A couple of weeks ago I scheduled a blog post — Unplugged — to be published while I was away on retreat. The following week, when I was back, I went on my website and had a little surprise.
My website displays my most recent blog posts on the homepage, along with the image that corresponds to each of them. For the Unplugged post, I used a photo of an electrical cord, unplugged, lying on the red carpet of our living room.
But somehow on the homepage a different photo appeared: a photo of a white feather (also on our red carpet) which I had used in a collage once in which the feather was representing a writing quill.
Now, I’m sure there is some logical explanation of how that happened, some glitch in the software program that accounts for it, but when weird things like that happen I like to pay attention to them, because often they are communicating something at a symbolic level.
Nighttime dreams, of course, weave elaborate and sometimes bizarre symbolic narratives that reveal something about our lives, our souls, our reality that is outside the view of our conscious mind. When I take the time to listen to my nighttime dreams and work on them, I find they can be tremendously helpful, and in some instances life-changing.
Every now and then, though, my waking life has bizarre moments too that feel like a dream — in fact I call them waking dream moments — and I frequently work on them much the same way I do my nighttime dreams, pondering their symbolism and interpreting what they might be conveying to me at this point in my life.
It might seem odd to approach waking life occurrences as though they were a dream. Most of us in this society have been acculturated into a worldview that denies any correlation between external events and internal realities. We are still very Newtonian in that sense. If we can’t see some sort of mechanistic cause and effect at work, well then, there’s no connection.
That’s the way I used to see things too, until about 11 years ago when I experienced a very powerful opening of consciousness in which I perceived that we are living in a dream, and that what’s happening outside of us is not at all unrelated to what’s happening inside of us; there is no separation between the two.
This understanding that we are living in a dream is an ancient one, found in the teachings of many spiritual traditions (though not those that have shaped the Western worldview), and I have come to believe that part of our spiritual evolutionary task as human beings is to become awake in the dream.
Now, back to the photo of the feather and what this recent little waking dream moment might be wanting to communicate to me.
Several years ago, I began noticing an odd thing. Frequently, and for no apparent reason, an image would pop into my mind. It was always the same image, of a little shop I knew of in Kansas City called Pen Place where they sold fancy writing implements, and the shop was always seen from the same vantage point, about half a block away.
When I finally started to take the image seriously, rather than just writing it off (no pun intended), I began to suspect that the image was trying to tell me something. It was a shop that sold writing implements, and I realized it was telling me to write, something I’d been meaning to do for quite a while but just hadn’t gotten around to.
My hunch was confirmed when I finally did start in on the writing projects I’d had in mind and the image of Pen Place stopped coming to me. Just like a recurring dream, once I listened to it and integrated its message, it didn’t need to keep coming.
That experience of Pen Place was somewhere between a nighttime dream and a waking dream; it was a sort of daydream in which my unconscious mind was trying to get my conscious mind to take heed of an important task.
I believe this more recent experience, with the quill showing up on my homepage, is a waking dream moment that is addressing a similar issue.
You see, while I was on retreat I was unplugging for two reasons: so that I could immerse myself in my spiritual practices, and so that I could sink into my current writing project, which is a memoir that traces my spiritual path and where it has led me in terms of how I currently see Christianity.
Why would this waking dream symbol come to me now? Why would it be presenting the image of a quill alongside my Unplugged post? Why that image, now?
Well, I think I know why. I have been attempting to discern lately to what extent I should make this memoir project my primary focus, and to what extent I should be designing and leading workshops and classes — for which I have many ideas that excite me. This little homepage “glitch” suggests to me that now is the time for me to unplug from other obligations and focus on writing.
You might think all of this is crazy, and that’s fine. All I know is these synchronous happenings have been very instructive for me in my life, and they are one factor I take into account when I am in a process of discernment.
Years ago I found that the more I started paying attention to waking dream moments, the more frequently they seemed to occur. Of course, it may be that they were there all along and I just wasn’t noticing them because I didn’t believe such things were possible.
I bet you’ve had some of those moments in your life, and maybe you’re experiencing some right now. If so, I really encourage you to stop and listen, because they truly might be presenting you a gift of guidance.