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Franz Kline, Painting Number 2, 1954, The Muse...

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Everyone has their own idea of the importance of dreams. I don’t mean the dreams we have at night, mine are so Fellini-esque I should probably be institutionalized. I’m talking about the dreams for our future.  There are the ones from childhood where all the girls I knew wanted to be veterinarians, the boys pilots, or racecar divers, etc.  Although there was a moment I wanted to “work with animals”, the racecar driver dream was too cool to pass up.  I still dabble with that one from time to time.

Sometimes if I am full of a particular kind of anxiety as I go to sleep at night, I quiet myself down by picking from my vast collection a dream I know that will distract me to sleep.  Distraction dreams are okay in my book as long as I’m not too indulgent. Reality is very important to me so I try not to go overboard.  But the dreams of leading a different life or having lived a different life have to be well written.  When I was young I wanted to be an actress. I hated being on stage, and was petrified before a play but once firmly in the grips of George Bernard Shaw, I lost myself, and that was good because I was a miserable teenager.  After attempting Samuel Beckett and watching my classmates look at me with fear, I became a painter. Probably because I had the dream of going to a school like Black Mountain with Franz Kline.  Anyway, I was young and looking for some kind of anchor dream to keep me going.  Anchor dreams are the kind of anchors that allow you to drift safely into imagination.

The Buddhists are not great believers in “day” dreams because they are not anchored in reality, we are clinging to fantasy, and fantasy can only lead to pain because ultimately we will be disappointed when the fantasy does not become real.  Or something like that.  I tend to agree with those wacky Buddhists to a certain extent because on one hand, fantasy has led me into very stupid situations where afterwards (when the dream has lost its hold) I hit my head against a wall knowing I should have known better.  On the other hand, without fantasy, or dreams, I could not be a painter. To be creative I need the dream to take me gently by the hand and lead me to a starting point. Then I put the dream back in the library for future reference.

I use my dreams to make me happy when sad, to distract me long enough to calm down if stressed out, but mostly I use them to encourage my life as an artist.  Trust me, nobody else is going to encourage you to create on a regular basis; it’s tedious and boring.  To remain childlike and open, I have to have my dreams.

When the dream library becomes dangerous it is because I’ve gone overboard with distraction. Drunk on stories.  When my head gets too light, I firmly lock the door to the library and sit in the reality room for a bit.  Do I sometimes think about dreading my hair and living on an ashram? Yes, but follow that idea and I’m not sure I’m ready for that or ever will be. Plus, I think the weight of the dreads would hurt my already sensitive neck. Sure I’d still like to race cars and I could if I REALLY wanted to. I could become an actress too. The VET thing is too late and I am sane enough to know how hard it is to become one. Plus I’d be crying all the time when a patient died.

Perhaps what the Buddhist’s have in mind is that we need to be happy where we are, and when we are. If we are not happy, we should try to follow those threads of fear we ordinarily avoid with denial, which sometimes come in the form of dreams. Following those threads leads to enlightenment. A painful route I might add, but with a very satisfying result.

There are things I want in life, things I wish I didn’t have, changes that I know need to be made, etc., but for the most part I am quite happy with what I don’t have. My dream collection is quite extensive, rare and by appointment only.  But my reality is pretty great too.

After each meditation before class, my yoga teacher (once a Buddhist monk), quietly asks us to imagine the yogi within, who is the yogi that got you to class or who is the yogi you would like to be?  I’m not sure it is fantasy, a dream, or too many cartoons as a child but every time he asks the question the image of Mickey Mouse comes to my brain. He is in a Shiva as Nataranja position, with many white-gloved hands and a huge dumb grin on his face.  Ultimately, I guess that is who I am, and all the dreams aside, I’m happy with it.