Here are some of the drawings you will encounter in the book Drawn into the Dream. These are sketches drawn at the beginning of dream groups of people's dreams and become the basis for the work we do to allow the unconscious to speak to us through our dreams.
Walter Berry lit the permanently installed sculpture "Dream Catcher" by Janet Echelman on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California. The lighting changes through the entire night representing the various phases of sleep and dreaming.
DREAMS AND AWE
The most beautiful emotion is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that which is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of a devoutly religious man. Albert Einstein, in Living Philosophies (1931)
We protean humans are capable of standing in the center of an ineffable place of sublime awe, if we so choose. This place is so powerful, it delivers us up to our own gods of self, transcending ego and comprehension and deposits us at the very center of our own naked unadorned lyrical souls. It is an experience dripping with emotion and meaning, completely personal and private. At the same time, it connects to everything beneath the surface of understanding, making it an experience of joining a matrix so complex and fulfilling it dumbfounds us and assures us of our divinity at the same time.
This place is best understood backward through time— analyzing it while it is happening is fruitless. Do you know this place? I am talking about those moments, or hours, or days when you are lost in an event or phenomenon so powerful, the left side of your brain—that logical Vulcan sort of place—gives up trying to stop you and instead surrenders to the illogical body-shaking, life-altering, time-stopping, gob-smacking, soul-feeding, connection-making, lightning-bolt-riding, beguiling, bewitching, engrossing, enlightening, enthralling, immersing venue of awe. This is not a place conducive to logic or reason but is fertile ground for emotion and soulfulness.
Awe is the locus of artists, poets, and writers always seek to induce or explain, and I bet you have fallen into this time-stopping region at some point in your life. Probably the easiest reference point to illustrate it would be that moment when a person holds their own newborn. Now that is a point when you will pass into the realm of awe. Time stops, you don’t hear others, you are thunderstruck as you feel the soul of this tiny being pulsing in your arms. It will deposit you like a rock dropped into deep water, into a world of love and connection that remains with you for your lifetime.
This is the place of awe.
Or it is that moment when you reach across a table and touch the hand of someone and something electric happens and you fall instantly in love, losing all sense of time or reason.
This is most definitely the place of awe.
It may show up when you are listening to a piece of music, and you keep dropping deeper and deeper into the rhythm until you are one with the music and nothing else matters at that moment, and you soar and float and sing and move—the world be damned.
Or, perhaps, it comes when you are sitting quietly beside a river on a warm summer afternoon and you start breathing in the rhythm of nature. There is music here in this place of wonder and simplicity. The water gurgles and the birds add a staccato pitch as the water swirls and leaps like faeries are blowing bubbles from underneath the surface. The bright water reflects a thousand points of light in the sun’s caresses, a cacophony of light that defies focus and reason. Soon you are lost in this place of simple beauty; you have crossed over into a private revelry. You have landed in a place of awe created by your own soul in symphony with nature.
When we fall into such a beautiful revelry, it makes us realize that we are merely visitors to this magnificent diorama of life. Nature is always doing this. And you, finally, for a brief moment, have joined this celebration and are swimming in the stream of life.
It is about immersion. If you allow your thoughts to subside and your feelings to rise, you will have crossed over into the present, where life is a celebration of unknowing and soul. You will be in that place that artists, poets, and the wise know so well. Not that artists and poets and the wise always sit in a place of awe. On the contrary, they struggle, fail, suffer, and wallow in the same abyss the human condition offers up to all of us—none of us escape it. They screw it up all the time, exactly like we do, but the difference may be that they are obsessively compelled to search for entrances into the inner realms, no matter the price. Immersion is not so easy in this life, but it is always possible.
We know that sometimes we just trudge through life, finding little nooks to hide in where we can sigh for a moment, then we stand again, putting one damn foot in front of another, falling into the numbness that is so pervasive in all our lives. These are the ways we battle to stay afloat with all the Sturm und Drang in our difficult lives. And yet the cacophony of nature and soul sits right there in every moment, waiting for us to join it. The place of awe is a venue that is always there for your participation, always.
I am describing an experience full of joy and wonder, but this awe is not only for the idyllic moments of our lives. It doesn’t have to be an awestruck moment filled with fireworks. It infuses many forms, sometimes joyful, but also harrowing and difficult. It can involve times of loss and anguish. It can be a silent event experienced in a meditative state, or it can be a powerful sadness we climb on top of and ride in all its distress and desolation instead of being engulfed in it. Or it can be the experience of sitting at the bottom of an emotional ocean staring at the detritus that the tsunami has stirred up just now as it washed over us. This place or experience I am trying to paint is a place of aliveness. This state of awe requires, in fact commands, complete awareness of self and connection. Does that make sense?
When we experience great pain or loss, we tend to scope our souls inward and retreat into the numbness of that closet we used as a child to protect us from forces greater than ourselves that we didn’t understand. When we finally, slowly put down the phone after hearing that horrid news of a great loss, like the passing of a parent to the other side, you can feel the body numb up. You can’t really feel your hands; your eyes are glazed and can’t focus. As you tell your legs to move, there is a long delay before the message gets through. The soul retreats to the solar plexus, wrapping itself in the warm threads of life as it withdraws into a protective place. How do I process this moment? Sometimes it is not yet a place of tears; it is a place of retreat and protection. We think about our own lives and quietly get smacked upside the head by the thought of our own mortality.
Our thoughts go to such painful places that our body armor drops into place and surrounds the tightened ball of our soul wound up in those threads of life, protecting us from the harm it perceives might happen. We are in the retreat of a monastery of giant questions that have no answers. But we have to be there. For a time, we must close the thick ancient door behind us and sit in the musky earth of this dark place of solitude, our shoulders throbbing from the pain of what we have experienced, our head in our hands, our back against that old splintery worn door that protects us, moist streams of emotion pouring from the windows of our souls.
We must have that experience, for if we do not, we cannot rejoin life fully. This is a sacred place that is always available for our use and contemplation, but it is not a place to live, only a place to visit. The deeper sadness here is that some people never recover from traumas and spend much of their lives diminished, never able to open that scarred old door and return to life. A great fear amongst us vulnerable living beings is that we will be one of those souls who never find their way out of the useful but temporary fortress of solitude.
I believe there is always a way to open that thick misshapen door, even if it seems impossible. Life calls to us and demands our presence, so whether we crack open that door that leads to the continuum, or someone opens it for us from the outside, the dance of life demands our participation.
As I have aged, I still retreat into that inner sanctum of solitude and reflection, but I have learned to open that thick, creaky door of retreat and stand in the experience of anguish and new life and let it wash over me pell-mell, pain be damned. In doing so, I am alive; I am experiencing something essential to the human condition. At some point, we simply must open that door. Of course, it helps to have loving people who stand quietly out there beyond the door with candles and a warm silent touch.