Dreams can be the difference between hope and despair among our young
people. Intergenerational wisdom, preserved throughout Indian country,
reminds us of the tremendous power of personal and collective dreams. We
could say, our life remains incomplete until we have embraced our dream.
Our greatest teachers are the ones who help others get in touch with their
dreams. Just watch a young person bring their dream to realization: their
joy, passion and life flourish. And that energy is contagious.
I remember talking with one of our elders and asking him how could I best
serve him. At that moment he asked me, “Did you hear that?” It was the
laughter of his grandson, who was enjoying the lessons with his peers in a
preschool that we had just finished building. “That is my best medicine!”
the elder said with a smile. And I knew he was right. Nothing in this wide
world could enhance his life as much as seeing his grandson growing up
happy and with pride in his Indian heritage. This dream made real was
sustaining this elder’s heart and adding to his life.
Our dreams are often the way in which we get in touch with the whispers of
our heart, our deepest longings. And our traditional healers advise us well
when they tell us that we should listen to our hearts.
One way we can do this is by paying attention to our dreams.
Dreams are often forgotten as soon as we wake up. But when they are
happening they have a psychological reality. In the dream world we can defy
the laws of ordinary reality. We can fly, raise the dead, move mountains,
heal the sick and foretell the future. There, too, we can find out the real
motives of the people of our daily lives, and there too we can come face to
face with our desires. But the most remarkable thing as we enter the world
of dreams is to realize that in them we all are artists, for we are the
creators of our dreams.
Some individuals who claim not to be artists become so when they narrate
their dreams: they become superb storytellers. Unfortunately, the artist
within them is only allowed to come out and play when they themselves are
not there, when they close their eyes. We can say that artists are
individuals who can dream with their eyes open, who create even when they
are awake. And what a joy it is to create with our eyes open!
In our dreams we also have access to experience the world from another
perspective, including the perspective of other creatures. That is the
mystical reality that our practitioners of traditional dances experience
with the buffalo, the bear, the salmon, the eagle.
Dreams indeed have their own language. We all use the same language when we
dream, but we don’t know it when we wake up.
Here we are, spending a third of our lives in a world that for the most
part remains unconscious. If we only knew that it is through our dreams
that we give ourselves the best advice.
Just as we have two brains (one for science and one for art), we have two
basic modes of thinking: one that works through knowledge and one that
works through wisdom. The first one uses information; the second,
inspiration. They are not meant to work against each other — just like our
two brains — but to complement each other. Our dreaming self brings us
pearls of wisdom from the depths of our minds, and it clothes them and
gives them life in the stage of our dreams. Our dreaming self uses
metaphors just like our poets do, and for the same reason. It evokes rather
than tells; for what you evoke is meant to reach the heart, while what you
tell stops at the level of the mind.
We are all bi-lingual: we speak “head-language” and “heart-language.” But,
with good reason, we have been told that the longest distance for a human
being is the one between his head and his heart. Dreams can help us bridge
this distance: they provide us with a blend of elements of the heart and
In a world that has become one-sided, the language of the heart has become
a forgotten language. The loss of our dreaming self has caused much turmoil
in the world. To get a sense of its proportion, just imagine a bird trying
to fly with one wing. Its flight is erratic, painful, and ultimately fatal.
Now see the same bird using both of its wings. The flight is peaceful,
harmonious and joyful. That is what our life is meant to be. That is why we
have a heart and a mind. The dreaming self is the missing wing of our
Become whole. Befriend yourself. All you have is two wings, but with them
you can rise above the entire world.
Roberto Dansie is a clinical psychologist in northern California. His Web
site is www.roberto-dansie.com.