The official site of the sleep-deprived

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dreams and the Collective Unconscious

Last week, while enjoying a much-needed vacation at the beautiful ranch Waldemar in Hunt, Texas, I attended three dream sessions facilitated by therapist La Jeune Wint. La Jeune explained that each individual’s dream is everyone’s dream, a concept I’d never considered before. I’d always believed dreams were an individual affair––but having read some of C.G. Jung’s work about the collective unconscious, the idea intrigued to me.

Instead of attempting to analyze and interpret one another’s dreams, this group of women (maybe a dozen or so on any given morning) practiced a technique that was new to me. We sat in a circle, eyes closed, warming our hands around steaming cups of coffee in the cool September morn, and opened our minds and hearts. While one woman recounted a dream, we listened and allowed ourselves to glide into her dream, to follow it as if we were dreaming it ourselves.

As each woman shared, her dream unfolded its significance for me, personally. Her closet monsters invoked mine; her conundrums called mine into question; her journey echoed my own quest. Amazing, I thought. Never mind that her dream hadn’t originated in my own psyche. Never mind that I’d never even met most of these women before. We were fellow travelers, connected in some inexplicable way, sharing a common experience in the dreamscape. I may not have reacted to or interpreted the dream’s content in exactly the same way as the woman who’d presented the dream, yet her dream revealed symbols, patterns, and “aha’s” that held meaning for me.

Later, as we discussed our insights and what we’d individually gleaned from someone’s dream, I realized that every dream––regardless of who dreams it––can help me understand my life. Not only my own dreams, but other people’s as well, can ferry me through life’s challenges and offer guidance in my waking world. We’re all interconnected, all part of the cosmic web that Jung called the collective unconscious, the world of archetypes and myth. And we are all here to help one another.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


It’s got to be because I’m co-writing this blog ….

But it used to be oh, sometimes 3:10, or 3:30, or on a really good day, even 4:00 before I’d experience the BIG WAKE-UP and know I was done for the night. But now, as reliable as ants at a picnic, my eyes open at exactly 3:15. Not 2:59 or 3:14, but 3:15. I stare at the illuminated numbers on the clock and think about Bill Murray’s character in the movie Ground Hog Day. It’s a sick, cosmic joke – at the stage of life when I feel I need more sleep than ever – it’s becoming more and more elusive.

The last few mornings I’ve been contemplating a comment by Wayne Dyer – something along the lines of “if you find yourself waking at odd hours, think of it this way …. perhaps the universe is using the only time it can to get through to you. Consider that it’s urging you to get out of bed and use that time wisely.” After a righteous dissing of the good doctor, (“yeah, well, he doesn’t have a 9-5 job”, “he wakes up to the sunrise in his beach house on Maui,” “he can get up at 3:15 because he can take a nap at 10:00 ….”), I remember that he’s also a very wise man and just maybe I should listen to him.

I roll out of bed wincing as I hit the squeaky spots on the hardwood floor wondering if I’ll ever have them memorized. My cats look up at me with squinty eyes; even my nocturnal animals think this is crazy stuff.

For many years now I’ve been having an early morning dialogue with my higher, more evolved self – she is L1 and I am L2. L1 lives our perfectly manifested life in northern California in our perfectly manifested, down-to-the-last-detail house near the redwood forests. We communicate via a special email account. She writes me from the future and takes great pains to tell me about the life waiting for me there. She tells me what she does all day, what the weather is like, what she’s reading, what new fabric she found at a craft fair that is just right for the couch in the den. I note with a twinge of jealousy that she’s always happy, always content, always well-rested, and has always just done an hour of Bikram yoga.

I write from the here – wherever that may be – and tell her about my days, my struggles and concerns, how I’m progressing (or not), and sometimes, even about the little victories. Most of the time I solicit direction and wisdom from her higher perspective – and what has come of this pre-dawn dialogue is nothing short of astonishing. I have no doubt that it is the combination of the stillness of the hour and not being fully awake that allows me to open a blank email and allow her to talk to me.

I have just enough coffee to be a functional typist, and then quietly clear my thoughts (fortunately there aren’t many at that hour) and open my heart. I type until there’s nothing left to say and I do not read it until the next morning. L1 is a much better writer than I, and speaks with a voice and vocabulary that is most definitely not that of L2. Not only do I have no recollection of taking the dictation and what was said, but the advice she gives is always dead-on and jaw-dropping in its clarity.

So the next time you find yourself wide awake at what seems to be an un-Godly hour, try changing your perception to embrace the hour as quite possibly the most sacred time of day. Rather than lying there silently cursing the dark and your inability to sleep, choose to be honored that, just maybe, someone magnificently wise and greater than you has awakened you for the sole purpose of having a talk.

Now how cool is that?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Recurring Dreams

Most of us have dreams that repeat themselves periodically. If you believe that your dreams are trying to tell you something, a recurring dream suggests you haven’t gotten the message yet. These dreams, then, are especially important.

The dream a high-powered business executive related to me is a good example. She repeatedly dreamed she was walking naked along a crowded city sidewalk. Although this woman was very successful, she felt inadequate to the responsibilities of her job and worried she’d be exposed as a fraud.  When she took a job that suited her better, she stopped having the dream.

From time to time most of us dream of being in a classroom taking a test for which we are unprepared. Not surprisingly, we tend to have this dream at turning points in our lives, when we’re facing new challenges or moving into a new phase of life.

During a particularly difficult time in my life, when I was faced with many daunting challenges, I dreamed my basement was crammed with old junk and debris that I had to clean up. (Usually a house in a dream symbolizes your life situation.) Several weeks later I dreamed my kitchen sink and counters were cluttered with dirty dishes. I continued having variations on this dream for some months, and each time the “task” before me diminished in size. The last dream in the sequence involved removing a few old garments from my closet and putting them in a bag for The Salvation Army. My dreams marked my personal growth as I sorted out the troublesome areas in my life.

What dreams keep replaying, like old movies, for you? Pay close attention to your own recurring dreams. Notice any changes in the dream’s narrative, setting, or characters––these will tell you how the situation referred to by the dream is progressing.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Unreasonable Happiness

Lately when 3:15 rolls around I find myself staring at the wall, thinking about happiness. And joy. Does happiness lead to joy - or vice versa? Is there a difference between the two?

I think about the very few people I know that I consider honestly happy, and I try to dissect their lives for the formula that makes them so. A few are obviously passionate about how they spend their life energy, others have just made the choice to be happy, no matter what the circumstances. A few I can see no reason whatsoever why they should be so happy - life seems to have dealt them a rough hand, but no matter. I think about where I land on the spectrum.

Like many people, I believe I love animals and keep them around to remind me about the joy of living in the now. Animals don't drag around thoughts about whether they're living up to their potential, or their reason for being on the planet. They don't create endless stories about how if they hadn't made the dumb choice to run off that day, they'd be back home and much happier than they are now. They don't wonder if they've been putting out too many negative thoughts to the universe and that's why their luck has changed ..... we couldn't ask for better role models.

Complaining is the antithesis of happiness. It's impossible to be happy when you're negatively verbalizing - or listening to someone who is. And complaining is our national past time. We complain about the weather, politics, neighbors, our aches and pains, other drivers, co-workers, bad service - and sometimes we're downright righteous in our complaining. "If people weren't so rigid and intolerant," we think, "we'd all be much happier." And there we are, rigid and intolerant and complaining about those that are rigid and intolerant. And on and on it goes.

In an earlier post I talked about my hope that a new mattress would be the Thing That Makes Me Happy. And it does! My back couldn't be more pleased, which makes me very happy. I started on bio-identical hormones, thinking okay, all those annoying symptoms will disappear and I can go back to being really happy again. They work, and I am! I'll move to a larger house where I can spread out and I'll be happy. Yes, it's great! I got a new job and a pay raise - yay! - that definitely makes me happy. Lots of things make us happy in life.

But lying in the dark at 3:15, I realize that though we may have a life filled with lots of individual events that make us happy - it's still not happiness.

I'm a sucker for quotes (quotes that really hit home make me happy) and one of my all-time favorites is from the book Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman. Dan's teacher, Socrates, tells him,

"A fool is 'happy' when his cravings are satisfied. A warrior is happy without reason. That's what makes happiness the ultimate discipline. Happiness is not just something you feel - it is who you are."

"Feelings change. Sometimes sorrow, somtimes joy. But beneath it all, remember the innate perfection of your life unfolding. That is the secret of unreasonable happiness."