How many times do I dream about running: running without shoes, barefoot?
Many, if not most nights…
A sense of total freedom, effortlessly gliding with and like the wind.
Even during the decades I ran in shoes, my dreams of running were still the same: with a dream-body flowing like water over the terrain, no sign of shoe-shod impact with each step. It was only after throwing away my shoes that I recognised that I’ve always run barefoot in my dreams.
Sometimes my dreams of running are ‘normal,’ and I wake up in the morning to remember them. Other times they are ‘lucid,’ and I wake up while still within the dream. That is, I’m fully conscious and aware that I’m dreaming while still in my dream. There’s nothing more liberating than a lucid running dream. I can run like the wind, experiencing landscapes which are realer than real, with cushioning grass or a padded-down path beneath my feet, the air crisp on my face and body. Anything. You want to shout with oneness with the world around you. It is totally alive.
Returning to ‘reality’ the next day, this existence can sometimes feel like a pale reflection.
Lucid dreaming, as much as it is simply fun, is also a serious spiritual practice. Among other things, it totally brings into question the issue of what is reality? If we can be fully conscious and awake during a dream, if a dream can be as detailed, realistic and alive as what we experience in our daytime life – and sometimes even more so – then how, in their essence, are dreams any different from what most people consider waking ‘reality?’ Most people simply brush off the question by saying: because dreams aren’t real. Aren’t they? Why not? Common dreams are usually experienced only as memories when we wake up, because we aren’t fully conscious while actually dreaming them. Of course a memory feels paler than first-hand experience. It feels less real. But how much of the time are we truly conscious when we are supposedly ‘awake?’
Tibetan Buddhists encourage us to dwell on the ‘dream-like nature of reality.’ The most common notion of this involves appreciating the way that what we experience in life continually changes or evolves before too long. Things pass on, as in a dream. Everything: happiness, sadness, our states of consciousness, passing between waking and sleeping. Nothing lasts forever. Ultimately, one day, our own life will pass on. In this sense, all of life is just a dream.
For a lucid dreamer, this statement also has a deeper meaning about reality. Experiencing consciousness as an unbroken thread through our waking and dreaming lives allows us to better appreciate this continual changing of the tides. Neither regular ‘3D’ reality nor dream reality can claim exclusive rights any more. Both are simultaneously real and unreal. Consciousness — regardless of how, where and when we experience it — simply is.
Some would claim that dreams aren’t real because, for instance, you can’t really fly. No, in 3D reality you can’t, while in the astral world of dreams you can. But does this make dream reality any less real? The rules are simply different in each world. In 3D reality we are bound by the laws of physics, while in the world of dreams it is the power of thought which holds the universe together. I would argue that it is only consciousness and the experience of consciousness which makes things real.
Some would claim that dreams aren’t real because they are purely subjective, and can’t be verified objectively or shared by someone else. While it’s true that most dreams are an expression of our ego, isn’t the same true of waking life? In certain other dreams, though, we do gain access to a greater, more ‘objective’ reality – and often one both greater and more objective than what we experience in everyday life. This shouldn’t be too surprising given that when we sleep, our ego also sometimes ‘sleeps’, stepping into the background and allowing things simply to be. At these times, we can gain insight, receive glimpses of the future, meet other souls.
It’s your choice to decide whether to write it all off as ‘just a dream’ or to accept things simply as they are.
In the end, we’re all just points of consciousness. In 3D reality we express this in the form of a fixed human body, bound by the laws of physics. In dream reality we have the potential for total freedom. It is only because most of us consider waking reality the only ‘real’ reality that, while dreaming as well, we also tend to conceive of ourselves in our current human body. It is just a habit.
In our purest form we simply are, existing without any need for embodied form at all. Now I understand why I’ve always run barefoot in my dreams. While I, too, often but not always carry the habit of my human body into my dreams, my consciousness has no need for the pounding so typical of running in shoes. Heel banging isn’t only cumbersome and uncomfortable, it’s simply downright inefficient as well, when you’re perfectly capable of flying or gliding smoothly from place to place! While we still remain attached to our human form, barefoot running is the closest feeling to that most natural of all movements. A sense of total freedom, effortlessly gliding with and like the wind…