“A passage through a cave to somewhere well-stocked and safe and open, a passage through my body—a huge chamber with glass walls. Fish swim goggle eyed. Twilight. Everything washed in somber color since I got here.” [dream journal 9.2.14]
I elect to remember my dreams—often to the detriment of my restedness—because my sleeping mind pulls no punches.
My dreamscapes draw their momentum from my emotional life, which is generally pretty eventful. I feel a lot of feelings. So for me the primary challenge of an active dream practice is one of steel, of guts. To lay my memory at the mercy of my subconscious is to give up my control and pretense. And while I cherish my control and pretense, to allow them to reign my experience unchecked feels wimpy. So I meet myself each night in sleep—touch into whatever of me is spliced into a phenotypic network deeper than my own decision-making.
After being sexually assaulted on an airplane over the Sahara desert in 2009, I struggled for nearly a year with PTSD nightmares in which I hurt or killed family members. I began to practice lucid dreaming in order to protect my sanity, and to relieve the strain on my waking relationships. After years of practice, now, when I notice that I am dreaming, I relax—no matter the circumstances. This habit allows me to take hold of a very fluid agency over the dramatic situation of my dream.
I realize I’ve now claimed to both relinquish and reclaim agency in dream space, and I am not sorry that I fumble for a non-paradoxical way to explain the rewards of this practice.
I have learned that there is no way to change any present—awake or asleep—without wholly accepting it. While an attitude of welcome is applicable in all moments, it is of particular use in those that are conventionally considered unwelcome. In the yogic tradition this manifests as the practice of greeting our challenges with honor and respect: “Namah. Hari Om. Stay as long as you’d like.” The application of this mentality in dreams is my bridge to lucidity.
When I am at peace I dream of whales and water. When I am on edge the shoreline tilts to dump me in, the waves escalate horrifically but—if I am able to welcome the scenario—maybe I can breathe under water. Maybe I can hang out with some sea creatures. Maybe I can still the waves.
“A classical arena on the water, a Quidditch pitch at the mouth of the bay. I fly through, sunset on water, to a train-car that laces a red coastline.” [dream journal 9.12.14]
Awake, I have a knee-jerk impulse to name myself constantly. I fuss and fetter my body like it’s the last stand for human consciousness—which, of course, it is. My rotting receptor of membrane and bone; my blood, the ocean.
And O my holy reputation! May you all name me sane, at least, at last!
When I’m awake and running on money, I can’t let go of my reputation for a second. I protect my self-image even (especially) in my own thoughts. But asleep my needs and knots seep up the walls; I have learned that if I welcome them I will not suffocate. If I let myself remember my dreams honestly, I gain insight into subtleties of my emotional state—and my poetry is more richly informed for it.
Lucid dreaming is a venture for a more well-dimensioned personal truth, and as such tends to be both brutal and abundant. In dreams, I experience my own unvarnished hopes and fears. In dreams, pains that I have not consciously named drift from their exiles into my attention. Though often more difficult, the waking moments that follow dream remembrance are also more whole. Maybe I call my Mom. Maybe I write a letter to a friend.
I elect to remember my dreams in order to relinquish some small degree of control over my self-assertions, to let go of my letters in order to find them more authentically. My insecurity still echoes through the cave of the ancients; the cave of the ancients still becomes a shopping mall when it enters my gut. What am I? My teeth crumble from my skull, again. I notice.
In dreams, as in poems—letting go is the only ocean left to us.
“I roll down a large carpeted slide at a carnival and then am drunk up by the moon. You were all there. Everyone saw it.” [dream journal 9.15.14]
Jessica Morey-Collins is currently working on an MFA at the University of New Orleans. Her poems can be found in the North American Review, Vinyl Poetry, Metazen, ILK Magazine, and elsewhere. This blog was inspired by an assignment from poet and professor extraordinaire Carolyn Hembree and the sage advice of Randall O'Leary of Jungle Yoga. Jessica provided the bottom image for this blog and she is featured in the North American Review issue 299.1,Winter 2014.
Top illustration by Mia Funk, an artist and writer who teaches at L’École de Dessin Technique et Artistique, Paris. She won a Prix de Peinture from the Salon d’Automne de Paris, has shown at the Grand Palais (Official Selection of Salon des Artistes Français), was selected for the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, Celeste Prize, and won a Thames & Hudson Pictureworks Prize. Her paintings are held in several public collections, including the Dublin Writers Museum, and have been highlighted on television and numerous publications. She's been longlisted for the KWS Hilary Mantel Short Story Prize and received a Momaya Prize Honorary Mention. She is currently completing work on a pscyhological thriller and a collection of linked short stories.