Embracing the Wave: The Big Dream as Spiritual Practice
The Wave Dream Series
I was eighteen when I had a series of dreams that all took place in the same ancient and mystical place. In each dream, I was clearly progressing not only through the location itself but evolving by the actions I took in the dream.
In the first dream, I was swimming in the ocean and suddenly, to my horror, a tidal wave hit me head on.
In the second and third dream, I was trying to flee in terror from the wave, but was still stuck in the water and quickly overtaken by it.
During the fourth and fifth dreams, I was out of the water but running away from the tsunami up a stone staircase towards large buildings built inside the mountain cliffs. Once again the wave struck and I was overtaken.
It wasn’t until the 6th dream that I noticed a shift. I was in the forest this time next to the stone structures but there was no wave, no ‘action’ at all but rather I was simply enjoying and meditating on nature.
However it was the 7th and final dream, which fascinated me then as it still does to this day. I was high up on a balcony inside one of the stone buildings with others wearing white robes, like a spiritual community of wise beings anticipating an event. One of the people was sitting working on a machine that could capture ‘radio’ frequencies.
Suddenly the wave appeared but instead of being afraid we all watched in awe and fascination. I remember putting a little boy on my shoulders so he could see. We all watched as the wave undulated through the sky and over the forest in beautiful ripples.
I knew this was no ordinary dream as it had a highly numinous quality that has reverberated through my life to this day.
And in fact, it was this big dream that started me on the path towards self discovery. But little did I know it was also a harbinger of things to come in terms of my own personal practice and evolution.
What is a Big Dream?
Two excellent books on this subject are Extraordinary Dreams and How to Work with Them by Stanley Krippner, Fariba Bogzaran and Andre Percia de Carvalho, and Transforming Dreams: Learning Lessons from the Dreams You Never Forget by Kelly Bulkeley.
Both focus on the “big dream,” a term coined by C.G. Jung which is basically defined as a dream of potent energy, high intensity and extraordinary power that “strikes a chord” in the dreamer that continues to resonate throughout his or her life.
What’s so fascinating about these dreams is that they expand consciousness and therefore a type of metamorphosis occurs within the dreamer. There are many types of extraordinary dreams including lucid, precognitive, telepathic, past life and visitation from the dead.
Wave Dreams and the Meaning They May Carry
The big wave dream is a pretty common theme and it often indicates either some emotional overwhelm in the dreamer’s waking life or “big material” coming out of the unconscious.
One of the main symptoms of trauma is the affliction of frequent or recurring nightmares. Ernest Hartmann, M.D., a psychiatrist and researcher, stresses the importance of looking at dreams and trauma especially with those who are plagued by nightmares. Dr. Hartmann notes that the content of nightmares are mostly concerned with the emotional content rather than playing back the actual event itself.
“It appears the traumatized person may dream first about the actual trauma (though not always), then, very quickly, the dreams appear to deal with the dominant emotion. Dreams of being overwhelmed by a tidal wave or being swept up by a whirlwind are common after almost any trauma. The dreams contextualize (find a picture context for) the emotional concern.”
Studies have shown by therapeutically working with the dominant emotion of the dream rather than the traumatic event itself might be a gentler approach to alleviating the trauma.
Big Dreams as Harbingers of the Future
I see my own wave dream sequence as precognitive and a reflection of the trajectory of my life, at first being overwhelmed and stuck and then later running away in fear from my own power and potential.
But clearly this was all an illusion and something much bigger than me was showing itself; that it wasn’t about something outside of me that could give me answers but something more profound that I could only tap into by accessing Inner Ways of Knowing. Namely, dreams as my personal medicine.
It wasn’t until my thirties that I eventually took a leap of faith and began studying dreams more seriously and incorporating them into my practice both spiritually and in my work with clients.
As the 6th dream predicted, I eventually moved into the redwood forest so I could be closer to Nature. The 7th dream is still enfolding in all its mystical potential including my fascination and personal experiences with dream states, like Hypnagogia, as gateways or wormholes into other states of consciousness. It was also a letting me know I would finally find my community. My Dream Tribe.
The Dream as Spiritual Practice for the Good of One and the Many
Though I certainly have more questions than answers, this experience has significantly shifted my belief system and brought me closer to trusting my own inner processes.
I find it especially helpful to use dreams as a spiritual practice. As Montague Ullman puts it “we dream for the survival of our species.” Somehow by tapping into this higher state of awareness we are healing the world as we heal ourselves. When we incorporate dreaming into our spiritual practice we are more directly in touch with who we truly are and our highest potential.
Since dreams can call us to connect with something larger than we feel ready to accept, and often conjure up fear or denial in the process, working with dreams in a spiritual context can help us find the courage and certitude we need to embrace the call. This is especially helpful when we realize we can no longer live ‘a half-life’ because we feel compelled to strive for authenticity and ultimately own the full Self.
I cannot help but be in awe of the energy in these wave-dreams, and must honor them not just for me but also for the community at large.