Plus there have been so many benefits. I don’t snore. I don’t wake up choking. I don’t wake up sweating through my shirt. I don’t have headaches. I don’t need caffeine first thing in the morning.
And I have dreams.
Serious, involved, complex, dreams. In color.
I know that I did have dreams before. But they were shorter. They were almost like impressions rather than narratives. And they happened irregularly. But now I have full dreams every night.
And, because all this dreaming is new to me, it’s actually been a real challenge to sort it out. My mind struggles a little every day to differentiate between reality and dreams. I have to pause and reflect for a second to remember if I did something or just dreamed about it.
I’m sure my brain will get used to this soon. But it just hasn’t had all this data to sort for a very long time.
Dreaming has also opened up to me a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to reflection, insight, and inspiration. I never expected this.
I remember that when I was a missionary, it was common for my Central American friends to make important decisions based on dreams. All the time, someone would share that they decided to join the church or to get married or to pursue a particular job because of a dream that they had confirming that they should do so.
I used to shrug that off with some cultural arrogance I’m now ashamed of. I’ve come to realize that I don’t find inspiration in my dreams because I don’t allow myself to, not because it’s inherently silly to do so.
I think I’ve finally learned that God speaks all of our languages and will communicate with us through any channel we choose to leave open. That means each of us ends up closing some doors and opening others based on our own prejudices and the cultural norms we identify with. That makes my channels look as silly to someone else as theirs may look to me.
I never felt inspired by dreams (even years ago when I used to have them regularly) because I didn’t open that channel up.
But many of the greatest revelations we have on record came from dreams. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi has a profound dream of the Tree of Life that became not only the foundational revelation of his immediate descendants, but also of our own modern Mormonism.
(For a general treatment of this, see the scripture itself: 1 Nephi 8:2-35. For some enlightening commentary and artistic depictions, go here)
So what if Lehi had discounted his own dreams and not allowed himself to be inspired by them? (Or, for that matter, what if he’d had sleep apnea and not been able to dream at all?) What might we have lost?
Just last week in the LDS General Conference, Bonnie Oscarson quite correctly opined that the greatest challenge our youth face today is “the ever-present influence of the ‘great and spacious’ building in their lives.”
As my dreams have come back to me and flooded my mind, I’ve wondered what value I might find in them. I gather that they are helping my mind sort and classify data and that they are a good sign that I’m sleeping. But I’ve also wondered if I might find myself open to some nudges of inspiration or even direct revelation.
A few years ago, Richard Scott—one of the gentlest, most inspired people I’ve ever seen—shared practical principles to enhance revelation.
One principle was to pay better attention to dreams:
Revelation can also be given in a dream when there is an almost imperceptible transition from sleep to wakefulness. If you strive to capture the content immediately, you can record great detail, but otherwise it fades rapidly. Inspired communication in the night is generally accompanied by a sacred feeling for the entire experience. The Lord uses individuals for whom we have great respect to teach us truths in a dream because we trust them and will listen to their counsel. It is the Lord doing the teaching through the Holy Ghost. However, He may in a dream make it both easier to understand and more likely to touch our hearts by teaching us through someone we love and respect.
I’ve been trying to do this. I’ve opened my mind to a channel I used to scoff at. And I’ve spent a few moments when I wake up remembering my dreams before they fade away.
Nothing came of it at first. But this week I had a profound and terrifying dream. It was intensely personal. I’ve shared it with no one and likely will not. But it held a certain message for me that struck me like a tree branch to the face. I haven’t been able to forget it. And I’ve started making some changes in the way I think and act because of it.
As I sat in church today, my mind wrestled with this dream. I wondered if I could have gotten the same message some other way. And, upon lots of reflection, I’m sure I couldn’t have. Or at least not very easily. It was personal, it was specific, and it was otherworldly. It put me right in the middle of the issue in pure emotional reality. No intellectual posturing or clever rationalization was possible. I had no choice but to confront the lesson it gave me.
What a great thing personal revelation is. I’m so grateful for it. And I’m grateful to live in a time of modern medicine where a simple machine that blows air into my nose can open up a new universe for my mind and spirit to explore.