As you row row row your boat down the stream of your life, how awake are you? I’m not just talking about how many hours of the day you spend with eyes open as opposed to getting some shut eye. How awake to life are you?
Are you aware of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations you experience? Are you conscious of your emotional reactions to whatever you’re experiencing? Do you appreciate the beauty of the flower pushing up through the sidewalk? Do you delight in the smile of a child, and not shy away from the tears of a friend?
We call this ability to be awake to life “presence.” You are present, here and now, for whatever life places on your doorstep, whether that is love and laughter or betrayals and heartbreak. When you are present, you can ride the roller coast journey of life, with its peaks and valleys, with an overall feeling that it’s all okay. Obstacles are called challenges. The grass is not greener in someone else’s yard.
There are some people who are even able to be present in their dreams, and can use this ability to further enrich their lives.
Take Ray Kurzweil, a futurist and inventor, who has been called the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison.” He uses a technique called lucid dreaming to spark his ideas. Before he falls asleep, Kurzweil goes over in his mind a problem he’s trying to solve. Then, at some point, he becomes conscious that he is dreaming. He says, “I am still in the dream, but I have conscious thinking as well so I can direct the dream. I have access to all these new creative links that I made while I was dreaming about the problem, but I also have my rational faculties. Within 15 or 20 minutes, I will typically have a new key insight.” And this from the man that Forbes referred to as “the ultimate thinking machine.”
There are four major states of consciousness—waking, sleeping, dreaming, and the meditative state. Just as you can become more conscious, more present, in your day-to-day awareness, so can you become more conscious in the dream state. Dreaming is a powerful way to gain access to your subconscious thoughts and feelings—a good source of information that’s a great help in your own healing process.
Lucid dreaming, in which you become aware that you’re dreaming and can participate in and often direct what you’re experiencing, gives you opportunities that aren’t available during waking consciousness. You can go to different planes of consciousness, communicate with the dead or with spiritual guides, even fly and shape-shift. You can plug into past lives, change the outcome of dream events, or get information that is of benefit in this life.
A good way to start becoming more conscious about and in your dreams is by keeping a dream journal. Keep it near your bed and write in it as soon as you wake up. Most people have the longest REM sleep of their five sleep cycles per night right before waking, so it’s most likely those are the dreams you’ll remember.
All the ancients knew the value of dreams, and many traditions consider that it is our waking life that is the real dream. As you turn your attention to the meditative and the dream states and try to bring more awareness to those states, your consciousness will expand and you will be more fully “present” to your own life.