We tend to think in terms of two types of awareness: Either we’re asleep or we’re awake. In fact, there are many states in between, and there is far less difference among them all than we imagine. That is illustrated by the following vision that a “dreamer” had while she was wide awake during a road trip. It’s helpful to know that the dreamer is Caucasian:
I was returning home after attending a weekend conference on metaphysics. The trip takes about 4 hours by car, and I noticed that I was getting sleepy. I was near a town that has a Chinese restaurant that I occasionally enjoy visiting, so I decided to stop there and get some lunch and a cup of coffee. They have a buffet with lots of delicious dishes. I was standing at the buffet counter looking at the various offerings, and my mind must have started to drift, because I suddenly saw someone on the other side filling a plate high with huge amounts of food—a real mountain all piled up. Somehow I knew this was for me and I wanted to tell the man to stop because I couldn’t possibly eat so much. Then I snapped out of it and saw that there was no one there; I had imagined the whole thing.
An initial assessment
People get excited when unusual phenomena like this happen to them. We have been so conditioned to think in terms of only two ways of experiencing consciousness. Either we’re off in our nighttime dream world, or we’re awake and fully engaged. We tend to imagine a distinct separation between those two states. But really, the line separating those extremes is far less solid than we are taught to believe. And these states often cross over part way from one to the other.
Is a vision different than dreaming? Do we take these experiences and mentally place them in their own category, to be treated with special rules and extra care? I would say not. In fact, it is the reverence in which we hold these kinds of phenomena that usually gets us into trouble. One of the biggest offenders is prophetic experiences. Whether they occur in the dream state or as a vision, prophesies are held in such high esteem that we treat them with kid gloves. There’s a kind of awe that descends over the experience, and also over the person who had it. Often that diverts attention away from what is really going on: With prophesies as with all experiences of consciousness—no matter what form they take—life is attempting to communicate with us through the language of metaphor.
In the case of the above woman at a Chinese restaurant, she too, found herself wondering reverently about her “prophetic” vision. “Is this trying to tell me that I am about to overeat?” I replied that it probably had a different kind of message in mind for her, one that we’ll examine on Wednesday.
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