If someone had told me three years ago that one day I’d enjoy working out twice a week I wouldn’t have believed them. I’ve never liked to exercise, never felt the need. But sore shoulders and lower back pain from sitting hunched over a computer every day for years have a way of creeping up on you, and I finally had to admit I needed an exercise routine.
So when my friend Nancy asked me what I wanted for Christmas two years ago, I said, “Sign me up at the place where you work out!” A few days later I got a call from a trainer named Tom and he scheduled me to come in from 12 to 1 every Tuesday and Thursday starting in January. To my immense surprise, it turned out to be one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received!
Except for the annoyance of having to leave my computer, get dressed, and drive a mile down the road (I know. Big deal, right?) I love everything about it! Most of all I enjoy my conversations with Tom. He’s a great guy with a kind heart and a sincere interest in social justice and spiritual matters. And he’s so funny that I usually come out with 2 or 3 major guffaws per visit, which definitely adds to my enjoyment! But it was when he started asking for help understanding his dreams that I knew I’d found a friend with magical powers to motivate me for an extended run.
So today I asked him if he’d had any interesting dreams lately and he told me about this morning’s dream in which he’s standing with a neighbor on a second-story balcony of a three-story condo and she’s pointing to the top of a stone chimney that intersects all three floors. There are flames coming out between the stones near the top. While he’s thinking this could be a real problem, his brother and brother’s friends bustle around him erecting a bizarre L-shaped scaffolding from which they’re going to bungee jump! Tom thinks they’re being absurd.
As usual, I had no idea what it meant. But as he described his emotions in the dream and his associations to his neighbor it became apparent it was about how angry he feels about the way people are talking about a recent local shooting. To paraphrase what he said, “I guess I’m feeling inflamed about how emotional everyone’s being and I’m looking down at them from this ‘higher place’ for being so illogical and absurd.” This was a big “Aha” for him. “I guess that could be a problem,” he said. “So does this mean I should stop talking with my clients about issues that stir me up like this?”
Here’s what I told him. Absolutely not! Dreams don’t judge us or tell us what to do. They simply show us the way things are with us so we’ll be more aware of potentially problematic qualities and emotions. With more knowledge of what’s going on inside we can choose to act in healthier ways outside.
On the way home it struck me that dreams are a lot like exercise. Many of us find it’s not just our bodies that get stiffer and more inflamed with age. The same thing can happen to our minds. One purpose of dreams is to make our minds stronger, more balanced and flexible. Healthier, and therefore happier with ourselves. Easier to be around. But we won’t experience these benefits if we won’t rouse ourselves and commit to this work over the long haul.
Thanks for the insight, Tom. And for the blog topic. See you next Tuesday.