Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Part 1 - Indigenous Dreamer
What a great question!
One that I plan to answer through two blog entries.
I recently read an article written by Dr. Peter Reznik (an expert on stress management) who said: “children start dreaming around the age of 3 years old.” I found the statement somewhat misleading especially since I remember quite vividly dreaming as early on as 6 months old. After having two children and empirically studying dreaming most of my life – I can vow without a shred of a doubt that children dream as early on as birth. Perhaps they can’t verbally share the dreams with us; but there’s no doubt they are dreaming. Like I’ve said in many other blog entries on the topic of dreaming: – Dreaming isn’t so much a trick of the mind as it is a cellular reality.
Dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, whales or dolphins as well as plants dream as well. I don’t know about insects; but if some Master Dreamers say that “even rivers and mountains dream” – why not butterflies? It’s amazing how even with our modern technology and all we can do with it – we still can’t quite understand the dreaming phenomena. Where scientists focus on the skill itself and how we go about using it, indigenous dreaming communities all over the World have been looking at it from a whole other perspective.
Why not allow the dreaming to tell us about dreams and the Dream Time?
Dr. P. Reznik in one of his articles mentions how the Sinoi people of Malaysia who based their whole life on dreaming managed to create a society with a complete “absence of violent crime, armed conflict, and mental / physical disease.”
Impressive. Why then spend so much time and energy as well as money these days on programs against violence and research for cancer for example, if really – all we would need to do is live according to the dreaming?
There’s no doubt my dreaming experience is very different then what most people have heard of in contemporary, Western circles. My approach in comparison to scientific perspectives “attends to the dreaming” rather then take for granted that it’s an “inborn apparatus like breathing and sleeping.” (quote Dr. Reznik) Basically, I communicate with the characters; participate in the stories; and bring them back to the waking where I continue to inter-relate with them.
Almost a 15 years ago while I was lecturing in Quebec City, a young woman in the crowd asked: “Where did you learn your dreaming skill and how did you find your teachers?”
Along with her question, the young woman shared a bit of her personal story. She explained how she had always been fascinated with dreaming and dreams. A psychologist, with a doctorate and thesis on Dreaming – she informed us how she had studied dreaming amongst some dreaming tribes in Africa. Incredibly eloquent, this middle age woman seemed quite interested on dreaming and its influence on social development and social behaviors. In many ways, I perceived her as an expert on the topic and yet, she made sure to tell me after the conference when I agreed to sit down and chat with her over tea – that her own “dreaming skills were mediocre at best.” She rarely remembered her dreams and seemed to be one of those pitiful seekers who “are doomed to watch from the outside and never get invited in.” From her perspective I was the expert because I had an intimate relationship with the dreaming realm.
“Honestly,” I remember telling her “I simply dream. I listen, I watch, I experience and I allow the dreaming itself to lead the way. Amazingly my dreams never lie or steer me wrong. If they don’t teach me what I need to learn, they bring me to the people, the places or the experiences I need.”
I have to say – meeting this woman and committing to a scholarly-relationship between us was an incredible moment in my journey. She arrived during a period of my life where I absolutely needed to know “there were others like me somewhere on the Planet.” She validated my experience: Legitimized it (so to speak). In exchange I showed her that she didn’t have to travel to Africa or Australia to find indigenous Dreamers, and that we weren’t necessarily a dying breed simply because sooner or later “primitive living” would be wiped off the globe. It’s incredible what you can find in your own backyard.
At the time, I was in my late 20’s and I hadn’t yet met the Master Dreamers (First Nation teachers, Medicine People) who would show up on my path six years later and change my personal story. What is interesting is that most of my dreaming education actually occurred before the age of 16 years old, the bulk of it happening in early childhood. Like most adult people (around the age of 25 years old) I sought to find a Teacher; but unfortunately, had way too many expectations as well as a restricting definition of the word. I still remember all those wasted hours in self-pity where I literally saw myself swimming unfairly, alone in the Dream Time.
In retrospect, I can’t help but chuckle at my own melodrama. I now see quite clearly the genius of the Dream Time: How the dreaming carefully guided me to the right people, right experiences, at the right time. I just had to develop the ability to listen, the courage to believe, and the faith to follow. Evidently, I was unconsciously growing as a Dreamer – slowing budding (as I like to say). Ironically, consciousness is like a flower. It needs particular conditions to emerge.
It was MT (a friend with similar abilities to mine) who said to me when I was 28 years old: “You confuse Teacher with Parent or Therapist. What you really want is for someone to confirm to you that what you are living is real and give you permission to explore it deeper. Maybe if you got rid of some of the insecurity and fear as well as some of that self-righteousness you’d find what you are truly looking for.”
I’ve always been the kind of person who needs a good slap every now and again. ☺
My dreams have always been incredibly lucid. I never had to work at it.
*I’m actually “wincing” as I’m saying this because I know how many “people hate it when I say this.” Nevertheless it’s true (for me).
I remember dreaming about this troupe of ballet dancers when I was 2 years old. My mom would put me down for a nap around 11:00 am. I would dose for close to 20 minutes and then, spend the rest of the hour interacting with the characters. I would dance in my room re-enacting the dream and soon, I would literally be seeing the characters in the dream as if they were dancing with me in the waking as well. My mom would sometimes surprise me and open the door. I would always behave as if she was catching me in the act. I repeated this behavior all through my life and still do it today.
It was because of these ballet dancing dreams as a toddler that I asked my mom for ballet dancing lessons when I was 6 years old. The classes never felt like the dreams and so I gave up on them until I was 18 years old and return to ballet. Dancing became a therapy for me when I was in College and University. I realized my inner 2 year old held the keys to my well being.
When I learnt about the Sinoi people or read about Black Elk I was trilled to read how they re-enacted their dreams just like me. It made so much sense to apply this technique in a community setting. I always searched to be part of such dreaming communities. Never found any and never thought the day would come where I would teach people how to build such circles and dream collectively. For me, it makes sense to consider the characters and scenarios or stories within our dreams as real because “they are” – they certainly have proven themselves to be all through my life.
For me, dreaming doesn’t only serve in self-discovery. It also gives me a heads up on what to expect tomorrow. For example, it’s been unusually warm in Montreal this past winter. Last week we were surprised with an early spring. With temperatures in the mid 20’s we were already seeing mosquitoes. On Wednesday I dreamt of snow. When I woke up the next morning I warned everyone to expect some snow. A cold front was heading our way. Tomorrow, we are told to take out our winter coats again and to get ready for a few centimeters of snow.
It may sound mundane and useless these days; but for our ancestors this kind of dream proved to be incredibly useful. It’s amazing the stories First Nation people have shared with me, in relationship to indigenous dreaming. EC often talked about her family members. She had a nephew who was a policeman and she was incredibly proud of him. One day he showed up at her house emotionally distracted by one of his dreams. He told EC how in his dream, he chased this thief through a park and caught him behind a bush filled with butterflies. The bush was so incredible.
He said: “He never saw such amazing colors.” Even the sound of the fluttering butterfly wings was unbelievably vivid. EC listened and asked her nephew if he recognized the park.
After a bit of searching the young man replied: “Yes!”
So EC suggested that he go for a walk and explore the park. A week later, EC’s nephew was in the newspaper. EC had cut out the article; framed it; and hung it on the wall. A local journalist told the story about how a policeman got lucky and caught a wanted criminal who was sleeping under a bush of butterflies. There was no mention of the dream in the actual newspaper account; but EC and her nephew knew it wasn’t about luck at all… The dreaming led him to where he needed to be.
There isn’t a day that goes by where dreaming doesn’t manifest an event, a character, a story, or a simple detail. Here’s a few examples:
• In February I had a dream where our dogs were attacked by ticks. Murfle was dying of Lyme disease. I decided to make an appointment to the vet and get both Bella and Murfle protected. The veterinarian told us that this year in particular it’s crucial to protect our pets against ticks. Our early spring is contributing to a higher rate of Lyme disease. Obviously my dream was doing a few things: Predicting an early spring; calling me to get informed on Lyme disease; and pushing me to get the dogs protected earlier than usual. Lyme disease is not something we see frequently in the Montreal region; but it’s slowly becoming more of an issue because of temperature changes.
• I broke my ankle in January and had surgery (a plate and six screws were inserted). Despite the accident I still saw myself walking in my dreams until mid-March. Suddenly I was struggling, or I was on crutches, until eventually, I saw myself in a wheel chair. I wondered why this was happening since I was doing really good with my physiotherapy. Then, this week my ankle became swollen and I felt excruciating pain in one particular spot. I learnt that a screw was moving out of place and that I possibly needed to have it taken out.
• We recently bought a new house. Community members are buying our home. In order for the deal to go through – two other houses had to be sold. IL’s house was becoming a challenge. After some inspection she was told her home needed important repairs. Everyone was stressing out. According to the facts – it was possible we wouldn’t be able to sell her home. Yet, in a dream – I was told quite categorically: “It will be sold by April.” So I transmitted the message. Out of nowhere a buyer popped up and we found out today IL’s house is sold.
In my next blog entry – I’ll show you how I work with dreams and why I think they are truly incredible tools.