My husband Charles is studying the history of Sophia Street. He has read books, viewed maps, scanned photographic archives, and visited the library’s Special Collections room.
One of his favorite resources is a book of maps of Vancouver across the decades. He developed a special tool for reading the maps. On a blank transparency, he has drawn the boundaries of our neighborhood. He lays his transparency over each map, so he can see exactly how our neighborhood has evolved over the years. Each look unearths another layer in his mini archeological excavation.
Sigmund Freud says that the human mind is like an archeological dig. New experiences cover up but don’t erase old experiences. New levels of maturity sit right on top of old levels. A trigger event can rip the ground right open, and unearth a person’s old beliefs and habits.
Consciousness is multi-layered.
At any moment, we are aware of so much. Sounds, sights, sensations, thoughts, memories, emotions, mental images flow through us continuously. Our attention shifts between them. To accomplish anything, we have to focus on only a few streams at a time.
Yesterday I wrote about a dream, in which a bear excavated from a Sophia Street “animal sighting” map came to visit me. I followed the bear through three levels of consciousness and found layers of deeply-needed encouragement.
Dreams come to us when we are at rest, when we are able to give them our full attention. In a way, they expand to fill our consciousness, and speak to us on many levels at once. A single set of dream images may carry information about our practical, emotional, and spiritual lives all at once.
A dream that catches our attention and stays with us for hours, days, or even years, is probably a dream that touches many levels of consciousness.
Bonnelle Strickling, author of Dreaming of the Divine, suggests we ask three questions about such a rich dream. We should ask: how does the dream help me think differently about:
· Current events in my life?
· Opportunities for psychological and moral growth?
· My evolving relationship with the divine?
A single image or story line can teach us about all three because human consciousness is multi-layered. Though we can narrow our attention, we never live at a single layer at a time. All the layers are potentially present to us.
Dreams offer us an easy way into the work of broadening our awareness. We can easily recognize that a dream story speaks in images from daily life, and at the same time offers those images as metaphors about less concrete levels of consciousness.
When we become comfortable reading our dream images deeply, we can begin to read our daily experience deeply as well. We can begin to ask: what do current events in my life say about opportunities for psychological and moral growth? What do they say about my evolving relationship with the Divine? We can begin to see the multiple layers of meaning, the multiple layers of reality that are potentially present to us always.
Each look at life can become a journey through multiple maps of our inner neighborhood.