When I was young, I had a recurring dream of being an acrobat under the big tent. I was always swinging upside down on the flying trapeze. I felt comfortable up there above the audience. The rhythm of movement was natural for me, like walking. Sometimes the momentum woke me, and I would wonder if I was in the circus in a past life because it felt so familiar to me. Eventually in my twenties I began to record my dreams in diaries. I’ve been writing my dreams every single morning for two decades in dozens of journals. The practice has become a great source of awakening to the mysteries of the universe, and the self.
When I talk to people about my dream work, they often dismiss the subject. Most people consider dreams to be nonsensical. This made me wonder when society decided dreams were not worthy of our attention.
The ancient Egyptians understood that in dreams, our eyes are opened. Their word for dream, rswt, is etymologically connected to the root meaning, “To be awake.” It was written with the symbol representing an open eye. Egyptians believed so fervently in the importance of dreams that they had actual dream schools with professional dream guides. These guides were called the Learned Ones of the Magic Library and they could help others who weren’t as confident in interpreting the symbolic language of dreams. They taught people how to incubate dreams and practice conscious dream travel which is when we become lucid, or awake, within a dream. They understood dreams to be sources of healing, both from an emotional perspective to a physical one, as their dreams sometimes revealed specific illness in the body. Dreams were also experienced as precognitive, which means they sometimes reveal future events, and therefore dictated the actions of military leaders who required dream interpreters to accompany them into battle.
If dream work was taken so seriously by the ancient Egyptians, when did people start rejecting their benefits? One theory is during the Middle Ages, when religious leaders told their parishioners that dreams were evil, and the devil put those tempting thoughts into their heads. Then came the advancements of science and technology which pretty much shut down most ideas that could not be proved. Dreams were considered just a result of anxiety or indigestion. But eventually Freud got on the scene and revolutionized the study of dreams through psychoanalysis in the late 19th century. His younger contemporary Carl Jung took dreams a step further and claimed that dreams were part of the collective unconscious inherited by our ancestors. This realm taps in to our higher consciousness, intuition, and spirituality. Jung believed a spiritual experience was essential to our well-being, and like our ancient ancestors, believed dreams connected our psyche (Greek for ‘soul’) to the Divine.
Dreams speak in the language of symbolic images. This is why many folks don’t know how to decipher their meaning upon waking. But when you think about it, everything in our lives is presented in symbolic language. All day long we read texts with alphabetic symbols representing words and ideas. We learned how to interpret street signs when we drive so as not to have accidents. We understand the image of a deer jumping, a curve in the road, or a colored light indicating ‘stop’ or ‘go.’ You have been taught to understand what the color red means. Would you dismiss that symbol and tempt fate by driving through a red light? No? So why dismiss a tiger chasing you in a dream while you are dressed in a tutu? Both the tiger and the tutu symbolize something your subconscious is trying to tell you.
Scientists have reported that some blind people have experienced visual dreams like sighted people and can draw the images upon waking. This may prove Jung’s theory of the ancestral collective unconscious where these visuals are stored in a universal memory bank. The oracles, shamans, and healers in human history have a great well of information stored there for our use.
We are all oneironauts capable of dream travel. Do not dismiss your dreams. If you do, you are denying yourself a visit to the magical library of ancient wisdom that can help you navigate this journey of transformation on earth. Dream like an ancient Egyptian. Begin to write down your dreams in a journal, recognize patterns, incubate ideas, see if you can become lucid, or aware, in the dream, and explore your unconscious to learn how to heal yourself.
SAVE THE DATE
In April of 2023, I will be hosting a retreat in Italy called ‘The Art of Dreaming in Tuscany.’ Artist Amy Lloyd and I will be teaching folks how to paint and write their dreams as we also explore olive farms, vineyards and art.