“Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream; Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream. So is all conditioned existence to be seen.”—Buddha
One morning, I slowly stretch and wake up, refreshed from dreaming I’m in Hawaii in retreat with my friend Gavin/Saucha’s teacher Devaji. A dream of being with one of my teachers is definitely a blessing—a sign that the connection is strong in my psyche. Remembering the dream makes me happy. I remember a story: after Siddhartha’s enlightenment, he was walking to Sarnath when someone stopped and asked him, “Why are you so aglow? Are you a god, or a saint, or what?” “No,” He said simply, “I am awake.” The Sanskrit root budh, means “to awaken” and so he was called the “Buddha”—the one who has awakened.
In Buddhism, awakening is a metaphor for waking up from the sleep of ignorance to loving awareness. The Buddhist approach to dreams is exactly the same as to the purpose of our waking life: to realize everything is impermanent and fleeting, nothing has a solid, lasting self; everything is interdependent, suffused with tenderness and love.
When you look closely and honestly at your life moment to moment, your waking and dreaming experiences are the same—fleeting and intangible. Paradoxically, when you’re most awake and aware, you can see the dream-likeness of your everyday existence. We dream each day into being, a mix of the planned and unplanned, unknown. When I’m asleep, although I have different adventures every night, the dream feels as real as I am, sitting here writing right now.
You know you’re dreaming even now when you see as permanent what is essentially impermanent (your loved ones, yourself, your life). We are all asleep when we merge with a culture that denies global problems, and shows us countless images of youth and good health, putting old age, sickness and death out of sight. But we can awaken from the illusion that things won’t change. We can be present for it all with loving awareness, and live with a free heart. We can smile at the mystery of sleep and waking, at our evanescent dream-world, shimmering like a wondrous mirage in the awakened heart.