking you’re dreaming when you’re awake can lead to all kinds of problems, like deciding to fly off the ledge of tall buildings, for one.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to dance along the boundaries between states of consciousness as much as the next dreamer. And if you can move through dreams within dreams and delve into deep philosophical and metaphysical discourses about how all of life is a dream, and then suit up for work and navigate waking reality just fine, then no problem.
You might even choose to take advantage of having a thin boundary between sleep and waking states of consciousness. But if you do, take care. Such explorations require the balance—and ballast—of a rock solid sense of self. Check in with friends and a trusted therapist to see if you fit that bill. Then find yourself a salt-of-the earth spiritual teacher or guide who has her or his feet planted firmly on the ground, who has a clearly articulated ethical and moral framework for their spiritual work, and ask this person if you can study with them. Even then, keep in close contact with your trusted friends and counselors to get an honest assessment if you’re veering to far off into dangerous territory.
But first, let’s get back to those rocks that are weighting down your pockets. Let them be a reminder to mind the boundary between sleep and waking. Perhaps it’s time to start putting a little more emphasis on the latter. Give your dream journal a break. Drink plenty of water, chew your food slowly, and indulge your five senses.
Because here’s the bottom line, Dear Boundary Issues: Living in bodies is a unique and splendid limited-time offer. Even if we live to be 120, our time in skin suits is still a blink of the eye compared to the eternity our souls have to travel all the invisible realms. So while we’re here encased in flesh and bound by bones, enjoy all the perks. Gravity is a pretty cool phenomenon when you think of it … not to mention color, wind, rain, and skin to skin contact. Play with these earthly delights all you can. Don’t undervalue the eyes-wide-open opportunities presented by so-called ordinary reality.
And let me know how it goes.
Want to learn more about your dreams? Contact me to find out about upcoming dream groups in western Massachusetts, or individual dream sessions by phone, Skype, or in person.
Have a Dream Question? Send it along! I’d love to hear from you.