It’s almost irresistible to extract meaning from nighttime dreams. So clearly can they reflect our waking lives! They seem to speak to us from deep within, offering advice, ideas, even warnings. A dream about sex might signal loneliness, while one about money could make conscious a dawning sense of opportunity. Sometimes we’re even jolted awake by profound dreams.
(And of course it’s always wise to waken yourself immediately from any dream in which you’re searching for a place to pee.)
But dream analysis can seem like reading tea leaves or studying the astrology page. While sometimes the meanings appear obvious, at other times dreams are probably just random noise while your brain empties the trash.
Still, some dreams tell compelling stories, whatever the meaning might be. In one such dream I found myself walking through a beautiful hillside residential area. Elegant older houses stood beneath tall trees and a bright blue sky. I walked past a compound that held wild animals, and saw a large catlike creature — the size of a mountain lion, its fur red and orange and yellow — struggling to muscle up and over the high fence. It fell back, but I wondered whether the compound was truly secure.
I kept walking. Suddenly I felt something gently biting my hand. I looked down to see a big cat that resembled the fence jumper. For a moment I wondered with alarm whether it wanted to kill and eat me. Clearly, though, it was being friendly. I removed my hand from its mouth and petted it, scratching behind its ears. The animal was affectionate, leaning against me as we walked. It was a wonderful encounter.
I realized we were ambling away from the cat compound, and they’d be looking for my new friend, so I turned us around and walked us back. We arrived at the entrance gates; beyond, armed men in black uniforms patrolled; others moved heavy equipment. I petted the big cat’s head one more time and gestured for it to go back into the compound. The cat hesitated, then entered the enclosure. I turned and walked away.
…As beautiful and charming and surprising as this dream was, it nonetheless troubled me. If anything, it seemed to speak of lost wildness. I can be highly organized and methodical, relentlessly filing the rough edges from my life. After awhile, I lose sight of my earthy side, the part that wants to have an adventure and get into trouble just to see what happens. But I’m practical and cautious, so I push it away.
In the dream, the big cat was something untamed, brought to me by … what? my subconscious self? Or was life nudging me from civilized sleep, asking me to come out and play?
It’s like those rare moments when we’re offered something wonderful — a perfect mate, a tremendous job opportunity — but we hesitate, and the moment is lost forever. And the regret lingers for years.
From deep within, I was offered a gift of wildness. And I gave it back.