From sleeping consciousness to waking life, dreams can help us create our life storylines
dreamlinesow many songs
can you think of that contain the word “dream”? In love, politics, business, inventions, fortune making and fortune telling, in religion, arts and culture, achieving one’s “dream” is understood to be the height of success and satisfaction. And not only is the word “dream” a common metaphor, it’s also a universal experience shared by all human beings and many of the world’s animals. Scientifically, dreams are the nightly products of rhythmic sleep cycles known as rapid eye movement cycles (REM). But when we share our dreams— with a partner, friend or therapist—we describe an experience hauled up from the depths of our sleeping state to our waking state. We share the dream as a story, vivid and real, as though we’re recounting the plot of a movie we just witnessed. Australian Aboriginal
24 | july 2011 | the photo issue
people call the memory of their dreams of tribe and lands “songlines.” Songlines are dreamlines—or dream storylines—that help them remember who they are, their origins and where they’re going. By paying attention to our dreams and listening to their messages we can discern how to apply their guidance in waking life. The images and feelings that dreams convey are key to understanding what these nightly dramas are telling us about ourselves and our concerns: our past, present and future. Most dreams work on the material at hand (typically the residue of waking experiences from the past 48 hours). And generally the content of dreams reflects the concerns of the dreamer, so it’s not hard to recognize an image of a charging bull in a dream as a metaphor for an angry boss in waking life. Once we “get” what the images and feelings in our dreams are telling us and see how we automatically behave and how we might behave differently, we realize we can change our storyline. We can create a new reality where we are stronger, safer, more creative. We are the narrators of our own dreamlines of life. In ancient times priests of the great healing temples of Greece and Egypt recorded the dreams of people from all classes in order to find healing messages. In the Aesklepion we find early records of this process of dream incubation, where a pre-sleep intention was set for a healing dream. Dreams thus recorded became some of the earliest medical
texts. Aesclepius, of the famed dream temple, is still honored today in the symbol of the caduceus, a winged staff entwined with snakes. (The caduceus appears on doctors’ diplomas, pharmacies and other medical venues and is universally recognized as a sign of healing.) The techniques employed in the dream temples of ancient times are still in use, though the settings have changed. Today we might label the dream healing work that occurs as self-healing or autosuggestion. Dreams can be cultivated or just noticed for their healing possibilities, but they can also be sources of inspiration, problem resolution and integrative development if their messages are attended to and applied to waking life. The patterns of interactive dream and day motifs viewed over time create personal and universal dreamlines that recur, loop backward and forward in time, link waking and sleeping experiences and craft an unfolding and progressive narrative.