The Dream Within A Dream

Anyone who saw Christopher Nolan’s amazing movie Inception will be familiar with the idea of a dream within a dream. In the movie there were no less than four levels of dream. It was complex and fascinating and I needed to watch it twice to fully comprehend the intricacy. Each level operates within different temporal duration thus a minute at one level is an hour in another. This of course is consistent with our own dreams where actual time has little relevance.

The idea for this movie came to director Nolan as a teenager when he learned how to lucid dream. Lucid dreaming is a state between waking and sleeping where you realize you are able to both be within the dream state and observe yourself in it. With experience you can learn to manipulate your actions in the dream.

I have concerns about seeking meaning in lucid dreams; there is a risk that the ego begins to assert itself at the expense of the unconscious that is in charge of a regular dream state. For example in the lucid dream I can arrange to get the girl while frequently in a normal dream state the girl is for ever elusive.

However I do believe that we can have dreams within dreams. Have you ever experienced that surreal contradiction where you wake from a dream and begin your normal day only to discover you are still dreaming? I have always felt that the second dream comes as reminder form the unconscious that we must pay attention to the first dream.

Recently a client arrived for his session and when asked, “where shall we start?” replied, “well – I did have an interesting dream last night.” He found it easy to recall the dream. He was in a dark tunnel/valley, looking out over a beautiful range of mountains as the sun began to rise. He observed there were little pockets of snow under the trees. This surprised him as it was first day of summer. Then he noticed there was a skier picking his way over the patches of snow. This really grabbed his attention as he loves to ski. Then the skier somewhat nonchalantly slid over a large stretch of rocks, presumable trashing his skis although he seemed quite unworried by this. In the dream my client grabbed a pair of binoculars to observe two more skiers. There seemed to be more snow than he had realized.

At this moment something unexpected happened. He realized this was a dream and he made the decision to step out of this dream. He found that although he could choose to leave the first dream he could not choose the second one. He found himself running in a large concrete tunnel that seemed featureless and went nowhere. It seemed to curve up on itself like a giant concrete tire. There was no opportunity to do anything other than follow it around.

This was a dream with a moment of lucidity that then collapsed back into pure dream. I dream partnered with him – repeating the dream, exploring feelings, energy and the symbols. The first dream contained elements he felt good about, curious about and perked his interest He realized it contained aspects that seemed to relate to his current life – both positive and negative. Then he had an insight. I need to be careful about choosing a new direction for my life; it could take me into a tunnel of no opportunity.

The message of the dream related to a theme in his life. He has moments of believing his life is not enough, that he should make a conscious step into something bigger. My counsel has always been caution, “wait on the will of heaven”. Work with your intention and your attention and what is yours will come to you.

The dream reminds us that the ego can be a powerful master but not always a wise one.