Twelfth century philosopher, Ibn Khaldun wrote that, “God created man in such a way that the veil of the senses could be lifted through sleep, which is a natural function of man. When that veil is lifted, the soul is ready to learn the things it desires to know in the world of Truth.” What a beautiful and comforting thought.
His idea couples well with the commonly held wisdom of sleeping on it when faced with a critical dilemma. Instead of making an on-the-spot decision, we use the period of sleep to separate our emotion from the issue. Sleeping on it is more than allowing ourselves an overnight cooldown period. Science shows that during slumber, instead of powering down like a computer, our minds work to synthesize the information and scenarios we’re wrestling with.
As part of my psychology studies in university, I took a course called Dreams and Dreaming in which I learned the importance of sleep and dreams. We have up to six dreams per night although only the last dream of the sequence is apt to be remembered.
Many artists from diverse practices harvest their dreams for the sake of their art. Songwriters and visual artists of note have wakened with entire lyrics, melodies and images in their minds. I myself have awakened with a full scene downloading at high speed. That’s why there’s always a pen and paper on my bedside table. I’ve adopted the practice of reading chapter drafts before falling asleep. New ideas blossom when I wake in the morning and even the revision process comes through the day.
I’ve been keeping a dream journal for a few months. I typically record three or four dreams each morning. A couple of them will live on in the novel I’m currently writing. Authors like Rudyard Kipling, Mary Shelley, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman have threaded aspects of their dreams into their writing.
Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852) wrote a lot about dreams in his stories. In one of his Ukrainian tales entitled A Terrible Vengeance, Danilo tells his wife, “You don’t know even a tenth of what your soul knows.” How true. My dream journal serves as more than a creative boost. Unlike conscious thought, most dreams in motion have no edit button. Dreams are honest. They reveal to me—through metaphor, content, patterns of thought and repeated imagery— what’s truly on my mind. Awareness of this inner world expands my ability to take better care of me.
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