The Dreaming Mind:
[part 1]

the sensory world in your dreams

Dreams. A subject that has intrigued civilisation for years. What do you think of them? Do you think they contain messages from your subconscious, predictions of the future? Or have you given the subject much thought at all? Everybody dreams, scientists assure us, even those who claim not to, or don’t remember them. Dreams occur predominantly, although not exclusively, during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. We know this because movement can be detected beneath the eyelids.

So what exactly are dreams?

Let’s examine what happens when we dream.

Dreams are largely visual, as we know, but sound plays a big factor too. The driving modalities are sensory and emotive. Tactile sensations are definitely present. I recall feeling piercing cold tiles on my bare feet while dreaming (I wasn’t sleep walking!) Olfactory sensation is not so clear (for me anyway), same with the taste buds. Were you ever dreaming that you’re really thirsty, so you down several glasses of something cold only for it to do nothing for you? For some reason things don’t seem to taste quite right in the dream world.

Another weird thing is reading while dreaming. Words just get all jumbled up or won’t appear for you. It’s really annoying, especially if it’s an important letter, or a ‘secret message’ you’ve come upon. I think this is to do with the prefrontal cortex being relaxed. But in general the dreaming state largely resembles the waking one.

When it comes to emotions they are firing exactly as when we’re awake. In the dream state we experience happiness, excitement, disappointment, even guilt. We can make love, get mad with someone, and of course feel confusion. That’s a common one.

And who hasn’t had a nightmare?

As a small child I used have a recurring nightmare that I was about to be sliced in two with a large saw-like object (this is either a birth memory or one of dying in a previous life). Fear seems to be a predominant emotion in dreams. Perhaps it’s a way we have of working out stuff that we prefer not to look at in the waking state.

To sleep . . . . . perchance

Time and space don’t operate as normal either. You can be talking to someone familiar only they’re in someone else’s body, know what I mean? It’s as if the essence of the person, not what form they choose to assume is what’s important. Or there’s someone you know really well, then upon awaking you realise you never met them. Maybe someone from a past life, or an alternative universe, who knows?

A common one for many people is to dream of being naked. You’re in the middle of a large shopping mall full of people and you suddenly realise you’re wearing no clothes. You’re wondering how the hell that happened, and trying to figure how you’ll get home without anyone noticing. Some say this is to do with lacking confidence in some area of your life. I think it’s more to do with wanting to be seen, to be out there, but not giving yourself permission.

False awakenings – lucid dreaming

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you think you’re awake but you’re still dreaming? You get out of bed and notice a pile of old rouble in the corner and wonder how that got there. Then you realise you’re still asleep. This can happen several times until you really do waken.

It's known as a false awakening, or a form of lucid dreaming.  

Lucid dreaming is the state of being conscious that you’re dreaming while still in the dream. Can we deliberately create a lucid dream? Some claim we can but results have been more miss than hit. You flood your mind with what you want to dream about before going to sleep, and then, hopefully you'll dream about this event while being conscious you're dreaming. 

I find the best way to do this is to set your clock for 6am, get up and wash your face, and then go back to bed and start thinking about the dream you wish to have. You'll get to sleep quickly at this hour.

Lucid dreaming is not as mysterious as some make it out. Just be patient. You’re unlikely to have success the first time you try it. It’s good to engage your guides or higher self when doing this work. Ask them to show you something specific, or to take you on a journey of learning and exploration (and to keep you safe if you wish).

Do dreams have a meaning?

Of course, but remember, as in any other area of life, the meaning they have is the meaning you bring to them. And you do this in the waking state. Say you’re having financial problems and you dream about a waterfall, upon waking you may interpret that (with a positive outlook) as a great outpouring of riches coming your way. Alternatively, you could see it as ‘you drowning or being overwhelmed’.

So, treat dream interpretation with caution. Above all avoid dream dictionaries or ‘one meaning fits all’ interpretations.

Some claim to have precognitive dreams, both at a personal level as well as predicting world events. Others have gleaned artistic insights from dreams. For example, the creature that we know as Frankenstein came to author Mary Shelley in a dream. Also the man who invented the sewing machine apparently got the idea from a dream where he was surrounded by bobbing swords.

Dreams have always interested psychoanalysts. Freud believed they were unconscious outpourings of suppressed material, largely of a sexual nature. Jung, on the other hand, saw them more as disowned projections of ourselves, which he called ‘the shadow’.

Transpersonal psychology would take the view that dreams are the self, separated, and looking at itself through the form of another person, animal or object. I am more inclined to go along with this interpretation. After all if I dream of some person it’s entirely to do with me (they're not in my head!). 

However, I’m less interested in dream analysis than taking this in another direction altogether.

The sensory world: an illusion?

All this talk about dreams and dreaming raises a very important question that too often gets overlooked. Which is: what exactly is the ‘waking state’?

Is the difference between the waking state and the sleeping one merely a matter of perception?

Remember your worst nightmare? You thought you were going to die. And in the dream it was just as real as “real life.”

Isn’t that so?

And then you woke. You stepped into another reality.

‘Phew! glad that was only a dream’.

How do you know, this ‘other reality’, like the false awakening, isn’t just another dream?


[ We will explore this juicy little conundrum in part 2 here ]

Return from the dreaming mind to home page.

There is a voice that doesn’t use words - listen!


Reality is merely an illusion - albeit a persistent one.

Albert Einstein