In all the ways I have considered present moment awareness, I do not remember wondering whether or not my dreams were mindful. In fact, dream speak has never been on any kind of awareness meter for me, until recently.
“The moment is all you ever have and it is enough” is what I heard myself say in a dream. It brought me right into the present for immediately, I was awake. Certainly, I am familiar with that sentence as it has appeared in a number of blog posts and is the second sentence of my Twitter bio as well.
Thoughts may not be tangible but they are powerful, although like bubbles, they float to the surface and burst—every time. Maybe the closest we come to reality is being in the moment. While I am somewhat curious about what I was dreaming—I have never remembered–I am more curious about being jolted into mindfulness.
For a few months now, I have been sitting meditation through two flares, which has made the entire experience—physically and emotionally–different from any previous. Meditation helps me distinguish between qualifying the flares and immersing myself in them.
In other words, it is not a matter of how I am feeling but that I am feeling what is occurring in each moment. The idea that the moment is the only reality that I am experiencing opened up possibility after possibility for me, and eventually, found its way into my dreams.
There is a lojong slogan in meditation instruction that says, “regard all dharmas as dreams,” which Pema Chödrön explains as “regard all thoughts as being the same as a dream [for]…as we sit in meditation, we could begin to realize that we create everything, all our thoughts, with our mind” (Chödrön).
In meditation, rather than letting the thoughts trample all over me, I try to witness them for the transient dreams they are, first flaring and then, fleeing. If I do anything more than witness what is occurring, I attach to the thought, giving it life. This is when the “what ifs” and thus, the story, begin. When we attach to the drama of any thought, we have completely left the moment.
Pema Chödrön advises using the word “thinking” whenever we find ourselves attaching to a thought during meditation. As we utter the word in our mind, the story that once gave life to that thought vanishes. Immediately, we are present, as if awakening from a dream. With the thought gone, we return to a light emphasis on the breath and resume our role as witness.
As this exercise works so well for me during meditation, I use it post meditation as well. The practice is the same, including the breath. Regardless of what is occurring, no-thing is bigger than the moment; I find this particularly helpful in moments of physical and emotional discomfort.
“In our everyday lives, we are run around by these thoughts that we make so solid with our mind and our thinking. So when we say, ‘regard it all as a dream,’ we lead ourselves toward something that many people have discovered throughout the ages about the nature of reality: it’s not as solid as we think” (Chödrön).
More and more, I stay with what is occurring in the moment rather than going off with a thought. It is a shorter and more scenic trip. Also, impermanence seems more a friend than I ever thought possible.
All quotes are from How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends With Your Mind by Pema Chödrön, Kindle version, May 2013.