I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, September 19, 2010


We spend about a third of our lives asleep, which seems to me an amazing statistic. Although when I get tired and want to go to sleep, nothing is as sweet as climbing into bed, snuggling under the covers, and drifting off to sleep.

Today, this Sunday morning, is another time when I couldn't decide what I wanted to write about here, my thoughts going here and there, wondering what is uppermost in my mind. I thought about old regrets that keep coming up to bother me, making me wonder why I keep beating myself up about things that nobody else remembers. They are real to me, though, which means they must still have some relevance in my daily life. Those journals from the 1990s still sit accusingly on my bookshelf, daring me to delve into them.

But lately my dreams have been so real, making me feel as though I'm living another life. I ran across an interesting article on the Huffington Post by one of my favorite authors Robert Lanza (the author of Biocentrism) entitled, "Are Dreams an Extension of Physical Reality?" It got me to wondering about these dreams of mine. I wrote a while back about my old friend Garl having died this summer in a parachuting accident. I was pretty devastated by the event, and many of my friends in Boulder held a celebration of Garl's life a few weeks ago. I felt bad that I wasn't able to be there. The thing is, if I had been willing to spend a lot of money I could have gone, and it made me feel guilty that I didn't go.

The other night I dreamed that I saw Garl walking towards me, his distinctive gait assuring me that it was indeed him, and he walked over and put his arms around me. He whispered in my ear that he forgave me for not coming to his celebration. He looked and felt like the old Garl I knew, except that when I looked at his neck while he was hugging me, it was broken. I don't remember any other part of the dream, but I remember when I woke up that I kept thinking about that dream. It felt like one of those memories I won't soon forget.

I remember when Chris died, many years ago now (in 2002), I would dream about him quite often. But one dream stands out in my memory, as if it happened. Chris always shows up in my dreams as a young teenager, or a young man. He was forty when he died, but somehow his essence to me is right around nineteen or twenty. In that dream, I was standing in a beautiful forest, with the sun shining and a light breeze blowing. There's a path in the forest that opens up to a glen. Walking towards me on the path is Chris, and another old friend who died years ago in an avalanche. They are both smiling widely, their arms around each other, and Chris says, "Hi Mom, we're having a great time. Please don't worry about me, I'm fine!" And Franz (the friend) says nothing but has his arm protectively around Chris as if to affirm the truth of it.

That's all I remember about the dream, but that scene is as real to me as if I'd lived it. Or did I? That's the thing that Lanza keeps pointing out: that we really don't know the truth of our physical existence, it's not what we think, so who's to say that dreams are not real, too? Of course, there are also nightmares, dreams that I can hardly wait to escape from. Those are often dreams of loss, losing people or things and being unable to locate them. I know some people's dreams are really scary, but thinking back I can't remember any like that myself. There have been dreams where I've been glad when I woke to find it was only a dream.

As I've gotten older, I notice that I fall asleep easily and usually have a dream or two, nothing special, and then I have a period of wakefulness, where I'm not very asleep, or I'm wide awake in the middle of the night. That's the time when unresolved issues in my daily life usually come up, and sometimes I need to use deep breathing to slip back down into sleep. I find that a dab or two of lavender oil on my wrists almost always helps me relax. I breathe it in and snuggle into my covers. That next period of the night, around 2:00 or 3:00, is when I have my most memorable dreams.

I don't know if it's wishful thinking, but I do hope that one day (or one night) I'll find out what is real. Most of my life's memories have already dissolved in the mists of time, with just a few of the many days and nights I've lived still holding any significant memories. I would feel bereft, however, if I didn't have those few dreams that stand like beacons on the signposts of my dream world.


Linda Reeder said...

I'm not sure what to say. I'm an agnostic in every sense of the word. I believe what I KNOW. So I would probably find that book a stretch. I think dreams are mental activity resulting from events, thoughts or emotions already in our conscious or subconscious. The dreams you describe are beautiful, and they are what you would have wanted to happen if it were possible. But I don't like to throw cold water on whatever gives another comfort.
I wish I could fall asleep easily, and stay asleep. Most nights are restless for me. But if I remember a dream it's usually when I'm sleeping lightly before waking, and they are very seldom pleasant. I don't have "sweet dreams".

CiCi said...

Some of my dreams are nice and some are disturbing so I don't hold dreams in high regard any longer. Through most of my life I would try to interpret my dreams and write some down to discuss with some of my friends. In your case, I can see that if you are carrying around regrets to have a dream like the one with Garl in it would be soothing. I don't believe there is any human being on this earth who can say for sure what our dreams mean or whether they are something for us to pay attention to. But for me, I get comfort where I can, and if I have a loving and kind dream I let it warm me.

Nancy said...

I've had a very vivid dream recently. I was looking down on my body from somewhere near the shoulder area. There was someone with me, although I couldn't see them. We were speaking telepathically. I was worried about my body - that maybe it was dying with me being out of it. The being said that my body was fine. I bent over my body and found it to be breathing normally, as it would in sleep. I heard a very, very loud buzzing. The being said this was what it was like when we were dead. I remember waking up and saying "I will never feel alone again." But the feeling of being part of whatever it was went away in a day or two.

This was one of those very vivid dreams that you know are more than just a normal one. So, I too, wonder - what is real and what is not when it comes to dreaming?

Norma Jean said...

I think dreams are things our minds create. Sometimes I have found resolution to problems; sometimes I spend my sleep time trying desperately to resolve problems, but almost always I can look at what is going on in my life to determine why I dream what I do. I think your brain works on overtime to help you deal with things that are in your subconscious whether you are aware of them or not.

My question is - why are dreams so hard to remember if you don't acknowledge them immediately? Why do they seem to disappear into vapor?

Anonymous said...

I generally sleep 5 hours a night and don't have dreams -- or at least, ones I remember.

Those 2 dreams you just described are very touching and beautiful. It's too bad they didn't happen in real life. How happy you would be, DJan!!!

Grandmother Mary said...

Some of my strongest and most memorable dreams have happened after the death of someone I loved. They appear in my dream and I feel so happy and comforted. One dream was after our dog died and I had such a immediate sensual feel of her body and thick coat. I really love those dreams. I, too, drift easily and gladly into sleep. Dreams are an intriguing mystery.

Gigi said...

I don't dream very often so when I have one I'm usually surprised - but they are so tenuous, I can never really remember them.

The Retired One said...

I have read a lot of stuff on dreams..and many people believe that if you have a particularly "vivid" dream of bright colors and a person of your life has passed that are in the dream, they truly are visiting you from the other side. They are telling you directly that all is ok and that you will be with them again someday. You can be comforted that both your son and friends have given you these dreams and messages to comfort you.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

I think that when we dream, we tap into no-time, no-space, where all simply is. With our left-brains asleep, our right brain moves into the realm of the collective, the creative, the energy that we always are - and often forget.

Loved Lanza's Biocentrism, BTW. That book is a game changer for me.

Gabriele Agustini said...

This is my first visit to your blog and it's fascinating.
I would like to extend my condolences at the loss of your son and your friend, as well as his friend.
Thank you for your very poignant post.

Donna B. said...

I agree with The Retired One. I have read some books, but mostly my philosophy on dreaming is from personal experience.

DJan, your dreams were visits from them. Our minds still see them in physical bodies, but I believe their essence or spirit is present.

How we see our loved ones is usually how we felt about them. Seeing Chris as a teenager no doubt has strong emotions and memories, or experiences for you.

Your dreams were wonderful and full of love.
You strike me as a person who generates love and positivity. I relate to you like we were once really good friends...

When I was a small child, our family lived in my grandparents home in Pasadena. Every morning, my grandma would sit me in the alcove and while she made my breakfast, would ask me what I dreamt about. I dreamt of her after she died and it was so vivid I could see her eyes and smell her perfume.

I have dreamed of people, friends I have not seen in a long time and then they come to visit, contact me or I run into them.

I dreamt of my fiance getting shot two weeks before it happened. I was so afraid to dream and completely stressed on whether I should tell him. I finally decided I should warn him.

My dream didn't make much sense to him, but he was accustom to my "hunches" and "gut feelings" and respected my intuition.

He was a narcotics detective, and was killed the way I saw in my dream. There was in fact a man he did not know about, who I had decribed, who was the one who killed him. I never told him about the clothes he wore in my dream, because I did not want to jinx him. He wore the same clothes he wore in my dream.

I felt so guilty and like I said, did not want to sleep because I was afraid to dream. He came to visit me often in my dreams. He kept telling me he was surveylance on a case so he would be away a while, but not to worry.

Ironically, I took art classes from a Jesuit priest, who counseled me extensively after his death. He explained my fiance had not accepted his death.

My fiance kept visiting me, or calling me on the phone in my dreams. One day, I dreamed of a huge meadow of wheat. Off in the distance, I could see a huge oak tree and underneath was a man standing alone. He turned and waved and I knew it was my fiance. He walked toward me and smiled, telling me not to be sad. We sat and talked, then he told me he had to leave, and I watched him walk off and disappear in the wheat.

I have so many friends, family, who have dreamt of their loved ones. I really believe they do come from the other side to help us adjust and know all is well.

It is said we only use so little of our brain's capacity. It is almost like we can travel though time and place without barriers in a dream state. It fascinates me.

I also believe those who have gone before us, come to us when we are near our own death.

I have read Elizabeth Kubler Ross on Death and Dying and I read 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, to name a few. Anyone who does not believe in God, might find Piper's book thought provoking.

Many people only believe only what they can see...but there is more...our intuition, our gut instincts, deja vu...it is all for a reason.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am a dreamer..a very active one..I have many visits a night..mostly dogs..who knows what the purpose is..it just is:)

Whitney Lee said...

I love to sleep, partially because I dream so vividly. Some of them, as Norma Jean points out, fade into the ether, unless I fix them firmly in my mind. Others have stuck with me over the years for whatever reason. I rarely have visits from those who've passed on, but I've not lost many people close to me. I tend to believe that dreams are merely another reality. What I've wondered about my own dreams is why there are often elements of violence (lots of chase scenes, seeking cover, fighting) yet I never awaken frightened. This is a really interesting subject.

Jo said...

I missed the post you did about your friend dying, and I am so sorry for your loss. How awful that must have been...! Gosh...!

I do believe that the folks we loved in life come to visit us in our dreams, and I often get visits from my Mom and Dad. After my husband died, he used to visit me often and ask me how my daughter was doing. We would be walking on a beach while we were talking. It was very real.

I don't know the answer. Maybe our spirits really do live in another dimension -- alive or dead -- and that is how we truly communicate.

Rosaria Williams said...

I've come from Vagabonde's blog, having seen you around blogs here and there. Now and here I recognize a few people we know in common. Funny how that happens!

This post is so interesting, and so much appreciated. We know so little of how dreams affect us; but, we do know we need dreams and sleep to make sense of our lives.

Stella Jones said...

Like you, I drift off to sleep easily and then often wake a couple of hours later, wide awake and thinking, worrying, chewing things over. it's quite disturbing sometimes. I often wake up hungry too, for some reason. I try to get back into sleep as quickly as possible, preferring to shut out the worries and the dreams and slip into that blissful state when nothing matters.
Blessings, Star