All ideas of what should or shouldn’t have happened are just dreams– Adyshanti
That’s literally true, and we can find it for ourselves through examining our ideas about what should or shouldn’t have happened.
I cannot find any should outside of my own mental images and words.
They don’t seem to be inherent in reality. In fact, reality is what allows what happens to happen. Reality is what happens.
I can trace my shoulds – to my parents, upbringing, friends, culture, society. The essence of my shoulds are universally human and likely go back to the beginning of civilization and before.
When my mind holds a should as true, it creates suffering for me. It’s at odds with reality. It makes me a victim.
Shoulds are like dreams in a few different ways.
Dreams are an expression of the creativity of the mind, and shoulds are an expression of the same creativity.
Dreams and shoulds happen within and as consciousness. They are not found in any other place.
If our mind holds dreams and shoulds as true, they feel true. We perceive and feel as if they are true. And we may even act as if a should is true.
We can recognize the true nature of dreams and shoulds, and recognize they have the same nature.
Dreams and shoulds happen within and as what we are. When we recognize this, our mind’s identification with them tends to soften.
How do we explore our shoulds, and especially the ones that feel true?
The most effective way may be through structured inquiry like The Work of Byron Katie and the Living Inquiries, especially when guided by someone familiar with them and skilled in guiding others.
We can dialog with the should part of us. How does it see the world? What are its fears? How does it see us? How do we relate to it? Do we listen? Dismiss it? How is it to find that it is there to protect us? How is it to thank it for protecting us? How is it to listen to the wisdom within it?
They point to emotional issues, and we can work on these in whatever ways work for us. (The other approaches do this as well.)
After a while of exploring shoulds, we may find we generally have a different relationship with them. We may recognize them and see through them more naturally. And if we have some especially strong shoulds coming up, we can take the opportunity to explore them in even more depth.
OUR MENTAL ACTIVITY AS A DREAM
When we look, we may find that all our mental activity is a kind of dream.
We put mental representations on top of what’s in our sense fields – sights, sounds, sensations, smells, taste – to make sense of them. We label and have stories about what’s here. Similarly, we have mental representations of what isn’t here – the wider world, the past and future, and so on.
All of this is a kind of dreaming activity of the mind, and it plays itself out while awake and also in our sleeping dreams.
That’s why our waking dreaming activity is not that different from our sleeping dreams.
Both are an expression of the creativity of our mind.
Both create a world for us. Sleeping dreams happen in the absence of sensory inputs. And these waking dreams happen partly as an overlay over sensory inputs (what we see, hear, feel, smell, taste etc.) and partly in the absence of these sensory inputs (imaginations of a wider world, past, future, and so on).
Both can seem real if we take them that way, and we can learn to see through both. We can recognize a sleeping dream as a dream while we dream (lucid dreaming) and we can recognize our waking dreams as they happen (through inquiry). It takes time, but recognizing dreams as they happen can become a new habit.
What we are is capacity for both types of dreams, they both happen within and as what we are. When we notice this, identification with them tends to soften. It’s easier to recognize them as dreams.
Our sleeping dreams are one expression of the general dreaming activity of the mind.
Recognizing this general dreaming activity of the mind can help us take it a little less seriously. It is immensely valuable in helping us navigate the world. And it doesn’t hold any final or absolute truth.