So there’s one type of recurring dream where I’m stressing over a class assignment or a missed deadline at work. These dreams are always followed by waking moments of sadness, guilt and shame, which then invite a barrage of negative thought patterns including regrets over the course my life has taken. This destructive mind chatter can last days to weeks – at least until the dream returns in some similar fashion.
Before closing my eyes the other night, hoping to become lucid in order to tell my teacher or boss to shove it, I realized that the knee jerk reaction of bad thoughts playing out in my mind every time I get out of bed have been all wrong. And that the reason this theme keeps repeating is not some lesson to shame me back to school or work, but to teach me that the guilt and sadness I’m experiencing is bullshit; it’s all someone else’s orchestrated blueprint on how we’re supposed to live. You know how this story goes: Get a degree, find a job, invest in a 401(k), get married, buy a house, have kids, squeeze in a stressful vacation here and there, purchase a burial plot, retire and try not to die of boredom.
This predetermined path that’s been driven into us for generations is laid out in a way that makes it next to impossible to see living any other way (don’t you even think about deviating from this path, you sick Nonconformist!). This American Dream is so ingrained in our psyche that our egos have become our worst enemy, causing us to criticize ourselves and raise self-doubt at every opportunity – even as we sleep. And if you close that magazine or turn off the television, the media knows they’ve already planted the seeds in your mind, which continue to expand and branch out into a network of self-destructive thoughts and behaviors (addictions?).
The good news is all we have to do is wake up to the fact that those thoughts are lies the ego learned to tell us, but they do not serve us. And let’s be clear here, our ego is not the enemy because of this. But the powers that be that have falsely fed our ego through marketing, advertisements and religion have caused us to see our egos as something to tame or even conquer. This too is bullshit. Our egos are here to protect us – we just have to feed them with the thoughts that serve us best.
We can’t prevent negative thoughts from creeping in, but through meditation I’m learning that we have the ability to observe them in the moment without judgement and let them go.
Now that I know what my recurring dream was forcing me to see, I will never again associate guilt or shame with the life I have chosen to live. And until the right job comes along I will continue to work for my self, I will rebuild and cherish my protective ego and I will do that which connects me to the people and things in life that feed my soul.
I hope you realize that your worst dreams can be your best teacher.