Last night I had a nightmare. Nightmares are the worst. I absolutely hate them. While this is the case, I do find there is rarely a time where I experience more clarity, relief, and gratefulness for my true reality than after a nightmare.
Last night I had a nightmare about going to my hometown. It was a dream, the details of which I will not go into here (that might be for another post), where it had become obvious that I could not go back to where I came from. Too much had changed, the division was too great, the paths had finally fully diverged. It was an intensely emotional dream. When I awoke I was startled and shaken because of the severity and acute emotion that this dream had caused in the inner core of my being. I was not feeling this pain in some sort of nuanced self-reflective way, rather in a very real, up close and personal "this just happened" way. Similar to the way you feel just after watching a wreck. You are shaken and so caught up in the moment, that every element of the unfolding scene floods your senses, consumes you and your emotions. This lasts for a few moments and then the brain begins to take over. For me it usually comes in a moment of brief mental clarity, usually triggered by becoming alert to my surroundings, "wait a minute, I am in my bed, I just woke up... It was only a dream..." After a few more minutes I find myself fully mentally present, but my gut is slow to follow my mind. It can take 10-20 minutes, even hours until all of my senses, especially my gut (feelings) to come around to the determination my mind has already made. For some it is the opposite, their emotions are the first to change and then their mind will slowly follow. I will find myself revisiting these thoughts and fading memories throughout the day, almost dwelling on them as though they were real, imagining their real-world ramifications. Eventually, a few things happen: my gut finally catches up with my mind, I feel true relief, I look to the future, and then finally I have the full ability to reflect on the dream and derive lessons for the real world.
As John Steinbeck said, "Men all do about the same thing when they wake up." There are very distinct patterns when we wake up, especially from an alternative reality that seems all too real.
My hope is that most of us have had these "waking up" moments in our waking hours. These instances where a reality that seemed all too present, start to become distant wisps of a time that become less and less palpable with each passing moment. The more we grow, the more conscious we become, the more awake we find ourselves, then the more we will experience these waking moments. While some will feel like waking from nightmares into a safer more stable and relieving reality, others will feel like a jolt from a pleasant slumber to the sound of a child crying or glass shattering. Some waking moments produce a sense of relief, others a sense of urgency.
I have also found that waking moments can come in a sort of a cascading effect where one leads to another and another. These times of growth can be beautiful, profound and often jarring. Again, as we find ourselves waking there is an element of disorientation, confusion, and unsettledness. This should not prompt us to close our eyes again and drift into unconsciousness, rather give us the energy to move from this stage of waking into the next.
I want to encourage you to become more aware of those moments of realization, change and paradigm shift. Pay special attention to them, do not focus on the "reality" of the dream, rather on the new reality that is unfolding before you, the new world you are stepping into. Also, remember that this step is not the final step but one of many towards increased awareness of your world and your self. So many of us traverse this bright and bold world in a state of perpetual grogginess, give yourself the permission to move from dreaming into living.
"This Good Life" Resources
- When you feel that you are beginning to "wake" from one reality into another notice these stages and patterns, follow them into consciousness:
- Disruption- Something, a person, an encounter, a narrative, a piece of art, an experience, a moment that startles and jolts you into a disassociation with what you experiences as real.
- Confusion- A time of mental uncertainty as to what is real, what is indeed the reality you are actually present in. This is also the time when it is easiest and most tempting to drift back into a gentle slumber.
- Separation- A separation of the head of the gut. One of these two parts of our being will take the lead into the new reality, the other will lag behind. This is actually not a bad thing, it is our selfs way of proving a sort of checks and balance against itself.
- Relief- When our gut and head both are now in the new awoken reality but have to figure out what to do with it. Just because we have both feet in this new world does not mean we know what to do not that we are in it.
- Exploration- When we feel that we have permission to begin to explore the new reality, ask questions, and begin to focus on how we fit into this new space and how this new space fits into us.
- Reflection- Eventually with enough time and a level of security in this new landscape we are able to reflect on the previous world from which we came. We stop rejecting it as solely a false reality and ask introspective questions of it, gain truths from it and, in the words of Integral Theory we "transcend and Include" that dream or reality. Just like in a real dream, there are connections and reflections, often subconscious, of the real world that are important. Although it is not the full truth (neither is this current reality by the way) it does tell us truths about ourselves and our world. In order to continue this journey, in a healthy way, we have to mine out these truths and carry them forward with us.
- Normalizing- Our new reality will feel comfortable, real and very substantive for a period. Then, if we are open a new disruption will come and we find ourselves waking up, groggy and confused in a whole new world...
- If you are a person who enjoys ancient literature or a person of the Christian faith, the story of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus and subsequent reality changes there and later in his understandings of Jew and Gentile mixing in this new religion follow this pattern closely.