California Dreamin’

399639_528990720451368_1907623331_nI love dreams. I value them. I’m talking here about the kind of dreams you have at night when you go to sleep and let your guard down. These dreams have changed and are changing the world. But sometimes we get so busy with the problems of the day, we disregard the value of our night dreams.

Many of my friends don’t even dream and when I bring it up, they roll their eyes. There goes Jamie being Jamie.

For thousands of years many cultures have placed high value on using and understanding dream material. There were special dream preparation ceremonies, dream temples, rules about dream preparation (ie. no drugs or alcohol for three days when preparing for dreams). And the symbols that were sent during dreams were trusted and valued. In many places, they still are.

Yet where I live in California, which from the rest of the world’s point of view may seem “a dream friendly” sort of place, dreams are pooh-poohed as unimportant, spiritual stuff meant for metaphysical types and not necessarily meant to be remembered. Unimportant. Fluff. (Certainly not stuff that would be used in the Silicon Valley!)

But let’s just take a look at the creativity and changes to our world spawned during dreams.

The novelist Robert Louis Stevenson(1850-1894) described dreams as occurring in “that small theater of the brain which we keep brightly lighted all night long.”

He, by the way, conceived Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a dream.

Others include…

Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” was conceived in a dream.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came via dream.

Otto Loewi (1873-1961), a German born physiologist, won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1936 for his work on the chemical transmission of nerve impulses.

Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz is a remarkable figure in the history of chemistry, specifically organic chemistry and made two major discoveries from dreams

Madame C.J. Walker (1867-1919) is cited by the Guinness Book of Records as the first female American self-made millionaire. She was also the first member of her family born free. She had a dream which launched her cosmetic company after losing much of her hair from a scalp infection.

Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1845, but had problems making it work which he solved in a dream.

Golfer Jack Nicklaus found a new way to hold his golf club in a dream, which he credits to improving his golf game.

The idea for Misery and many of Stephen King’s other novels came to him in a dream.

There are so many other examples of writers, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, film makers–you name it–who have injected the creative flow from the night into their daily works and changed the world. A little attention to the subject, supported by a dream journal and a belief that material collected during sleep is valuable, may just be that impetus you need for your next big thing.

And your next big thing can be as basic as understanding how to navigate a conversation. I often dream conversations that show two paths–one that heads down the right way and one that doesn’t. By the time I find myself in that conversation, it’s clear to me which way to go. I’ve learned to stop saying, “I’ve dreamed this” though, because then people look at you funny and excuse themselves to go to the bathroom. Not everybody gets it.

If you’re up for the challenge, put a pad of paper and a pen by your bed tonight. Write this: “Show me what I need to know” along with the date and time. As you fall asleep, say, “I will remember my dreams.” First thing in the morning, jot down any recollection–a symbol, a person who you remember, a feeling you had. That night, go back and read it. It can take a day or two to interpret. And though I’m huge on dream circles (and am so excited to be currently starting one), you will always be your best dream interpreter.

Who knows? You could be holding the solution to a problem that will change the world.