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 is 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, 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’ve got out of bed, you think, then you notice your kitchen has a pile of old rouble in it and you wonder how that got there. Then you realise you’re still asleep. This can repeat itself several times until you really do waken. These are known as false awakenings, they’re a form of lucid dreaming really, and quite annoying.

Lucid dreaming is where you’re conscious that you’re dreaming while still in the dream. There are two distinct parts to lucid dreaming. The first is to prime your mind for a specific dream, you do this by impressing it very strongly on your mind before going to sleep. The second part is to know you’re in the dream when it happens. I admit this is harder because what usually happens is once we’re aware we’re dreaming we wake up!

Success rates for lucid dreaming have been patchy at best. This, in my opinion is not so much that it doesn’t work as that people aren’t shown how to do it properly. I’m not entirely convinced that night-time sleep is the best time for this. What you need for lucid dreaming is a light sleep, a kind of cat napping. A pre-dawn reverie or afternoon snooze is best. I find if I waken early in the morning and then relax back to sleep I get lucid dreams.

You don’t even have to be in bed. Try it in an easy chair sometime.

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. I did that recently and I was taken to a kindergarten for adults! Very interesting.

Another time I asked to be shown inside the mind of an animal. It was nothing like I imagined it would be. It is a place devoid of all language, and operating at a level of raw instinct I think most people would find quite unnerving. It was a good experience but I’m not going to make it important. Always ask your guides and they will help you. Just don’t make it important.

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’. Should you suffer from poor health you might see it as a sign to go to a spa. So, treat dream interpretation with caution. Above all avoid dream dictionaries or ‘one meaning fits all’ like the plague.

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 my aunt it’s obviously not her in my head. It’s entirely to do with me. It could be an issue I have with her, or something about relations in general. It’s just not her.

There may be a cryptic communication here too, perhaps I have a fear of being stung by “ants.”

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

The sensory world: an illusion?

We saw that the senses behave in the dream state as they do in the waking one. Or do they? This could be a mental trick? After all dreams are a form of memory. When you think about any dream you’ve had you’re doing so after the event. And it’s just possible you add the sensory elements when doing that. Let’s say you dream about having a cup of coffee. Upon waking, you remember the dream and then you remember the taste. You don’t actually have to have tasted it in the dream for this to work.

Which leads to a rather pertinent question. What is this ‘waking state’?

Is the difference between this one 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