By Madhu Tandon
What we dream about may have a bearing in the world of reality. Often dreams which appear meaningless are actually reflections of our everyday life and its problems
On Bernie’s insistence, they traced the landowner, who had already committed the plot to a grocer. That night, Bernie had another dream in which the Virgin Mary stood on a huge sphere Earth crushing the head of a large snake. In her hand was a beauty parlor which she handed over to Bernie. Bernie awoke convinced that the Virgin Mary, by crushing the snake, had crushed the obstacles in her way to getting that land.
Three months later, a miracle happened. The landlord came to offer them the land. Stunned, John asked him why he had changed his mind. The landlord said ‘ My brother owns the rear half of the land. He feels that if I give the front portion to a grocer, the value of his land would drop. Both of us feel a beauty parlor would be better.” John confessed that he had no money. The landlord said that they could pay him in installments.
Bernie’s card reads ‘Yaadro Beauty Salon, Sarai Juliena”. In the center of the card is an emblem of the Virgin Mary with a halo around her head, hands folded—just as she appeared in Bernie’s first dream. The banyan tree outside the salon now stands as silent witness to the belief that dreams do come true. But what was Bernie’s dream? A fantastic coincidence or a guiding finger that pointed her in the right direction?
Bernie, in talking about the fascination dreams have for her, says: ‘There are many things we don’t know about ourselves. But there is another part within us, which knows. That part which knows speaks to us through our dreams’.
Bernie has very succinctly given the gist of the power of dreams and their relevance to our lives. We believe that all our solutions come from our waking, rational self. That is not the full picture. The range of our dreaming intelligencestretches from a dream like Bernie’s which guided her towards a future event, to those that deal with our every day anxieties, fears and problems.
Dreams direct, warn and help us in a manner entirely different from our waking self, throwing light on an existing dilemma or a future event. The old adage, sleep over it, is based on the belief that sometimes having gone to sleep with indecision or anxiety, we wake up remarkably clear headed and full of hope. This happens because our dreaming intelligence has offered us a convincing point of view, which, without known why, we can trust implicitly. It is now recognized that the purpose of sleep is not only to rest the mind and body, but also to dream.
Radhika has a horror of bats. Twice she dreamt of thousands of bats lifting her off the ground. She awoke in complete fright. Nightmares may well be a way of drawing our attention to an emotionally charged situation in our lives.
Dr. Manju Mehta, a clinical psychologist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India, says: ‘We dreammuch more when we are upset. Our mind is active and looking for a solution. Our dreaming mind keeps us in touch with thoughts and feelings which we may normally not acknowledge. In dreaming about them, we ventilate our deepest emotions and purge ourselves of many disturbing feelings.”
Dreams not only tell us about our fears, but also help in conquering them. African tribes use dreams for this purpose. A fearful youngster is expected to go to sleep visualizing a hunt, lucidly imagining how he will vanquish the animal. For a few nights nothing may happen. Then if he dreams of charging, spear in hand, and killing the animal, he would be cured of all his earlier fears.
That is what lucid dreaming has been used for in recent times, to help control and conquer fear and anxiety. Lucid dreaming is realizing that you are dreaming. Apart from the dreamers knowing that they are dreaming. Another characteristic of lucid dreaming is that the colors and details are far more vivid than when you are awake. It is often the fantastic nature of the imagery, which causes the dreamer to exclaim: “This is impossible. This must be a dream.”
And it is to these dream we turn to for answers. For our conscious mind can reason with our problems only upto a point. To look for real solutions we have to call upon that deep power within us which holds the answer.
There seems to be a guiding intelligence at the helm of our dream life, telling us about the hidden truths of our life. By bringing these truths to our awareness, it enriches our life with meaning.
Nita Berry writes books for children. She went to Goa for a holiday where the problem of the sea being polluted by industrial waste was being debated. She had also read that the fish were eating the industrial waste and becoming resistant to it, while the humans who ate the fish were falling sick. One night she dreamt the entire plot of a story concerning this subject. She woke up and wrote the story. It won the prestigious Shankar’s prize.
Dreams are like a friend who accompanies us often from childhood to death. At each of these stages we experience fairly typical dreams; their themes being remarkably common through the specific content may vary. Children often dream of outings, picnics, playing in water, holidays or receiving a gift. In their anxious moments they may dream of a threatening figure looming large over their little lives.
Adolescent dreams often deal with the awareness of growing sexuality, while in youth, dream may reflect new interests, or the compulsion to establish competence and mastery over the environment. Around mid-life, many people encounter dreams of choice, of decisions, of new directions. Old age dreams may reflect the fear of confinement, illness and dependency.
Dreams can also provide important clues to the state of our bodily health. Kasatkin, a psychiatrist at the Leningrad Neurosurgical Institute, showed that by correctly interpreting dreams he was able to predict the onset of a serious illness long before it could be diagnosed medically.
A man dreamt that he was continuously being prodded in the lower part of his left lung. A month later doctors found a lesion at exactly the same spot. Kasatkin has found that people who undergo surgery may have had warning dreams at least two weeks earlier. It is as though the knowledge of the boy’s imbalance has already registered somewhere within us, and our dreams attempt to bring this to our awareness.
Dr. Mehta observes. ‘Dreams are very important warning signals of what is about to happen. I dreamt of my sister-in-law’s pregnancy a night before it was confirmed by her telephonically from Australia. I also had a clear warning dream of my mother’s impending death.” When we stand at a crossroad in life, to make a choice, or even to seek a new path, dreams can help point the way.
Twenty-six year old Ajit recounted the period when he was dating Roshan to whom he was thinking of proposing. In his dream, Roshan asked him ‘Our interests aren’t similar, so why should we?’ Ajit said that within two months of his dreamhe realized that she was actually interested in someone else.
Dr. Anjali Hazarika, who did her doctoral work on dreams in the field of management education, explains: ‘Dream workcan be used as a training method for management development to enhance your creative potential and significantly heighten the problem solving ability of the dreamer. She took a sample of 250 men and women from diverse sectors of business and found that, after introducing them to the potential of dream work, both creativity and the ability to solve problems were greatly enhanced.
Twenty three-year-old Sangeeta was working on software development, but was unable to access one particular program. She wanted online information of how many libraries access her company’s data. For a month and a half she was unable to get the right command. Then one night she dreamt of which command to execute. In the dream itself she knew the command was right. Sangeeta was the first person to come to office the next day. She punched in the command and, sure enough it was the right one.
Dr. Menezes was hired by a gigantic chemical manufacturing firm in 1987 to solve a morale problem in its R&D wing. He invited 52 of their scientists to Pune for a three day work shop. After dinner he asked each of them to think of a work related problem and then to write it down as a single phrase. Before going to sleep they were to concentrate on that phrase with the intention of dreaming about it. Eighty three per cent of the scientists, including the skeptics, had surprisingly revealing dreams about their particular problems during those three nights.
On the basis of these dreams, Dr. Menezes made his recommendations to the top management, which were then implemented.
Besides the problem solving ability of dreams, they are also tools of greater self-understanding. Dr. Menezesrecounted a series of dreams of a woman who found it difficult to respond to men because of a threatening father image. This attitude had cost her first marriage. Two years later, a man in her office began to take an interest in her. Her conflict was renewed as her first dream showed in a desert (a symbol of an emotional and sexual waste land). The second dream, a month later, showed a few cacti-the first stirrings of her feeling life within her. The third dream showed her in a new plantation, but there were thin cement slabs in between the trees. A sign that despite an awakening her past blocks, represented by the cement slabs, still existed. The last dream, a few months later, showed her near the sea (water being the symbol of flowing emotions) and that she was flying—meaning that she was free of her problem. A year later she was married.
Dr. Menezes had titled her dreams: From fear to freedom.
Based on her dream work with people across the globe, Dr. Hazarika says:’Dreams not only help us relate better to ourselves, but also to others. Like the Internet connects people all over the world irrespective of culture, age or sex, work on dream connects people at a much deeper and more significant level.”
Dreams play a fascinating and mysterious role not only in life, but in the twilight period between life and death, and the thereafter. When it is time for us to leave our body, dreams some times warn us of the transition and helps prepare us to meet it willingly. Like the case of a man in his late 60’s who dreamt in June that he read his obituary in the morning newspaper. The newspaper was dated December 16—the day be eventually died. He had heeded the warning and prepared himself. All his paperwork was complete and he was emotionally prepared for the transition from this world to the next.
And when we die, we may sometimes come back either to console a loved one; or to express an unfulfilled wish; or to convey, through a dream, to someone receptive what the after death state is like. Many people dream of dead relatives. Some can be treated as symbols of an aspect of the dreamer‘s own self, while others may be of a different class.
Colonel Srikant, a retired army officer, recounts how, four days after his mother’s death, he saw her in a dream. She said: ‘In the steel trunk which has the woolens, there is some money under the green shawl. Could you give it to your brother for his birthday.’ No one could have found the money, unless by accident. Colonel Sikand found it exactly where his mother had said it would be.
There is almost an ethereal component to dreams which cannot be satisfactorily understood by analysis. It lives with the dreamer as a special gift, its beauty adding great significance to the dreamer‘s life. It seems at certain points in our life, either in moments of suffering, at a crossed or when we are wondering about the meaning of our life, we may receive a glimpse of a principle much higher than ourselves. It may take the form of a god or goddess we are familiar with in our daily life, but there is a difference. Through that god or goddess we are privileged to glimpse the significance and wonder of our divine origins. The same god whom we may have been familiar with in our daily life, suddenly reveals to us his deeper significance in a dream encounter.
Every year, Geeta Parashar and her husband went to Kulu and Manali for a holiday. Just before Kulu there is a barrier where they would stop to pay toll tax. Four days before her trip Geeta had a vivid dream. Geeta saw herself at the barrier and a voice told her to go down the ravine where she would find a shivling. She was instructed to make an offering of water there. When the arrived at the toll barrier at four o’clock one drizzly afternoon, Geeta walked to the end of the road where there was a flight of steps.
At the bottom of the steps, enclosed by a few trees, was the same shivling of her dreams. She rang the bell and offered water. A slight mist began to descend as a sadhu appeared from a small hut nearby and handed her a sweetmeat and said: ‘Shivji ka prasad‘, the blessings of Lord Shiva. Her dream, her finding the shivling, the symbolic idol of Lord Shiva, her receiving the prasad (blessed offerings), all merged into a great up surge of faith in a higher power and its protection of human life.
Understand that in our dreams we are beginning a journey towards self-reliance as we commune with this mysterious, nighttime ally within us. Like the famous scientist, Kekule, who discovered the benzene ring through a dream, we confidently assert.
‘Let us learn to dream, and then we may perhaps find the truth‘.
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• Before falling asleep, spend five minutes in relaxing yourself and telling yourself that you have a dream to remember at night. If there is a specific problem to which you want an answer, ask your dreaming intelligence to give you a clue.