Life is like a dream

The world is dreamlike in a few different ways.


In my experience, life is like a dream. Every moment, it’s new. What was here is gone, just like a dream. At best, I have a vague memory for a while, and then that’s gone too.


To myself, I am most fundamentally consciousness, and the world – to me – happens within and as that consciousness. That too is like a night dream. Night dreams and waking life happens within and as the consciousness I am.


That’s all how it appears to me.

Can I say anything about existence itself? Not really, but I can make a couple of guesses.

It seems that in existence itself – in the world and the universe – everything is new every moment. What’s here is gone, just like a dream. In this way, it’s as if existence itself is like a dream.

It’s even possible that the nature of existence is the same as my nature, and that it’s all actually happening within and as consciousness. In this case, existence is like the dream of God, the divine, Spirit, Brahman.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Am I dreaming or awake, right now?

Whatever we come up with, we may find it difficult to justify the answer. We cannot come up with any watertight argument.

We cannot know for certain. And for a very good and important reason.

To us, dreams and waking life happens within and as consciousness.

They happen within and as what we are. To us, there is no difference between the nature of the two.

This doesn’t say anything about the nature of waking life or existence itself. It also doesn’t say that we shouldn’t take waking life seriously or not be good stewards of our life. It just says something about how this particular question appears to us when we look into it.

And it says something about what our more fundamental nature is, in our own first-person experience. Which, I assume, is why the question was created in the first place.

Cartoon: Drawing by Schulz, text attributed to Stephen LaBerge.

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We cannot escape the dream, but we can learn to recognize and find appreciation for it

We cannot escape the creativity of the mind, and why would we?


Our experience of the world is like dream in two ways.

It’s created by the mind. And it happens within and as consciousness.


At a story level, we can say that our biological system takes in information about the wider world, and the brain puts it all together into a more or less coherent experience. 

And in our immediate experience, we can explore our sense fields and see how this seems to happen. We can notice what’s here in sight, sound, smell, taste, physical sensations, and so on. And how the mental field comes as an overlay to interpret and make sense of it all, and also create a sense of past, future, and a separate self. 

Our experience of the world is not how the world is. It’s created. It’s an expression of the creativity of the mind. It’s dreamt up. 

Most of the time, it’s accurate enough so we can navigate and function in the world relatively well. 

And sometimes, it’s off enough so we are shown that our experience is created. It’s not how the world itself is. 


Logically, we see that to ourselves, we have to be consciousness, and any experience we have – of ourselves, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as consciousness. It cannot be any other way. 

We are consciousness and this consciousness forms itself into all our experiences. 

Even if – in a possible more objective and external reality – we are most fundamentally a biological being in the world, to ourselves, we are most fundamentally consciousness, and the world to us happens within and as this consciousness. It happens within and as what we are. 

We can also find this in our immediate first-person experience. We can see that our nature, most fundamentally, is capacity for any and all of our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything at all. To us, the world happens within and as what we are. 

Night dreams clearly happen within and as consciousness. And our waking life is no different. That too happens within and as consciousness. To us, the world happens within and as what we are. 


To the extent we assume our perception of the world is accurate, and our stories about the world are true, we are out of alignment with reality and this creates suffering. 

We can see through this in a general way, and specifically for each story, and this helps us recognize it all as created by the mind. To the extent we see through the dream, we can hold it all more lightly. We can use our stories as guides and questions about the world and know they are not any full, final, or absolute truth. And this helps us be more aligned with reality and live more in peace. 


Through this, we may find what we more fundamentally are in our first-person experience. We may notice our nature as capacity for any and all experiences. We may notice we are what the world, to us, happens within and as. 

We may notice that the world, to us, is like a dream. It’s created by the mind. It happens within and as consciousness. It’s created by what we are and happens within and as what we are. 

This helps us hold it more lightly. We know it’s not any full, final, or absolute truth. 

And this also helps us find a deeper appreciation for it all. We can find a deeper appreciation for the creativity of the mind and the dreamlike nature of the world as it appears to us. 

We don’t need to get rid of the dream. Why would we? Especially when it would mean that we wouldn’t be able to function in the world anymore. To me, it makes more sense to find a deeper appreciation for the dream. 

Image: Created by an AI called Huxley and described as the dreaming up of images. From the “Invisible” video by Duran Duran.

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Some side-effects of the awakening: poor memory, dreamlike quality, etc.

The awakening process tends to have several side effects. Some of these happen during certain phases of the process. Not all are experienced in all cases. And some seem more or less unavoidable and inherent in the awakening itself. 

I’ll mention a few here that I am familiar with from my own experience and that seem relatively common based on what I hear from others.


It’s quite common to experience poor memory at some point in the awakening process. Our memories used to feel solid and real, and now they feel ephemeral and difficult to grasp.

We may also have a more general sense of cognitive dysfunction. It seems that our mind doesn’t work very well, and may be surprised when we actually are able to function and do what we need to do. It’s as if the abilities miraculously come online when they are needed.


The world may have a dreamlike quality to us. It’s as if we can put our hand through it. It feels ephemeral.

The world and this human self – and any content of experience – feel like a dream to us.

This can feel disconcerting, although here too, we may find that we can still function fine in daily life.


Another common side effect is that this human self lives its own life.

Anything connected with this human self – thoughts, feelings, words, actions – happen on their own. 

It’s always this way. And noticing it is now more unavoidable.


All of this can be disconcerting to our mind at first.

And all of it is normal and we get used to it.

We may develop strategies for remembering certain things. (I write anything down that I may need to remember in the future.)

We trust that we will function OK in the world even if it appears like a dream to us.

And we also develop a trust in this human self being able to take care of itself, even if it is living its own life and anything connected with it is happening on its own.


There is a reason why we may have these experiences, and it’s inherent in the awakening dynamic itself. 

Poor memory

In an unawake state, we tend to hold many of our thoughts – mental images and words – as inherently true. That gives them a charge for us, and it makes them seem real and substantial. This also applies to the mental representations we call memories, and the charge and sense of solidity make it easier to bring them up. It’s easier for us to remember things because these memories mean something to us.  

In an awakening, we tend to recognize all mental representations as just that. They are representations aimed at helping us orient and function in the world. They may be more or less accurate in an ordinary sense, and they are unable to hold any full, final, or absolute truth. For this reason, they tend to lose charge for us and they generally seem less substantial and solid. And that can make it more difficult for our mind to bring up memories. They don’t have as much charge for us, they are more ephemeral and less solid, and we recognize them as a mental creation happening here and now. 

Dreamlike quality

The world takes on a dreamlike quality because it always is like a dream to us. Dreams also happen within and as consciousness. And the world to us – this human self, the wider world, any content of experience – happens within and as consciousness. To us, it all happens within and as what we are, which a thought may imperfectly call consciousness, and it’s always that way. It’s just that we didn’t notice and now we do. 

Lives its own life

This human self appears to live its own life because that’s how it always is. Its thoughts, feelings, words, and actions are always happening on its own. All of it is living its own life. It’s just that in an unawake state, we added a sense of an “I” or “me” doing it (a human self, an observer, a doer, etc.), and now we recognize that as a mental add-on. 


As mentioned earlier, there are many possible and typical side-effects of awakening. One is that thoughts quiet down. They appear when needed, and otherwise, it’s mostly quiet. There is just perception and a general absence of noticeable thought. And it’s not always this way. For instance, Byron Katie, rapports a great flow of thoughts, and that’s perhaps why she was moved to formalize her approach to inquiry. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

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