I have had a long, rich, rewarding relationship with my dreams—both the sleeping and the waking kind. Being a writer, I often get story ideas, and even whole chapters for my novels, from my dreams (in The LightBridge Legacy Series, the lost city of Azimara was created entirely from dreams). Being a seeker, I sometimes get wisdom and answers to my existential questions from my dreams. And being a person whose go-to neurosis is feeling trapped or caged even though I am free to choose my own way in this life, I love that I am able to escape the confines of the human brain and body in my most ethereal dreams and fly the friendly skies of this earth, or visit other worlds, other dimensions, other planets, all in the nightly excursions of my vivid dream-life.
When I am dreaming, I am free.
One of the novels I’m currently working on, Infinity 8, is about a teenage girl who feels inexplicably trapped in her body and learns that she’s from another planet and belongs to an alien race who installed her consciousness in a human embryo as an initiation test. She was born human but has always felt she does not belong here. She’s a true Elsewhere Girl. And her companion is a teenage boy who lives another life, with an entirely different identity, every time he goes to sleep at night. Because of this, he has never experienced dreaming the way others do. He is also an Elser. These two characters are fueled by my personal pathos to a certain extent because I’ve always sought to understand my Elser qualities… why my mind sometimes feels like I don’t belong here. This leads to a feeling of being trapped, but I sing no victim song. It is just a feeling that crops up when I am under pressure or feeling out of place.
There was a time when I would have never spoken about my Elserness, but I’ve come to realize that there are a lot more Elsers in this world than I thought. We’re called words like: misfit, fish-out-of-water, oddball, square peg, freak, but also maverick, individualist, nonconformist, bohemian, and my favorite… ARTIST.
We Elsers find a myriad of ways to escape this unfamiliar world. Some of us become writers and create our own worlds, and sometimes we are lucky enough to escape in our dreams. Most of the time, my dreams are marvelous adventures, but there have been a few challenges in realms relegated to the NIGHTMARE… where feeling trapped is part of what heightens the fear factor.
In my mid-20s, I experienced the all too common horror-movie-like nightmares where I was being chased by a different hideous monster nearly every night for three months straight. It sent me on a downward spiral in my waking life because I was getting less and less sleep and was unable to concentrate during the day or function in my college classes, not to mention the job that paid for those classes. And then I remembered something my mother used to say to me before bed:
“Go to sleep with the question, wake up with the answer. You have all the wisdom you need. It’s all inside you. Ask your higher self for assistance.”
So one night, that is exactly what I did. But instead of asking why is this happening to me? which is what I really wanted to know, I asked a different question; What do I need to know in order to stop these nightmares from happening?
I didn’t know it at the time, but the what do I need to know or what do I need to learn type question, instead of the why me type of question, was the golden key to open the door to dream wisdom.
And the answer was nothing short of magnificent.
It came in the form of five sequential dream lessons, five nights in a row. Each dream picked up where the last left off and by the end of the week, I had the dream skills to avoid all future monster attacks. My nightmares didn’t stop right away, but after that, it didn’t matter, because I had the ability to escape them. I was no longer trapped.
Here’s how it went…
After asking the what do I need to know question right before sleep, I found myself standing on the top of a hill overlooking a vast green valley of rolling hills and standing stones akin to the sort I fell in love with during my month-long visit to the British Isles a few years prior. I remember being relieved that there were no monsters in sight, but I watched out for them all the same.
An old man approached, hunched over and hobbling up the hill with the aid of a gnarled stick. I could tell the simple act of walking took much effort, but he had a suspicious little half-grin on his face that sparked in his eyes.
He didn’t look like a monster, but in dreams, things can transform from benign to frightening in the space of a heartbeat. His half-grin turned into a full toothy smile as he said, “I am not one of your monsters, but I will teach you a little trick I know… one that will make it so you’ll never again fear any monster. Would you like to learn it?”
I nodded, albeit cautiously. Curious thing though; his voice was that of a younger man, like water over smooth river rocks, not at all gravelly or gruff, and it had a calming effect on me.
Then he asked, “What is the one thing all your monsters have in common?“
I promptly said that they had nothing in common. They were all different. “Unless,” I added, “you mean that they are all really scary.”
He laughed and said, “They have more in common than you think. But the one thing I speak of is that they are all ground creatures.”
I gave him a sideways glance. “What do you mean?”
“None of them can fly,“ he answered as if it was obvious.
I came back with a snarky, “Neither can I.”
“Yet!” he said. “I am here to teach you how to fly in your dreams.”
I shook my head. “I’ve flown in dreams before. Doesn’t help. I’m never able to fly when I’m being chased. I can barely even run, so how can I expect to fly?”
He let out a little huff. “You are stuck in a thought-pattern based on who you think you are in your dreams.”
“You think you are helpless. You think dreams happen to you and there is nothing you can do about it.”
“That’s because it’s true,” I said. “Ask anyone.”
“And yet here you are.”
“Not because I chose to be here.”
“Maybe I should ask why you’re here?”
“Until now,” he said, “your flying dreams have been more happenstance… a happy accident, if you will. That’s because you don’t know how to fly. No one’s ever taught you. I’m going to teach you how to fly on command so that you can choose the sky as your escape whenever you are being chased.”
I had my doubts as to whether or not this was possible, but I put them aside and said, “Teach me.“
For the next five days, I was given FLYING LESSONS.
It was hard at first. I couldn’t seem to get it right. But he was a patient teacher and I was a motivated student. Turns out it is possible, and it was the BEST 5 DAYS I have ever spent in any dreamscape. I was becoming someone new. Someone who wasn’t afraid anymore. Someone who was free. Those 5 days changed my life and introduced me to not only a beloved teacher whom I will never forget, but a self that I never knew I could become. Every morning that week, I woke and couldn’t wait to get home and back to sleep. AND I was sleeping soundly for the first time in a long, long time. It was so wonderful that I didn’t want it to end. I had experienced sequential dreams before, but none quite like this. I was falling in love with my dream-life all over again.
It’s worth mentioning that this was also my first experience with “lucid dreaming,” where you have the awareness that you are dreaming while asleep. The best part about lucid dreaming is that you remember every detail when you wake up, or at least I do. My brain doesn’t differentiate between lucid dream memories and the memory of the museum I visited last Sunday. So my “flying lessons” were as real to me as they would be if I paid someone to teach me how to fly a plane.
And did it work? Was I able to escape all future monsters? Yep. I didn’t have another lucid dream for many years after that, but somehow, I always remembered I could fly when I needed to, so the nightmares lasted only seconds (in dream-time) and after those few seconds of terror, the dream transformed from purgatory to paradise, wrapped in the utter bliss of a flying dream.
Eventually, because my fear of nightmares dissolved into the light, I stopped having them altogether. And all because I asked the right question. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me so many wonderful things, but most of all, for getting me to believe in my inner wisdom. I know you’re smiling up there. I love you more than words can say.
Never forget. You are more powerful than you know. Trust your inner wisdom. Sleep with the question, wake with the answer. Ask your higher self what you need to know. And have patience. The answers will come.
Elayne Gineve James is the author of The LightBridge Legacy, a YA Fantasy Series, and The Saint of Carrington, a “spirited” Christmas novel. To learn more about Elayne and her books, visit ElayneJames.com
BTW, if you want to know more about Elsewhere people, visit the website I’ve started just for Elsers: ElsewhereGirl.com