This week, I had two dream-related conversations on Twitter and Instagram, which led me to thinking more closely about dreams, dreaming, and my relationship with them. I have always dreamed vividly, intensely, often a series of dreams, one brilliant movie-vignette after another so much so that I wake up with a million images in my mind.
When I was growing up, I observed that while my father and I had vivid, detailed, technicolor dreams, my mother and brother on the other hand said that they never dreamed - and even on the rare occasions that they did, the dream was certainly significant enough to warrant them remembering it. I wondered if it was rather a case of not being to recall dreams rather than not dreaming at all. Dreaming occurs during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) part of our sleep and it is interestingly enough similar to a state of wakefulness; in fact, it is considered to be a vital part of our sleep cycle so for those who saying that they never dream, it may well just be not remembering them.
I certainly remembered all my dreams and would share them soon after I woke up in a bid to hold onto them; if I couldn't share them, I would write them down at the back of my personal journal, paragraphs after paragraphs of individual dreams. When I was in sixth grade, I obviously felt the volume of my dreams was demanding enough to require a separate journal. (I was an intense sixth grader: I remember asking my mother if I could convert to Buddhism after studying it in social studies and writing long impassioned poems about karma and fate!). I recall selecting a notebook with an adorable picture of kittens on the cover and filling it with dreams after dreams in pink, turquoise, and jade-colored ink. I stopped keeping the journal after a while but continued transcribing my dreams in my journals. Even now, after so many years, I still recall one of the most beautiful dreams I have had till date: I am standing on a beach, looking out on the sea at night only to see a full moon rise in the sky, scattering its pearl-white beams upon the water and the boats lying nearby. The sky is a deep soft blue mauve and
When I grew older, I was no longer interested in merely transcribing my dreams; I was interested in analysing them as to what they were trying to tell me. I understand that many scientists do feel that there is no meaning to dreams but I still stubbornly believed that dreams were a gateway to my subconscious, that unexplored, uncharted terrain, which saw and understood the bigger picture of things. Why was I constantly fighting with a girl who looked like me in a yellow dress? Why did I frequently find myself unable to run? I would consult a book of dream symbols and then later trawl through the myriad dream interpretation sites online to understand what my dreams could be telling me about myself. Was the fight an internal battle within myelf? Did the inability to run represent a lack of self confidence?
There is a diversity of modern scholarship and research done into the world of dreams along with the age-old Freudian and Jungian schools of dream interpretation.It is widely agreed upon that dreams are definitely important for one's emotional health (again, even if you do not recall dreams, it is assumed that your mind still dreams). What I have understood is that it is the mind's way of processing the vast amount of information it gathers from various stimuli throughout the day. I have often found it bizarre and amusing as to how I will find myself encountering persons or places that I have not thought of for months or years and suddenly will experience meeting or visiting them in my dreams. Our minds are these incredible libraries and repositories of all our memories, thoughts, associations, and yearnings and it is actually staggering to think that there are galaxies upon galaxies of narratives that the mind can fabricate from vast amount of material available to it.
Although I do occasionally consult dream symbol websites and their ilk, I have come to believe that the only person who can decode your dreams is - you. If dreams are poems that your mind writes, then only you will be able to mine the meanings from their words. Only you can make sense of what the subconscious via the medium of dreams is seeking to communicate to you. Only you can know and appreciate the meaning behind the layers of symbols and associations and jigsaw them together into something you will appreciate and understand.
I still dream intensely, lushly, profusely but the trouble is I cannot recall the majority of my dreams these days. The terrible habit of immediately reaching for the phone as soon as I wake up means that the series of images in my dreams are replaced by the ones I see on my phone. I can't even remember them a few hours later, let alone thinking of writing them down in my journal later that day.
I wish I did take the time out to remember them regularly because I feel that our subconscious mind is a storyteller, mentor, and therapist and more; it advises, it whispers messages, it soothes, it entertains. Sometimes, I see the core truths of my life so seamlessly weave into a pattern in my dreams and I find myself thinking as to why didn't I realise it before? My dreams are the only space where in fact these core truths can manifest. And then I wake up and find myself searching for those truths, those utter moments of clarity - but they have vanished and only traces of that truth linger in my mind, like brilliant shards of a vase found in ruins and which can no longer be reconstituted into what it once was.