When I was 21 or 22, a woman who owned a dance studio in Prince Rupert, B.C. flew me out to teach and choreograph for her students for a few weeks. It was amazing. She let me take her yoga classes for free and stay in her big, beautiful house. She paid me well and vibed me just right at a time when I felt lonely and lost.
Her name was Ella.
One day, Ella and I got to talking about dreams. I told her I'd had an interesting one about walking in shallow ocean waves with my Australian friend, Paul. The waves would turn into deep fried crisp, golden brown like a wonton, right as they peaked, and I kept falling through them and getting all greasy. She laughed and said, "I don't know much about the friend, but it seems like your dream was trying to say that deep fried food won't support you in the way that you want it to."
That shit blew me away! It was so simple. She handed me a dream dictionary to flip through for the rest of my time at her house, and I've been taking stock of my most vivid dreams ever since.
We're taught not to think about dreams very much. They can be silly things. They can be mild nuisances or horrible traps. Some spiritual practices ask that you write down your dreams every morning before you forget them, that they contain important nuggets for you to analyze. The science on dreams has been murky. Some insist that dreams have no meaning or value, that they are just flickers of random thoughts and images as the brain resets for the following day.
Matthew Walker, the "Sleep Diplomat," founded the Center For Human Sleep Science in the Psychology wing at UC Berkeley, and has done extensive research on sleep and dreams. In his Masterclass on sleep, he explains new studies showing a new take on dreams. Dreams help to process significant events and emotions in a person's life. Your mind might run through a scary situation in a dream so your brain can process the fear of it and move on, for example. Dream narratives can help you to see interactions and relationships as sillier and less worrisome, either by directly playing out a dream that soothes the mind or playing out a more disturbing dream that becomes a relief to wake up from. Even the scariest of dreams are just dreams, and our healthy minds allow us to go there so we don't have to deal with our fears as intensely in real life. Dreams can be little miracles for our psyche.
After learning this, I started thinking differently about my own dreams. Alongside the casual dream analysis I've been practicing since I met Ella, consciously allowing my dreams to process shit for me has had some delicious effects.
My dreams have been particularly vivid and interesting the past few days. Baby blue spiders ziplining to my third eye. A witchy blonde woman swallowing snakes in a bid to conquer her own power. In last night's dream, I quit a shabby restaurant job in the middle of a work-mare, which I've never done, and watched the restaurant manager poke my tires with used bulgogi skewers as I tried to leave (I clearly have some resentment towards the hospitality industry right now).
On Friday night, I came home from work with a migraine. I could barely speak from nausea and head pound. Shane brought me water and gentle cuddles and played restorative music while I passed the fuck out. I slept hard, and dreamt that morning of a video I had made. I was showing that video to a friend of mine--someone I've been struggling with lately and feeling out of step with. In the video, I was dripping head-to-toe in gold beads and sequins and stones. Glittering gold covered all of my skin and hair except for my smiling face. I was fucking radiant. Smiling. The video started with a cinematic close-up of my rosy face, then cut to a half-flying tumbling pass across an amusement park boardwalk. Against the backdrop of a ferris wheel and a blue sky, my golden, beaded body sparkled and flew. The gold flowed past my feet and feathered to a point in the air. I looked almost like liquid gold. It was insane. One of the flyest things I've ever seen in a dream or in real life.
My friend simply walked away in a huff before I could finish showing them the video. A flash of gold was enough for them to storm off, pissed. I didn't think too much of it... just moved on to try to find Shane and show him instead. He was sleeping in the top bunk in my childhood room, and when he woke up he was too busy to watch the video. So I just watched it alone, and smiled, and the dream ended.
Sometimes dreams show you things in just the right way.
"Self confidence without the applause" is something I'm learning right now. How to believe in myself even though society gives little to no fucks about me. How to stay motivated and creatively playful and brave without getting the feedback I so desperately crave as a straight- A student. The golden-me dream showed me exactly what I needed to see. It doesn't matter whether the people I loved watched and championed me and my art. The art itself was radiant, unique, exquisite, skilled, whether they had the time and patience to watch it or not. And the dream (I believe intentionally) showed me that their reasons for not watching or caring had nothing to do with me. Everyone is dealing with their own schedules, their own goals and their own feelings of inadequacy. It's not my job to analyze them and get their approval. It's my job to make shit. To glow. To connect with the audience that is ready for me. That dream was the best. I woke up, migraine-free, stress-free, smiling.
Fresh developments in psychology and neuroscience have revealed that we can create a better relationship with our own brains and get faster answers to our most burning questions. Instead of assuming we can't figure out a problem and calling ourselves stupid internally, we can ask our brain for help, and it will find solutions. When we call ourselves stupid, our brain looks for ways to validate that stupidity. All we have to do is be clear about what we want from our brains. I wanted to think differently about needing positive feedback. Voila.
Dreams can be an avenue to answers. Think about it. Your brain knows how and what you think day after day. In dreams, it can freely access creative images and ideas to show you solutions to your current thinking, based on what it thinks will resonate with you.
Your brain is fucking amazing. Try giving it permission to show you new things.