As I woke this morning, this question returned to me:
How would it be if I was aware of dreaming while dreaming? What would I do if I could decide the content of my own dreams? Would my choices change over time?
Most of us would probably first go for our “dream” life. All our goals met. Our wishes fulfilled. Perhaps an easy and interesting life, in a house at a nice location, with some travel, and shared with good friends and family.
It would get predictable and slightly boring after a while, so why not add unpredictability, surprise, and some challenges? It would helps us stay alert and interested, and help us push our boundaries and discover new things about ourselves and the world.
But even that may get slightly boring after a while. After all, we know it is a dream. The challenges are no more real for us than the ones we watch in a movie or read in a book. The stakes are not very high. How can we raise the stakes and make it more interesting? By forgetting that we are dreaming.
And that is exactly how life is. We sometimes get what we want and live our “dream” life. We have challenges. The story is somewhat unpredictable, and unknowable in advance. And we have “forgotten” that we are dreaming. We take ourselves to be this image of an “I” observing and doing, and the “me” as a human self in the world with its roles and characteristics.
This is also, not surprisingly, what we enjoy in a good story. It has a proponent, supporters and enemies, chapters, settings, high and low points, a mix of predictability and surprise, a story arc, a beginning, middle, and end, and we don’t know what will happen until it does. Just like our life. And that is of course why we enjoy these stories. They are mirrors of our own lives. They are another way for us to explore and learn about our own life.
Here is how the “dream” inquiry goes for me right now: I would dream I am healthy, with good friends and family, engaged in very interesting and meaningful activities. I would make the story somewhat unpredictable, surprising, and unknowable in advance. I would add in some challenges to make it interesting, and allowing myself to mature and grow. Most challenges would be quite doable, but some would require more of me. If I wanted a deeper examination and reorientation of myself, I would put in a few larger roadblocks. And, yes, I would want to forget I am dreaming, at least for a while, so I would be more engaged and on my toes.
And again, that is my life in a nutshell, as it is. I am relatively healthy and have good friends and family. I am engaged in interesting and meaningful activities. The unfolding of my story is somewhat unpredictable, and it is certainly surprising and unknowable in advance. I have quite a few challenges, including in the health department. Most of these are manageable, although they all require some examination and reorientation. And some require more of me, both in the world and in terms of examination of myself and a reorientation of how I relate to myself and the world.
To add a twist to the story, I could include one or more glimpses of lucid dreaming, a following fascination with this, and the question of whether there would be more lucid dreaming, or continuing identification with the dream figure. Either way is fine. And that has happened too.
Of course, if there is a more stable/deepening lucid dreaming at some point, there would still be fascination and interest there. There would be new questions, such as how do I live from this in the dream? How to I align myself with it? How is it to deepen in living from it?
Note: This inquiry comes from the Indian tradition, via one of the Alan Watts podcasts.
- if could decide content of own dreams
- all good
- challenges + unpredictable, surprising, now knowable in advance
- forget is dreaming
– unpredictable, surprising, challenges, drama, getting caught up in the story