“Where do we go when we sleep? A third of our life is lived underground, and deep down inside us a stream that will rise now and then to the surface, trailing visions into our waking. Yet what if that stream had been watering us all the days of our life and we never knew it? Perhaps there is a life within life, a blessedness that pours through our days and years and we barely suspect it…There is another life… and it is here, just below our skin and our eyelids. We spend most of our days immersed in the stories we take to be the stuff of our lives. Tale after tale of gain and loss consumes our attention for decades, often a lifetime. And then all of a sudden it is over.”
Is there a life within life? Is there a Self within the self we know ourselves to be? Is there a deeper dimension to our existence that we encounter when we sink beneath consciousness, and that sometimes surfaces in our dreams? It has always struck me as strange that we humans who pride ourselves for being rational, thinking beings, need to spend so much of our lives asleep. What’s with that? Is it just a physical necessity, or might it also have to do with the importance of being in touch with “a blessedness that pours through our days and years?”
It is true that in our conscious state, we are mostly inclined to immersion in “tale after tale of gain and loss.” The practicality of day-to-day existence – our physical, emotional, and relational ups and downs – have the power to consume our attention and prevent us from sensing that a “stream … had been watering us all the days of our life.” In his song “The River of Dreams,” Billy Joel sings about searching for something sacred he’d lost. When we lose touch with the “life within life,” the presence of the divine at the core of our being, we are disconnected from our sacred source, our true identity, our spiritual essence.
Whether we remember our dreams or not, when we sleep we descend into the stream “just below our skin and eyelids.” When we sleep we become wet with the water of life, we become soaked with the spirit that enlivens not only our body, but our soul, we become baptized, born again into an awareness of who we truly are, and that life is about more than the “gain and loss that consumes our attention for decades, often a lifetime.”
Too often our sleep is restless with the worries of the day. Perhaps it would be otherwise if we gave those worries to a Higher/Inner Power by whatever name, and gave ourselves permission to dive into the river of dreams, the water of life, the sacred stream that lies beneath the surface of our self.