Are you Living a Dream, or a Nightmare?

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This week’s musing has been written by a client of mine, Fiona Astin. She sent me this earlier this week as an e-mail just after she’d woken up from the nightmare she describes below. I was so struck by the insights she shared that I thought I’d share them with you, with her permission. Thanks Fiona!

nightmare tree

I had a really unpleasant nightmare last night. I woke up in a fretful state with adrenaline coursing through my veins, doing battle with a fight or flight instinct.

In my nightmare, I’d been in a meeting with a small group of people, where I ‘d become the target of a very angry and aggressive colleague. He was behaving irrationally and either he’d just hit me, or I genuinely believed that’s what he might well do next. I’d just negotiated with him to leave the room for 10 minutes to calm down, but he’d threatened us not to call anyone and was standing guard outside the room. I was still inside the room trying to work out what to do for the best – trying to gauge whether calling for back-up would be more dangerous than trying to calm him down myself. I could hear him pacing agitatedly outside the room and time was running out.
I woke up with a huge fear response trying to work out how I was going to deal with the situation. This feeling stayed with me for almost an hour as the adrenaline gradually dissipated.
I’ve been learning about the He’Art of Thriving, (informed by an understanding called the Three Principles) for a few months now, and as I was lying awake in bed experiencing this strong physical response to nothing more than a bad dream, I started wondering about the nature of consciousness and thought.
All by itself – without my conscious collusion, my brain had managed to create a series of unreal dream thoughts that had a very real physical and mental effect on me.

How much more effectively can my brain generate thoughts and feelings if I’m actually colluding with it … if I’m hitching a lift with some of those less-than helpful thoughts and letting them feed off each other?
In the case of this dream, I knew it was an illusion – but the physical symptoms took some time to wear off even as I rationalised it. How much else of this is going on without my conscious awareness that I’m letting drive my everyday?
This led me to thinking about something in particular that’s currently going on in my life. I sing in a soul choir and we have a concert coming up. We were all invited to express an interest in singing a solo number during the event if we wanted to. I wouldn’t normally even consider solo singing, but inspired by an incredibly effecting session with the lovely Lise Dandanell on a He’Art of Thriving workshop a couple of months ago, I’ve volunteered to do a solo audience participation number.

I had my first chance to rehearse it with the microphone this week and had been a bit of a wreck. My nerves wouldn’t let me sing in tune for the first verse and although it got better, I started to seriously doubt my wisdom and worry about looking and sounding like an idiot in front of the rest of the choir and hundreds of people.
My dream experience got me thinking about how I could stop my thoughts manipulating me and sabotaging my vision of how much fun this number could bring to the audience. How could I stop getting in my own way and successfully walk out on that stage and be present as the most genuine expression of myself?
So far, I’ve decided to experiment with imagining putting a take-away cup of tea in the hands of each of my sabotaging thoughts, guide them on to a red double-decker bus, and watch them all drive off on a tour of London whilst I get on with the job of getting some audience participation going!

If you have any other suggestions, I’m open to all ideas!
The brain is a truly amazing thing, and the more I become aware of the nature of thought, I find I can keep both the front and the back doors open more – which helps me to not get stuck in any particular thought.

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