There are many different ways to answer this question!
The dream world still remains a mystery and we still don’t have answers to some fundamental questions:
- Why do we dream?
- What is a dream?
- Where do dreams come from?
- How much of dreaming is physiological and how much is psychological?
- Is dreaming a mystical experience?
- Are we being dreamed?
So what is a Dream?
The answer can be viewed from a number of different perspectives:
- Dreaming as a Science - The science of dreaming is based on aspects of physiology, neuro-biology, cognition and information processing. Thus according to the question ‘what is a dream?’ dreaming is no more than spontaneous, self activation of the brain during sleep.
- Dream Interpretation – Many of us are fascinated by our dreams. Often this apparently random jumble of images we experience every night is confusing and just plain unfathomable. So why should we try to gain any meaning from our dreams? Is there any meaning to be gained from our dreams? And how do we go about interpreting our dreams? Dream interpretation is about not taking the images we see in dreams literally, but as a representation of something else in our lives. Dream interpretation allows us to analyse and understand the hidden messages that our dreams are sending us about our emotional lives in the waking world. Dr Gayle Delaney was the first to pioneer the use of Dream Cards in order to explore the meaning of the dream.
- Lucid Dreaming – Lucid Dreaming is a state in which the dreamer is aware and conscious of the fact they are dreaming. Many people have had at least one lucid dream experience at some time in their life. It is a miraculous state; you have full consciousness and yet you are somehow in a different reality. Lucid dreams become just as ‘lifelike’ as the waking world.
- Jungian Dreaming - The psychologist, Carl Jung, initiated the concept of the ‘collective unconscious’. Some dreams are not so much a personal message to the dreamer, but rather a more universal message that might be communicated through ‘archetypes’; patterns of experience common to humanity. In this way, the dream becomes less personal to the dreamer and more relevant to the human collective.
- Dreaming and Quantum Physics - We now understand that matter can exhibit both wave and particle properties. And that measurement or observation of matter causes a ‘wave-function collapse’, resulting in an actual sharply well-defined outcome. Some speculate that the reason why observation causes the wave function collapse is because a feature of observation is ‘conscious awareness’. Perhaps then, the dream exists in wave form until we consciously observe it through lucid dreaming. And then the lucid dream, unlike an ordinary dream, becomes a definite outcome rather similar to physical reality. This might mean that the lucid dream is actually as ‘real’ as the waking world.
- Tibetan Dream Yoga – Tibetan Buddhism and Taoism have for centuries taught that the waking world is no more than illusion or a dream. Tibetan dream yoga can be a valuable tool in which we can learn to recognise the dream state. This in turn means that when we die, we are also able to recognise the death state as another transitional illusional state. If we manage to attain a clear headed conscious awareness through the death state, we may escape being born again and instead reach a state of enlightenment.