These are words to a popular song. Are they really true? What are the differences between a dream state and a waking state? This is worth exploring. Can we use this simple phrase to see our lives in a new and helpful way?
Recall a time when you experienced a nightmare. Perhaps you were defying gravity, possessed superhuman strength, and performed and witnessed events that in the “real world” defy logic. Whatever occurred, the images and the unfolding events were your only reality. At some point you lunged, woke up from the nightmare in a sweat, heart pounding out of your chest, breathing heavily and panicked. You gradually collect your senses, looked around your room, breathed a sigh of relief and proclaimed “it was just a dream…all is well”.
Notice that the ‘reality of the dream’ went unquestioned and unchallenged while you were in the dream state. What I would like you to do is pause and consider for a moment, during any nightmare or even any dream you have ever had, did you know for certain and can you PROVE that you were sleeping? Was your experience of the dream no matter how far from reality the events that you experienced were, did you not think that they were not real? Judging from the physiological reactions, the body believed that the dream was real.
Taking all of this into consideration an important question is begging to be asked. Can you concretely prove that in this moment you are awake? Could you begin to let yourself consider the possibility that there is no difference between what we refer to as the sleep state and waking state? The only thing that can be said with absolute certainty is that whether you are sleeping or awake you are always aware.
Keeping the above idea in mind, let’s return to our nightmare scenario. As the dream unfolded you were focused on its ever changing content. Since the nightmare was your ‘reality’ you experienced all the physical and emotional responses that occurred. The moment when you realized that it was, “just a dream” your attention shifted from the content of the dream reality along with all the reactions that you had, to the awareness that witnessed the dream. The negativity of the nightmare immediately released resulting in immediate relief and emotional balance. It is at this point we realize, “all is well”.
The point I wish to make is, to the part of ourselves that is aware, the awareness is unaffected by what it sees. Think of it this way. When you are watching a movie and the scene is depicting a house on fire, is the screen physically burning? If the scene is showing an earthquake, is the screen shaking? Furthermore allow yourself to realize that the screen has no preferences to what is shown, it remains unperturbed and unchanged by anything it happens to depict.
So when it comes to living our lives, take a valuable lesson from our experience of dreaming. We have the option to focus our attention on the content of our thoughts feelings and sensations. We can tell stories and make judgments about what we are seeing. Or we have the opportunity to see them from the vantage point of pure awareness. From the vantage of pure awareness we are then neither attached nor unattached to what we think, feel or happen to see at any given moment. We have the opportunity to experience life and all of its rich emotional content from a place of simple acknowledgement without attachment and identification. We can then live our lives knowing that, “all is well.” What would our experience of life be like if we knew that the events that occur in our life are like the dream? Like the television screen that is undisturbed by what it is depicting perhaps we too can row, row, row, our boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.