What are the first dreams you’ve ever remembered?
My dreaming life started at the age of about three, during the developmental phase psychologists call “Night terrors.”
The first nightmare was remembered as physically climbing over the side of my crib and seeing that my house was on fire. I opened my parents’ bedroom door and tried to wake them up, but they wouldn’t budge. So I had no choice but to go out and face the fire on my own. I went into the living room and saw that, instead of flames, the whole house was lit in a red glow, while the outside was a vivid blue from the moonlight. My eye, however, was drawn to sets of complete skeletons that were hanging from every wall of the house, spaced a few feet apart. Then my eye was drawn to the sofa, where a single human skull was on the cushion. My mind identified this skull as the cause of the family problems, so I charged at it in a brave attempt to vanquish the enemy. However, each time I came within reach of the skull, its power physically picked me up head over heels backwards and placed me back where I started again. After 5 or so attempts, the dream ends.
I find myself wondering: when a toddler experiences night terrors of this type, what is really happening physically? Could a bystander have seen a toddler flipping in the air? Or under full and complete surveillance, would they more likely see a toddler collapsed back to sleep on the floor of the living room? Or something in between? How amazing it would be to somehow correlate the experience of the toddler with some kind of documentation of what actually happened, and show it to them later in case there is ever any recollection.
The second toddler dream is also centered on the house. I wake up from bed to a visitor approaching. He is a masculine presence and I am not afraid of him. He wants to show me something, to teach me about my home. He leads me first to the back yard, and instead of my lawn, the garage, the treehouse, I see a battle field. There are cannons and smoke clearing from recent discharges from them. Then in the front yard, one of these wheeled cannons is sitting right outside my window – not pointing at me, but close enough that I could see the gleam of light on the rim of the barrel. “This house is in a war zone” I thought. It was in the san fernando valley of southern california. I wonder today if any historian could trace activity of say, the mexican-american war to this location?
After weeks of nightmares, my parents apparently consulted amongst themselves or with some experts and decided to intervene, which actually worked but perhaps not in the way they were expecting. They approached me one night before bed and presented me with the first gift I ever remember receiving: A stuffed animal, a golden brown gorilla in a seated position with long arms down to the floor. We (?) named it “Nicolas” and I was told that Nicolas would protect me in my dreams. I enthusiastically went to sleep that night just to see what would happen, and sure enough, a gorilla named Nicolas did visit me. Only it was not to rescue me at a time of nightmarish need. Nicolas was to be my first of many dream teachers. His message to me was “You can do whatever you want in your dreams.” And he showed me how.
In the subsequent years, two periods of time stand out most. At about age 8 I started having flying dreams. These were not very impressive, and more like “swimming through air” around my neighborhood. I had to keep kicking and paddling to stay mobile, or else I would “sink” back to earth! It was fun, though.
Then the dreaming life really got in full gear at about age 10 when I realized that I could plant the seed of what I wanted to dream about. The key image that got my dream life all fired up was of a unicorn. My unicorn friend came to me every night and walked me to a place of rainbows and butterflies, which would start the most amazing adventures. What a change from the night terrors of the the toddler phase!!! The flying, the journeying was so amazing and so intense that all I wanted to do was dream, literally. I got to the point where I would go to sleep at night, dream all night, wake up in the morning remembering where I left off, and eat breakfast. I would go back to sleep during the day (it must have been summer break) – sleep ALL day till dinner when I got hungry, wake up remembering where I left off, eat dinner, then go right back to sleep to continue the dream again!!! I did this for at least 3 days straight!!! Finally one of my friends, Johnny, came over and said “What are you doing, sleeping all the time!?” He got me enrolled in the local popwarner football team with him, the West Valley Eagles, during a recruiting booth at the fallbrook mall. Practice was set to begin on August 1st. That was a day that changed my life. Football became my life for the next 5 years and I completely metamorphosized in its developmental challenges. Dreaming still continued, but now the amazing things were balancing out with the real world as well!
The last childhood period I think is also truly amazing. I was in high school and engaging in daily meditation practice using a guided visualization called “The Healing Waterfall.” I had done this visualization for months and had become quite vivid with it. One day after doing the visualization, I fell asleep and entered into dreamtime focused still on the images of the healing waterfall. One of the steps is to emerge from the healing water and find a new set of clothing just for you – whatever you wanted. I dreamt I was coming out of the falls and was shocked to see that everything became very visceral and lucid as I approached my “new clothes.” These clothes were unlike any I had ever owned or any I could even think of doing this visualization. They were a heavy cotton and they were off-white in color: large-legged pants, long shirt and a shawl-like jacket over it, all uniform in color. The most amazing part was that in between the shawl and the shirt, there was a quartz crystal pendant on a silver necklace waiting there for me. The crystal had a prism-like function: rainbows followed it where ever it went. “Who had given this to me?” I wondered… then looked around. Up in the hills was a man sitting way off, but he was clearly distinct because he wore bright orange robes. A monk. A monk, or some kind of master had arrived to help me? “What is this crystal?” I asked him. “It is your dreaming crystal,” came the reply, “It will help you to do whatever you want in your dreams.” I put the crystal on and immediately noticed a change in the energy and power of my dreaming body. “Thank you so much!!!” I offered as the dream ended.
The most amazing part of this experience was I, about 3 years later, studied on Kauai with a Tibetan Buddhist monk for about a year. He held services and meditation classes, and throughout the year one of the events I came to really look forward to was a retreat. The retreat he scheduled for the end of my year was on the topic of “Dream Yoga.” On the occasion of this weekend, my Tibetan Buddhist teacher dressed up in his bright orange robes. Naturally, on the conclusion of a lesson on “How to visit your friends in dreamtime,” everything clicked. I was almost trembling as I approached him after class. “I had this dream in high school where I received my dreaming crystal from a man wearing orange robes. Was that you?” He nodded.