by Mari Powers
There seem to be several types of dreams. The most common is what I call the psychological garbage dream. This is the type you most often forget shortly after waking. Even if you write it down, when you read it later, you won’t recall it. These dreams are filled with disjointed imagery accompanied by mild anxiety, or feelings of being rushed or of racing from one scene to another. They are filled with our everyday worries or anxieties. Often having these dreams helps us release or sort through these feelings.
At a deeper level there are the recurring anxiety dreams. These dreams have repeated themes and imagery, and come to us in times of stress. We do remember pieces of these dreams, though can flow one into another, and all be a part of two or three recurrent themes. They signal a need to deal with our feelings. When we have them, it is a warning that we have unresolved issues or feelings. I have several common recurring dreams.
In the first one I am at college and am late for a final exam. I can’t find the classroom, or I get there and I am late for the semester test. I realize I have not attended any classes since the beginning of the semester. I have not read the book to write the paper. I have not opened a textbook all term. This dream signals to me that I am feeling inadequate about something in my life, that I have missed something important and am now afraid of failing.
In the second dream I am packing to move. I don’t want to move and am worried about will happen to my flower and vegetable gardens. Sometimes I am sorting through treasures in a new house I have just bought. In cases where I have already bought a new house, I realize that I do not like the location of the new house, and do not really want to move. In either dream theme I am grieving over having to move. I have made a mistake in buying a new house and want to get out of the deal. This dream tells me I am feeling insecure about my material security and need to address safety or scarcity issues in my life.
The final one is from years of waiting tables. There are too many people and I can’t get to them all. I can’t find my apron, or a pen. The cook is not in the kitchen to take an order or there are no trays to take out the food. Sometimes I dream I have only been working for tips for months or years as I have forgotten to punch the time clock when I arrived or left for my basic $2.56 an hour. This dream signals to me that I am trying to serve too many people without resources and not being paid for it.
We all have recurring anxiety dreams that have themes about our insecurities and fears. It is important to pay attention to the timing of these dreams. We need to learn to nurture ourselves and to confront and banish the source of these feelings. In these dreams, our subconscious is speaking to us in symbols and imagery to help us face and deal with feelings that are difficult.
There is another class of dreams, though. You might think of these dreams as messages from our super consciousness. At the deepest level these are dreams of a magical nature. In my experience, these dreams are as real and as vivid as our clearest waking memories. We can replay them from start to finish and images remain clear and profoundly moving. The oldest dream I had of this type was over thirty-five years ago.
It was a very simple dream, with imagery that speaks deeply to me of my spiritual life journey. I am on a cliff or outcropping of high ground by an ocean overlooking an empty beach. It is a clear and bright sunny day. It is late spring and the sky is light blue and nearly cloudless. I can hear the waves rolling up on to the beach. Off in the distance I hear the sound of gulls. An old Chinese man with a bald head, who is wearing a saffron robe walks toward me.
He is the happiest and most content person I have ever seen. He comes close enough to touch. I look deep into his eyes, and though he is Chinese, they are as blue as the sky. I ask him, “What is the meaning of life?” He smiles and his face crinkles with well-worn laughter lines as he points up to the sky. He does not speak a word. Three white doves in a triangle formation fly overhead. As they pass out of view, I wake up. The whole scene is filled with light and so am I. I have the impression the whole scene turns to clear white light, rather than fading away. That is the all that happened in this lovely simple dream, yet I remember it as clearly as if I had the dream a night ago. I can still remember and feel a sense of perfect beauty and peace, exactly like a waking vision.
Since then I have learned that three birds who form a triangle is the triple goddess. In particular, white doves are sacred to Aphrodite. Universally they are symbols of love and peace. The old man is a metaphor for a life well lived and of one who is lives in the moment. He is also one who knows how to read signs in nature. He is linked to my first major in college, the study of East Asian Religion, though he came to me before I went to college.
Though I learned and applied meanings to the symbols in this dream over the course of my life, it spoke first to me without any words at all about the joy and the light within, and of the meaning of life.
Since then I have had what I call multiple “vision” dreams, all remembered more clearly than most other important life experiences. These dreams stay clear for many years.
On Dealing with Fear
I dreamed I was up at my grandmother’s cottage in the north woods. It was pitch black in on the lake and there was no moon. I went out a darkened corner on the front side of the cottage. I squatted down in the tall ferns to pee. As I finished I listened to the night noises. It was the middle of the night and no one was awake.
I looked up and to the right as I heard a rustling. I froze and ceased all movement, becoming perfectly still. I hoped it was just a raccoon. As each second passed I became more afraid. I squatted down lower, and just as I did, a huge black panther leapt out from the woods in front of me. It went right over my head and bounded off to the woods to the right. I heard a voice, “where there is fear, there is power.”
I wrote it down in a dream diary, but this is one I would remember even without the paper trail.
Dreams that Flow into our Lives
Another dream vision I remember is also in northern Wisconsin. I am in the North Woods of Wisconsin again and I live in a small town. I am at a cabin on a lake.
In the lake lived an octopus. We were very close friends and communicated via telepathy. The octopus was an alien from outer space. We had to keep our friendship, and indeed its very existence, a secret. We knew the small-minded town people would kill it.
Somehow they found out. A mob from the town was coming with pitchforks and baseball bats. I stood at dawn by the lake, crying quietly and feeling helpless. The octopus scratched the word, “Why?” in the sand. I woke up with tears in my eyes.
The next day a friend of mine named Tom, who called himself a wizard, invited me over to his house. That long ago I did not know anyone who called herself or himself a wizard, or who practiced magic. He was just a couple of years older than I was; yet he spent lots of time alone and wore a cape over his jeans around the house. I accepted his few words and did not question his odd behavior, though I had no idea what he studied at the time. I was one of his few friends, and it was the winter holiday season and he had a present for me.
I walked into his apartment and started to unbutton my coat. I was standing in the kitchen. Then he asked me about “my octopus.” All of a sudden I remembered my dream and needed to sit down. We went into the living room and sat on cushions on the carpet. I told him my dream in his darkened living room by candlelight. I remember feeling a strong sense of déjà vu. He was interested in my dream, and seemed to know about the octopus. He did not comment except to validate that I had the dream and that he somehow knew to ask me about my octopus.
He gave me my Yule gift. I unwrapped it and found a carved copper bowl from India. It gleamed in the light. I felt another strong moment of déjà vu. It exactly the matched the material and pattern on candlestick holder and incense burner that my friend Stephanie had given me for Christmas. They did not even know each other. He was also not surprised that the piece he gave me was the third piece in a set.
I still have the set of copper altar pieces from India. I wrote this experience down in a notebook. Though I would have remembered that dream. Yet in the following days, it is good to have notes from this long ago dream to confirm. It was the first time where I experienced my dream world flowing into reality. It was also the first time I experienced a synchronicity and a “rightness” at being gifted with spiritual objects.
Perhaps I did meet an alien, or another form of life indigenous to this planet, or an entity on the astral plane. What is interesting is that Tom knew about it, or knew to ask me that question somehow. The validation of the messages we receive in our dream world on the physical plane is a gift in and of itself. To actually receive the Indian meditation bowl was divine.
So the deepest sort of “dream visions” can even flow into everyday life or may include premonitions and sometimes messages from our mighty dead.
I had another dream when I was nineteen and lived with a girlfriend on the third floor of a building named Forest in St. Louis, Missouri. We had two cats, both black. One was a long-haired cat named Twilight who loved to lick the palms of your hands. I had to stuff my hands under a pillow to hide my palms from him if I wanted to get any sleep at night. The other was a short-haired cat named Gato, who had boundless hunter-stalker energy. He was also quite assertive in his affection, though not to the point of keeping you awake at night. Both were indoor cats.
One morning, in late autumn, I woke up with the most vivid and strange dream on my mind. It did not fade and I could not shake it. I was compelled to tell my roommate and the details played over and over in my mind throughout the day. I still remember it quite clearly, but at the time, I could not get it out of my mind.
For years I had recurring fright dreams of carnivals, of the type I describe as “recurring anxiety” dreams. I dreamed of being lost at a carnival, stuck on a Ferris wheel that would not stop, or of being or getting lost in the fun house. I was terrified in these dreams.
In the dream I had that night I was at my grandparents farm in the hayloft of the barn. Instead of overlooking the barnyard I was overlooking a carnival. There were three people behind me but I could not see who they were. I was afraid of the scene below.
A huge bright colored balloon, at least four feet across, floated up to the open barn window. Someone behind me pushed me onto the balloon. I said, “Wait, no, the balloon won’t hold my weight! I’ll fall!” Whoever was behind me jumped on too and we began to plummet to the earth. Then I thought, “Now we are in for it. We are going faster than ever. We are going to hit the ground and die.”
Just as I thought that, someone behind me took out a large hatpin and popped the balloon. “Oh, my God, now you have really done it,” I screamed in my head.
All of a sudden, when we were at two thirds of the way down and at the end of my silent scream, we stopped plummeting to the earth. We began to gently float. The three people behind me disappeared and I gradually landed relaxed then settled down softly onto the earth.
The balloon was gone. There was no longer a scary carnival, but an old-fashioned country fair there. There was cotton candy and a merry-go-round, draft horses and home baked apple pies. It was a clear and sunny day. The country fair contained all of my fondest childhood memories of the local county fair where my grandparent’s lived in central Illinois. I was no longer afraid and felt completely at home. I walked off into the fair to enjoy the day. Then I woke up.
This dream was so vivid that I had to tell my roommate, and then to one of our neighbors that morning. I could not get it out of my mind. I played and replayed the dream in my head all day long. Then, at 3:00 PM, our neighbors from the first floor downstairs knocked on our door and told us that they had bad news. They found Gato lying dead between our apartment building and the one next it.
He had evidently gotten outside and gone up the fire escape. He had tried to jump from one roof to the next, and had fallen to his death in the night. I realized then that I had journeyed with him. I experienced his fall and his death and saw a glimpse of an afterlife. This was the second time in my life that I learned there is no reason to fear death, though it was the first time I dreamed it. Since then I have had many small waking glimpses of the future, and even a couple of other precognitive dreams. This first one remains the most profound and the most directly prophetic dream I have ever had.
A Clairvoyant Dream About Someone Else
A friend of mine lost his wife suddenly. They had been married a long time and had a very good and very close relationship. As expected, it was difficult for him to adjust to her loss. It surprised most people that he returned to work within three or four weeks of her death. I call this man a friend, because I knew him for a long time and liked him, but we were actually more like co-workers and not close friends who socialized outside of work hours.
One night, about four months after his wife’s death, I dreamed about him. I dreamed that my friend was making love with a woman. I felt what he felt. There was need and desire, passion and guilt. He/I was very happy to be with this woman and at the same time wanted to push her away. There was a strong emotional struggle inside between need and desire and the need to push away inside of me. In fact, in my dream, she left and did not spend the whole night.
The next day, while I was at work, I talked to a mutual acquaintance on the phone, a person with whom my friend was much closer. I told her about the dream. I was a little embarrassed and did not give her any details on the level of intimacy I had felt in the dream. I did talk to her about how strange it was that I would have such a dream about this man. I related that I had perceived his mixed feelings about having a new girlfriend.
There was dead silence on the line in response. Then she told me. He did have a new girlfriend and he was conflicted about his feelings. He felt guilt about this relationship and disloyal to his wife of over twenty years. Yet he knew his wife would have wanted him to find a new love as soon as possible.
I had never dreamed about him before, and have not done so since. In time, he resolved his guilt feelings, and still had the same girlfriend several years later. I would have talked to him directly about the dream, but it was just too intimate. It was enough for me to know, once again, that we can learn and know things through dreams where that knowledge is not available in our ordinary waking state of mind.
What happens in our dreams is unedited by consensual reality. It is authentically our own. In our waking state we share a belief that all knowledge comes through our five senses in the context of linear time. Thankfully, this consensual reality has no place in our dreams. It is as if our sense of ordinary linear time and space is suppressed. We dream what we dream, and we know what we know.
I have found books on dream symbols and meanings disappointing. What a snake, black panther or a carnival means to me, and what they mean to someone else, is not the same. As with any story, context, the spirit of the place, feelings, and other images all weave personal messages. For commonsense ways to decode dreams, please consider taking a class with me and start a dream journal that attempts to categorize your dreams, and perhaps you will find links between them.
I have written about many other dreams I could share, and I’m interested in other people’s dreams. I enjoy helping people get in touch with their meanings and wisdom. The class I teach also touches lightly on lucid dreaming and how to learn to take control of a dream while still dreaming.
Book an hour with me at Mimosa, bring a friend and share a $90.00 one hour session for $45.00 each, and we will see what we can discover about this largely hidden and deeply image laden part of our lives.
Mari Powers, copyright November 29, 2015