Maybe it was the hot wings I had for dinner last night, though it could have been the beer.
Whatever the case, last night’s adventure in dreamland has me thinking.
Like most people, I think, there are times when I wake in the darkness of night feeling unsettled from a dream. Mostly, my dreams are the stuff of Dalí paintings, with an occasional Tim Burton film lobbed from deep within my subconscious, offering an assortment of talking dogs, forgotten friends and sweet visitations from my long since deceased grandmothers. But last night’s adventure was a present-day romp through some of my deepest insecurities.
My dream made me feel shame and fear.
I’ll spare you the details, if for no other reason than to protect the innocent. Suffice it to say that while I was dreaming through the unbridled joy of time with close friends—a surprise party, in fact—I encountered someone suggesting there were things I should be doing—things that person believed were important. My antagonist made his feelings clear. I wasn’t measuring up to his expectation. I should be more. I should be more. I should be different. He made his accusations, assuring me he would make others aware of my shortcomings.
Unlike most of my dreams, this one seemed to deserve some reflection. So as I spent some time meditating this morning, I realized there are some questions I need to ask myself.
The first one is pretty obvious. What was the source of my dream? Historically, I’ve had a willingness to try to please people—to meet their expectations. While working hard and being responsible are noble qualities, it’s important to know that controlling the results of those efforts isn’t. What I do, what I achieve, and what people think of me because of them don’t define me. And the relentless pursuit of the applause of others is both addictive and absurd. Lesson one: others expectations aren’t always reasonable or healthy. I was having fun with friends in my dream. Someone else thought that was a bad idea. What?
So the second question is less obvious. Was there any merit in what my accuser was suggesting? This one is tricky. It requires a willingness to examine myself in a way that could make me uncomfortable. Was I neglecting something important? Was there a legitimate responsibility I should have been engaged in fulfilling? And if there had been, would I allow myself to be burdened by the guilt of my failure or the threat to my reputation-the prison of my own self constructed persona—if my accuser used my shortcomings to debase me? Lesson two: face your accuser and gently examine the accusations. (I know. Me too. Ick.)
Meditation and mindfulness are often misunderstood as a means for achieving a state of uninterrupted bliss. Sure, there are moments in which I find myself remarkably free of angst, fear and self-doubt because of my practice. But being awake to the both the joy and pain of life requires work. It requires the examination of things that make me uncomfortable as well as things that make me happy.
Rather than accepting fear, frustration and fatigue as simply as intrinsic parts of life, I can offer myself respite from the beleaguering chattering of my monkey-mind. I can look for the causes of them, rather than just try to treat the symptoms of my experience. One thing arises out of another. Without the awareness of this and examination, I’m destined to live in the frantic pursuit of things that only provide me with symptomatic relief rather than heal me.
So as you face the major and minor traumas of your day, perhaps you need to ask yourself some questions about the emotions you experience. Perhaps you need to examine your strategies for dealing with them. Be mindful of your accusers—be they people or your own self-imposed expectations.
Maybe you need to make changes in your work, your relationships, or your habits. Maybe not. If you find yourself unsettled by a dream, examine it. There may be some lessons to be learned in them—some insight into how you are investing your waking hours and who has taken up residency in your mind. Maybe you will find the the dream caused by something you need to change in your life.
Or maybe you should just lay off the hot wings and beer.
Author: Jim Owens
Image: Flickr/cea +
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina