Understanding Life Through Dreams
By Linda Tang, Owner/Creative Director of Dream Designs
Last night I watched the movie Kubo with my kids. It’s a brilliant animation film that’s also quite scary. After the movie, the kids went to bed. My six-year-old son fell asleep right away, but in ten minutes he woke up crying because he had a nightmare about the monsters in the movie. I held him tightly and told him that movies weren’t real. He fell asleep soon after and slept through the night peacefully.
Dreams provide us with honest feedback about our state of mind. Although the monsters in my son’s dream aren’t real, his fear is. When he is scared and anxious he gets nightmares right away. Dreams are also accessible and free. Everyone dreams every day. Dreams are abundant. Unlike expensive therapy, no one has to pay for their dreams.
Although dreams are abundant and free, they are far from worthless. The fact that we all dream proves the existence of a spiritual dimension to our beings. Many people choose not to think of or talk about their dreams. They may feel it's a waste of time or they do not have anyone to share this intimate experience with. Over time their dreams reduce to nothing but meaningless free entertainment. It is very unfortunate because they are missing out on important life lessons dreams can bring.
Dreams are not always clear and straightforward. The human mind works in complicated ways. In wake times we navigate complex situations, taking consideration of long lists of pros and cons. At times we choose to lie, cheat, and commit acts against our better judgment. Dreams, on the other hand, are honest. When things don’t sit right, strange dreams show up to tell us that.
In my family we like to ask each other every morning, “how did you sleep?” and “did you have any dreams?” Sometimes there’s not much to talk about, other times there are quite a bit with lots of colorful details.
While much is still unknown, scientific research in recent decades has yielded substantial advancement into the understanding of dreams. We spend 10% of our lives dreaming. On average we have 3-6 dreams every night, even though we can’t recall most of them. When we dream our brains are very active processing and rearranging information, solving problems, and producing mini-dramas in our heads known as dreams.
Dreams, especially the ones that we remember, are incredibly valuable. They are honest reflections of what goes on inside and simply too important to ignore. Pay attention to them, be curious about them, and analyze them can help us acquire understanding about ourselves. What to do with your dreams is a deeply personal choice. Shamans, priests, fortune tellers, and psychologists have all claimed authority on dream interpretation. Their input may be helpful, but the ultimate responsibility of dream interpretation should lie with each individual. Nowadays a quick internet search will produce many results on the meaning of what appears in dreams. These online dream dictionaries are typically compiled based on accumulated knowledge across time and cultures and are a good starting point to get to know the characters in your dreams.
Learning about the components of dreams are important, but even more important is how you feel about them. Take note of your overall emotions as you recall the dream. Is it joy, anger, fear, or confusion? How you react to your dreams says a lot about your inner self and which direction it wishes to go.
About ten years ago I had a dream of zip lining over a dark stormy ocean when two whales, a mother and a calf, swam across the water under me. The mother whale blew water as they passed me and both dove under the surface. The air was thick with cold vapor and I woke up. Judging by the frightening imagery one may perceive this as a nightmare, but I distinctly remember waking up feeling exhilarated and in awe. Later I looked up the meaning of the components of this dream - zip line, storm, whales, and water - a storyline takes shape: as I go through a long difficult process (zip line/storm), my spirituality and maternity (whales) emerge from the unconsciousness (ocean), and provide me with strength and vitality (water blow).
I don’t have a habit of keeping a dream journal, but this dream has always stayed in the back of my mind. It didn’t make sense until recently when I started promoting dream awareness and dialogue. I had the whale dream right around when my first child was born. Prior to that, I had been very career focused, but over the last ten years, motherhood, though challenging at times, has become my primary source of joy. The love for my children is motivating me to nudge the world towards a safer and more peaceful future because that’s the world they will eventually live in. One of the things I do to accomplish this is to speak up for dreams. I see dreaming as the guiding light of humanity. Everyone dreams. Dreams transcend gender, race, religion, and whatever else that divide people. As I write this blog over the Easter holiday, the deadly terror attacks took place in Sri Lanka, killing 290 innocent people and injuring over 500. These senseless acts of violence, fueled by generations of vengeance and hatred, are happening all over the world at an accelerated speed. As parents of young children, it is extremely disturbing to witness civility and societal order sinking into darkness and dangerous chaos becoming the norm.
How do we end deep-rooted hatred, conflicts, and violence and make the world a safer and more peaceful place? I believe dreams can help us. Dreams don’t lie, so we can trust them and follow the teachings they bring us. When we align our wake self with our dream self, we reach greater balance and inner peace. Our society is made of individual human beings just like the ocean is made of drops of water. When each drop turns, the tide will change. When each person feels more connected with their inner selves, they will feel less isolated, anxious, hopeless, desperate, and angry. It will be easier for them to feel empathy and compassion towards others. They will want to help rather than harm others. There will be less violence and bloodshed, and my dream for a safer and more peaceful future for the next generation will come true.