When I lived in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, things often happened backwards. In Wat Thamkrabok (a self-sustainable monastery of jungle monks, home to a secret method of extracting music from nature and an award-winning treatment centre for addiction) some things really do happen in reverse. Most nights I would meet with some of the high monks at one of the temples and we’d begin the evening by vomiting together, in a physical and spiritual purge. This was followed by refreshments and finally…karaoke. Mostly midnight renditions of ‘My Way’ under the stars and a golden Buddha, a hundred feet tall. A fine way to end a day of metta before the morning chants the next day.
When we, in our day to day lives (not in temples of transcendence) look at ourselves and try to fix what isn’t functioning, we often follow patterns with a ‘natural order’ or ‘conventional approach’ or methods that are ‘tried and tested’, ‘comfortable’ or ‘socially acceptable’. And yet, after living in Soho for two decades and seeing how conventional it is for most people to vomit after a karaoke session, I now know the reverse is entirely possible and what’s more, a very healthy approach that I heartily recommend.
Reverse technology is one of the best kept secrets of time travel.
So, could it be possible that reversing other conventions might also produce healthier or more effective ways to navigate our personal journey through life?
When companies like Cambridge Analytica harvest 87 million FaceBook profiles to engineer the result of a presidential election, or whisper a bespoke personalised message into the earhole newsfeed of each of our profiles to pull off something like Brexit, dividing an entire nation down the middle, it establishes a dilution and disorientation of our collective sense making. A group of human beings trying to understand through their heads and hearts, ‘what is malfunctioning in their world’, is no match for a tech led, algorithm fed, digital concentration camp of fear and propaganda.
How do we get out of the feedback loop, hear our deepest instincts and innate humanity, to find our way out of this permitted divisive chaos? Chaos that every corporation from Silicon Valley to Westminster and Washington to Beijing is propagating through the channels of our waking lives?
My answer is not to deal with it when I’m awake; I deal with it in my sleep and, more pertinently, when I am dreaming. Then when I am awake, I study the dreaming and begin to learn what my dreambody is trying to tell me.
Cultural imprinting told us it was okay to have slaves, okay to burn fossil fuel and okay to mass produce meat by killing even more animals. Eventually every imprint becomes outdated as we evolve and we have to change the way we think. I believe that the imprinted notion that waking reality is the only reality we need to tend to, should be up next.
History already tells us that indigenous communities all over the world made dreaming a crucial ingredient to the way they lived their lives and nurtured their environment – Toltecs in South America, Native American and Canadian tribes, Aboriginals in Australia, Maoris in New Zealand and yes, even the early Celts in The British Isles. Their way of life personified the dreaming, and the land through practice and ritual.
Pipe Dream (fantasy). In your dreams (never). Dream on (never). Day dreaming (wasting time). Only a dream (insignificant). These are different ways the word dream has been imprinted onto our consciousness with negative connotations, or as some kind of fantasy that has no relation to reality. It’s just like old fairy-tales that today, now fail to address gender parity. It’s time to reclaim meaning of the word ‘dream’.
Dreams are not fantasy. Dreams are the thoughts we have at night that have always been the other half of our reality. Based on the fact that we sleep for a third of our lives, isn’t it fair to assume that there is a third more of our lives that we can learn about?
Our dreams are speaking to us, if only we can take the time to listen, and study how to listen. I now know that world leaders and global organisations are turning to Social Dreaming (discovered by Gordon Lawrence in 1982) to find solutions that waking consciousness alone has not been able to do. I’ve attended social dreaming matrices and recently enrolled in a master class held by the Centre for Social Dreaming.
My own venture into social dreaming is, with my collaborating dreaming partner Kate Alderton, a way to explore creating together, through dreams, music and art. We have very different dreams, but no matter what side of a canvas we find ourselves on, there is always a way we can create on it together.
So, whilst a dear friend of mine recently noted how sharing one’s dreams might seem a step too far in the social share-athon we now live in, I have found it to be a source of great inspiration, that rather wonderfully, I am carrying with me at all times.
Social Dreaming isn’t about interpreting your personal dreams. In fact when it comes down to it, the small, yet ever growing community of social dreamers understand that active and creative dreaming depends on letting go of the self and the ego. It’s not about you or me, it’s about the dreaming. To dream the dream, is to breathe the air.
There is no air that is yours or mine, just as there is no dream that is yours or mine. It’s infinite, and we get our glimpses of it when we sleep. Glimpses of the One Dream that binds us all.
Sounds very Lord of The Rings doesn’t it? And on a good day, Social Dreaming is a lot like the Elvish council at Rivendell. No one is trying to find an answer, we just try to ask the right questions, and in the birth of a social dream, we don’t try to focus on the baby, we try to focus on the labour. We focus on our process and ability to change the way use our minds.
In my experiences of social dreaming, 15 dreamers in one room has been more effective in drawing out the beauty and truth of our world than the 2 billion of us connecting on FaceBook.
Back at the Buddhist monastery, my dear healer-vomiting-monk-friends work with an ancient technology of drawing patterns from nature to create music. The technique is called ‘Laisen’. This music is believe by the monks to be a signature of the earth’s dreaming. The melodies of all the songs on my first album Lokutara were created with this technique.
Subsequent scientific evaluation of listening to music made in that way was conclusive in that it opened the listener’s pineal gland. The pineal gland traditionally opens when sleep and dreams are on the way. Thus, music can open the space in between sleep and waking, and the space in between sleep and waking can open music; and that is now forming a large part of my work in music, particularly with my new dream-based album ‘Constellations’.
I love technology, and there is no either-or, but for the current round of my life’s journey I prefer technologies that don’t require a charger to keep the tech functioning or a web-dependent update to keep the program running.
It’s all in our heads, it’s free, and there are no ads to skip. Yet.
I have not found anything as close to social dreaming that has given me new thoughts about this strange old life.
Connection through social media has been fully mined and often leads to disconnection for many of us.
But to expand in a single moment that touches our hearts, as we gather to share our dreams, is the treasure in an ancient future that is only just beginning.
If you’d like to begin to explore dreaming, music and creativity, you’ll be able to join Kate and Tim online and in person as they expand their work into the wider world, starting here.