One morning, driving to work on the freeway in my old wreck of a car, a thought came into my mind. Not a thought really, but a memory, about something I had been trying to write.
At once, I thought, just when did I think of writing those words? It could not have been this morning, and it surely wasn't the evening before -- so when?
It then came to me that it was something I had dreamt the night before, in a dream where I had been trying and trying to write something without being able to actually do it -- it was a bit like dreaming about javing to pee.
I find it a puzzling experience when the memory of a dream I had not recalled upon awaking, comes to mind later, jogged by some chance event puzzling because of having to sort out if the memory was of something which "really happened" or was "just a dream".
This sort of phenomenon has happened to me many times and it has made me wonder just what reality really is! What is "dream" and what is "awake"? Is the memory of the one somehow different from the other? Is there a basic difference between the memory of a dream and a memory of something which "really" happened?
As far as the memory itself, I suspect there is no real difference and that a memory is a memory is a memory.
Most would say there is an intuitive difference between "dream" and "awake". The intuition could be correct, however it could also be a prejudice. In any case, we are hard put to really define the difference is between these two states of awareness.
In fact, I can quickly point to some similarity. There can be awareness and consciousness of both self and other in each state. So, that's not the difference!
There is the old saw about pinching yourself to "make sure you're not dreaming". This assumes we can "know" when we are awake and implies we cannot "know" that we dream. But is this true?
I have had the experience of the the "lucid" or "clear" dream where one becomes aware that one is dreaming. True, they seem quite rare -- but that doesn't mean that they are rare. When I'm awake, my dreams are memories and how many dreams -- including lucid dreams -- do I actually remember?
We can say for sure is that we can distinguish between dream and awake in both states. We can somehow "know" that we are awake -- that is if it occurs to us to think about it. Likewise, we can also "know" that we dream, if it occurs to us to think about it.
But how we do this is something of a puzzle.
Is it the tremendous abundance of detail which tips me off that I am awake? Common also sense tells me that dreams do not have the same richness of detail such as the waking experience -- but common sense may be completely out to lunch! Are the memories of yesterday more detailed then the dreams of last night?
Do "real" memories of things that have "really" happened have the vivid detail and synergy of sense impressions of what is happening now as I type these words on a morning sunlit patio with birds singing in the background, a car starting in the street and the concrete tiles of the terrace cold against the bare soles of my feet?
My guess is that our dreams are no different from the background of thoughts burbling in our minds when we are awake -- except that when we sleep there is little input from the "real" world to give us a feeling of logical consistency to what we experience.
But, to return to my starting point -- what was it that I was trying to write in the dream I suddenly recalled while driving to work?
I'll get that in a moment but first I want to point out that I have been talking as if there were only the two states, those of "awake" and "dreaming" and that is not quite right.
If there is anything I have understood at all of the teachings of the Holy Idaho, the Buddy, the Masher and other friends, it is that being truly awake to life is the heart and nitty gritty of all spiritual experience -- this is exactly why our scriptures often refer to "worldly" people as being "dead" or "asleep".
I will now try to reconstruct what I was trying to write in my dream but could not:
To what can we compare in trying to speak of the reality of the spiritual to someone who has not themselves known spiritual experience, that is some sliver of the truth of what-really-is?
One might as well sing a song for the deaf.
Or paint a picture for a person with no eyes.
Or make love to a woman with no feeling.
Or explain wet-ness to the burning fire.
Or kindle flames in the depths of the ocean.