Dreams – Part 1

Occasionally I have dreams that come true. Do you?

Here, I don’t mean in the sense of attaining some highly desired life goals, and that sort of thing (though that happens also!). I mean in the most simple and direct sense of having an actual dream at night, during sleep, an unexpected dream, containing specific people, places, and/or events unknown to you in “real life,” which then, later, in the waking state,—perhaps during the next day, perhaps much later in time, indeed many years later, as it may be,—identical, previously unknown persons, places, or events first viewed or experienced only in dreams, make an appearance in the “real world” of your waking life. Call it “pre-cognitive dreaming,” call it “dreaming true.”

Does this ever happen to you?

My teacher Maharishi* and I used to discuss this type of dreaming. He explained that having such dreams is a result of having a clear conscience, a “pure heart.” (I make no claim to possessing such an admirable character trait &/or condition to any unusual degree whatsoever!—I think I’m generally a fairly decent chap, & I hope folks mostly find me to be on the menschy side of “nice enough guy”, etc, but “uh saint ah ain’t !”)

Other, more ordinary, kinds of dreaming Maharishi assessed as almost always little more than a melange of more or less random images, feelings, and thoughts, stimulated by the release of stresses occurring as a result of some needed rest having been obtained during an earlier portion of the night’s sleep, or obtained even in the process of falling asleep.

Sometimes, he explained, the imagery and feelings in a dream are related to impressions stored in one’s memory of events or circumstances from the past associated with the overload to one’s system which had resulted in the stress originally having been incurred. But no matter how old the stress being released, dreams most often draw for their content primarily from impressions of events and circumstances merely from the day before the dream or from the past few days, mixed together into more or less seemingly realistic, or perhaps just as often surrealistic, “screenplay” narratives, themes, plots.

On the other hand, if we have a tendency toward episodes of significant precognitive and other intuitive insight during our waking life, we are very likely to have an equal or sometimes greater number of episodes of intuitive/precognitive insights conveyed in the form of dreams. “Sometimes greater” because, in the dream state some portion of our mind may be more open to receiving clear impressions of the future, or of subtle structures in the fabric of reality, etc.

There are other aspects to the nature, function, cause, and value of dreaming, of course. And Maharishi’s further teachings about dreams are precise, detailed, and fairly extensive. But in the larger context of his Vedic science teachings as a whole, dreams hold only a very minor importance. This is in part because, in the ancient Vedic tradition, and its developmental branches such as Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda, etc, it is understood that once an individual attains the basic “normal” condition of permanent, fully stabilized optimal neurophysiological functioning, he or she thereafter only rarely if ever experiences ordinary dreaming. If and when dreams do arise in the mind of such a Self-realized person, they do not overshadow that individual’s experience of pure consciousness as the boundless, blissful essential nature of the Self. Established in the experience of one’s true Self as pure consciousness, such a person is never thrown or drawn completely out of this innermost continuum of pure awareness.

My own dreams have always come in one or another of three semi-distinct modes or “styles.” In all three of these modes, I am aware throughout the duration of the dream that it is “only” a dream I am witnessing, a play & display taking place on the surface “mental screen,” of my consciousness, somewhat like a movie being viewed, rather than an “actual” “real life” “event” taking place in the waking state.

Nonetheless, once in a great while, mostly only in childhood, I have sometimes had a “nightmare” or somewhat more often a dream that simply began to turn somewhat unpleasant, perhaps unpleasantly boring. Usually in these circumstances, I will experience something equivalent to someone deciding they no longer wish to continue watching an unpleasant movie or tv show: one turns off the tv set or leaves the theatre. Whenever I’ve found a dream becoming noticeably unpleasant—more often unpleasantly boring than unpleasantly ugly or scary, I will find that just the awareness of this state of affairs is almost always enough to cause the dream to cease “playing”—puff, it’s gone. Or else I would find my awareness leaving the “scene” of the dream, rising to the surface of the mind, whereupon I would suddenly find myself more or less fully awake outwardly as well as still already awake at a deeper more inward level, and now aware also of my body and ordinary physical surroundings, etc.

In the first and least frequent of these three dream modes, it’s as if I am directly present on the movie set of the dream, an actor in the drama, as it were. Inwardly, I am witnessing the scene while also outwardly participating in the activity as it is taking place in the dream, however bizarre or mundane that “movie” scenario is. I’m aware that what I am experiencing is a dream, but I am also as if a theatre or movie actor, playing a role in the performance of this dream drama production. I am aware that the drama, and the character role I am playing in it, have “nothing to do” directly with my actual life  when not performing in this particular role. I am aware that the dream drama is a kind of fiction, played as if for entertainment. I am aware that it is not “real,” even if the character role I am temporarily portraying is that of my own “real life” self, perhaps only partly fictionalized, as if to make the drama more interesting!

Of the three varying dream modes I experience, it is this mode that has the most “immediate” sense of quasi-verisimilitude. Because the action of the dream is directly experienced as going on all around “me,” and I feel like I am “actually” there, acting in the scene, I feel compelled to react to whatever dream “business” and events are going down at the moment—even though I’m very aware it’s just a dream I’m acting in. And, simultaneously, in the back of my mind, as it were, there’s always that part of me that is simply silently, serenely observing my own thoughts and feelings and activities and whatever other dream actions are taking place around me in the dream play.

In the second style or mode, it’s very much as if I am viewing a mental movie, one that in a sense has already been filmed, rather than one being filmed live while I am performing on the set. In this mode, the sense of being simultaneously both in the dream activity & outside it is somewhat more distinct. In this experience, I am as if watching a movie in which I was one of the actors performing in the film and that mental screen image of myself as that actor is now appearing on the screen, actively portraying the character role of “myself,”–again, however fictionalized the dream play’s “action” and story-line may be.

In this type of dream, I will usually have some degree of vested interest in my representative character’s feelings and affairs being portrayed. I am always aware that the primary actor being viewed as if from a distance on my mental screen is “me” in my “dream actor mode,” playing the role of “me” as the main character in yet another dream drama. But at the same time, I’m witnessing his (my) screen actions and emotions and thoughts as if I’m also totally outside the “filmed” action I am viewing as if from somewhat of a remove.

I imagine it is somewhat like an actual actor-&-director who views the daily “rushes” of his filmed portrayal of himself as his own autobiographical character acting in a fictional feature about himself.  But in my case, as the dreamer viewing his own dream scenario, I don’t know in advance what the filmed action narrative/plot-line of the dream I am viewing will include. As the witness viewing this show, I haven’t read the script before hand, and don’t know what will happen.

However, it’s also as if the script is unknown to the primary figure I’m watching on my mental screen, the tiny dream-image actor-me, who is starring in this production in a role portraying a character who also represents “me.” This actor-me is engaged in an improvisational reaction to the events taking place within the dream. From the viewpoint of this superficial aspect of myself, represented by the figure of this actor in the dream, it’s typically as if the drama is more or less real and is actually happening in “real” time. This actor-me is often rather involved in his dream character role and in the various activities that entails. All the while, however, at the deep, innermost level, I am the non-involved observer of this dream action, observing the actor-me moving about engaged in his dream thoughts and feelings and activities.

Fairly often, it occurs to me–either as the actor in the action and/or as the outside observer–that I would like the current dream to take a different direction, perhaps change to a new location setting, or undergo a distinct shift in improved mood, or tone, etc. If this impulse arises the dream almost always instantly follows suit. But sometimes a little while later I will feel that I need to give in yet another prompt or nudge toward what I would like to see occur.  Usually by this point, I start to have a thought along the lines of “Oh, this is a silly waste of time–this is just dream nonsense, anyway. Why am I bothering? What a nuisance!” And the dream will most often then cease altogether, or else it will veer off into a more absorbing direction.

Occasionally the dream-actor aspect of me, although playing a character role in some dream, is not the lead character in that particular “movie.” In these cases, the dream that is being viewed is not particularly about that character (myself), and the screenplay, so to speak, is not a fictionalized autobiographical narrative or even a biography of some other character. It’s some other kind of story being acted out on my mental dream screen. My “actor self” in such cases remains a minor character portrayed in whatever story scenario is being presented. His/my role is not directly important to the story being performed in the dream.

In each of the types of dream experience described above, the “deeper me”, the larger part of my conscious awareness, witnesses the action, observes the small image of the more “superficial” actor/me appearing on the near-distant “dream screen” of my mind. To some extent, the deeper aspect of me who is not directly acting in the drama is seeing and feeling what this actor/character-me sees and feels. I know “his” thoughts as they occur in the dream. They are in a sense “my” thoughts and emotions, yet simultaneously, and at a more significant, “larger,” deeper level, there’s an awareness that I’m not “really” having those thoughts and feelings. Or any other thoughts or emotions, per se. At this deepest level, I’m simply observing the movie as it unfolds. At a less deep level I may or may not be having “my own” thoughts or feelings about what the actor-me is thinking, feeling, and doing, and about what is happening in the dream in general. At a less deep level yet, a more “outward” level, I am simultaneously aware of myself as the actor playing a character-role. The events happening in the dream are more “real” on this level. Yet all along, I know it’s only a dream being experienced on the mental screen of my larger, “non-embodied” self.

–Okay, I think I’ve explained these kinds of dreams about as well as I’m able to do.

In the third style or mode of my dream experience, there is simply a dream “movie” being viewed on my mental screen. As before, in my deeper, more basic mode of experience, I am simply viewing this drama, much as I would view any movie in real life, or even much as I would observe any situation taking place before me in real life. But in this case, there is no actor/character aspect of myself involved in the action whatsoever. It’s as if I am simply watching a move, so to speak, in which other actors/ characters may or may not come and go “on screen”; actions take place, but the story is not being “told” or acted out from the “standpoint” of any one particular  character in the dream.

The experience of viewing this sort of dream “movie” may be just as engaging, or just as boring, as my other kinds of dreams, depending on the action, or mood, or dialogue, or theme, or lighting, etc., but it has no autobiographical feature. It is more like the experience I have in real life of simply viewing an ordinary movie in which I do not play even a small character role as an actor, let alone a starring role.  It is also a little like “people-watching,” perhaps from a seat in a sidewalk café. There may or may not even be any dream people appearing in some of these dreams. In such cases, it’s somewhat like gazing out at a landscape vista from the near remove of a window-seat or while sitting in a meadow, something like that.

(Although in all of my dream experiences, there is no particular “location” to my observational vantage; I observe from a kind of non-directional or omni-directional, non-embodied “borderless spaciousness”,  “upon” which, or “before” which the holographic dream imagery appears, as if on the “surface” of my mind. )

In this third kind of dream, it is as if I am simply watching a mental “movie,” simply observing what is there on the dream screen, noticing what goes on, but there is no figure or character present on the screen who directly represents me. I am not as involved in what is happening on the screen. I may or may not find the scenes intriguing (and sometimes there is plenty of dramatic action and/or complex subplots to some of the narratives), but however enthralling it may be as a drama, it has “almost nothing to do with me, personally,” so to speak. It is simply a dream movie I’m engaged in watching as the sole audience member, so to speak, a seemingly non-embodied awareness observing a scenario appearing on my own mental “screen.”

My level of interest in these dreams in which I neither “star” as an actor-character figure, nor even play any active supporting character-role whatsoever, may range in intensity, but in these cases the dream play-and-display is simply something I observe, very much like a non-actor viewing a film on a theatre screen, tv, or computer screen, or what have you. I am not in the dream, the dream is not about me, I’m not “personally concerned” with or attached to any of the characters appearing in the dream (if indeed there are active characters), but I am observing the dream appearing on my mental screen and I am aware that it is a “only” a dream.

Sometimes these dreams in which I am completely absent from any actor-role within the drama are the most interesting and intriguing, sometimes they are the most boring. Sometimes, though nothing much may happens, they are incredibly soothing and uplifting–more atmospheric mood scene rather than action-drama. The content may be simply a landscape or even something like a painter’s still-life.

Indeed, sometimes the dream imagery content is simply that of a particular dream painting, or series of paintings–not actual historical or contemporary paintings known from real life, just “imaginary” dream paintings by an unknown artist…who I supposed would have to be me.      ….In terms of how beautiful and interesting I find these dream paintings to be, they are light-years ahead of any paintings I’ve created in the waking state, or even of most paintings I’ve ever seen by great artists.

Perhaps I should also say that I’ve always dreamed in color and in full spatial dimensionality. I can’t quite imagine what it must be like to dream “only in black-and-white.” Sometimes, though, there is a surreal sort of mood palette to certain dreams,–the lighting may be as if filtered through a scrim which causes everything to glow in one or more particular tone–as if the sunlight or moonlight was lightly but distinctly purple, for instance.

At this point it has been some years since I have had very many dreams of any sort that I remember upon waking. I assume I dream somewhat more frequently than I happen to recall afterwards, but when dreams have arisen and left conscious memories in recent time, they tend to contain elements of looking both forward and backward in time. There’s a sense in such dreams (not as a  visual component, but a sense) of time being a fabric, somewhat like a silk Chinese scroll painting, that can be rolled up or unrolled back and forth from either end….

And what are some of your dream “styles” like?

*“my teacher Maharishi”: The great Himalayan Vedic sage, His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (c1917-2008), founder of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Program. He restored the fullness of the ancient Vedic science of consciousness, making it available to the people of our age.

From my early youth and until his passing in 2008, I studied and trained directly with His Holiness as a personal initiate-student, a teacher-trainee, and later as a certified instructor of his program.

Below: In this four minute interview from 1965, Maharishi explains his method of Transcendental Meditation, which he first began teaching ten years earlier in 1955, following 13 years of study under his own master and another 3 years of silent solitary retreat.  He doesn’t mention dreaming in this video, but it’s a lovely four minute presentation!



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