And then I dreamed…

I spent the night with friends… more socially distanced than any pandemic ruling could possibly require…. and I’m tired. I didn’t sleep as much as I would have liked and spent a lot of the night tossing and turning. That is not as contradictory as it might seem, for it was when I did doze that I spent the time watching those I love wander across the screen of dreams. Though that is not quite a true depiction. I was in there with them.

I dream vividly and in colour and was surprised when I learned how many people don’t, though apparently with the demise of monochrome media that is changing dramatically. Which raises some interesting questions about how our minds and perceptions are, quite literally, coloured by our environment.

Be that as it may, my dreams have always been vividly and graphically coloured and I feel them as reality while I am dreaming… and honestly, there are some you really wish did not feel quite so real…

Last night, however, it was lovely to see and to hold those who are distant in time and space, to talk with them and smile with them, hear much-loved voices and share the small things of every day. Most I recognised, though there were others I knew that I have known and loved, although they are not part of this life’s story. Waking each time, as I wavered between the worlds, brought a sense of both warm gratitude for that touch of presence, and a hint of loss that it was not ‘real’.

Yet, it was real, on its own plane, and in that moment. It was only on waking that the change in my mode of perception traced that dividing line. It was real as I felt the touch of minds and hearts, the embrace and warmth of those long departed or far away. Dreaming opens the doors to meet across the miles, or to be once again with those who have departed this world to a place where we may meet in joy, just as we would have done in life. These are not old scenes replayed, but new interactions.

What does it matter if they are not ‘real’ if they touch the heart and call up the deepest emotions? If such a meeting still fills you with joy and gratitude when you have woken, and it is real enough to change your world and your day.

Beliefs about the world of dreams vary widely, from soul journeys outside of time and space, to a simple working out of events and psychological details by the brain. Did it matter to me, while I dreamed, whether my brain was constructing images or if my soul was flying free? Not a bit. I was just happy to be with those I love.

There is no past tense here… even for those who are no longer in the world. Love does not die when the object of it is no longer beside us. It remains and is part of us always. It may be filed away, gently wrapped in the protective gauze of memory, but it is still part of who we are. Part, perhaps, of what makes us who we are.

I cannot help thinking of all those people who, as they approach the end of their lives, speak of loved ones being there to welcome them to the other side. I remember my great grandmother, close to death at one point, yet sent back, she said, to complete her tasks for this lifetime, telling us how she was a young woman again as she met my late, great grandad in a sunny field. It was not what she expected, not what she believed… but she smiled like a girl when she told us.

With my own end being pencilled in for ‘sooner’ rather than ‘later’, and with the restrictions imposed by COVID keeping so many people so very far apart, spending time with loved ones is more important than ever to me. And whether or not these visitations in the night have any reality outside of dream, their presence I can see only as a gift.

Whatever thought and logic might bring to the question, today I will walk with that touch of love in my heart in spite of a restless night. Although I glowered at the dawn through frustrated and heavy eyelids, when I rose from my bed it was with a smile on my face and the glow of a lifetime of love, given and received, to carry me through the day.

Exploring reality?

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It was one of those conversations where a simple thought ended up taking us a long way. There had been a dream… one of those where it seems more real than reality and a lifetime is lived in the space of a night, and though completely out of context in terms of the waking self, it has its own validity and depth.

In such dreams you have relationships… ones that feel, to the dreamer, to be as full and rounded as in an ordinary day. That’s where the discussion started. How do relationships work in dreams? They are built on memory… How can a dreamer have memories of events neither their dream-self nor their day-self has experienced? And if that is impossible, how can there be relationships of love, friendship, fear? And yet, when we dream, we feel them. An interesting one to ponder…

You could put it down to a ‘straightforward’ psychological ability to synthesise emotional relationships in dreams based on experience in ‘real life’. You might consider past life memories if you believe in that possibility. We considered the theory of parallel and multiple realities where a dream might be a glimpse through a rift between them… We came to no conclusions except that the phenomenon is strange, whatever the cause and must be akin to what is felt in full awareness with those who have visionary experiences.

The more you think about it, the odder it seems. Most of us can call up the image of a face of a stranger… any face will do… probably one you have seen but taken no note of that has lodged in the photographic part of the memory. The image may be sharp or hazy… but the emotions are basic, little more than a gut reaction, if that. What you are calling up is a deliberate construct. Nothing more than a mental photograph about which you know nothing.

It made me think, for some reason, of my experience with PTSD. The flashbacks take you into a snapshot of emotion… the images, sounds, sights and smells are all ‘real’ during an episode, a moving image in which you walk… but the memory is false, being stuck in a scenario that has lost its connection to time and cannot therefore move forward or be filed in the past.

When a face to which we have a connection already comes unbidden to the mind, it brings with it a whole raft of response based on the span of time and emotion shared up to this point as well as our feelings for what the future may hold. It calls up their history, our own and our shared story; you know so many things about that person… not just that face.

And that is where the problem of dreaming takes you; if a dream is no more than a mental construct, how can it have such depth? How can there be past and future? You know nothing of the past, present or future… you have no memories, no experience of the people you meet in sleep. They should be ‘flat’… their stories as empty as if you tried to show the whole of an epic trilogy in a single photographic frame… yet instead there are those who imprint themselves on our memories and find a place in our hearts or our fears, because, somehow, we know them.

Dreams bend the rules of normality in so many ways and the most ridiculous situations can seem absolutely feasible. The most meaningful of relationships can flower in what may be measured as the blink of a sleeper’s eyelid. We did come to one conclusion; perhaps, just perhaps, our dreams serve other purposes than those posited by psychologists and scientists… maybe they allow us to explore the impossible and through their very impossibilities and give us space to question our perception of reality itself.