Sansaku: Not Just in Dreams
Twenty-five years ago, I taught a summer dream class for the elder hostel program. We called them the hostile elders, but they weren’t.
I often ate breakfast at school, since I’d been given a pass to the cafeteria. One day, however, I was late and grabbed a muffin. I knew I wasn’t allowed to take food out, but didn’t expect the cashier to chase me down. She made me leave it.
When I arrived at my classroom, two muffins were sitting on the podium. Several of the elders had seen what happened. One said, “You don’t know how to do it.”
The course description was plain: Explore many ways in which dreams have been used and understood in diverse ages and cultures. Learn methods to remember, record, and analyze one’s own dreams.
I was shocked to discover I had a giant classroom full of students, most of them twice my age. They might have been some of the best students I ever taught.
I started every class with a quote I wrote on the chalkboard. And looking at the notebook I taught from, I probably put two or three dream sayings down each morning.
Here are three of them from Calvin Hall: “A dream is a personal document, a letter to oneself. It is not a newspaper story or magazine article.” “One interprets dreamers, not dreams.” “Anyone who can look at a picture and say what it means ought to be able to look at his dream pictures and say what they mean.”
Looking at my notes, I’m amazed at how much material I tried to cover. There’s pages and pages, and no way could I have talked that fast. Besides, many were hard of hearing. I often had to slow down and repeat. I’m a horrible soft talker and they complained about it daily.
It looks like I borrowed heavily from Ann Faraday for my first lecture. “In 1953, many long cherished myths about dreams met their demise.” I then described the discovery of rapid eye movements and the four stages of sleep.
“The cyclic nature of sleep has never failed to appear in all the thousands of subjects tested and in many species of animals. It seems to be an in-built mechanism dependent on some biological rhythm.”
“Despite all of the scientific evidence, there are still many myths… Not only does everyone dream, but 3 to 4 times a night, which means over a thousand a year. It’s the recall that’s the problem.”
“Why do we forget our dreams? Scientists discovered it wasn’t due to variations in dreaming or frequency, but it was due to memory.”
“More controversial, is the dream repression and suppression that takes place because the material in the dream contradicts the dreamer’s good conscience.” It turned out, in the dream labs, people conveniently left out material that dealt with their more sensitive conflicts, anxieties, and insecurities.
But it’s not just in dreams, we do this every day.