A Waking Dream

Two weeks ago I had what can best be described as a waking dream. A nightmare actually. The sort of a dream where you are trying to get somewhere really quickly only instead you inch along in slow motion and everything goes wrong. That was me trying to get to a screening presentation I was doing at, surprise, surprise — The Dream Institute.

Traffic that evening was from my worst memories of the East coast. Waiting through multiple red light at each intersection. Cars lined up fifteen deep at stop signs. Time flying, my car crawling. I kept on telling myself it would be alright, I had enough time. I was in my husband’s white van — a big automatic that moves slowly. You can’t rush it. You have to surrender to its own polar bear calm.

Arriving at the Dream Institute, I see to my dismay that there is no parking. (Notice the tense change, we have now entered dreamtime) I have two large speakers to tote inside, so I drive around the block. My calm is disintegrating and panic creeping in as I wait through another forever red light. With a “fuck the world” attitude, I pull my van in front of a driveway.

Low and behold, I recognize the person in the car parked in front of me. In MY PARKING SPACE! I think uncharitably. Then I see that he is with a friend in a wheelchair. They appear to be sharing some of my nightmare. They have come early to get set up, but the director has shooed them out. The woman in the wheelchair is indignant at the rude treatment she received and they are about to leave. I put on a welcoming smile and reassure them, with less equanimity than I feel, not to worry, the director will soon be gone and it will only be me. It will be good. We enter the building together. I start to calm. I’m here.

Inside is pandemonium. People rushing around leaving from a meeting poorly timed to end just as I arrive. The director is, indeed, not very welcoming. She reminds me that she knows nothing about the technology and that I am on my own. I have talked to Richard earlier in the week, who is familiar with the equipment. I’m ready. The wiring to the speakers is a bit of a challenge, not long enough, few outlets, but my friends are helping and we are moving efficiently. Opps, too far from the screen, move everything closer, shift all the wires. It’s ok, we’re almost there. I pop the DVD into the computer and … and … nothing. No signal. We push buttons, reboot the computer. Still nothing. Maybe the projector doesn’t like the Mac.

It is close to starting time. My hands are sweating and my voice is getting strained. We swap my Mac for the Institute’s PC. Still no go. We read the directions again. We push buttons. We reboot. Nothing! People are gathering outside. The panic is creeping in again. The director suggests getting one of the guys at Radio Shack next door to help. We are still fussing when he arrives. Oh I see your problem, the cord to the projector was in the output rather than the input. I curse under my breath. Of course, the one thing the Dream Institute was responsible for! I should have come by earlier in the week and tested this stuff. We see the computer screen and cheer. The man leave.

Wait! Oh no! We’ve been deceived!
Just the laptop screen, no icons, no program access! The sand is flowing swiftly to the bottom of the hour-glass. People are being let in. Lot’s of people. Crowding the room. Making it very hot. The Radio Shack person is sent for. He returns, does some magic and the DVD pops on to the screen. The film is going. We begin, 30 minutes late, no introduction, no prolog. Just jump on the moving train and go.

I am just starting to relax a little when someone starts banging at the front door which is now blocked by people in the audience. I go to let her in the back door. Why is she so late? In the meantime, the computer goes dead. I want to get hysterical but I can’t. I have to be professional. Oh, the cord has been pulled. I reattach the plug, reboot the computer and restart the DVD. No sound. Ah, speaker wire came out. Reattach the speaker. I fuss with the start point and we are off again. I sit on the floor next to the equipment guarding the wires, barely breathing, trying to hold it all together by sheer force of will.

The movie is beautiful, transcendent, instructive. Appointment with the Wise Old Dog — about a man, David Blum, with amazing dreams that provide him with guidance and reassurance while he is dying of cancer. He has made color drawing of his dreams, vivid, child-like, archetypal. They hang around his bedroom, looking over him, giving comfort. The vision they reveal of life and afterlife are profound and thought-provoking. My panic subsides as I slip into the dreamworld of this lovely movie.

The film ends. I get up and, in a voice more together than I feel, I ask the viewers to consider the meaning the movie has for them, how it relates to their own dreams in times of crises and to discuss it with the person next to them. The room fills with enthusiastic chatter as I gather myself together and put away the techno demons. I breathe deep and slow, trying to regain my presence.

Even though the technological issues are over, my waking dream is not. When I call the group together, no one wants to talk. It is like pulling teeth. A stand-up comic’s nightmare. No one laughs, no one gives an inch. A few kind souls share their stories and I am pathetically grateful. How can that be? This is such interesting stuff. I can’t hold the space, I can’t bring them together. I answer questions and do a lot of talking. The evening grinds to an end.

The next morning, I get it. At first, of course, I am devastated. What a bomb! I really blew, etc. The usual negative-self litany. Then it dawns on me, this was a DREAM, a waking dream. Just like I had talked about in the group the night before. I had told the people that if they treated events in their life like dreams they might discover some interesting messages. Somehow I failed to notice at the time that I was in my own waking dream.

When the unconscious wants to get your attention it sends you a nightmare, several if you refuse to pay attention. This was my nightmare.

Ok, so what was the message?

LIFE IS A DREAM!  Row row row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream!

Meaning? Treat life as a dream. Don’t take it so personally. Don’t get too caught up. Wake up to the unreality, the lunacy, the humor, the absurdity. And don’t forget to pay attention.

If only I had understood that at the presentation. If only I had said, “We are in this nightmare together. We can go on like this, struggling, pushing, resisting, or we can become lucid (the term used when you realize you are dreaming) and say, Ahhh. We can make of this moment, this dream what we want.”  I think this group might have been receptive to the idea. In fact, I think this approach is applicable with any group, at any presentation. Invite everyone to be involved, to take responsibility for the outcome. This is your dream too.  Let’s build it together.

Now take that idea to the bigger world — to global crisis, the 99% and the next election. Sweet dreaming!

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Grief Transformation Coach Michelle Peticolas, Ph.D. helps people transform their grief with a holistic approach to mind, body and spirit that heals trauma, reframes past attachments and releases limiting beliefs while uncovering a true life purpose and direction. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at www.secretsoflifeanddeath.com

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