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Myth and mysteries: The realms of dreams

November 02, 2013

SLEEP is a basic necessity, essential for a healthy mind and body. It not only relaxes the entire system of the complex working of our senses and organs but even cures and renews a lot of tired nerves and muscles. That is the reason that a sick person sleeps a lot. Or is made to sleep a lot to completely get relaxed so that the body can fight the illness.

But one thing happens during sleep that is a most curious situation for most of us – dreams. To start with, yours truly would like to relate a story told by someone who was a regular visitor to the household since this scribe was probably seven years old. She was a poor but very honest and hardworking lady who came over to help around the house. Over the years she was a regular for weddings, lunches and all sorts of events to help with the housework.

She once narrated just a few years ago, before she passed away, (may the Almighty rest her soul in peace, amen) that as a young married woman with two small daughters, she often dreamt of her deceased mother. Now and then, she said, her mother came in her dreams. Now as old wives’ tales go, it was believed and probably still is by many that if a close relative who has passed away comes in one’s dream, it is a warning that the person who sees the dream is going to die. Believing this, she narrated, she consciously told her mother in one of her dreams that “do not come, go away, I do not want to go, my children are too young”.

After that, she never saw her mother in her dreams again. As she told me this, older and wiser, sadness filled her eyes and her now old and wrinkled face held a sober kind of regret. She said that had she not been so ignorant and silly, she might have seen her mother again.

The mystery of dreams has many researchers baffled on one aspect or the other. Even though a lot of work has been done regarding sleeping and dreaming, the entire scenario is still an unknown realm to scientists. Yes, there are answers to sleep disorders and certain kind of dream patterns, but it is still an uncertain and unknown phenomenon.

What scientists tell us is that quite a few dreams are due to psychological and sleep disorders, and once they are diagnosed the disturbing dreams may stop or maybe change. Furthermore, there is also the fact that indigestion and trauma situations can cause the disturbed sleep and nightmares. On the other hand, religious scholars say that there are three types of dreams, those that are a blessing or signs, and are Divine in origin. The others are disturbances of negative powers or “Satan’s suggestions” and the last type are those which our minds conjure up due to our experiences or perceptions in life.

Quite a few people have prophetic dreams, meaning they can see events or incidents, which are going to happen, sometimes-even warnings. But the important part is to interpret or understand what one sees in a dream. Most of the time what we see is not exactly what it means, for example seeing a scary dream does not always mean something scary is going to happen. On the other hand, dreams are supposed to be memories and experiences deep in our subconscious minds that we normally do not think about.

The network of experiences, memories and even our fears may be depicted in our dreams which sometimes leave us clueless to the meaning or, on the other hand, at certain times make us see things quite clearly. For instance, not realising that one is having a craving for chocolate consciously, one might see oneself in a dream enjoying a delicious chocolate cake and wake up remembering quite clearly how delightful it was.

Then there is another aspect called ‘lucid dreaming’ in which one knows one is dreaming and the dream in fact seems as if it’s really happening. Which is the type of dream that we spoke of in the beginning of this article? Quite often experiments have shown that in this kind of dreams individuals could somehow change the outcome or situation that one was in during the dream. The scientific explanation, made easy, could be that we are in a state of being awake while dreaming so that we can consciously manage to change what we do not like about our dream. Then there are times when a person feels awake from sleep but is unable to move from their bed. This could be uncomfortable but the easy reason, according to experts, is that the mind wakes up in the reality state before our bodies. So while the network of signals work together one feels, “pinned down to the bed”, as they say. Moreover, there are actually people who solve their problems during their sleep while they dream. It could be due to the fact that when solving or designing a complicated project, some people, at the end of a hard-working day, have the solution somewhere in their minds which only comes to them while they sleep.

Making sense of the phrase “Let me sleep on this”. Now we come to the more intriguing part of this enigma. It is said and believed that while the body sleeps, our thoughts and mind are capable of journeying to other realms and places. We might even see places we have never even been to. Whether it is due to our spirit visiting the place or our subconscious recalling a picture, poster or desire to visit ‘the place of our dreams’?

Let’s sleep on it.