Dream Network 17(1): 34-36. 1998.
"How To Work With Unremembered Dreams"
We wake up from a dream with a strong feeling of having had important realizations. But we don't recall what they were. We come to consciousness in the morning, and lie awake in our own bed, with the sense that we have just arrived from another place than this, a different situation. But we are here now. Like someone getting out of water is wet, we arise from our bed awash with the redolence of that "other" and yet, as often as not, we don't even remember what that "other" was, where it was, what exactly it involved. We are, in short, bereft of the richness of just a moment ago.
That we had a dream, yes, and that it was powerful -- this much we know. Maybe a few particulars we can bring forth, even write down. But that's nothing. What was most important is gone. Or is it?
There's been much written and said about the content of dreams, how to work with it and how not to so as to arrive at the dream's meaning.
...As if the content is the dream. ...All we can work with. ...The only thing we have.
To awake remembering nothing except that there was this scintillating immersion in another deeper life is to be made aware of that other deeper life. We have another sense. We can see things inwardly. There is more to each small component of our living existence than we have imagined. In fact, most likely, what we settle for is the least part of reality. The kinds of relations we allow ourselves with people and with things are trivial compared to what is possible for us. The dream tells us this. Not this dream. Not that dream. But all dreams. Each and every one. The very fact of dreaming.
We can work with that.
We wake up with a dream we don't remember and we can work with that. Yes. We can get up and write down what comes. Yes. This is terribly important.
People tell me "I don't remember my dreams". I tell them to keep a pad of paper by the bed. They tell me "I do as you said but still, nothing comes."
They aren't writing on that pad of paper. Every morning there must be some kind of writing. It is a part of waking up. After all, what we are after is the awakening. What better tool do we have than what happens to us every morning. Every morning we wake up. Practice with this alone and everything else will come.
We may not remember the dream but we are the dream. There are feelings in our body. There are issues that have been activated. Memories from the previous day will rise to mind. There is the nagging sense, when a dream can't be remembered, of missing something. Something is missing from our lives. We don't exactly know what it is. To come to this realization itself is a terribly important thing. It's about as important as, say, a launching pad is for a rocket.
The dream, she is there watching us as we do this -- don't worry. The way we stroke our words onto the paper as we sit there over our first cup of coffee -- she sees this. Oh! Isn't she getting interested in what we're doing. Wouldn't she like to be a part of it. Not but what she wouldn't! It's only that she needs to find a way to come to us that doesn't do injustice to herself. It's our job to offer her that.
We do it by doing what we can with what we have. To the extent we do justice to what we have -- and we always have something -- we invite the dream. She will see what we are and what we are about. She will come.
You write like this in the morning, one day, two -- a week maybe, a month. It doesn't matter. And then one morning you're sitting there writing a dream. Working with the dream in the same way you worked with the non-dream. In the end it doesn't matter whether there is a dream or not. There always will be plenty of dreams. They will be there as needed. This is for sure. The important thing is to work with what you have. It more than suffices. If you don't remember anything and have no dream and can't think of anything to write about -- Perfect! Write!
You see, so often we run around in circles saying the same thing over and over. If we're not saying the same thing, we're saying the same kind of thing in a different way.
When that runs out, it's a blessing. We're free to set out in a fresh direction. We're free to begin anew.
In a similar way, we cling to certain types of dreams. We have them over and over and write them down again and again and work with them in the same way year after year, imagining we are making great progress. People who tell you they do this say it in a way as if revealing to you they are a superior person.
It's a blessing when all this stops for a period and the types of dreams we are having are so different from what we're used to that we hardly have a handle on them. In fact there is no convenient handle for us to grab with these types of dreams. There isn't that much of a bridge between them and us. They're in a different medium than we are. We'll grab for them but end up with empty water. The slippery fish is gone.
No, we have to make a nest for this different type of dream to come to us. And that's what we do by writing in the morning. We have to change our attitude. We can't catch this kind of fish if we persist in seeing ourselves, for example, in terms that don't really pertain to the kind of person we are. We might have to drop our habitual stance towards ourselves and look at ourselves in a different way.
What I don't have is my advantage. To discover my deficiency is to discover my gift. Not having what others have, I am free to go where they haven't. I am liberated to live in a way that they wouldn't. I am in a position to consider options unavailable to them. They get bogged down with a life I can walk right by. It doesn't pertain to me.
Yes, when we start seeing things in a way that is more real, then these other kinds of dreams come to us. There are countless ways in which we can and do see things wrong. There are countless opportunities to correct our erroneous stance by writing out of the unremembered dream. We never know what's going to come out or where it comes from but we immediately recognize the truth of it when it arrives on the page.
My burden is my opportunity. What weighs so heavily on me is my great gift.
Just because we've been running around in little circles our whole lives doesn't mean we have to keep doing this.
It's what I lack that determines my path and gives me freedom, not what I have. The reason I can do dreams so well is because I'm not committed to what others have committed themselves to. I've not invested myself so thoroughly in the values of success, money, position, power. I don't have so much to defend. I'm not trying to get anything. I have nothing to lose. I can tell the truth. I can see the truth.
We change our stance in important ways like this and then those other dreams, the ones that were so far away, will come and nest in our lap.
Many years ago a friend of mine went on a trip. She left her big white cat with me. It was a he-cat. He was quiet and distant and like a wild animal. He wanted nothing to do with me but took the apartment for himself, ignoring me. I left him alone. I stayed out of his way. I didn't try to forge with him any of the types of relationships I had had with other cats. I could see he wasn't like any other cat I had ever been around. I did my work. I was who I was. On the second or third morning I awoke with the feel of something soft and tender next to me. He had come and nestled in close to me during the night. He started purring when I pet him. He had decided he would be my friend. He had seen what my life was about and wanted to be a part of it. From then on, the two of us were inseparable.
This is the way it is with dreams. We need only be real. And then we will better fit their world -- especially the world of these far and special dreams. And then they will come to us, closer and closer, until they are in our every waking moment and the smallest molecule of our experience is full of the same immediacy. They're not to be dissected and particularized -- these dreams. They mean more than we could say anyway. They are almost of a sort that they can't be taken apart but must be met whole. We, the whole of ourself, must come forward to meet them, the whole of them as one piece. And when we can do this, then they give up their secret, like the cat and will be our friend.