The depth of popular culture


Some folks see popular culture as inevitably shallow. But is that true? And is it true that shallow is bad?

First, is shallow bad? No. There is nothing inherent in life telling us what we should be into. There are no requirements.

Many have stressful and busy lives and need something undemanding to help them relax and switch gears. Nothing wrong in that. (Although we can question a society that sets us up for such busy and sometimes stressful lives.) At one time or another, easy pop culture serves a helpful function to us.

And for most of us, it’s just one part of a much more varied cultural diet.

Is it true that pop-culture is shallow?

Yes, it’s perhaps true in a conventional and limited sense. There may be less soul and more formulas in much of what we find in pop-culture.

It’s easy to find exceptions. There is often depth to aspects of what we find in pop-culture. Something surprising, moving, or something that gives us an insight into ourselves or the lives of others. And some of what we find in pop-culture obviously has more depth, richness, and complexity to it, for example, stories rich in archetypes like Star Wars (original trilogy) and Pan’s Labyrinth.

It also depends on what we define as popular culture. Bach is quite popular. Is that pop culture? Chopin was a pop-culture superstar in his time.

And it depends on how readily available something is to us. When we have to put more effort and intention into finding something, it can seem more sophisticated, for instance when we are into the pop-culture of another time or culture.

Finally, we bring the depth to it.

When I watch movies, including the most mainstream Hollywood movies, I often look for archetypes and archetypal dynamics.

I take it as I would a dream, see the different parts of the story as parts of me, and find it in me.

I notice what I react to and look for the beliefs or emotional issues it triggered in me.

I notice what I am fascinated by and find what the fascination is about and then see if I can find that in myself.

So when it comes down to it, if we see something as shallow, we can only blame ourselves. We take a shallow approach to it.

We bring the richness or the shallow to it.

A personal note: In my late teens and early twenties, I had judgments about pop culture and went deep into more “high” and “sophisticated” art, music, books and movies. There was nothing wrong with this, and it was very rewarding and I still enjoy that type of culture. But it also came from insecurity. I wanted to be “better” and more sophisticated. I didn’t feel good enough as I was. Now, fortunately, I feel more free to enjoy all of it.

If we have ideas about high or low culture, or one thing being better than the other, it’s a reminder to take a look at ourselves. Where in me does it come from? Do I try to create an identity for myself to feel better about myself? How would it be to enjoy it all independent of labels?

Premonition dreams


Sometimes, “premonition dreams” are coincidences. We have a lot of different dreams, and we experience a lot in daily life, so sometimes a dream we remember corresponds to some experience in the days that follows.

And yet, sometimes, dreams do seem like actual premonition dreams.

For instance, years ago I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, with a dear friend who happened to be a cat. One morning, I had a very vivid dream of him dying. Most dreams, including stressful dreams, are clearly just regular dreams. It’s the mind processing something. But occasionally, a dream feels different. This one was different. It had the distinct feel of a premonition dream. So my wife (at the time) and I decided to keep him indoors to keep him safe. We did so for a week. And on the first day we let him out again he was hit by a car and died.

It was obviously sad, but he did have a full and rich life and knew he was loved. And it did show me that some dreams may be actual premonition dreams.

Working with dreams


I thought I would do a series of articles on how different approaches to healing and awakening work. So here is one on dreams.

In my experience, dreams are the mind digesting either what happened the day before (often more fragmented dreams) or an emotional issue (often more of an unfolding story and sometimes archetypal). I wonder if not this digesting happens most or all of the time, and it just happens to take the form of dreams while we sleep.

Everything in the dream is me. It’s all created by my mind and reflects parts of me and the dynamics between these parts.

The digesting inherent in dreams is likely helpful in itself, and I suspect I don’t even need to remember the dream for it to have some effect in terms of processing, healing, and gaining some insights from it.

And yet, I sometimes also explore the dream more actively, especially if it’s a strong or more archetypal dream.

Here are some of the approaches I find helpful:

Active imagination comes out of Jungian dream work, and here we go back into the dream (imagine ourselves back in it) and interact with the different elements of the dream. For instance, I can take an action and see what the response is, or I can engage in a dialogue with the different dream characters and get a sense of who they are and what they want (both on the surface and what would deeply satisfy them). There is no limit and it can yield a lot of helpful insights. Often, these insights are just at the edge of what we are conscious of, and active imagination can help make them more conscious. (I typically avoid formulaic dream interpretations since dreams seem more juicy, fluid, and sometimes individual than that.)

Active imagination is a form for parts (subpersonality) work, and if we are familiar with a form of parts work, we can use that one.(For me, Voice Dialog and the Big Mind process.)

And then there are the approaches I often write about here.

I can explore the dream through inquiry. For instance, I can do inquiry on any stressful beliefs I had in the dream or about it after waking up (The Work). I can also explore any identities the dream brought up in me, any fears, or any compulsions in the dream or after I woke up (Living Inquiries).

I can use heart-centered practices for anyone (or any thing) in the dream that seemed hurt or uncomfortable in any way. (Ho’o, tonglen, metta.)

I can use energy healing on any emotional issue brought up by the dream, or anything else the dream pointed to as needing resolution or healing. For instance, last year I had a dream about a lake being polluted, so I could intend healing for what that lake represents in me. (Vortex Healing.)

I can do some therapeutic trembling to release any tension from the dream. (TRE)

And I can use any other approach I know and find helpful.

The key is that I can explore dreams as I would anything in daily life, and I can also explore daily life as I would a dream(!). It’s the same mind creating our experience of both.

For instance, active imagination is traditionally used specifically for dreams, although it can be helpful to use it in other areas of life as well. We can use it for situations from past, present, or the imagined future, and it can help us see what these situations mean to us, how we relate to them and find other ways of understanding the situations and relating to them.

Fewer dreams after inquiry


Since my teens, I have worked with dreams using mainly Jungian approaches such as active imagination. It’s been an important part of my process, and I used to remember dreams quite regularly. Since I started with the Living Inquiries a couple of years back, I have remembered far fewer dreams.

I wonder if it is because dreams convey information from what’s going on outside of conscious awareness to my conscious awareness, and especially if I remember them and work on them. Using the Living Inquiries, I am accessing that or similar information anyway, so there may be less need to remember dreams. An even simpler explanation is that my conscious attention is more on inquiry than dreams right now, and my mind responds by reducing the number of remembered dreams. One or both of those seem to be the most likely reason and they also make most intuitive sense.

Alan Watts: the dream of life


One of my favorite thought experiments.

Imagine you can control your dreams. The first night, you may decide to dream that you have everything that you have ever wanted. It’s very pleasurable, and you may repeat it for several nights.

Then, maybe you decide to forget that it’s a dream, while you are dreaming it. That makes it more interesting.

You may also decide to include some challenges in the dream, to spice it up. Maybe even some that seem a matter of life and death.

Eventually, you arrive at the life you have now. You have forgotten it’s a dream, and there is a mix of pleasant experiences and challenges.

After some more nights, you may decide to add another wrinkle to your dreams. Within the dream, you add hints that it’s a dream – perhaps through synchronicities or direct glimpses. These may cause you, the dreamer, to be curious about waking up within the dream. You may even actively wish for it, and work at waking up. That becomes another adventure within the dream.

And that too, may be the life you are living right now.

Working with dreams: depth psychology vs inquiry


In my teens and early twenties, I explored dreams through depth psychology, partly through active imagination (my favorite) and partly through more conventional interpretation. If I go back into the dream, recreate it for myself and interact with the different beings and situations, what do I find? What do they tell me? (Active imagination.) If I see all the different parts of the dream as parts of myself, and look at their characteristics, relationships and dynamics, what does it tell me about me?

Later, I explored dreams through Process Work, a more recent version of depth psychology.

And even more recently, I started exploring dreams through inquiry. What beliefs does the dream bring to the surface? What are my stressful stories about the situation, the different beings, and what has happened or may happen? What do I find when I inquire into these stories?

As I explore inquiry and dreams, I see it aligns with and complements the depth psychology approach.

Let’s take the dream of the old car as an example.

From a (very simple) depth psychology perspective, I see that the old car may represent how I see my body. It’s perhaps not very old, but it’s functioning as an old car, in my view, and it’s running on coal, a not very efficient energy source. Even worse, it’s running out of coal so there are only a few wood chips left for fuel. All of this shows me how I see my body now with health challenges such as the cf. In the dream, I am not in the driver’s seat, which also reflects my experience about the body. And I ask friends for more coal, but don’t wait for them. I sometimes don’t allow myself the help others can and would like to offer me. All of this makes sense, and it gives me some directions for my daily life. I can find ways to upgrade this car and it’s fuel source, to be more in the driver’s seat in terms of my health and body, and allow myself the support others are willing to give me.

From an inquiry perspective, some beliefs are right there in the dream: The driver wants us to move on before the coal arrives. The driver will be upset if I suggest we wait. It’s important we finish the race. This car is the only one available for us. In this example, these thoughts may seem a bit trivial and specific to the dream, and yet, my experience is that these types of thoughts show up in many situations in life. By finding clarity on them in this situation, something may shift in other areas of life.

Some beliefs also come out of the depth psychology view: My body is in charge. My body runs the show. My body is not functioning as I want. My body is not supporting me. My health prevents me from living a good life. My health is not good. People around me don’t want to help me. They see me as a burden. Life is a race. Life has a goal. 

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Dreams: Wise man and bridge, Kate Bush, and Mongolia


There is a war is going on in the distance. I take a young traumatized girl to a friend of mine, an older wise man. He welcomes her, and she will stay with him for a while. There is a shared knowing by most or all that this war is a precious gift, it brings people to clarity. The three of us also knows that the girl will find clarity and heal. Part of the healing process involves her crossing an old wooden bridge, more than once over some time. (Dream #1.)

I visit Kate Bush and stay at her place for a while. We get along very well, and there is an easy shared appreciation and understanding. She has three large orange snakes to deter potential burglars. I am a bit hesitant at first, and she informs me they are harmless. A fourth snake with different marking and large fangs appear, and she informs me that one is harmless as well, although it does occasionally bite. (Dream #2.)

I have a conversation about climate change in Mongolia with someone from Mongolia, while we are out hiking in a beautiful mountain  landscape. (Dream #3.)

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Doing The Work on Dreams, Fairy Tales and Movies


I find it fun, interesting & helpful to do inquiry on dreams, fairy tales and movies.

There is more freedom of imagination, the themes are amplified, and I am out of my familiar context of everyday life even as the themes and stories are the same.

So I can take any dream, fairy tale or movie, identify my thoughts, and do inquiry on these thoughts. And I can also imagine myself in any role in those stories, image what thoughts I have about what’s happening and other characters in the story, and do the same.

It can be a playful and juicy way of tapping into some core stories.

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Dreaming analogy


I keep coming back to this simple reminder from India, via Alan Watts:

Say you could decide the content of your dreams, what would you chose? How may this change over time?

I find that I would first chose to experience what I wish for in waking life. I would chose to live and experience a good life in all areas of life. Live it. Be it. Soak it up.

This would certainly be exciting and satisfying for a while. And yet – after some time – I imagine it would get somewhat familiar and predictable. To spice it up a little, I may chose to let go of control to some extent, and include surprises.

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Ongoing processing



It is something we all are familiar with from daily life:

The brain continuously processes and digests undigested material – whether it is new information, beliefs in friction with reality, unresolved situations, or conundrums of any sort.

The signs are plenty, for instance when something is resolved without much conscious processing. The process may be started consciously, then left to digest on its own, and the result presents itself in its own time.

Attention is naturally drawn to undigested material, inviting and allowing processing and digestion, as noticed through everyday attractions, aversions, ruminations, and day dreaming.

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A thought experiment: What if could chose content of dreams?


I keep coming back to this one as well…

Alan Watts suggested this exploration:

What if I could chose the content of my dreams, and each dream contained lifetimes of experiences, what type of dreams would I chose?

I may start out with choosing to get everything I want. (Everything my personality wants). Wealth. Leisure. Success. Security. Tropical beaches. Intimacy. Pleasure. Happiness.

After a while, that may get a little boring and stale, so I would introduce something to spice it up, maybe some light challenges. Some minor snakes in the paradise.

But knowing that it is a dream makes these challenges less interesting, so I may chose to forget that I am dreaming, as I am dreaming, just to spice it up further.

Even forgetting that it is a dream, light challenges may get a little stale, so I may chose to make the challenges more heavy, more dramatic. Poverty. Disease. Violence. Fall from grace.

To spice it up even further, I may chose to realize – or have an intuition – that it is a dream, and then strive to recognize it as a dream in the midst of the dream. Strive to know that it is a dream, even as it unfolds. And to recognize this consistently, through the different dream situations.

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Guidance from any dream


Some differentiate dreams into mundane and spiritual, and it may be helpful in some situations.

But why not use any dream as a guide?

For instance, I can go back into any dream using active imagination, interacting with the dream elements in a different way to see what happens. I may get new insights into the dynamics among these dream elements, and also how to  facilitate among them differently – including in daily life. (It all happens within my own world of images, whether I call it a dream, imagination or daily life.)

And I can notice beliefs and investigate them, both the ones I acted on in the dream and the ones came up about the dream after I woke up. I can find what is more true for me than the initial beliefs.

Using these types of approaches, any dream offer valuable and practical guidance. There is no need to wait for the “big dreams”. I may even see that the guidance in the Big Dreams were there all along, in the smaller and more mundane dreams.

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Active imagination & daily life


In a recent dream, I visited my parents. New neighbors had moved in and they were looking for trouble, especially in their relationship to my parents. After I woke up, I went back into the dream – using active imagination – and replayed it. This time, I took the role of the mediator and there was a sense of warmth, simplicity and playfulness in how I related to the characters in the dream – since I knew it was just a dream.

So I thought, why not bring this into daily life? Why not relate to daily life as if it was active imagination, or a lucid dream?

When I look, I find that my experience of all of those – daily life, active imagination and dreams – is the same. It is all happening within and as awakeness. All living its own life, on its own schedule.

For me right now, it is especially interesting to notice the felt-sense of all as awakeness and imagination in active imagination, and then notice the same felt-sense in daily life, the felt-sense of all as God.

There is one possible difference, though. Sometimes, early on when I explored active imagination, I would do things I wouldn’t do in daily life just to see what would happen. (Not much interest in that now.) And in daily life, I aim at acting with as much integrity – as much kindness and insight – that is available to me.

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Childhood dream


Most have one or more recurrent childhood dreams. I had the typical one of flying, and a nightmarish one as well.

I climb up the pull-down ladder to the attic. As my upper body enters the attic, I fall. The ladder and floor disappear, and I fall through darkness. Suddenly, below me I see a large cauldron stirred by a witch. She looks up and grins at me.

The pull-down ladder to the attic was in the house I grew up in, and it was always exiting – and a little scary – to climb up it and into the attic. I would wake up before falling into the cauldron, with the image of the witch grinning up at me etched in my mind.

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Recent dream theme: a slow, steady trickle of death


Since this blog is a record of a process, I thought I would mention this too: For a few months this spring, just about every dream I remembered had people dying in them. Over the course of these dreams, it seems that everyone who has ever been close to me died at least once, including myself (!), and a large number of people I didn’t know died too. Usually one or a few in each dream.

It was a slow, steady and comprehensive trickle of death, and may mirror a die-off in terms of habitual identifications. (It may be a part of the kenosis process – a wearing off of identifications – which seems to have been happening for a while now.)

In what ways a dream?


When I explore what I am through the sense fields, headless experiments, or other ways, in what way is what I find similar to a dream?

It is similar in that anything happening is awareness itself. When I explore the different sense fields, I find that whatever is happening within each of them, is awareness itself.

It is similar in that all has the same source, or rather is the same source. In dreams, it is all created by this psyche. Anything happening is aspects of me. In waking life, it is all created by the same Ground, and anything happening is the play of this Ground. In either case, there is the appearance of an I and Other, but an absence of a real I and Other.

it is similar in that it is all insubstantial and ephemeral. When I explore the sense fields, I find that even that which appears to have the most substance, such as the sensation of a heavy pressure on the body, is as ephemeral as anything else. It is made up of awareness, it is transient, it is insubstantial. Similar to a hologram, it has form but no substance.

It is similar in that everything is just happening. On its own, living its own life, on its own schedule. Things are just happening in dreams. And things – including anything associated with this human self – is just happening in waking life too. It is all coming out of the blue. (Even if our mental field sometimes does a pretty good job predicting what will happen.)

What if we could choose our dreams?


I listened to the Alan Watts podcasts about Hindu mythology, which is specifically about Brahma and lila, God playing hide-and-seek with itself.

One part I found especially interesting is in the third segment where he explores what we would do if we had complete freedom to choose our night dreams?

For a few months, we would probably want to dream about having all sorts of riches and pleasures. But it would get boring and predictable after a while.

Since we know it is just a dream, and we can’t really get hurt by it, we may then choose to include some drama in the dream to make it more interesting. Something is at stake, and we may or may not get it.

And to make it even more juicy, we may choose to make it into a life and death drama, to see how far we can take it. After all, it is just a dream and we don’t really get hurt.

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Synchronicity: Are you Jesus?




I am reading in a couple of books by Tim Freke and Peter Gandy on gnostic Christianity, where the basic message is that the Jesus story is a teaching story, a reflection of our own path, a reflection of who and what we really are.

On the bus this afternoon, as I was exploring this for myself, a woman in front of me turned around and asked with great sincerity are you Jesus?

I laughed and said “no” with the message that the conversation was over right there, although she continued with a few questions.

Of course, according to gnostic Christianity, I am Jesus. We all are. The Jesus story mirrors each one of us.

What happened is also another example of living the dream. In this case, the dream of having people showing up at my door expecting me to be able to help them, and me just brushing them off and wanting them to go away.

In the case of the woman on the bus, I could have mentioned that whatever you see in Jesus are qualities you can find in yourself. It would be true, and maybe invited her to explore it for herself. In any case, it would be more friendly than a simple “no” followed by nothing.

I am living that dream in other situations too. What happened on the bus is far from the only time a stranger comes up to me expecting me to have some special insights, and I tend to respond the same way as in the dream, brushing them off.

Living the dream


It is interesting to see how dream themes come up in the days before and after a dream. I noticed yesterday, the day after the Himalaya dream, a pattern that I only later connected with the dream.

For a few days, I had purposely gone into stressful thoughts to take them to inquiry, and also gone into unpleasant emotions so I could fully allow them and be with them., and noticed I had gotten a little stuck in that mode. So I decided to do some heart centered practices to lift it up a little, including the practices of rejoicing in other’s happiness, and prayer for the happiness and awakening of all beings, that I know from the Tibetan tradition.

I then realized that this mirrors exactly the dream. I purposely went down into the abyss, into the stressful thoughts and unpleasant emotions. And then climbed up to the top of the plateau again using a rope ladder, guided by a Tibetan teacher. Or as it happened that day, climbed up using a simple made-made device, the practices, and guided by Tibetan teachings.

Working with dreams


One of the topics from last night’s CSS meeting was dreams.

They mainly (only?) work with dreams through intellectual interpretation, and differentiate between “egoic” and “spiritual” dreams, mostly disregarding or at least downplaying the first category.

This is of course useful. But another way of working with dreams, and one I find more juicy and plunges me more into the unknown, is through active imagination. Usually, I take a few minutes to close my eyes and go back into the dream, replaying a part of it, and then interacting slightly differently with the dream characters, asking them questions, who are you? Being curious, seeing what happens, what dynamics and information is there.

Often, I am quite surprised by what happens, and how it helps me get familiar with dynamics and disowned parts at my human level, and begin to bring these into the warmth.

And also, I work with dreams through investigating whatever beliefs come up during or after the dream. Dreams trigger beliefs as much as any other stories that play themselves out for us, whether in our daily life, in the news, in movies, books, mythology, or anything else. So why not make use of it?

So in both of these cases, there is an immediateness in how I work with dreams that does not require going through any intellectual interpretation. (Which is heavily colored by our conscious view, what we already consciously know, and also tends to get pretty abstract and dry even if it hits the mark in some way.) And there is also no differentiation between “egoic” and “spiritual” dreams. Both are gold. Both offer valuable guidance.

And I find these beliefs to investigate: They should use active imagination. They shouldn’t rely on intellectual interpretation so much. (What dinosaurs! Do they live a hundred years ago?) Why do they differentiate so much between “egoic” and “spiritual” dreams? Don’t they know that there is gold in both? That the same teachings are to be found in both? I am right. I know.



I have read some of the reports in mainstream media on the recent sleep studies, finding a connection between lack of sleep and a wide range of medical problems and even mortality.

It is important research, especially since lack of sleep is chronic for many today.

But the studies, at least as reported, also leave out some even more interesting questions.

For instance, is the lack of sleep perceived as voluntary or not and what happens in either case? I can imagine that if it is perceived as involuntary, it can easily have detrimental effects in many areas. But if it is perceived as voluntary – as it was for me two days ago when I stayed up the whole night working on something I had a real interest in – it may be quite different. Maybe the lack of sleep itself is less important than how we perceive it. The stress we sometimes put on top of it may be as important as anything else.

There are also individual differences in our need for sleep. One study found that less than seven hours of sleep, on average, is associated with a range of health problems, but the individual differences were left out from the news reports. For some, five hours may be plenty. For others, nine hours may be necessary. And this changes over time too, with age and life circumstances.

And then the question of correlation and causality, which some news reports actually did include. There may be a correlation between too little/much sleep and health problems, but the causality within that correlation is maybe not so clear yet. Most likely, it varies a great deal from situation to situation.

There may be something going on which leads to lack of sleep in the short term and other health problems later on, such as overwork and stress. We may chose to get less sleep just to get more out of our days, and the lack of sleep alone can lead to health problems. There could be a hidden health problem which first gives insomnia and then manifests in other ways. There is probably a great variety of different connections, each showing up in different situations.

Another aspect which would be interesting to look at is how we process our dream world in daily life. For those of us who don’t process our dream world much in daily life, for whatever reason, a good night’s sleep with plenty of night dreaming may be more necessary. But if it is processed more actively in daily life – through art, music, dream work, a meditation practice, active imagination, process work, shamanic journeying or even daydreaming – we may get by with significantly less sleep and night dreaming.

And then other questions, such as taking a nap. For me, taking a nap during the day has a very noticeable benefit all around, and it is probably not so different for others. It helps reduce stress and catch up on our sleep, which should have noticeable effects on our body-mind health and well-being.

Spirit animal



When I was a child, I had a Big Dream about a black panther, and I realize later that it was very similar to shamanic experiences and connections with a spirit animal. In the dream, there was a connection with the panther as long lost friend, and someone who had immense wisdom, insight and ability to guide me.

The world is a mirror of what is inside of ourselves, and animals can be especially helpful in mirroring and evoking certain qualities in us.

When we journey – whether in dreams, shamanic rituals, active imagination, through using the whole of us as in process work, or even through voice dialog – we are often guided to exactly those qualities that wants to come into our lives more fully. Those that may have been disowned, or just temporarily forgotten. There is an infinity of sources for reminders, including animals.

What comes up is what is needed here and now, so will change over time. But some may have to do with longer term processes, unfolding over decades, and the black panther for me seems to be one of these.

For me, the black panther evokes a beautiful combination of polarities, maybe especially a natural confidence and relaxation, and alertness and explosive activity, depending on what the situation calls for. It is firm and gentle, cute and vicious, and follows its path with receptivity yet in a non-nonsense way and undistractedly. Its velvety blackness reminds of the fertile blackness and awakening of the belly center, which nurtures each of the qualities listed above.


Shamanism is probably the earliest form for psychology, and from the little I know about it, it can be every bit as sophisticated as any contemporary western psychology. Judging from the earliest examples of rock art, it is a form of psychology that has been with us since before the dawn of civilization, which is humbling and also gives a sense of connection across time and universality.

I have worked with the black panther more lately, bringing its qualities into my daily life, and have found it a great support.I may find the black panther qualities in myself through images and movements, or just ask myself what would the black panther do?

Cheese influencing the content of dreams




The British Cheese Board has found that eating different types of cheese before going to bed induces different types of dreams…!

85% of females who ate Stilton had some of the most unusual dreams of the whole study. 65% of people eating Cheddar dreamt about celebrities, over 65% of participants eating Red Leicester revisited their schooldays, all female participants who ate British Brie had nice relaxing dreams whereas male participants had cryptic dreams, two thirds of all those who ate Lancashire had a dream about work and over half of Cheshire eaters had a dreamless sleep. […]

What is particularly interesting is the reported effect different types of British cheese have on influencing the content of dreams. It seems that selecting the type of cheese you eat before bedtime may help determine the very nature of often colourful and vivid cheese induced dreams”

I am not really that surprised as I have found that many things seem to influence not only my sleep but also my dreams, including what and when I eat (chocolate cake is especially good for making my mind go haywire) and where I sleep (sometimes, it even seems that my dreams pick up the typical content of other’s dreams if I sleep where someone else usually sleeps).

In general, food influences me and my mind in sometimes dramatic ways. Dairy makes me and my thinking sluggish and heavy. Sugar makes me very tired. Wheat makes my mind go slightly haywire, in a different way than chocolate cake (!) Chocolate cake wreaks havoc with my attention, where wheat makes everything feel slightly weird and unreal. Apples makes me and my mind feel alert and fresh, and the same is the case for most other fruits. Vegetables, especially if cooked, are more neutral. Meat gives a nice earthy heavy feeling.

I haven’t heard about any other studies looking at the connection between food and the mind (including dreams), but it seems that it would be fertile ground for research, and even have some practical implications.

Dreams and reversals


It struck me that dreams often seem to have the same function as the reversals in The Work: compensating for a conscious attitude

Just like dreams, the reversals invite us to see, explore, familiarize ourselves with, and find in ourselves, what is left out by our conscious views.

Dreams go a little further as well, showing us what is just emerging in us below the threshold of our usual attention.

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.


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.


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.


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.