Exertion, health and dreams

 

Since childhood, I have experienced an unusual pattern where strong physical exertion is followed by being nonfunctional for about a day (and no, this is not the usual tiredness that comes after exercise.) I usually have no choice but to go to bed and sleep it out.

It is workable in the sense that it has a predictable pattern: It only happens when I exert myself at 80-90% (or beyond) of what I am capable of, independent of what shape I am in. This means that I have been able to mostly avoid it by doing gentler forms of exercise like hiking, biking and swimming, and avoiding the forms of exercise where I more easily go into over-exertion, such as running.

But even if I am mindful of this, I now and then go over the invisible boundary and reap the consequences, and yesterday was one of those days. I chopped firewood Monday night, and must have gotten a little too enthusiastic about it.

That same night, there was a sense of something physically off, and nothing I did – water, food, self-breemas – seemed to correct it. And waking up the morning after, all of the usual symptoms of over-exertion were there. (Although since this has not happened for a while, I didn’t make the connection until much later in the day when it started to clear up.)

It is as if the body-mind wants to shut down, a sense of stagnation throughout, and a feeling that everything is off and wrong. At the mind level, there is a strong sense of dullness and I go easier into contractions, such as irritability and grumpiness over things not going my way (the good part about that is that I not only get to see parts of my shadow more clearly, but also experience it from the inside, becoming it.) At the physical level, my body wants to shut down and sleep, and when I do, it is almost as if going into a coma. I usually shift out of it within 8-12 hours, typically after a nap, and I often feel stronger and clearer afterwards than I did before it happened (maybe due to the rest.)

This time, I noticed two dreams I though were interesting, especially as they seem to reflect entering into and moving out of the collapse phase.

Dream Tuesday morning: I am in a house that is not quite home

I am in a house which is very close to home, in the neighborhood of home, but not quite home. And there are many slightly odd things happening there, including problems with communication. I try to call someone, but the phone doesn’t work. I talk with people, and there is miscommunication. Everything seems a little off, and nothing I do seems to change it.

Dream Tuesday evening: someone tells me it has cleared

Towards the end of a nap, I am dreaming that someone tells me that there has been a shift into being healed. Waking up, I did experience a noticeable shift and felt much better, as if the fog had cleared, although some things were still being worked out.

Dreams faithfully reflecting what is going on

The house dream reflects entering into the pattern, of being close to home (same body-mind) but not quite at home (not functioning in a familiar way, or according to my – ideal – self-image.) And the healing dream reflects shifting out of it.

Maybe the most interesting part of this to me is that I didn’t seem to need the dreams to tell me about these shifts… both were abundantly clear in my waking state. But the dreams even then did their job faithfully and sincerely, reflecting what is going on in this body-mind.

If anything, seeing this makes me appreciate their work even more.

Phases of the endarkenment: dark night, Breema, dreams of soul mates and shadows, identities, and sleep and movies

 

Just to complete the picture here of the endarkenment process, I should mention a few things about my dreams and sleep.

Dreams of soul mates

Since about July this summer and up to the endarkenment shift, I have had a large number of dreams where I meet my soul mate (always a different one each time!). These dreams stopped after the endarkenment, because what I dropped into was the soul mate, or rather (an aspect of) soul itself.

(I have been embarrassed to write about these dreams here since I am in a relationship in my waking life, even as I know that these dreams reflect a much deeper inner process, not the externals of my waking life.)

Phases of the endarkenment process

As I see it now, the endarkenment process started a long time ago, and has gone in several phases. The first phase was the dark night, preparing the ground for it. The second finding Breema, which has an emphasis on the belly center. The third seems to have been all the soul mate dreams, reflecting a shift that has not yet become conscious. And the fourth, dropping into the velvety smooth darkness, the endarkenment itself. I guess the current one is the fifth, where it continues to deepen and change.

Shadow dreams mixed in

Also, mixed in among the dreams I have written about in this blog has been a series of shadow dreams, of things coming to the surface needing to be seen, balancing, grounding and widening it out in all directions. There has been a pattern of awakening dreams (velvety blackness, alive luminosity) and widening dreams (shadow dreams), much as a wave with peaks and valleys passing through.

Identities

Related to all of these corrective and shadow dreams is identities. I have been more acutely aware of identities over the last few weeks, seeing them clearly when they come up, and how they filter the world into I and Other, and how attachment to them is holding back what is emerging. They are an old coat that does not fit anymore, too small, wrong cut and color, dusty and old.

More about this in the next post.

Sleep

I have also needed a lot of sleep in this period. Even today, I slept more than twelve hours, and could have slept many more. There has also been a lot of processing before falling asleep and after waking up, allowing a parade of whatever comes up to be embraced by the velvety darkness.

Movies

I have also had a draw to see a lot of movies since the endarkenment, in a wide range of genres from science fiction to horror to existential to comedy to thrillers to post modern to documentaries to classical to quiet Iranian movies. It is as if the endarkenment wants as much of me as possible to come up and be embraced by the velvety darkness, and movies is a good way to trigger this.

Dreams where the stage stays the same and the play and the characters change

 

My partner told me something interesting about her dream life yesterday.

Apparently, for her whole life she has had dreams set in five very specific locations, while the stories and the characters change from each dream. The stage is the same, the play and actors different.

These five locations are very familiar to her in the dream, she knows them very well, and they appear in the dreams in very detailed ways. They are all older cities or town. One in Europe with a river running through it and a green park. Another in Asia, a little more dilapidated. Yet another is a Spanish or Portuguese colonial town in an arid landscape. And each location has stayed the same throughout her life, arise in the dreams with great detail and vividness, and are as familiar with her as any place in daily life where she has spent a great deal of time.

There is something very beautiful about this to me, and also very interesting, especially as just about everything in my dreams change from dream to dream. I wonder what insights Jungians or Process Workers have about this, and what would come up if we do some more active explorations of this.

Stream of dreams

 

There was a very active dream life here last night, with a stream of images and themes that seemed infinite and reflecting just about anything that has ever gone through my mind at any age.

One highlight was noticing my belly and hip area as really huge physically, and not just in my body image.

Since the phone session on Friday, I have had a sense of my belly/hip area as very large and feminine as well, fertile and dark as those prehistoric Venus statuettes. Physically, they are of course not that way, just the usual skinny male, but in the dream there were. The dream may be telling me that there is a real change there, even if it is not visible in a physical way.

Another highlight was Pee-Wee Herman persistently and for a long time going wild in his usual way. I went to our local cartoon club yesterday where they, along with the obscure and less obscure old classics, showed an episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (it was my first exposure to him, and thought it was comic genius.)

I tried to work it in the usual yang way, looking at images and thoughts around it, but then saw that I was invited to go fall into the feeling of it. From here, the contrast between the active, and sometimes frenetic, yang approach, illustrated by Pee-Wee, and the dark, fertile womb like yin approach of going into the feeling, and allowing the darkness to envelop whatever comes up, was very clear.

This was a theme throughout the stream of dreams: allowing it all to fall into and be enveloped by the rich, fertile darkness – where it unfolds and unwinds as it needs to. Something comes up, and is then allowed into and enveloped by the fertile darkness, allowing it to soften, deepen, unravel.

Dreaming as an analogy

 

Many traditions and teachers use dreaming as an analogy for the process of awakening. The word awakening itself is related to this analogy…!

Waking up

Waking up from a dream is a parallel to awakening in the sense of Big Mind awakening to its own nature of emptiness and form, with no I anywhere.

Lucid dreaming

And waking up to the dream, within the dream, as happens in lucid dreaming, is an even closer analogy. This is parallel to Big Mind awakening to its own nature while still being functionally connected with a particular human self.

In the case of lucid dreaming, the dream goes on and is realized as a dream as it happens. Whatever happens is realized as a dream, as form and emptiness, as the play of consciousness.

In the case of awakening, the human self goes on and is realized as the play of Consciousness, as absent of I, as a small part of the tapestry of phenomena arising as Spirit itself and as emptiness & form, and, to use another analogy: as a vehicle for Big Mind in the world of phenomena. The world of form, including this human self, is realized as Spirit itself, as form and emptiness, as the play of consciousness, and the human self continues on within this realization.

The difference is that in lucid dreaming, there is typically still a sense of I there, and it is often placed on our human self. So the consciousness that creates and is the dream is often taken as individual or human consciousness, as a property of and dependent on this human self.

In awakening, this consciousness, temporarily and mistakenly identified with our human self, is revealed as Spirit, Big Mind, Buddha Mind, Divine Mind. It is that which all phenomena throughout the universe is made up of, including this particular and infinitely small human self.

Awakening from the nightmare

Another way the dreaming analogy can be useful is in looking at awakening from the nightmare.

When we have a nightmare, we often wake up. It is just too terrifying to stay in the dream, so something allows us to wake up.

And there are many examples of where this has happened in awakening as well. Our human life becomes too terrible to continue to be identified with, so consciousness awakens to its own nature – as Spirit, Ground, emptiness and form, as all there is absent of any I – yet still functionally connected with this human self.

Shunryu Suzuki
had his first clear awakening while he was hanging from a meat hook that had pierced his eye socket (!). Read the juicy details in Crooked Cucumber.

Douglas Harding said several times that the awakening happened because Douglas became too much of a nuisance and a burden.

And for me too, the initial awakening happened during a very stressful time in my teens, including after a prolonged period of physical illness (which later turned out to come from severe food intolerances).

Planting Seeds

 

Since my teens, I have noticed how planting seeds allows, or at least invites, certain fruits to come up.

When I read C. G. Jung profusely, in my late teens and early twenties, I had a long series of text book Jungian type dreams. I planted the seeds of a Jungian view and framework, and the mind responded by using this framework to bring things into awareness. I experienced it as a beautiful play and dance between my conscious focus (Jung’s approach) and the Other, the subconscious, interacting with and responding to whatever was happening consciously, allowing more to be seen, acknowledged and integrated into the conscious view.

The same is the case for insights in general. I may have a question, and plant it, simply, with no drama, and some days, weeks or months later, an insights surfaces on the same topic.

And the same seems to be the case in yet another way. There seems to be a readiness to work on or through a certain issue, I plant the seed of asking “let me see what I need to see for this to resolve” or “allow whatever needs to unravel to unravel for this to resolve”, and this too seems to happen within days, weeks or months, peeling off layer after layer.

What appears as I and Other here is of course within the same field, the same tapestry of phenomena, all having the same Ground of clear awakeness. Which seems to be why this works. It is just another form of the dance of existence, movements within seamless whole, beyond and including what temporarily appears as I and Other.

3-2-1 shadow process in dreams

 

I have been looking through the integral life practice kit from the Integral Institute, and my partner happened to read a brief description of the 3-2-1 shadow process. They recommend doing it on dream figures after waking up in the morning.

But my partner, who has been doing The Work in dreams for a while already, is now doing the 3-2-1 process also within the dreams! A disturbing character in the dream shows up, she dialogues with it, and then sees herself as it.

She must have a natural nack for those type of things. I am lucky if I do the work on dreams after I wake up, let alone the 3-2-1 process.

Dreams like movies: no I and no self, only pure seeing

 

I have some dreams where there is not even just an absence of a sense of I, but also of a human self.

These dreams are more like movies: there is a setting and usually several different actors interacting. Yet, my own human self is not there, and there is no I anywhere among the characters either. There is just pure seeing. All the drama is there among the actors, not in the seeing of it.

From talking with others, it seems that this is not an unusual type of dream, and they are a faint reflection of Ground – absent of I anywhere, and in this case also absent of any human self.

Dreams as More True *

 

There are a few things about dreams that seem closer to what is than our conventional views.

One is that, in my dreams at least, this human self is just one of many characters. This human self is seen from the outside – along with everybody else, and the inside. It is one of the many characters in a movie, yet there is also access to the interior information for this particular human self – the sensations, emotions, thoughts and so on.

Another is that the main character in these movies can take on any number of shapes and identities. It can be old or young, man or woman, human or animal. There is no fixed or limited identity.

Both of these are close to how it is seen when selflessness is realized. This human self is just one of many characters appearing. It is seen as one of many characters on the screen. Yet it is also the one for which there is consistent interior information available.

There is also no fixed or limited identity, not even as this particular vehicle in the world of form. And even our vehicle, this particular human self, always changes. It is fluid as everything else. To take it a little further, I see that in the context of “rebirth” (although there is really nothing that is reborn), the vehicle in the world of form changes in a different way – it is man or woman, Chinese or European or Indigenous, human or something else. It is all OK. They are all vehicles, instruments, tools in the world of form.

Inquiry Becoming Alive

 

People who do The Work for a while report how it comes alive in them. Inquiry does them, not the other way around.

It is amazing to see how alive it is in Jen. It even happens in her dreams. In a recent dream, she walked into a room with ten or so people, noticed a judgment coming up about each one, and turned it around.

Dreams, waking life, the same thing. They are all stories. And we can believe in them, or allow the attachment to them fall away through inquiry.

And if the inquiry does not happen within the dream, I can always do inquiry on anything stressful in the dream after waking up.

The Superhero Path

 

I worked on a dream involving a superhero and his achilles heel, and uncovered in the process a quite obvious parallel between superhero stories and individualization.

There are typically three elements in a superhero story: the person’s conventional identity (often mundane), the superhero, and the adversary – either a situation or a supervillain.

The same three are in each of our lives. We have a conventional identity – the persona, our face to the world. We have the amazing and desirable qualities and abilities, developed and used to varying degrees. And then there is the disturbance, the apparent adversary, the shadow – those qualities in us that do not fit our conscious identity.

And the process of individualization involves familiarizing ourselves with each of these, allowing each of them their life, and finding the larger whole which is there beyond and including all of these. This is also the centaur level, in Ken Wilber’s terminology.

Sometimes, the polarity may be so strong – in my dream Superman and kryptonite (!) – that the only whole that can hold it is the Ground, emptiness – going into the transcendent realm.

Process Work, Big Mind Process, Dreams & Mirrors

 

During the dreamwork class at the Process Work center today, I was reminded of the many connections between PW, my own experiences and worldview, and the many other approached I am interested in – including the Big Mind process and Byron Katie’s inquiry, in addition to Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, shamanism, and so on.

Process Work & Big Mind process

Arny Mindell talked about the small me and big me several times, which has a close correspondence to Big Mind and the human self in the Big Mind process. I can see how he is on the edge of radical nonduality in his views, radical selflessness, radical absence of any fixed identity, playing at the edge of it before taking the plunge.

World as a mirror

I was also reminded of how I – since my teens – have seen the world and dreams: Both are there as mirrors for myself. Every quality I see “out there” – in the world, in others, in the universe, in stories, in dreams and so on – are also “in here”. As a human being, I can find in myself everything I see out there. And as Big Mind, there is no separate “I” – there is just one field, all I.

Every situation, be it in waking life or in dreams, are there to help me see this. To first expand my conscious identity, and then see how any identity is limited, limiting and just a belief in an abstraction. Every situation is here, inviting me to realize what already is – the absence of any separate I.

As my identity expands, my repertoire expands as well and I become more fluid in my life. But it is still limited, there is still a belief in abstractions, there is still I and Other, there is still the belief in the idea of “I”. There is still a resistance to what is, although it may appear subtle. There is still a delusion, still a mistaken identity. Still stuckness. Still suffering.

When the belief in the idea of “I” falls away, in the realization of selflessness and Ground awakening, the last bit of resistance falls away with it. Everything happens, revealed as without any inherent I anywhere.

Inquiry On Dreams

 

The Byron Katie inquiries can be used with any stressful thoughts, and I find it especially interesting to use them to explore dream materials. Something happens in a dream, and I can do inquiry on it as if it happened in real life. Dream, real life, movie, or whatever else the format may be – it doesn’t matter. The stressful thought does, because it shows where I am stuck – where I believe blindly, to some extent, in an abstract idea. Where I obscure the clear ground.

My partner woke up from a stressful dream this morning where someone accused her of being a liar because she eats meat, dairy and yams, and that is what liars eat. In the dream she became upset and pushed back, but after waking up she did inquiry and the turnaround, and saw that it is all true. Everything she believes in is – by necessity – a lie, and everything she says is – also by necessity – a lie. Everything any of us say is a lie, because it is an abstraction and incomplete. The world is always more than and different from any abstraction. And she also eats meat, dairy and yams. So it is all true. And when this is seen clearly, the stress goes out of it and gratitude takes its place.