Weekly ChallengeCoping with Christmas - a Mindful Dream

Jacky is away this week on the MBLC Teacher Training Retreat, which I have to say, I am relieved I’m not doing right now! And so it gives me an opportunity to cover for Jacky on the Weekly Challenge. This week – something a bit different – Mindfulness in my Dreams — how my dreamworld celebrated my Mindful Christmas experience.

Mindfulness practice makes me feel like I am waking up to the world around me, and in a way my dreams also do this for me – my mind seems to absorb every detail of my daily experience shake it up a bit and then re-present them in a different order in a way that causes me curiosity and sometimes insight. Actually I am completely fascinated by the power of dreams. They are a window into my subconscious mind.

Mindfulness infuses my days with a presence of mind which drifts in an out of my conscious awareness like a bird drifting into and darting out of the clouds. It’s not just that I am becoming more present with what’s happening around me; the fully conscious ‘me’ operating in this daily life world is more able to ‘be with’ the unfolding of events, more able to observe, be curious, of the things that are going on around me and my responses to them. But there’s also much more subtle awakenings and disturbances going on just under the surface; there’s a growing ability to observe the mind’s urgency to react, need to comment, to judge others, and self – I’ve noticed the paradox of the mind’s ability and tendency to feel at times mightily superior in a certain situation and yet in another moment I can find myself with an inferiority complex which makes me want to hide under the duvet and never come out again! How fickle my waking mind is.

My dream mind seems to cut through all this. This morning in the morning sit Vin asked us to see what it would be like to just be still and listen to ourselves. This was an incredibly powerful instruction. I find this is hard to do when the mind is so busy and full of noise. When my mind is agitated with daily life doings I have noticed part of that busyness is to do with supressing my deeper feelings (unknowingly) and invariably my dreamscape will reflect that back at me, the dreams get stronger, louder, more weird and dramatic to make me pay attention. I read that ightmares can be thought of as our subconscious shouting at us – hey! you are not listening to me!

In Insight (Level 3 Practices) (Vipashnaya) once we have learned to settle the mind we train to sit in open awareness, with no expectations. We watch the display of the mind like a show with no attachment to any of it. Insight meditation rests (teaches us to relate to?) the busy mind in a way which has the potential for the mind to reveal the more subtle thoughts which are usually obscured by our being identified to the multitude of thoughts and feelings which keep the mind in its state of ‘ignorance’. Subtle thoughts appear to come from the subconscious, subliminal mind which resides just beneath surface mind. Sometimes we can detect something in this layer of mind surfacing through bodily sensations or movements in ourselves and others. (Tension, twitching, clenched jaw, leg-jiggling, headaches…). When we ignore and suppress uncomfortable feelings, they get pushed down into our subconscious. Now I’m thinking there must be a whole load of supressed stuff in my mind because my dream life is so busy every night! Slightly worrying, but at least I have my mindfulness toolkit to work with what surfaces!

This subliminal subconscious mind is a world where metaphor and symbolism rule and this is where our dreams are made.  Dream ingredients are taken from our daily lives, mixed up, cooked and fed back to us at night in our dreams which, like our thoughts may or may not have messages for us. They are glimpses of the inner workings of the mind, hints to the subconscious, subtle attitudes that underlie our beliefs.

Recently I have found myself dreaming about being mindful, this is new for me. I am a frequent and vivid dreamer; I have since a child experienced lucid dreaming, which is a phenomenon where I find myself fully awake and conscious within the dreamscape with an ability to control elements within the dream; but I have never actually dreamed about mindfulness, or mindfulness practice; and I wanted to share with you a dream I had over Christmas which showed me by way of metaphor how mindfulness was working for me over Christmas with my family staying, and the associated stresses that came with that.

Heather’s Calendar prompts in December were so helpful for me leading up to Christmas. My reclusive and quiet life was about to be invaded for two weeks with busyness, noise (and joy of course haha!) that accompanies my daughter with her two small and very excited children. I was deep in my heart so excited at the prospect after not seeing them for so long because of lockdown. But I could feel I was anxious, my body tense from head to toe – at the thought of trying to keep everybody happy, trying to make sure everyone had food, comfort, weren’t bored, that I wan’t going to be too annoying, make sure everyone had a perfect time but of course this is impossible. My mind was triggered by past experiences, negative stories, previous anxieties and disasterous Christmases. I had to engage and plan my mindfulness strategy the week before everyone came; I mentally prepared my mindful approach to the situation. I wanted to drink in the joy of the situation, not get swamped as I had done in the past by the overwhelm.

I had to give myself conscious instructions.

I resolved to give up trying to control what was happening.

I resolved to just do whatever happened without feeling the need to hold it all together.

I resolved to go with the flow and to facilitate others’ wishes. I resolved to pay attention to my feelings and look out for resentment from within!

I resolved to not have an agenda (funny!) and to be alert to any hint of underlying subtle or disguised agenda- my own feelings of needing to do what I want, watch what I want, listen to what I want, eat what I want. My gift to you is that I will serve you and your needs!

I resolved to watch my ‘egoic preference system’ try to get its way, and try to get its way it did! This caused an incredible exhaustion in my body. I felt uncomfortable, tense, twitchy – like I was going cold-turkey (Christmas joke there ;0)) on the controlling. The visceral sensations of this holding on/letting go were uncomfortable and by the third day I was feeling like I had been driven over by a steam roller, my whole body was stiff all down my spine from neck to pelvis. Letting go was hard work!

But then flow happened. And I am so grateful and feel such gratitude for the mindfulness to Let Go that facilitated the best Christmas Day and dinner I think we had all ever experienced. I followed instructions given to me by my son who’s 20 who took control of the kitchen (this was new) with a timetable of what to cook and when, it was so incredibly well organized. I was issued my instructions, as we all were, (Molly 7, on the sprouts – Molly’s mum on the Yorkshire puddings first time ever – a huge success – enormous – not like my ‘Yorkshire Disks’ from previous years!) -we all did our part. The dinner came together a complete celebration of letting go and coming together. It was a marvel in action. And I was able to fully deeply and mindfully enjoy and savour every minute of it.

I feel ashamed [administers self compassion] that it has taken me until now to be able to see how it’s me that has caused a lot of the tension in my household, by being so controlling, and yet before Mindfulness I would never have said I was a controlling person, I always considered myself to be laid back. I’m thinking of the swan gliding with furiously paddling feet.

My Christmastime dream, dreamt after Christmas Day:

Heather (Regan-Addis) was driving the car [1], and I was sitting in the back. Heather was listening to Jolly Christmas Trumpet Music [2] which I thought was dreadful and I didn’t want to hear it [3]. So I turned my music on and turned it up a bit [4]. And then a bit more, and more [5], until I couldn’t hear the Jolly Trumpet Music any more. But I couldn’t hear my music either it was now a deafening cacophony of battling sounds, which I suddenly then saw  that I was responsible for creating [6]. I realised Heather couldn’t hear her Jolly Christmas Trumpet Music any more and that I had been selfish and spoiled it for her [7]. I felt terrible as soon as I realised how selfish I was! I turned my music off.

“Heather! I have had a mindful moment” I declared. “I am so sorry I was so selfish. Please let’s listen to your Jolly Christmas Trumpet Music and I will try to find something about it to enjoy!” [8] We drove along so happy now to be listening to Heather’s Jolly Christmas Trumpet Music together.

My armchair psychologist dream interpretation

[1] My Mindfulness training in action

[2] My family (arriving for Christmas – noisy and jolly)

[3] Subliminal resistance to my peace being invaded surfacing in dream

[4] EPS Egoic Preference System with is demands for self-gratification

[5] Resentment growing

[6] Mindful moment

[7] Insight

[8] Letting Go and starting again with ‘beginner’s mind’

I told Heather the dream as I thought she might find it funny too and she was delighted to have been helpful in my dream!

Weekly Challenge

This week see if you can catch yourself wanting things to go ‘your way’? Notice if you are ‘turning your volume up a bit’ in a situation you are finding difficult.

How would it be to let go of needing to do things ‘your way’?

Getting stuck to this sense of ‘egoic self with needs’ limits our experience.

See if you can let go this week. Notice how this feels in your body.

Write down your dreams. What do they have to say?