IASD Asheville, NC Conference 2010


"Consulting dreams is just not how most people go about things," he said. "There is something missing in our culture."

Lee (Irwin) sees dreams as templates for action. ... This night, he takes us deep within the culture of the Cherokee for he sees them as a society that integrated all three types of dreaming.

About two-thirds of the way through his lecture he says, "Imagine! Living in a culture where people don't value dreams. What happens there?"

Our Dreams Become Reality

by Barbara Condron

Recently, Native American storyteller Terry Shinn, opened the 26th annual International Association for the Study of Dreams Conference in Asheville, NC. He told stories of discovery and honor, courage and challenge from his tradition. He talked about stories being shared dreams, the journey of one or of many. Then he said something.

“You believe in your dreams because your dreams will become reality.”

This thought is one students at the School of Metaphysics, the parent of dreamschool.org, strive to live every day.  Since metaphysics for them is the exercise of Mind and consciousness, reflecting on the "dream we are dreaming" is a daily exercise.  Students of Mind think about how dreams influence our choices and transform our lives. They remember and intepret dreams that come in the night, and they create and envision dreams during the day in response to those nighttime dreams.

Dreaming and the interpretation of dreams have a rich history throughout humanity's history. Every culture and period have valued dreaming for community guidance, for personal health, for communication with the spirit world. Dreams can solve problems and introduce new ideas. Dreams are what we build our lives around.

Yet, as Lee Irwin, pointed out during his keynote that same night, dreams are marginalized in today's world. They are not associated with the mainstream epistemology. "Consulting dreams is just not how most people go about things," he said. "There is something missing in our culture."

Professor Lee Irwin has authored several books including Alchemy of Soul and is chair of Religious Studies at College of Charleston in South Carolina. I learned about him because I attended the recent IASD conference. I didn't know he existed in the world until a few weeks ago. Meeting him changed my life, and, most probably, my son Hezekiah's, for Lee was one of several people Kie interviewed for his next film.

"The loss of dream is a function of enlightenment," he explained. "Dreams get bracketed because they are personal, not public. They are seen as only subjective, but dreams are also interpersonal. This idea fights against the bias of the personal nature of dream."

Indeed, I have seen evidence of this conflict often in the assumption that dreams only have meaning for the dreamer. There are no universally applicable points to dreams, people say, and some even dismiss them entirely as "mental garbage" that isn't worth remembering. I recognize the grain of truth in all of these ideas. Yes, dreams have meaning for the dreamer. Yes, there is a level of understanding where symbols have a universal meaning. Yes, some dreams are a part of the daily brainwashing that ensures sound health. One can only become aware of this level of truth when one adopts an attitude of wholeness, of inclusion.

A Three Point Structure of Dreaming

Lee describes a structure for reflecting on dreams that is just that – whole. The first point is personal dreaming. The second is interpersonal dreaming which he recognizes as fundamental in human relationships. A few weeks after the conference, the premiere of the movie Inception will prove to be a mind-expanding tool for society as it provokes dialogue about the possibilities of group dreaming. Perhaps we can begin to value our dream life again.

There may not yet be a healthy respect for dreaming in contemporary times, evenso, human beings exercise the ability to dream daily. Communicating like this in cyberspace is a great example of people sharing their thoughts through words, music, and moving images. Watching a film allows us to enter into someone else's mind and see what they see. It is a thrilling time to be alive, because great opportunities for soul progression abound.

"What we are is the result of what we have thought, is built by our thoughts, is made up of our thoughts," taught Gautama the Buddha 2500 years ago. I have reflected upon this power of choice - intention - throughout my life, seeing each fork in the road as an opportunity to consciously create the Mind for Self to use. Creation requires us to dream and having dreamed to understand ourselves as creators. In this process, we come to realize we can learn from another's experiences as well as our own.

As one might expect, evidence of this abounds at the conference. For metaphysicians, dreaming is the way communication occurs within Mind as well as between Minds. SOM students and teachers quite naturally share in this venue because it is their practice to engage others in dialogue. We ask questions and listen. We practice stilling the mind, so we can receive what others bring. I think this is a form of the interpersonal dreaming Lee describes. It is a joy to watch others discover the curiosity, diversity, and true sense of community sharing a passion brings.

Sharing common ideals brings to light Lee's third point. He calls it the transpersonal dreaming and describes it as that heightened area where universal senses can make themselves known. The IASD is a group of dreamers. We come together, exchanging stories, sharing common experiences, and then move out into the world much wealthier thinkers. For me, that's an example of transpersonal dreaming.

Lee sees dreams as templates for action. A religious scholar, he is well familiar with the role dreaming has played in the founding and expansion of the world's religions. He is also aware of the role it has played in criticizing dreams. This night, he takes us deep within the culture of the Cherokee for he sees them as a society that integrated all three types of dreaming. Through the story of these Native American people he illustrates how his theory of three-tiered dreaming acts itself out and I am moved.

Reclaiming a Dreamscape

For the Cherokee, dreaming was central to life. Knowledge of dreams stretched for years over generations, producing a culture of memory with no recorded language. One who knew the dream, who carried the dream, who experienced the dream was a person of high honor, one of status in the tribe. The dream was connected to the earth and a seven-tiered universe where man exists in the middle. Respect for all life was central for the Cherokee and dreams were the medium of communication for understanding what they were going through. The resonance with the Australian aborigines is striking for their story is the same.

When the Cherokee were uprooted from their homeland, forced by the U.S. government to leave the mountains and forests of what became Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia, they lost more than their dwelling place, they were dislocated from their story. Forty-five thousand died. When they were forced to move to the dry plains of Oklahoma, they lost their dreamscape and their ability to heal.

The Cherokee's thinking was entwined with the environment. There were stories of harmful animals and helpful ones mapped into the evironment. The people understood the whole plant - the roots, stem, leaves, fruit - and knew when to consume what part and for what purposes. They used their dreams to diagnose the locus of a problem. In this way, they identified the cause of malaise then the antidote could be offered.

My grandfather was a quarter Cherokee Indian, yet little was spoken about those roots so whatever I have learned comes now through choice. Listening to Lee brings a depth of understanding to the life I am dreaming. He speaks of the Haudenosaunee, more recognizable perhaps as the Iroquois. For them, dreams arise from a powerful agency. The dreamer must make the dream real, live the dream, for the "message of the dream is transformation."

I acknowledge the truth to his words. What I have learned this night reveals another layer of the dream I am living. I am one of the curators of the Peace Dome. Part of my duty is carry forward a very Big Dream of creating a Healing Wall out of the concrete wall that supports the ramp leading to the second floor entrance. This dream of healing has magnetized my consciousness to the Cherokee heritage of my birth. I am drawing to me through the Universal Laws of Duality and Attraction what I need to fulfill that dream.

It began with the very personal dreaming of Terry Shinn. Before speaking he confided to me that he had just returned from days with a tribal elder who had given him a new name – "keeper of the sacred stones." Minutes after he told me this, I spoke briefly to those assembled about the opportunity to gift native stones for placement on the Healing Wall, an example of interpersonal dreaming. A certain level of reality to the Healing Wall dream was sinking into my consciousness.

Then Lee's teaching moved through my consciousness like a warm fire on a cool morning. My intuitively understood the transpersonal dreaming of the Cherokee. I know what it is to heed night time dreams and live by them in the day. When Lee spoke of the Stone People, it was like a key turning in a door. "Some are imbued with power that is old, ancient," he said. "They are treated with great respect, the fire purifies them. It is the essence of the stone that is put into the sweatlodge. There the stone communicates its power to you."

Upon hearing this, I understand better the dream I have been dreaming. I have become familiar with the healing properties of the earth thus I perceive the potential energy in placing stones from around the planet together in close proximity. The piece I had been missing in this process was permission. We could collect the stones, but should we? Tonight, Terry and Lee struck a chord in my consciousness that was placed there ten months earlier by Grandmother SilverStar, a Cherokee-Lakota elder, who blessed the Healing Wall and gifted it with a stone from the continent of Antarctica. The story she told when she presented the stone said it all: "I asked the stone if it wanted to be a part of the Healing Wall. It answered, 'yes'."

Now my dreaming is whole – personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal. A nine-foot by eighteen-foot relief map of Earth, covered with native stones whose spirit chooses to be there is now part of the dream I am dreaming. And I am grateful. My dream the next morning affirms my new awareness.

I am flying (not in a plane) over a forest. I'm moving very slowly, hovering might be a better word. I am high, parallel with the horizon in the distance. The landscape stretches out in layers into the sky. It is a beautiful day. Bright, perfect temperature. I look around, twirling slowly, and the view is basically the same. The blue sky, the foggy layers of forested mountains in the distance, lots of green trees and a river flowing east to west. I realize I must be at the center of the earth. The Sioux prayer runs through my mind - "I stand at the center of the earth, in a sacred manner I see the tribe gathered around me, Behold me, I AM" - there is no tribe, just a triangular formation of birds flying from a distance toward me. I have to look up to see them and I realize I am on the ground. I have landed yet it is like I am still up in the air. I look down and see that I am on a rock and the birds land in a circle around me.

My dream has validated the previous day's learning. My thoughts are centered, focused and concentrated on uniting Heaven and Earth. My spiritual foundation will provide the willfulness to keep my inner thoughts connected. This is a quietly triumphant dream. I am filled with joy when I awake.

Before we leave Asheville, I see a picture that reminds me of the dream. It is a place called Chimney Rock that is said to be 500 million years old. It is a huge free-standing rock, that rises from a sea of trees. I wonder if someone will ask a stone at Chimney Rock if it wants to be part of the Healing Wall.

Lee's words "consulting dreams is just not how most people go about things," come back to me. "There is something missing in our culture." Maybe that something is respect for what is. Something as simple as the giving and receiving of permission.

The Mirror

There are many concepts Lee taught that I am still digesting.

I am placing them into a mental database so I may have greater ways of communicating universal ideas which I value: the three ways to interpret dreams (all are discussed here at dreamschool), dreaming the Big Dream, the Apex dream which leads to spiritual initiation (avatardreams.org), and discussing the two main theories of consciousness today - emergence and pansentience. The former implies consciousness arises from the complexity of the process which means we have the capacity to receive from our experiences, the latter implies an intrinsic property of consciousness existing from the beginning of life meaning we are about giving, creating at all times. Every part of our lives, eyes open or shut, our very existence is tied to our ability to dream.

That brings me to the other notable line from Prof. Irwin, that I will be quoting from now on. One of his classes was on a topic of great interest to me, "What is Metaphysics?" Receiving him as a teacher, I understand why his students rate him so highly, it is time well invested.

About two-thirds of the way through his lecture he says, "Imagine! Living in a culture where people don't value dreams. What happens there?" I immediately see the mirror. We are that culture.

I watched the realization move like a billowing cloud through the room and be acknowledged in nods, knowing chuckles, and sighs. The beautiful thing is people like Lee Irwin and those who attend the IASD Conferences are awake. They, like the Cherokee, value dreaming. They choose to be the change occurring in the consciousness of this world. They are professionals and lay people, professors and students, secular and religious, old and young, sons and daughters, from many countries. They come together in conference to dream.

Each of the people who describe the Asheville journey made a choice to be there. They did not have to go. They chose to go. They were not paid to serve, they paid to be there to serve. As a result their abundance and prosperity grew. They welcomed the opportunity to share their stories, after all, they are dreamers. They know that "our dreams will become reality."

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