The Dreaming Mind:
[part 2]

Are we dreaming the world around us?

In part 1, the dreaming mind, we looked at the architecture of our dreams. We saw there were many parallels between the dream world and reality, including sensory experience. We also noted a few idiosyncrasies peculiar only to the dream state, such as the absence of logic, people changing form, negation of time and space.

And then we asked is the waking state that substantially different from the dreaming one? Is it merely another false awakening (like when you think you’ve woken but you’re still asleep)? How could you tell the difference? There is no way. Our dreams, when we’re in them, are just as real as the waking state.

Picture this . . .

If you’ve ever dreamt of being naked in Harrods, or of a monster chasing you down a dark lane wasn’t that pretty real at the time? The amazing thing here is something that was unreal had the power to hurt you, embarrass you, when it was happening.

I believe this world is a form of dreaming, however, in the moment we are experiencing it, and only in this moment, it is real for us.

Ancient wisdom would seem to lend credence to this notion that the world is but a dream writ large. Certain Vedic texts, Buddhist sutras, and Biblical scriptures speak of the world as something impermanent, ephemeral, even duplicitous. Qualities that mark an illusory or dreamlike state rather than a realised one.

And another thing

Everything we experience in some way depends on our senses. And whether dreaming or awake these are shaky at the best of times. For example, objects you see in front of you are particles of light travelling through the pupil to the retina at the back of the eye, and then via the optic nerve to the brain. Now the weird bit is the brain interprets this information as what it thinks it is. That’s why people see things differently.

Neither is the material world constructed in the way you think. Take a look at the chair you’re sitting on. What appears to be solid is a swirling sea of atoms and molecules held together by attraction. Now science is able to look inside the atom today and the amazing thing is the atom is about 99.9 percent empty. Yes, everything is pretty much made of nothing.

Enter the realists

But hold on, if you think you can just dismiss the world with a contemptuous shrug and live in some Wu-Wu land, think again. Einstein said, ‘reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one’ (my italics). And there is profound truth in those words. Quantum physics and ancient wisdom may teach us that the world is a kind of mirage but this does not make it go away. Neither does our wishing.

A hot stove burns.

A part of us always wants to change what is, but what’s happening now is happening now.

It’s like illness

When we’re sick we want to get better. And that’s natural. But we can’t push sickness away or pretend it’s not happening. We have to deal with what’s there now. If you’ve got toothache that’s real in the moment. But it’s not who you are.

Or art

We can admire a painting or piece of sculpture, appreciate its aesthetic qualities without mistaking it for reality. It’s there but it’s not there. We understand this in our mind without even having to think about it. We never think to step into La Cometa with Goya and try to catch the kite. That would be ridiculous. In art we allow ourselves to play.

Now, how many people do you think make this connection with the world around them? Very few I’d say.

If, like 99 percent of the world, you decide that what’s in front of you is all there is, then you’re paying too much deference to the world of empty atoms, and you’re getting sucked into it.

This is what I call getting lost in the world.

On the other hand, if you see a man running towards you waving a very large axe, to do nothing and say ‘I’m only dreaming this, it’s not real’ is, well, stupid.

This is what I call getting lost in your mind.

To argue this world is real because one ‘knows’ it, or feels it to be so, is merely to re-employ sensory evidence. To argue that it’s not there is to delude oneself. This is a metaphysical conumdrum that’s been going on since the beginning of time.

But it’s not a problem. It’s because of our minds that we're experiencing what appears to be reality all around us. Now, there is another reality beyond this, but we will never get to it by fighting what is.

Let’s look at this from a different angle. When there’s a major problem in our lives, something that’s worrying us a lot, we do either one of two things. We worry about it incessantly, I mean sleepless nights and all that. Or we ignore it and hope it will go away.

Emotions: another road block and another illusion?

Let’s now look at how this works with emotions. Remember they exist in both dreaming state and waking state. Take anger. You think your best friend betrayed you and momentarily you feel rage towards them. Then you discover you were wrong and a state of love is restored. Was the anger ever real? Yes and no. It was real for a time, but when a greater truth was realised its reality was no more. It vanished in a puff of smoke. The love that you had for your friend was the greater truth here. It was masked for a time but it never really went away.

Or say you have a fear of the dark. A common fear. What is this thing called ‘dark’? Does it have substance? No. Can it be weighed or measured? No. Is it real in itself? No. As soon as a light is switched on it vanishes completely. There isn’t a struggle between light and darkness with light winning. The darkness simply was not there in the first place, it never existed. Therefore it’s gone.

Now, can you stumble in this thing called dark that never existed? Yes, very definitely, in fact if you’re at a cliff edge you could fall to your death. Because you’re experiencing ‘dark’ in that moment.

Likewise with the world, it seems real only because you’re experiencing it.

Our false awakening

So, if, as it seems, we are in another form of dream, the big question is how do we wake up?

Well, perhaps there is a parallel with normal sleep. This ends when it runs its course, or with the aid of an alarm clock. And in the waking state I suppose death is the alarm clock. The clarion call to end all dreams.

But what if there’s another way?

Well, remember lucid dreaming? Is there a version of this for the waking dream?

As it happens there is. It’s called awareness. When we become aware in our dream we can change the course of it. Likewise with life. Awareness is the state of living consciously, without offering undue resistance to life. In this state we honour life, we savour every sweet moment of it. But we don’t buy into it. All the while a part of us is standing in the shadows, in half amusement, thinking
a-ha this is not actually happening.

By the way this is not a new phenomenon. It’s known as being in the world but not of it.

To dismiss the world as ‘mere illusion’ is to run the risk of invalidating your experiences. These, very often, are the stepping stones that lead to enlightenment. There’s a reason why right now you’re in a body, and appear to be separate from the totality of all things. You have something to learn or you wouldn’t be here. So go ahead and honour that. Play in it. Have fun with it.

Just don’t get lost in it.

Pt. 1. The Dreaming Mind: the sensory world in your dreams.

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


Reality is merely an illusion - albeit a persistent one.

Albert Einstein