The Dreamer Awakening

By Christina Donnell

The thirteenth-century Sufi mystical poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, wrote of a continuous essence moving through form; like the sun, its presence is sometimes palpable, sometimes not, and yet always there, generating life. Similarly, the intelligence that guides creation is sometimes palpable, sometimes not, and yet always there, generating life.

The fact that many artists, mystics, and poets throughout history have developed the ability to tap into the wisdom bubbling up from a deeper level of existence indicates that our consciousness can have an experience with the vital essence from which forms emerge and by which they are nurtured.

This continuous essence is the creative intelligence behind and within creation. It is the life force of all living things — galaxies, human beings, and trees — as well as the power in corporations and communities. Dreaming is one way to commune with the creative intelligence guiding creation. Awakening within the “continuous essence” allows you to experience a connection with this immeasurable, indestructible force that is paradoxically you and yet much greater than you. When we awaken within this source, we become one with it and our infinite nature emerges.

My first dream that revealed to me the radical shift in consciousness that’s possible when awareness is touched by the underlying intelligence moving through form, contained imagery that emerged from my experiences with Zen meditation and shamanic training. While lying in bed with my eyes closed and my awareness centered between them, image after image appeared in my mind’s eye. Meditation had accustomed me to letting images rise and evaporate without breaking my concentration. While lying in bed, witnessing the images, a heavy, syrupy feeling, which I eventually learned to associate with transcendent dreaming, blanketed me, pulling me into sleep.

I awakened within a dream in which I was doing exactly what I had been doing before the dream — lying in bed with my awareness centered between my eyes. Then the image of the black jaguar sitting in its tree, intently watching the jungle below, appeared and distracted me. The part of my awareness that was watching the dream thought it was peculiar that the jaguar image had appeared in a dream. With this thought, my awareness was drawn into the dream and became so immersed in the image of the jaguar that I lost sensation of my body and felt suspended in midair.

Although the sense of losing awareness of one’s body and physical surroundings happens to many people who practice meditation, this was not meditation. In fact, I soon felt my awareness itself begin to dissolve. The sensation was so extraordinary and pleasing that my attention was irresistibly drawn further into the jaguar image. Suddenly, a piercing brilliant light, accompanied by extreme heat, entered my brain. Unprepared for such an experience, I became anxious and aware of my body again. As the illumination from inside of me grew brighter and brighter, I experienced a rocking sensation and then felt the point of consciousness that was myself gradually expanding beyond my body.

Meanwhile, my body began dissolving until I became unaware of it. I was now all consciousness — without form, feeling, or sensation — spread out in every direction seemingly without limitation. I was no longer as I had always known myself to be, a small point of awareness confined in a body, but instead an infinite consciousness bathed in light and reveling in a state of exaltation.

After some time, my consciousness contracted, becoming smaller and smaller until I awakened from the dream, once more aware of my body and the cars passing on the street outside my window. I felt dazed and bewildered, as if returning from a foreign land, but was soothed by the sun shining on my face through the window. I could not sequence a thought or speak for some time.

Eventually I stood up; my legs felt weak and wobbled beneath me. I went outside for a short walk, thinking it would help me return to normalcy, and retired early to bed that evening, sleeping fitfully, having strange dreams and aware that a part of myself was watching me sleep.

Around 5:00am, the same heavy, syrupy feeling descended upon me again, and I awakened in the same dream as the night before. The jaguar was sitting in the same tree, intently watching the jungle below. Again, I was pulled into the image, and light pierced my head, filling me with rapture and vitality. As I felt myself dissolve, my consciousness once again expanded in all directions, then slowly contracted. When I finally became aware of my body, my heart was racing, there was a metallic taste in my mouth, and my exhaustion was even more pronounced than after the first dream.

I did not feel like the same woman I had been only a few days before. Something intangible and powerful, which I could not grasp or analyze, was happening, and I could not free myself from a sense of apprehension. From that day forward, I would never be my old self again. For the next several years, I would live suspended between spirit and matter, between heaven and earth.

The days immediately following the dream were a prolonged nightmare. I was aware of an intense internal glow, always in rapid motion. The nights were especially difficult since the stream of light that had pierced my head in both dreams seemed to increase in speed and intensity during the hours of darkness. I could feel my energy increasing, decreasing, and repatterning. I could distinctly feel and perceive the luminosity emanating into a field surrounding and connected to my body, and habitually lay awake all night watching myself sleep or dream.

With the increased energy coursing through my body, my arms and hands seemed to take on a life of their own. When I was lying, my body would vibrate, regardless of the surface it was on. Images rapidly Rolodexed through my mind’s eye. When one became fixed, I was gripped with fear because I had no control over being pulled into it and having my awareness consequently dissolve. Soon the images began to occur even with my eyes open, seemingly a solvent working on the glue that held my awareness together.

Even more alarming was the fact that my consciousness was not as stable as it had been before, but now expanded and contracted, regulated in a mysterious way by the images, making me fearful that a fine line now separated me from insanity. The expansion and contraction of my consciousness altered the way my mind functioned. I perceived a luminous glow around objects both in my mind’s eye and in the physical environment. This glow never remained constant in dimension or intensity, but rather waxed and waned, and sometimes changed color.

When the glow increased in size or brilliance, the urge to merge into it grew stronger, until my awareness dissolved into the unseen energies behind the manifest world. It was during this time that I began to have experiences of simultaneously lying in bed and walking around downstairs, with my awareness in both places. Three people — two friends and one client — independently told me they had awakened from sleep and seen me standing at the foot of their bed. I remembered lying in bed and simultaneously standing at the foot of one friend’s bed, wondering what I was doing there, while I had no conscious recollection of the other incidents. I knew these experiences had something to do with the amount of energy coursing through my system and my merging with images.

For a long time, I remained uncertain about the meaning of my condition. From the point of view of my Zen meditation practice, I surmised that I had turned from witnessing the rise and fall of awareness to participating with the underlying intelligence behind people, images, and objects in my field of awareness. The amount of energy concentrated in an image, the merging into a participatory exchange with it, and the energy from which the image itself had risen had shifted my perception.

My perception had also become rooted in the sensual dimension of experience, born of the body’s natural capacity to resonate with other forms. Thus, what had been considered a distraction in my Zen meditation practice had become a new way for me to engage with the sentient world, unveiling the unitive experience and latent human capacities. Seemingly, as the heart opens to what lies beyond reason, new levels of reality emerge and the awakened human is born.


This article is adapted from the book, Transcendent Dreaming: Stepping Into Our Human Potential, by Christina Donnell.


Christina Donnell, PhD, classically trained as a clinical psychologist, is the author of the multiple award-winning book, Transcendent Dreaming: Stepping Into Our Human Potential. Christina is a spiritual teacher, public speaker, author, and the Director of The Winds of Change Association, an educational organization dedicated to tending our evolving human consciousness. Click here to visit Christina's website.




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This article appears in: 2018 Catalyst, Issue 22: Dreamwork Summit