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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pillow Cases and Dreams

A recent gift of a handmade pillow case has me thinking about dreams.  I track and journal my dreams; have done so for years.

Dreams are elusive unless I consciously work at retaining them upon waking.
Within moments of awakening from a dream, our memory for its plot is wiped out, presumably to avoid contaminating autobiographical memory with bizarre confabulation.
(Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works)

If I write about and examine my dreams, this “wiping out” effect lessens.  With paper and pen beside the bed, upon waking I write quickly to retain much of what the dream offers.  This might seem like mere intense navel-gazing, but dream work helps me with issues or decisions with which I am struggling.  Often, I go to sleep with unanswered questions and unresolved dilemmas only to awaken with fresh answers or solutions.

Sometimes my dreams warn me of impending troubles.  I don’t always understand the message nor clearly interpret my dreams, yet, years of working on my dreams have provided me with an enhanced sense of their meaning and of my own dream symbols.  It becomes easier to distinguish between the day’s conglomeration of regurgitated detritus and dreams that send messages.

Startling dreams, night terrors and nightmares often signal that my sub-conscious mind is trying to grab the focused attention of my conscious mind.  Those dreams are hard work!  Often they are vivid, emotionally tangible mini-movies of surreal and mythical proportions, literally waking me to communicate.

Last April, one such dream turned out to be a precursor to a life-threatening illness.  Hindsight is wisdom!  I now know that this particular dream with its intensely startling imagery, repetitive stark choices and heightened sense of danger was a warning of a near-death experience to come within a few days.

Later, as I lay in the Emergency Department clearly facing the choice of leaving or staying in this lifetime, vague images of that recent dream flitted though my dulled consciousness.  The ethereal images from my earlier dream were there with me, vivid, shocking, familiar.  I faded in and out of consciousness through several days of intensive care.  Only after I was home recuperating did I re-read my dream journal, learning how my prescient dream and my illness were connected.

A hard lesson, but a useful one.  If I dream like that again, I may recognize that health issues and serious life choices are imminent.

This lovely handcrafted pillow case is a warm and welcome gift; it reminds me also of the necessity, wisdom and reward of paying attention to dreams.

When people dream, their body stays in the bed but some other part of them is up and about in the world.  The soul and the body also part company in the trance brought on by an illness or a hallucinogen. … But how does it [modern science] do at explaining the sentient self that dreams, imagines, and directs the body?
(Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works)

Interesting question.

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