Posts filed under Dreams

How to be an Optimist: See Life as a Dream

A young man wrote to me about his own pessimism (co-occuring with a scientific attitude toward life) and asked me what spurs on my optimism.  I wrote this reply:

Optimism and Transcendentalism

I guess a long time ago in my philosophical searchings I examined the kind of scientific materialist attitude you seem to be describing and.... utterly rejected it. I'm a transcendentalist - which means I see the world and everything in it (including my own self) as a kind of deep holographic dream projected by "my" consciousness (I put "my" it quotes because it's "mine" in the sense that I can make choices that influence it, but it's not mine in the sense that there ultimately is no me since "Carolyn" is just another part of the dream.... sorry if that's hard to follow, it gets a little complex).

Changing the Dream

The reason all this transcendentalism adds up to optimism is this: if everything is a dream, then it can change from a terrible dream into a beautiful dream. Whether the dream is beautiful or terrible depends on what angle of light, or motivation, I'm sending through the hologram projector (my brain). If I'm sending the self-centered motivation of gathering up pleasure and security and power just for myself, then I'm going to be faced with a hologram of an utterly ugly, difficult, barren and horrible world. I'll be in endless conflict with the people around me. I'll be miserable. I've spent years living in that "reality" and it's awful. I've also dipped down into that recently - I was hugely depressed and suicidal. I had lost my way and wound myself into a big mess of compassionless horror.

Generating Awake-heart aka Bodhicitta

On the other hand, I've found that if I'm sending the other-cherishing motivation of being committed to bringing all creatures into happiness (i.e., non-attached and unending bliss, freedom from addiction and craving) and I'm willing to project limitless loving-kindness (i.e., deliberately being willing to love and wish happiness for people I don't like and resent, being willing to delight in their triumphs and to work to spare them from pain)...

...well, then the hologram becomes beautiful, synchronous, full of joy and meaning and connection.

Life becomes easy and I find I can fulfill my basic needs and my big aspirations without much worry. I mean, there are still so many challenges - but the challenges are fascinating instead of frightening. It's not like hunger and war and tragedy and sickness and misfortune disappear from the dream - but they don't oppress me in the same way. Instead there's a light within me that is willing to take responsibility for healing all that pain in the world and in myself.

And ultimately, I think, this process of lightening and en-blissening just goes on and on until the dream becomes very transparent and dissolves entirely, leaving the consciousness in Nirvana or the Kingdom of Heaven or what-have-you.

My optimism is essentially this: that it's possible for everyone, including myself, to dwell in ecstatic happiness, and that there are things I can do to bring that about... and the very process of working to bring this about is incredibly fulfilling and fun. It's basically Mahayana / Vajranya Buddhism but I like to spice it up by thinking a lot about Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

I don't know if those are flavors of Buddhism that you've investigated, but I sure love them. I've also been influenced strongly by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Don Miguel Ruiz and Byron Katie.

Man, I could go on and on. I'm sure I've used some shorthand in explaining this that doesn't make sense and sounds very fluffy. But I assure you, it all makes razor-sharp sense in my mind.



image: [seyed mostafa zamani]

On Goes the Endemic Dream: An Experiment in Contagious Dreaming

Note of Introduction: Meg Rivers is an Evolver sporganizer in Columbia, Missouri.  I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Evolver Convergence this year.  She shared with me the freshest theory of dreams I'd ever heard, so I asked her to write this post to bring it to you.  - Love, Carolyn

The Endemic Dream is an ongoing international scientific dream experiment, intended to culminate in a quantifiable result.

We know very little about the actual mechanisms behind our dreams, puzzled by complex and eerie stories that unfold in our minds at night without our knowledge or consent. From where inside us do images, emotions, ideas, and events that we have never encountered originate?

Carl Jung called this place the collective unconscious; The Endemic Dream seeks to quantify one method of its collection, and believes part of the answer may lie in the scent trail.

No one knows how long a dog can track something in a forest, though some scent hound trainers claim their dogs can follow a trail for up to a year assuming conditions are wet enough. Why would conditions need to be wet for your trail to be detectable? It is because the pieces of yourself that you leave behind live independently of your body, and need water to survive. The scent trail carries with it information of which we are consciously unaware, information that our bodies use in ways we seem far from understanding. Everywhere we go we leave much more than a way to be found if we are missing. We leave thoughts, ideas, and dreams behind that other people and animals are able to interpret by various methods.

We accept that foreign thoughts and images are random accumulations, information our minds piece together from things we have already learned. The Endemic Dream proposes a different hypothesis, that these foreign concepts appearing in our dreams [sights, smells, sounds, tastes, knowledge and emotions we have not experienced in waking life] are in part composed of information we have contracted from other people and places. Just as a virus may not always express itself immediately following contraction, the information we accumulate (through sensory experience and contagion) might not express itself immediately as an element in your dreams. It may take time to interpret the results of this study.

At this time in Columbia, Missouri, we are experimenting playfully, looking for variables to control and make future experiments quantifiable. The hypothesis of infection came about from a series of synchronistic dream events that occurred over a short period of time, too amazing to be a coincidence. This is a short synopsis of what occurred.

A friend of mine dreamed of me and sent me an email about it. That night, my mother came to visit. In the morning, she woke up and reported a dream to me, the same dream my friend had had the night before.  Later that week, I called this friend’s mother to discuss an unrelated topic, and that night she dreamed I called her mother and phoned me to tell me so, though they had not spoken of the call.  The next week, the same friend emailed me again with a new dream that was seemingly insignificant. That evening, my mother came to visit me again, and when she woke up in the morning, reported exactly the same dream my friend had written me about, but with different people playing the character roles

After a process of elimination, I hypothesized that microbial contagion was the culprit, the medium by which dreams were being shared, and that information can be more than just learned, that it is absorbed, innate, environmental, and continuously processed through our orifices. We are a gyre and every seal we leave open brings things in, whether or not we are aware we have received it.

The first experiment I conducted to test this theory was in 2009 between myself and a friend of mine, let’s call her Samantha, who works at the University of Missouri in Soil Science. She was a good candidate, logical, skeptical, someone after scientific truth for truth’s sake. She was also the wife of my partner’s friend and our close neighbor, which made it easy to experiment with her. The first night, I told her my theory and asked her if she would be willing to conduct a rather nasty biological experiment; she agreed that in the name of science, she would do it.

A leaf had recently dropped off an orchid someone gave me for a gift; I ripped it in half. I instructed Samantha to put the piece of orchid leaf in her mouth and completely soak it in her saliva, and I did the same with my half. We then traded, and agreed to sleep with the other’s saliva-covered half-leaf under our pillow cases all night, directly under our nostrils.


A few days prior to this, I had a very vivid dream. After a post-apocalyptic dream bus ride, I woke up in a windy, hot desert where three wise men dressed in biblical attire materialized and handed me a map. When I looked at the map, it was deep midnight blue, so blue that it looked like a piece of the night sky. It was printed upon a strange type of parchment, and I flipped it over, pinched at the corners, at every turn trying to figure out what it was made of. I realized it was made out of skin, and that the map was a tattoo taken from something - or someone’s - back. Ahh, “Important,” I thought at the three men, my eyes wide. “Yes, very. Do not lose it” was the message. I was pulling my son behind me in a ramshackle wagon made out of loose boards and pieces of trash, he was an infant and was unconscious, feverishly tossing and turning in the heat. I pulled him painfully through the desert as I tried to read the map.


I looked up trying to match the constellations on the map with the sky, and realized that I could not recognize my surroundings, possibly was in the southern hemisphere or on a different planet. I looked to the map trying to identify something I knew, but I could not remember what I identified to help me find my way. I saw it up in the sky and set out for my destination, certain that when I arrived we would be rescued.


The day after the saliva-leaf experiment, Samantha and I sat in my living room and she reported what she remembered. This is a compilation of what she and I recall:

She woke up and she was in a kayak sailing through the ocean at night. Someone gave her a map, which she looked at intently. “What color was the map?” I asked. “Blue,” she said, “a map of stars, blue like a piece of dark blue sky.” “What did you do with the map?” “I turned it around and around in my hands like it was upside down or something.” “Why did you turn the map around?” “I was trying to see which way was up. It was printed on a kind of mammal skin.” I asked, “What were you looking for on the map?” “Constellations, a star system. I looked up and realized that I wasn’t in a familiar place, and used the Big Dipper to help orient myself on the map. I knew that when I got there, something would happen.”

The Big Dipper! That was what I had not remembered in my dream, Samantha’s power of recall was different than my own. The experiment had seemingly worked on this first occasion, and I looked closely at what elements came through. Color was one that transferred, as well as action, images, and overall directives. Personal thoughts about those items did not seem to transfer as well. I was turning the map over to see what it was made of, but Samantha was turning it around and around abstractly, with no real thought behind the action except to explain away why it was happening. Her dream seemed an empty copy of mine.

The way we both remember the dream is different, and the way we remember the telling is different as well. I do recall for certain the fact that we were both made to spin the map, and that it was the deepest midnight blue. She recognized immediately what the map was made of and attempted to determine which way was up, while I was unsure of what it was printed on but certain of its orientation. Was her dream authentic or inauthentic? Was it mine, or was it hers? Was she replicating my actions, or was I predicating hers? Was she turning the map because it was an inherent part of what transferred over, or does it merely demonstrate the differences in perception when the map was received?

In the Theory of Megamind [a theory of evolution currently evolving, posted here:], body and mind are separately intelligent entities cooperating for survival, though body knows this and mind does not. Body is operated by a group council of cells in the intestine, “the gut”, and mind is a singular entity, “I”, which can be likened to Freud’s respective “ego + id” and “super ego”. Body’s governing council has access to one’s audio, video, and other sensorial files and can use them as it sees fit: sometimes to warn the mind of a perceived danger, often to gauge reaction to a particular stimulus. More frequently though, dreams seem only to be the mind’s perception of collected information crossing the cerebral cortex, and being filed into archives for later recall.

So if the Dream World exists in the world of the cell, and our world is exponentially larger, what translates from the Big Action World into the Dream World? What do they understand from the great beyond? Is it more than we understand of the cosmos? The members of the Dream World are so small, those little darlings, always setting the stage for us to skate upon, like when you dream you are in an exact replica of your home, but you know it is not real, because the details are minutely skewed. They must know nothing of the cosmos as we see them, considering the size differential between the two dimensions. Those pranksters think they know us but alas, they are only grasping for straws.

Though one-on-one experiments through the Endemic Dream have been successful, group experiments have yielded few significant results. On September 7th, 2012, a Dream Team is being assembled in Columbia, Missouri that will begin seriously testing and documenting this hypothesis of dream contagion, isolating variables for future experiments, and recording what occurs, so stay tuned for information as the Endemic Dream unfolds. For now, I’ll leave you with this story:

Last week on Monday my friend Samantha, with whom I first experimented at the beginning of the Endemic Dream, realized at work that her building was infested with cockroaches, her poverty-stricken childhood phobia. She turned over several boxes from which roaches spilled out to frighten her, and subsequent traumatic roach events occurred throughout the day. Later that night, she and her husband shared a margarita out of the same glass at a restaurant. The next morning on Tuesday, her husband woke up and said, "I haven't remembered my dreams for like a year, weirdest thing. But last night I dreamed all night long that I was turning over boxes full of cockroaches that spilled out. Oddly I was terrified, and screaming."

Good night, sweet dreams, and don’t eat after anybody you don’t want swimming in your subconscious. It’s always good advice,


Meg Rivers

Posted on August 28, 2012 and filed under Dreams.

Dream Interpretation: Acting on Your Night-Time Dreams

All of us do dream interpretation as soon as we wake up each morning.  Even if our dream interpretation is only, "That's meaningless nonsense I can forget about."

Some dreams pack an intense emotional punch: we not only remember them, but we feel their images and energy throughout our waking day.  These are the dreams that we don't want to dismiss.  Instead, we get curious.  We want to know what's behind those gripping images and sensations.  What's alive inside of me that could have created that? Unless you've been trained as a Jungian or Freudian psychologist, it's likely that your method of dream interpretation is rather haphazard and loose.

You may have seen dream dictionaries and have gotten the idea that decoding a dream is just a matter of looking up its symbols. While it's true that some dream elements have universal connotations that you'll want to be aware of, dreams are subtle and slippery creatures.  If you really want to do dream interpretation you have to learn to think as your dreams think.

Along the way, you'll discover the symbols (people, places, objects) that have deep significance for you.  This is the process of discovering the myth, or spiritual adventure story, that you're alive to live.

Taking action on your night-time dreams

In order to discover and live your spiritual adventure story, you need to not only interpret your dreams but also to take action on what you learn from them.  Dreaming is a process of spiritual evolution that requires our active participation. Most people, by paying no attention to their dreams and doing nothing to act in response to them, squander an unbelievably valuable opportunity for developing their consciousness and thereby expanding their enjoyment of life.

So many of us go through life without an awareness of our own myth.  This lack of awareness makes us hungry and leaves us without a sense of our own rich power; we go seeking for a story outside of ourselves.  We become attached to movie stars and musicians, attracted to consumer goods, fixated on the physical.  Not knowing our own purpose and our own power, we look for it elsewhere.  We end up weakening ourselves in this process; we become sick, depressed, tired.

Ancient people didn't live this way.  It used to be common for both men and women to undergo intense rituals and quests that would bring them directly in touch with the mysteries of their own soul.  They would go out into the wilderness, dream great prophetic dreams, and then base their names and their paths in life on what they learned from their dreams. Now, our society doesn't support such quests.  If we want to be in touch with our soul power, we have to do it ourselves.  And this, among other things, means paying attention to our dreams.

The physical body and the energy body

We all have a physical body.  What's more difficult for us to understand in this day and age is that we also all have an energetic body.  This energetic body holds traces of all we've ever experienced or felt, just like our physical body holds scars and bumps. Our energetic body needs nourishment and exercise just as does our physical body.  We neglect it at our peril.

During the waking day time, our physical body is in motion and our energy body is in a less active state.  During night-time dreaming, our physical body is at rest and our energy body is alive and wandering about.  Where is it wandering about? Well - let's see. Our physical body moves in the physical world -- and it just so happens that our energetic body moves in the energetic, or subtle world.  This subtle world contains numerous layers and locales; it's not a single unified "place" but rather a field of possibility.

Mundane dreams

It's important to realize that most of our dreams happen at an energetic level that's fairly close to our physical body and experience.  These are the "boring" kind of dreams.  They play out anxieties or simple wish fulfillments.  They may contain some metaphoric images, but mostly they're rather literal and don't require all that much thought to interpret.  For example, you may have had dreams like these:

  • You're standing in the grocery store check-out line, and the clerk has just finished ringing up your order.  You reach for your wallet to pay, but realize you don't have it.  You're embarrassed in front of the other patrons in line.
  • A really sexy person in your acquaintance gives you a long, charged kiss.
  • You sit down to a nice campfire with a group of your friends and eat roasted marshmallows.

These mundane dreams feature people and locations from your ordinary life.  It doesn't take much pondering to realize that they're about simple anxiety, desire, and love.  These dreams serve a rather straight-forward teaching purpose: they make you aware of what you're feeling.  They give you an opportunity to come face-to-face with how you see yourself in the world.

 The most important action to take with these kinds of dreams is just to acknowledge them and use them as reminders to deal honestly with the emotions that they emphasize.

For example, after you dream about lacking your wallet in the check-out line, you may want to admit to yourself (without judgment and without trying to 'fix' it) that you really do care a lot about what other people think of you. You really would feel mortified if you ended up forgetting your wallet.  Just take a deep breath and sit with that.  That's who you are right now. Another example - if you dream about kissing some sexy person, you may want to admit the sincerity of your attraction.  Again, just breathe it in.  You don't have to act on it or do anything about it, you just need to know it and honor it.

As we pay attention to them, our dreams serve the function of widening our knowledge of ourselves.  Mundane dreams, though rather dull and not all that thrilling to interpret, are still important because they prevent us from getting stuck in denial.  The more we become acquainted with our own daily fears and longings, the more intimately we know our own humanity.  We become less likely to judge someone else's anxiety or lust.  We understand that those same feelings live within us.  This knowledge gradually makes us more loving.

Psychological dreams

The more fully we know ourselves and the more loving and accepting we become, the more we start to have a second kind of dream.  This second kind of dream we can call a psychological dream.  It shows us something about our own psychological make-up that goes deeper than just surface fears and wants.  Psychological dreams often strongly invoke the past in some way: we dream of our parents or of people we knew long ago.

These dreams feature symbols and settings that are a good deal stranger than our mundane dreams.  What's the reason for this strangeness? It's that psychological dreams represent what the energy body finds when it wanders farther away from the physical body.  The further the energy body moves from the physical body, the more fantastic become its adventures.  The land of the psychological dream is often a land that still throbs with our childhood perceptions and emotions.

Psychological nightmares are much more terrifying than mundane anxiety dreams.  In psychological nightmares we are faced with replays of the traumas we endured growing up.  No matter how wonderful our upbringing, we all suffered some kind of trauma in the journey from childhood to adulthood.  This hurt lives on in this second layer of energetic territory.  For individuals who were abused as children, this is an extremely difficult place to confront.  Our psychological dreams compel us to make real peace with our pasts.  Until we do this, these dreams take us again and again to dark and ugly territories.  Psychological dreams demand more subtlety of interpretation than mundane dreams.  This is because they're speaking to us about events, places and feelings that we have done our best to forget.

In order to understand your psychological dreams, you'll have to be very honest with yourself about what happened to you in the past. This is a natural process: just consider the content of your dream and allow it to "connect the dots" within you.  In order to move through this level of dreaming, you'll have to nurture in yourself a strong intention to forgive and heal.  Here are some examples of psychological dreams:

  • You're being chased down a dark alley by a menacing figure in a white mask.
  • Your parents have laid out their table for a fancy dinner - and you're the main course.
  • The girl who was mean to you at school puts a red snake in your bed which turns into a dragon.

These kind of dreams are more symbolic and require more figural (i.e., metaphorical or tropic) thought to unpack.  For example - you're the main course in a fancy dinner your parents are eating - could it be that your parents once "fed" on your energy and accomplishments? Did you feel at some level threatened or overwhelmed by their attention to you?

How to Think Like Your Dreams Think

Dreams think in metaphors, puns, story, and drama.  In other words, they think in poetic devices.  In order to understand your dreams, you also have to be willing to think poetically.

To think poetically means to consider elements of the dream in terms of all their connotations and associations.  It means encountering the dream as a holistic experience and meeting it with your whole heart rather than coming at it as a problem to be solved with your mind alone.  Instead of asking yourself, "What does this mean?" try asking yourself, "What kind of metaphor is this? What does this symbol make me feel? What does it invoke in me?"  For example, you may realize that the red snake put in your bed by the mean girl from school makes you think of the blood of your first menstrual period and how threatened you felt by the changes of puberty.

But menstrual blood is not what the red snake means - it's a possible symbolic association for the red snake.  The red snake is not just a dramatic stand in for "menstrual blood" - it's also a red snake - something slithering and alive and startling.  Something possibly dangerous and definitely strange to find in your bed.  What feelings does its presence evoke in you?

Psychological dreams are more challenging than mundane dreams to resolve through action.  Often it's not enough to simply acknowledge the feelings that a certain dream tells you about: you usually have to do something to show your energy body (i.e., your soul) that you "get" what it's showing you.

For example, if you've thought a lot about the dream of your parents eating you at a fancy dinner table, and you've realized that the dream is about your feelings of being consumed by your family life, you may need to take the steps of learning how to set and enforce more appropriate boundaries with your family.  Such a process could take months or years.  No matter how much work it is, you need to do it if you want to progress on your journey.

Another example: if you realize that the red snake in your dream makes you think of your first period and the trouble of transitioning from childhood into adulthood, you may need to re-examine your thoughts about your feminine identity.  Do you need to revise or expand your beliefs about what it is to be a woman?  Do you need to inwardly forgive the mean girl at school who teased you for your pimples and awkward clothes?  Do this, and you'll heal the unease that the dream points to.

Once you've worked through a large quantity of your psychological dreams, you arrive at the third layer of dreaming: spiritual dreams.  Tune in soon to learn just exactly how those kinds of dreams work and what interpretive tools you need to meet them.





image: [jurvetson]

Posted on April 18, 2012 and filed under Dreams, Uncategorized.

A Dream Journal: How to Be Motivated to Keep One

image: [Andrew.Beeb]

The Trouble with Dream Journals

Maybe this happens to you in your struggle to keep a dream journal: every once in awhile you go through a period of crazy, intense night-time dreams.  You jot them down and you make your friends try to help you interpret them.  Through these conversations with your friends and with yourself about your dreams, you come to know things about yourself that are shocking and yet deeply satisfying.  You grow. You feel exultant and bigger.  You say to yourself, "This is amazing.  I have to be more disciplined about remembering my dreams.  There's so much going on in them, and I'm totally missing out when I don't pay attention."

So you resolve to keep a dream journal by your bed.  You get a nice, clean notebook and a fresh pen.  You set them near your alarm and your glass of water.  For a few mornings in a row you even succeed in writing down what you can recall.  You have it there, in black and white, that your friend Gloria convinced you to dig up a corpse from the Allegheny Cemetery and annoint it with lavender oil and bring it to your high school reunion.

Then life speeds up. The pressure to wake up, jump out of bed and start doing stuff NOW increases.  You don't feel you have the leisure to lie there and sleepily try to recall pertinent details: "Wait, I was in a castle - no, it wasn't just a castle, it was a school, but it was a fortress-like school controlled by evil aliens- and Tommy was there with me, we were eating pizza and feeling guilty about murdering someone - but then Tommy turned into John - and I had the definite impression that somehow he was my grandfather. Hmmmmmmm."

Your rational mind tells you you don't have the time to waste on all that nonsense. I wrote about this before - it's why you don't remember your dreams.  Your ego wants you to know that you're an important, busy person who's well-being is threatened by a thousand practical pressures and who must take concrete action to fix things and make stuff happen.

In other words, keeping a dream journal is hard because it takes discipline, and we human beings have a limited amount of discipline at any given time.  You might be using all the discipline you've got to keep yourself eating a healthful diet, and then you end up having none left over for the effort to keep a dream journal.

The good news is that discipline is like a muscle, and can grow stronger over time with exertion.  After enough practice, it takes less effort to get yourself to eat healthfully, so then you have discipline-effort left over to beam onto your dream journal.


Gathering Motivation

But a quicker route to committed dream journal keeping is to fuel up your motivation.  And the simplest way to gather motivation is to get really clear about the why's and wherefore's of your desire to do this work.  Put simply: what are you going to get out of it? What wonderful result will you have if you persist in keeping a dream journal for the next 90 days?

"Well, man, I don't know - it's like, a mystery. That's the whole point. I don't know what I'll find."

Okay, yeah, but there's something specifically alluring about that mystery, and we need to be really precise about that.  We need to get our rational minds to cooperate with us in this endeavor, and in order for that to happen, our rational minds have to believe that they're going to get something out of this deal.

Here's my list of 5 amazing things that I believe will come from my keeping a dream journal for the next 90 days (which I'll be doing right here on this blog):

1. I'll a collection of far-out, deeply personal images and symbols that I can use in my poetry and art.

2. I'll be able to chart the relationship of my dreams to the cycle of the moon, and see how they synch up.  This'll give me important knowledge to use in future dream interpretation work for myself and others.

3. I'll be more familiar with the things that tend to happen in my dreams - so I'll be more likely to become aware that I'm dreaming while I'm dreaming (i.e. become lucid) and then be able to do all sorts of fun lucid dream stuff.

4. I'll be able to gather information about my underlying feelings about my relationships that otherwise I wouldn't have access to (it's my experience that my dreams always tell me the truth of how I'm feeling even when I'm trying to lie to myself).

5. I'll finally learn some subtle spiritual lessons that the universe is trying to teach me which otherwise don't get through to my inhibited waking mind.

So those are my motivating reasons for keeping a dream journal for the next few months.  Go ahead and take a few minutes right now to jot down your 5 reasons.  I hope you'll write them in the comments section - maybe we can inspire each other.


Posted on April 11, 2012 and filed under Dreams.