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Dream Parsimony Lee Irwin These reflections are not about a particular dream per se, but about a dream teaching that came through a series of repeating dreams in the early morning. The basic structure of the teaching based on a repeating pattern is that adream starts fairly simply and then becomes more and more complex and the complexity stems from the way the conscious mind brings attention to certain aspects of the dream. Then the dream repeats only this time the dream is much simpler and there is no attempt by the conscious mind to engage any particular element, but only to observe the dream. Several dreams repeat, with the same relationship ± without bringing attention to dream aspects (figures, symbols, feelings, thoughts, etc.) the dream flows more fluidly, simply, more parsimoniously, to its conclusion. But when consciousness engages anparticular aspect, then it quickly multiplies associations that make the dream far more complex and personalized in unique ways. What shows in the dreaming context is simply two dreams types/scenarios back to back, one more simple and observed and one more complex and participatory BUT also more compensatory. The message seems to be that the dream as a natural function of the psyche has a capacity to synthesize and integrate experience directly and more simply if the consciousness of the dreamer is lucid and ³non-interfering´ as compared to dreaming which when engaged in a more compensatory way actually diverts the dreaming from its integrative function and manifests the problems of the psyche and its convolutions around unresolved tensions, over-burdening the natural function. This message has several corollaries: first, that dreaming is not simply an expression of the ³unconscious´ ± that is when we stop reifying the mind as though causality were only a function of our unknowing and take more responsibility for (or bring greater consciousness to) the dream, then we can maximize the dreaming function through lucid observation. This requires mental training; it is not simply a matter of an intellectual theory, but an actual practice/praxis in which the dreamer can bring lucidity to the dream and differentiate dreaming from observing the dream while the dream is occurring. I feel certain that this ability, which I have developed over the years, is a direct consequence of a life-long practice of meditation. I have trained my consciousness to sustained states of relaxed lucid awareness without thought or other mental activity ± and I can observe thought and mental activity with a calm awareness, one that does not interfere with the thought process but which is simultaneously aware of multiple cognitive influences in the moment of thinking. Imagine an expanded field of awareness in which one observes the role of sensation, memory, visual forms, imaginative activities, and thinking as a constant intertwined flow.
The state is non-dualistic because self-reflexive capacity is an *essential characteristic of consciousness* and not a learned capacity. Meditation does not teach us a new skill; it only clears away the obscuring flux of cognitive life in order to bring to awareness the normal lucidity inherent to consciousness. The reason that this fact is not self-obvious is because most people are cognitively undisciplined, over-stimulated, and supersaturated while others believe that ³thinking´ is a supreme form of cognitive activity when in fact it is only a simple function inflated by intellectual self-identification. The actual nature of consciousness is far more fluid and rich than what thinking and rationalizing manifest ± that is not to say that thinking is not important, it is crucial, but it is still only a particular, often obscuring, function. Secondly, the implication of such a dream function is that the dreamer has to develop a capacity to distinguish between a) the needs the dream may creatively address and b) the actual, more fundamental process (integration) that the dream can accomplish with less engagement on the part of the dreamer. This is rather revelatory ± because the implication is that many people have profoundly *entangled dreams* because they project intensely into the dream scenario needs and desires they want to satisfy (semi-consciously) through the dream in a way that actually inhibits the dreams (natural) integrative function. In turn this implies a need to redefine the concept of ³integration´. I believe that many people, including professional dream workers, hold a somewhat Platonic idea of integration. Integration as a synthesis of all one¶s current needs and desires or as the satisfaction of all one¶s hopes, certainly falsifies the dream process. Even in a perfectly healthy individual the process of integration is more an expression of homeodynamic interaction (and developmental stages) than it is the satisfaction of needs in any ideal sense. The dynamic function of the dream might be described as integrative insofar as the processes engaged in the dreaming act to provide an inner stability which is fundamental to personal development in an enduring sense. This stability however is itself developmental; ³identity´ is constantly adapting, responding, and creatively expressing will and autonomy in a context of multiple personal, social, and cultural influences. The existential aspect of this process is engagement with being ± to what degree does the individual attain a deeply centered identity through authentic life or lose integrity and authenticity through artifice, convention, self-delusion, or the falsifying demands of others? I regard integration as a process of authentic engagement with being which often implies a need to strip away socialization and artifice based on less aware stages of social development. The individual can and often does outpace the social-cultural norms that maintain a collective influence on ideals of maturity and norms of self-identification. The
dream itself reflects this tendency to function in relation to the collective, adapting the integrative process often in relationship to both personal needs and collective demands. However, in the maturation process, the correct development of skills and living a life dedicated to authentic existence, shaped by moral concern for the well-being of others, and enhanced by compassion and creative engagement with worldly life, the individual can act as an integrative center for the collective. The integration of the individual as an expression of authentic being is, I believe, directed toward intersubjective relations; integration in this sense means manifesting being in ways that enhance our conceptions of the sacred human. This is not simply an anthropocentric idea but a fundamental expression of anthropological being ± as we human being should seek to exemplify the highest possible qualities of human life and existence in order to maximize the value and worth of every other living creature (physical, subtle, or transcendent) with whom we share the planet. We can only do this by fully engaging our human capacities and unlocking human potentials that lead to the greatest possibly expressions of being. Thus, thirdly, the integrative function of the dream is part of a process of selfovercoming. This means that our personal needs and desires are not the primary basis of the dreaming reality ± instead, it is the very nature of being, the very source of consciousness, which urges us toward greater development and which works through the subtle influences of dreams as a sacred process of transformation. Through mental training and authentic engagement with life challenges, drawing on our strengths not our weaknesses, we can enhance the natural function by consciously engaging in dream work for the purpose of human evolution and development. However, this means over-coming our own weaknesses, selfish desires, and self-preoccupations that inhibit our development, by not placing undue emphasis on every need and desires that manifests in the dream. The process of self-overcoming is a process that applies to all people in all times; it is not simply a contemporary idea. And it applies to those who are most self-aware most importantly because the work of transformation occurs through the authentic attainment of mature individuals who actually embody the highest degree of development. This is not a matter of higher states of consciousness or mystical abilities as much as it is grounded, authentic existence in the world that is exemplary and genuine. Insofar as dreams come through us as a reflection of our engagement with being, only by embodying the dream in the active, existential context of day to day life can the potential become evidential to others. What is required is that we strip away the artifice of personal confusion, false collective identity, and inauthentic values that inhibit this deep transformation. Then each
individual becomes a medium for higher being-in, that is, embodied spiritual consciousness that reflects the unique characteristics of that individual being. The process of working on dreams cannot be separated from our daily work of authentic being in the world. Our dreams will be no more integrative than the conscious intentions we foster that guide our daily life. This is not a matter of a particular set of beliefs but rather a commitment to an authentic way of life that seeks to serve human development by nurturing a deep attitude of affirmation toward all living creatures and all ways of life that do not instill fear, violence, or harmful aggression. All paths are not equal and all practices are not benign. We have to choose ± to become engage dreamers in the creation of a non-violent world where human potential is maximized to serve the development of all, or to fall into the collective shadow, loss authenticity, and seek only personal satisfaction through indifference to the fate of others. The path to dreaming transformation means stripping away artifice in order that the shadow may be engaged authentically in search on a well-integrated outcome. There is no one way to do this, only a multitude of ways that converge on dedication to diverse means that promote authentic human development. The dream is one location, a place to work, that requires constant dedication and attentive awareness; but the reward is that through the dreaming process very profound development can occur. June 2011