Have you ever awoken so abruptly that you’re still partly trapped in the dream are you having? Startled into wakefulness in a way that it leaves you split between alert presence and sleep. If you have then you will understand that dreams are incredibly powerful and can have a certain gravitas to them. As we have explored in the past, dreams are a product of the mind’s thinking processes and are real in a number of senses but are not altogether is true. As you know if you have experienced deep dreams and then woken from them abruptly and they are emotionally charged, then they can leave a residue and a feeling tone that can range from pleasant on the one hand, to thoroughly unpleasant on the other. Strong reactions to emotional mind states can lead you to one of a number behavioural responses. You may wish the dream to never end so you can languish in the fantasy of whatever creation your mind has conjured up. Or you may wish to push away the thoughts and feelings that the dream is instigated with the force of a charging white rhino. Whichever it is, the key elements that you should focus on is the fact that the dream although incredibly real is actually NOT reality.
When you have experienced such a vivid and powerful dream you need to remind yourself that there may well indeed be aspects of it that are brought up from the depths of your psyche and no matter how real something may seem a dream is just that; a dream. However, the way the mind works is that it blends together multiple elements and throws them together as a story for you to often decipher. In reality, and to quote one of my favourite saying, “thoughts are real and not true”. Therefore, it is important, if you are to move into the day with a clear mind and open heart, you need to set aside the dream.
What follows is a technique that I use whenever I feel caught up in my mind, either from the heavy dream, or a general ‘foggy’ mind state and one that I would describe as being “not present.”
- Firstly, and I am fortunate in this respect, I have a dog and I am able to take her for a walk. Moss is a great excuse to go out for an early morning walk and as it is quiet and nature is all around, in all of her seasonal beauty, I can get out in the fresh air. I am not suggesting for moment you rush out and get a dog, however it is important that you do have something that gets you out of the cycle of thinking and it could be an early morning walk. It could be a gym session, or it could be a walk rather than a drive to work. Whatever it is I would suggest it is active and enables you to switch off from the dreamlike mind state that you may be in.
- So far, we’ve established that you take yourself out of thinking mind and get into something bodily, something that enables you to connect your body in the present moment. In this connection, you’re able to ground yourself in the present moment. Whatever you do you try and draw your mind into how your body actually feel’s and how it is responding to the world around.
- Next, I tend to activate the senses; the eyes, the ears, the nose and even if possible, touch. The body is an incredibly important ‘vehicle’ to ground you in the present moment, to bring you back from fantasy and a non-real world that we can find ourselves living in. As we know we interact with the world around us through our body, even before our mind gets a chance to react. It may be a nano-second of reaction, but it is what we truly connect to the world with. Before technology and before the thinking mind was as powerful and developed as it is now, all we had was ourselves and the world around. While we have developed into a species with high cognitive functioning, we are still, in our genetic make-up, similar to historic man who foraged on the land and lived a very simple and basic life. Therefore, by connecting to the core of who we it takes you away from the thinking mind for a time and moves you back into heart thinking.
- So, we’ve established physical exercise end environmental contacts as two important elements. The next thing is to bring sense of quiet and peace to your experience. It’s all well and good been active in nature and sensing what is going on, however it is no good if we are not fully experiencing it.
- Bringing quiet to your experience, through focusing on perhaps one thing, even though the birds may be singing (*loud this morning). Try focusing on the breath or your footsteps and your body in motion. What does each step feel like? How does the ground feel under foot? Does it roll around? Is the ground uneven on each leg movement? How does it affect each step? How does the rest of the body react with each step? Hip, back, chest, arms hands etc.? What about the senses? What does the wind feel like on the skin? Even the wind in the trees or against the face can be sensed. In that moment you are experiencing it, with it, of it. Peace comes from the connection you have two wait and to experience the present moment. Through senses, rather than through thinking, you can live and this is where the power of the moment is most powerful. Dreams, as we know, are generated through the thinking mind and as a result it can only be partially connected with life. We have also established that they are often distorted by underlying structures of thought or emotion. Drop back into the moment and let the dream wash away.
- The true power of the moment is in the fact that it is of the heart, of the physical and emotional moment. So, by connecting to what is happening as it arises and indeed as it passes you’re able to experience the moment fully. And in that process, you are able to draw yourself to the present moment.
- Finally, we are subject to a thing called ‘time’ and clearly there are influences upon us that can put pressure on us to experience something in a fixed and sometime constrictive timescale. We can’t simply go out for a walk or walk the dog whenever we like and do it forever. Therefore, after the calming period there will be the next phase which will be ‘change’ and the calm will move into a different phase. Permanence is really impermanent. What can be done however, is awareness is brought to that element too. We become aware of the passing nature of experience, and the fact that experiences arise and then pass. So, while we may find ourselves settled during the walk, detached from the negative emotional vibrations of the dream that we had, we are also aware that it too must pass. The dream that we experienced, that left us disconnected, has moved into a pleasant state of connection to the world around us. However, we now realise that that comfortable and emotionally connected state may also pass and move into another state, one that is different to what has been experienced in the former present moment. The skill is to recognise that a mindful and present mind state can also be brought to the changing nature of experience and while the moment of pleasure may pass you are unable to control what will happen next. The best you can do is to ‘sit’ with it and experience this moment just as it is.
- In the realisation of the impermanent nature of things you can start to use it to move from our habitual dream states to present moment experience and back. When you start to realise that you can either stay in the dream and become trapped in a ‘haze’ of unreal living OR use ‘impermanence’ to move towards the next phase of the day, then you can start to move through life with a clearer mind. That next phase of experience holds what it holds and as you realise that you are unable to drop the need to control what arises and you can start to simply let go.
- Get out of bed and do some exercise. Be it a moments yoga, a dog walk or a few star jumps!
- Become aware of your surroundings. Listen, smell, hear what is going on around you.
- Try and find a quiet space to draw the attention even deeper into your experience. This could be in the car before you go into work. In the bathroom before you get dressed. A quiet location as you walk the dog.
- Draw your attention, if it wanders, back to the body. Ground your sensations and experience of ‘things’ into your body. Your body is important as in most cases it is a very stable place for attention to rest.
- Become aware of the changing sensation and the impermanent nature of experience. Things change and dreams fade also. Drop any notion that mind states are permanent because they are not.