Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Your Old Men Shall Dream Dreams

Since January 2006, I have kept a dream journal. Some of my dreams are so powerful and make such an impression that I remember them for days or even years. Some are ephemeral and can slip away from me moments after I wake up unless I record them right away. I keep a little notebook on my nightstand, with a pen and a little night light. Since I began my dream journal, I've recorded almost 300 dreams. I've found that in writing my dreams down in a disciplined way, I have begun to notice patterns, recurring themes, characters and symbols. (Göran appears in about half of my dreams, usually just present by my side as a kind of alter ego!) I have begun to recognize a fairly consistent internal, psychic landscape. For instance, I have learned to recognize that whenever I have a dream featuring water -- swimming pools, rivers, lakes, ocean, or rainstorms -- it usually offers me some kind of insight into the nature of mortal existence as distinguished from spiritual existence. Almost every dream I record gives me some insight into my state of mind and my state of spirit, helping me to understand better the issues and struggles I'm dealing with in any given moment.

Some dreams are clearly special though, dreams that I recognize as a vehicle through which God communicates important messages to me. I have recognized some dreams as calls to repentance, some as messages of encouragement and reassurance, some as specific instructions about how to handle a particular situation in my life. The first dream I recorded in my dream journal, on January 12, 2006, was one such dream. I wrote about it in "A Gay Mormon's Testimony," in the April 2006 issue of Sunstone.

In this dream there was a great homecoming of angels. I was one of them. We were flying back to Heaven from earth. There were millions of angels, the air was thick with them. I was particularly eager to return, so I flew up faster than the rest. Most of the angels flew up in choirs, holding fraternal, light-hearted conversation as they ascended. But I was alone. Many regarded me with scorn as I flew past, and some of them were bumping me and knocking me, trying to push me back. I had been exiled through transgression, but when I arrived in Heaven, I resumed my proper place, just behind the throne of the supreme Archangel Michael. Michael was handsome and muscular, with dark hair and brilliant eyes, dressed in beautiful armor, and it stirred my heart to see him. We kissed. One elderly, white-haired woman told me that when she saw how passionately Michael and I embraced upon my return, she realized that this was my rightful place. Others were not so happy to have me back. An angel named Aktiel came and threatened me and wanted to fight me. Michael told him that I was no longer an exile, that I was now home and had received my former office back. Aktiel was angry. He and other angels mocked and harassed me, but I was determined to serve Michael with all the great passion of my love for him, and never transgress the Law of Heaven again.

That dream has been a source of strength to me ever since then. I have remembered it whenever I have encountered negative attitudes that might discourage me or turn me away from my path of faith. It has helped me to remember the importance of loyalty to the cause of Heaven, no matter what obstacles stand in the way.

Anybody else out there had any significant experiences with dreams?


playasinmar said...

I don't dream very often. Sometimes I lucid dream which changes one evening's rest from "regular" to "awesome!"

Bill McA said...

The most spiritual dream I can recall ever having was several years ago, but I still remember it. In the dream I was walking along with my wife and suddenly the sky darkened as though a terrible storm were about to break. Suddenly the Savior appeared coming through the dark clouds. He was wearing a very dark red robe. I remember feeling a very distinct "burning in my bosom" while still dreaming this, as everyone around us realized the Second Coming was upon us. That feeling stayed with me for several hours after I awoke.

When I was in the MTC I served as the Assistant to our Branch President. One day one of the missionaries in our branch told me that he had dreamt that I had killed the Savior. That pretty much freaked everyone in our branch out until our Greek instructor announced that the Greeks believe that the opposite of whatever you dream will come true. I hope she's right!

J G-W said...

Playa - What's does it mean to "lucid dream"?

Bill - I have had quite a few very disturbing dreams... Never one quite so disturbing as one that involves killing Christ, but disturbing nonetheless. But that Greek idea that the opposite of what you dream will come true makes sense when you consider that dreams sometimes tell us what "might" be, or drive home an important point by showing what isn't.

Another way of looking at that dream might be to consider the fact that the logic behind the atonement suggests that in fact we are all responsible for Christ's death, so this missionary's dream, while shocking, actually contained a kind of truth expressed in a very dramatic way.

That's my experience with dreams. Things that are initially shocking, I discover on further thought to be really telling something profoundly true in a way that seems engineered to grab our attention or force us to look at things from a totally different perspective. That's one reason I've found recording my dreams so powerful.

Beck said...

They say that everyone dreams. I guess that's true. But in my case, my dreams (I mean where I really remember and can recount a storyline) are very rare, indeed. I'm envious of those who have such vivid recollections.

Why don't I? What's wrong with me? My "dream journal" would be fairly blank and confusing.

Can one learn to dream?

J G-W said...

Beck - There are lots of people like you who simply never remember their dreams. My understanding is that some people are just more "prone" to vivid dreams, or to remembering their dreams than others.

My philosophy on dreams as a source of personal revelation is that if God needs to communicate with you that way, you will remember the dream. There is nothing special you need to do. It will be sharp, vivid and clear, and you will be able to recall every relevant detail.

If you wish to try to remember dreams as a means of getting more insight into your own psyche, there are a couple of things you can do to help remember them. One is, get plenty of rest; make sure you're sleeping adequately. The other is, when you wake up in the morning, instead of immediately jumping out of bed and starting your routines, just lie still for a while without thinking or focusing on anything specific. Just try to leave your mind blank. You may remember something, you may not, and once you remember one or two details from a dream, it usually triggers recollection of the rest of the dream.

GeckoMan said...

I'll have to join Beck's crowd of dream-challenged. I rarely remember anything from the moment I wake up. However,there are a few times when I do have vivid memory, and then I count that for a sign or a message.

Several months ago I was depressed and doubting my testimony; I longed for some spiritual assurance that my efforts in living the Gospel were not in vain. I was concerned whether or not there was life after death, even though I have had strong feelings and experiences with this on several occasions in my past. At the height of this concern I dreamed a dream where I was with my wife and we witnessed a nuclear explosion and before the blast reached us I said to her, "Well, this is it." I felt at peace, we held hands and felt the extinguishing of life and the sensation of traveling to 'the other side.' All the while I was cogent, comfortable and not afraid. I heard the pleasant voices of welcoming, and then woke up. This dream experience was extremely comforting to me, and I am grateful for such loving answers to prayer and need.

J G-W said...

Geckoman - very cool, very powerful dream! And very reassuring.

I've never heard anyone describe a dream in which they died and began crossing over into the spirit world. I have had dreams which I believe represented crossing over from the spirit world into this life -- usually symbolized by crossing rivers or bridges that spanned rivers. I have also had dreams which I believe represented leaving this life, usually symbolized by climbing up out of a cave. But I've never had a dream like yours, where the transition from life to death was experienced so literally as part of the dream...

playasinmar said...

A lucid dream is a dream in which the person is aware that he or she is dreaming while the dream is in progress. During lucid dreams, it is often possible to exert conscious control over the dream characters and environment, as well as to perform otherwise physically impossible feats.

J G-W said...

Playa - After reading the article, I realized that I may have engaged in some lucid dreaming when I was a kid, without even knowing it. Fascinating!