June 1, 2013
Many of you have heard the statement that life is a dream or like a dream. It’s an often repeated concept in spiritual circles and even to some extent in popular culture. While it’s a fascinating concept, few people really see things that way. We are all familiar with the usual night dreams and for the most part we don’t consider those experiences to be reality, at least not to the extent that waking life is considered real.
The question of the reality of our dreams really comes down to perspective. Night dreams don’t appear real from the point of view of the waking state, however, when you are immersed in a dream and don’t know you are dreaming, they seem completely real. Even though the mind is mostly detached from the body we experience the same range of sensory experiences we do in waking life, actually they are much more expanded. We also experience the full range of thoughts and emotions, again in an even more expanded manner. Night dreams are a more fluid reality than the waking state as they do not take place on the physical plane.
However, greater fluidity and less solidity does not mean less reality. When we are in the midst of the dream world just as in the waking state we have a sense of presence or personal existence as well as identification with a dream body. That dream body may be much different than our physical body and perhaps much more subtle, but the identification with the dream body is what allows us to experience the dream world. The belief that we are that dream body and the lack of knowledge of any other level of our existence is what makes dreams seem real while we are in them.
When we wake up in the morning the dream world doesn’t seem so real and after a time we usually forget it altogether. However, the seeming unreality of the dream world when viewed from the waking state occurs because we are back to being identified with the physical body, we have changed worlds. The body is the root of the world we perceive.
One way to describe the dream state is the following: a living being is in a state of sleep or altered consciousness and has entered a world entirely created by their mind and believes themselves to be a body created by their mind having experiences created by their mind. The purely mental aspect of this dream world tends to bring mental projections into form very quickly while keeping them fluid and in relatively continuous flux. When we wake up from dreaming the mind created world which appeared from nowhere similarly disappears into nowhere and we see it for what it was, a mental projection.
This is a powerful analogy to the waking experience because waking life is also a dream, quite literally. It is a more dense dream world than the night dream but it has almost the same characteristics. Here we have a living being (the true Self) who is asleep and so in an altered or more limited state of consciousness who identifies with a dream body (the physical body) and from that standpoint takes the more dense dream world (the physical world) to be real. We take it to be the only reality in fact which speaks to how strongly we are identified with the body. The physical world seems solid and real to us because we are viewing it from a point of view within the waking dream. We perceive everything about the world through the body and its senses but the body itself is part of the waking dream so it is not an accurate authority as to the ultimate reality of the world.
As in a night dream, everything we experience through the physical senses is a projection of mind because mind or the sense of I is the perceiver. When you remove the perceiver the object of perception goes with it. In the waking state we perceive the body and the world in a certain way and in the night dream in a different way, but what was your experience of yourself and the world during deep sleep? There is no world perceived during deep sleep because there is no one to perceive it. No body is experienced and no self consciousness. Yet there is still some kind of presence. You could say deep sleep is when consciousness wakes up and ‘forgets’ the waking dream world for a time. Most of us enjoy and even look forward to deep sleep. It’s refreshing and indeed this is the nature of what we are.
It has been said that spiritual awakening is like waking up from the waking dream of being a person in a physical world. Waking up as the One that is the dreamer of this life. Waking up to beingness itself or undifferentiated consciousness and in that awakening seeing fully that the waking world is not so real after all. It is merely a projection of a larger mind or another dream world. Just as when a person learns to lucid dream or be conscious of the the fact they are dreaming in a night dream, in waking up to who we are we can engage the dream of life in a new way. Life becomes a beautiful dance of appearances in which we the dreamer can enjoy without becoming attached to, enmeshed in and controlled by. Seeing everything as our true Self we overcome fear and separation and partake in the bliss and joy which are what underlies existence itself.
So what do you say? Is it time to wake up?