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I am a writer in Central Florida with strong interests in the ways in which religion and philosophy intersect in popular culture. I especially enjoy examining how this is expressed in film, literature, music, and art.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

On the subject of dreams...

I never understood why so many people don’t bother thinking about their dreams upon awakening. Dreams are such an integral part of how the human body functions and it is such a necessary activity with the capacity to provide deep insights about the problems we face, warnings about trends that we may not acknowledge in our conscious lives, and rejuvenation for our minds.

I find it interesting that studies have shown that when a person is deprived of the REM stage of sleep during which dreams occur, when they are finally allowed to sleep without interruptions their dream cycle changes to allow more time for the dream stage. It is almost as if dreams are such an essential component to our well being that our brains must make up for lack of them.

Ancient civilizations all assigned great importance to the act of dreaming and the interpretation of dreams was considered an art and was prized highly. With the Enlightenment and the dawn of The Age of Reason, dreams and the act of dreaming began to be viewed with a sort of patronizing manner and lost its importance in advanced society. However, the rise of psychology at the dawn of the 20th century reintroduced the public to the importance of dreams. Carl Jung argued that there are certain archetypal symbols common to all humans which can illumine what goes on in our subconscious. I agree with this notion. I also agree with Sigmund Freud that the interpretation of dreams is a necessity for all people. However, no dictionary of symbols is needed nor is it true that the images we see in our dreams will mean the same to all people who dream with that symbol. Dreams are unique and as such are subjective to each individual.

I have a vivid dream life and frequently remember my dreams in detail upon waking up. Lately, I have noticed a trend in my dreams. This tells me that there is something I am supposed to get from these; a message if you will. There are two patterns that consistently repeat in my dreams. First, most of my dreams have prominent bodies of water ranging from crashing waves in an ocean to swimming pools. Secondly, most of my dreams are dreams of persecution where I am in great danger. The persecutor varies from the devil himself hidden beneath the familiar faces of friends to crooked FBI and at times even gang members. Still, the terrifying helplessness I feel and my struggle to survive is always the same regardless of who it is I am fleeing.

So, knowing is half the battle and the fact that I remember my dreams is quite helpful. But what do they mean?

Water is sometimes seen as a symbol for evolution or erodes even the strongest rock and is a useful metaphor for perseverance when faced with obstacles. Your subconscious might be letting you know you are on the right path, so keep at it.
Water is also a metaphor for emotions and intuition. Tempestuous waves and churning waters can symbolize conflicting emotions and anxieties. Pacific waters can signal a state of mind that is clear or feelings of peace regarding a specific area in your life.
Water can also be a symbol for fertility. Are my recent dreams perhaps an expression of a wish to carry life within me; some latent desire to become a mother?

Dreams of persecution often indicate anxiety in your daily life and can even signal a subconscious desire to escape your current situation. Something is causing this apprehension, since stress is not a normal human emotion. Stress serves to indicate those situations where we are in some sort of danger, be it physically, emotionally, or metaphorically in some sense. These dreams are a warning and should be thought about until a successful interpretation is figured out.

All dreams should be interpreted in light of each individual’s own past and memories. How will you know you’ve arrived at the correct interpretation? Chances are, once you have figured out what wisdom your dreams hold, they will stop. For example, once sources of anxiety are removed or at least acknowledged, dreams of persecution should become a rarity rather than a given.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Oogway says...

I saw Kung Fu Panda last new year's eve (2008) on demand.

(Quite the exciting life, I know.)

Since then I have seen it several times and more and more, I am convinced that the movie holds the key to living a good life. This coming year I hope to continue incorporating these tenets into my daily life and my worldview.

The characters in the movie learn to look beyond the surface of things and to realize that the greatest accomplishments can indeed come from the unlikeliest person. Patience is a virtue and perseverance is key to success. You must live in the moment and seize every opportunity. Learn to be in awe of your life.

Oogway is a wise figure and though he dies much too early for my satisfaction, I must say his impact is felt in every subsequent scene. Below are the two main statements I would like to apply to my life in the coming year.

Oogway says, "One often meets his destiny on the road one takes to avoid it."
He says this in a peaceful, dalai lamaesque way as if letting Shifu know that he needs to relax and just let life unfold as it may. After all, what's the use in worrying? What is meant to be, will be and what is, is meant to be.

Oogway says, "The past is history, the future's still a mistery, but today is a gift. That's why they call it the present."
Oogway says this to Po during Po's lowest moment when he feels so completely out of place that he wants to leave. Oogway reminds Po that he is currently living his dream and rather than worrying about whether or not he is good enough to be there, he should just enjoy it as long as it lasts. We all struggle with feelings of unworthiness, but if we could just learn to let go and live in
the moment, I think life could reach new heights of authenticity and joy.

When the dragon scroll is finally opened near the end of the movie, we are shocked to learn that it is blank. This brings me to the most important point in the whole movie. Reality is not something concrete and tangible. Rather, it is an abstract notion that is unique to each individual. Our perception shapes the reality we find ourselves in and our mind is a powerful tool. It is imperative that we learn to conquer our thoughts and emotions and submit ourselves to constant digging through our psyche so we can iron out any issues before we become victims of our own mental inadequacies. Believe and you will succeed. That is my new mantra.