Recently, I’ve written about the illusory nature of the ego, that sense of separate self. I mentioned one of the ways you can see its nature is when you wake in the morning, you may occasionally not know who you are for a moment. This is because the ego has been sleeping with the mind. When it wakes, we “remember”. But that remembering gets in the way of really remembering who we are, the deeper silent Self within.
This ego construct or idea arises naturally when we are quite young in the process of separation from mother. It continues to develop through childhood and teen-hood, where it should actually be left behind. But our culture is deeply invested in the ego, making this more challenging. Until recently, there were few examples to follow.
The ego we could say has 3 levels. The mental idea of separate me, the emotional underpinnings of that, and the core identity. As I’ve talked here before, waking from these 3 “dreams” is the process of a typical full waking – mind, heart, then gut.
When we fall asleep, the mind sleeps to various levels. The literature talks about Dream or REM sleep and deeper dreamless sleep. But there are more values to dreams, corresponding to our values of identity.
There is a kind of semiconscious sleep where the mind-ego is partly awake and we have ‘sanitized’ dreams. Dreams with more structure and sequence. Not rational but perhaps detailed. Often more directly associated with recent thinking and desires. They can have a sense of being ‘controlled’ dreams.
There are ‘truer’ dreams were we drift through an emotional landscape, processing recent experiences. Feelings dominate. There is no structure or process, simply a bunch of random impressions. No ego is active, so these dreams are more ‘honest’ of our emotional landscape. Typically, we are able to process through minor stuff but tend to be less able to process deeper dynamics. This is partly because that requires more sustained rest and partly because awareness is lacking with which to clear them. They remain incompletely experienced.
Lucid dreams can be handy that way as they add the element of awareness. More is able to be processed. And being wakeful during dreams is a good sign of deepening awareness.
And then there is the deep dreams, the ones arising from the core identity. The identity rarely exposes itself to awareness as it has no foundation and would dissipate if truly seen. As the core identity is essentially a fear structure of holding, dreams from this level can be what people call “nightmares”. The deep foreboding or terror without reason. They can be characterized by a sense of threat to our survival. But what is it threatened here? It is not the experiencer, it is their illusory sense of identity that is threatened. Threatened by being seen. But because we associate with it, we think “I am threatened”.
Curiously, the identity behaves almost like a parasite. It knows that it has no reality, so holds firm to avoid being lost and works to prevent from being seen. Still, we occasionally may touch a sense of that. Thus the fear quality – both the nature of the identity and its fear of being exposed.
We should not be afraid of that deep fear. The fear only arises in its own fear for its own illusory survival. Once fully seen, it is lost and ‘dies’. Adyashanti calls this the BBQ. What remains after the identity is what truly is. Our true being, never threatened or afraid.
But I’m getting a little ahead here. The usual path is to see through the mental ego first. This is the first waking. Then crack the shell on the heart, then expose the identity.
If we understand this process, we can understand the origin and nature of different forms of dreams. We can see them for what they are. And if we can be with them as they are, fully, they will complete and dissipate. We will no longer have to carry that baggage. This is the dream version of waking release. As waking is just another dream type, the process is much the same. (laughs)
Awareness is the pointer to our being. It is the great healer, the knower, the path to peace and happiness. Look always to who observes and then the hold of even our worst nightmare, in dreams or in the world, will lose its hold on us. We will find peace, even in the darkest storms.
PS – this post arose this morning, so I decided to write it anyway rather than add it to the pile of drafts – more to come. Time for work.