Every time I wake up from a vivid dream, I’m blown away by the detail and the concrete “reality” of characters and places and events my brain creates out of thin air. The tawny mane of the realtor, her flowy linen suit, her bitchy attitude, the dusty film on the windows, grime on the walls of the apartment… It’s all there. An entire world.

It reminds me that our “real” world is just as imagined. “I” get a hit of sensory information and my brain creates a complete picture, a story, closing the gestalt. It’s so easy to forget that it’s actually all an illusion. What, in fact, is real?? Since by definition we can never experience anything except through our own sensory-perceiving, pattern-creating, story-weaving interpretation machines—our brains—as far as I’m concerned, that question cannot be answered.


The sound of one hand clapping, a tree falling in the forest unheard.

The scrolling code of the Matrix.


We forget that we create what we perceive because we create mostly unconsciously. We match patterns, we replay familiar story-lines, we see only what we expect to see.

A paper world

With paper faces

Beneath a paper moon.

—–Nik Kershaw

In the end, we only dream ourselves. Or rather, we are dreamed. While the lives we live often seem real enough to us, sometimes there’s a rend in the fabric and we understand the actors are only holograms and the sidewalk is only a set. Even the “I” (the ego) itself is a fiction.

In cases of multiple personalities (Dissociative Identity Disorder), the fiction of self and form is largely unveiled and we observe completely separate selves formed in a single body. Unconsciously. While we may consciously try on different identities and change our expressions and mannerisms, a completely separate person as seen in DID cannot be constructed from the conscious mind. Neither can we consciously create a dream world and then proceed to live in it, unaware that it is a fiction.

Herein lies the core issue with the common interpretation of the phenomena of manifestation. Simply think the hot girlfriend and she will appear! Believe hard enough and you’ll have whatever you want! This is what psychology calls magical thinking (because in the end it is only thinking). Children do it all the time. Disney often recommends it. But it doesn’t really “work”—at least consciously.

When I was little, I discovered a dead hummingbird on the grill of my parents’ Ford. Lovingly, I laid it on a cotton bed in a small box and placed it carefully in my dresser drawer, fervently praying daily for it to live again. I waited and waited. Nada. I wanted nothing more, absolutely believing one day I’d open the drawer and a little live bird would look back at me with shining beady eyes. But alas, the conscious mind cannot dream what is “impossible” in the world of form already dreamed by the unconscious (although our perception of the line of “impossible” can and does shift). It’s why we love story books, magic shows and Aladdin’s lamp so much—this hope that… maybe.

Then why do scraps of our vision boards come to us? Because they’ve entered our unconscious minds, and the brain’s mission is then to match this pattern. And it will if it can. From my own life, a small white puppy playing with a ball, meant to metaphorically represent play, physically appeared in form in my life–Robby. I only recognized the vision board call for him years later when I unearthed the long forgotten paper. The conscious “I” wasn’t asking for a small white dog, but the unconscious saw the picture and dreamed a dream of symbols, and the mind matched it. That’s how it works.

 So it’s not that the conscious “I”, the personality, is completely powerless, it’s just that it’s pretty much confined to play with the toys the unconscious mind has dreamed up for it. “We” as the identity must always play in the world the unconscious has dreamed. The “I” may have influence, but, as in my puppy example, it’s a bit like hoping the grab bag contains what you wished for; there’s no guarantee and often no recognized correlation.

There’s no way to know what makes one thing happen and not another. What leads to what. What destroys what. What causes what to flourish or die or take another course.
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Once the “I” becomes conscious of its predicament, however, the space from which the world has been dreamed becomes apparent, much like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. It’s not that we then consciously dream any dream we’d like (although we do often find ourselves moving from one “reality” we thought permanent into another, still workable-in-the-dream reality we’d aspired to), it’s that the whole thing becomes a cosmic joke, a game, a beloved song, and the I the hero or heroine in the play. We watch with enjoyment as he or she trips back up the yellow brick road.

We are the music-makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.

—-Arthur O’Shaunessy

Typically we then toggle between the awareness and the dream, and this becomes our experience. And if we (the “I”) wish to toggle more on the awareness side, what do we do?

This is where and why we live our lives in conscious practices, using the tools of communication between the conscious and the unconscious that support the expansion of awareness. We can make our vision boards, visualize, say our affirmations, meditate. Eventually, the conscious “I” may realize it is only an actor in a play and car or no car makes no difference, but, for his time on stage, to allow the writer to write the lines and to mouth them is a joy in itself as we applaud ourselves as the audience, as well. Then the vision boards, the affirmations and the self-help books are abandoned. The “I” becomes the unimagined “Eye” that dreams awake.

And then…

Before the “I” can occlude the daughter’s Eye, the mother sings back into her daughter’s eyes the song the newborn daughter’s eyes sing to her, the song of the beginingless beginning, the song of the dreamer and the dreamed. With the song of her gaze, the mother holds the knowing of the dreamed “I” for the daughter. This daughter’s dreamer will always dream awake, wholly complete, and through her, the true world is reborn from Love. This is the return of the awakened dreamer.