Dreaming as sacred communication: a participant's reflection

The future is always a question of the imagination. The seeds of liberation lie within each of us. Dreaming nourishes these seeds. Dreams beckon us to listen to the new worlds that are already sprouting all around us. Even when I seldom understand what a dream means, the act of dreaming creates a portal to other realities.

“You don't speak of dreams as unreal.” Ursula K Le Guin wrote in Emergent Strategy, “They exist. They leave a mark behind them.”

When and why did I stop paying attention to dreams?

This question, raised during the third session of Re/membering our Rooted Selves, lingers in my mind. During the session, Sophia Pinheiro delved into the transformative power of dreaming. “Dreams are capable of altering structures”, she reminds us. “They have the power to shape and create new worlds.”

Dreaming is our means to catch glimpses of alternative ways of being, knowing, relating, and sensing. Often when a dream presents itself, the boundaries between the real and the unreal fade. Dreams offer glimpses of futures that could be and alternative-presents are already alive around us. They are a portal into the deep wisdom that resides within and beyond us, in our intuitive intelligence and in the intelligence of the other-than-human.

If dreaming is an invitation to critically examine and alter the structures that govern our world, is it any surprise that exploitative and oppressive systems devalue and stifle dreams? Is it any surprise that to pay attention to our dreams is inefficient and unnecessary in a capitalist economic system? Dreaming alternative(s) becomes a threat to a civilizational model that relies on extractivism and the commodification of nature - which includes us.

In her powerful essay ‘Poetry Is Not A Luxury’, Audre Lorde writes:

“These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman's place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.

Lorde underscores the importance of poetry to bring light to the deepest wisdoms within women - what has been passed down to us by our great-grandmothers. She argues that poetry is inevitable in the struggle for liberation, it is the means by which we articulate that which is both personal and political. Poetry is a conduit of power that resides deep within us – the embodied power of ancestral wisdom.

What if we begin to think the same way about dreams? If, instead of dismissing dreams as trivial or unimportant, or a kind of luxury afforded to a few, we viewed dreams – both individual and collective - as a form of sacred communication with our ancestors, elders, and the more-than-human?

Dreams have the power to show us different possible worlds and different ways of existing in these worlds.

In doing so, they bring us closer to critically examining the dominant narratives that are deeply entrenched in society. These narratives are not abstract; they also extend to our interpersonal relationships. For instance, the narrative of Western capitalist modernity reduces symbiotic, interconnected, complex relationships into mechanistic and transactional ones. The individual is seen as separate– and is disconnected – from the whole.

This is most evident in the narratives that prioritise individual self-care over collective care, and advocate for personal change over, rather than in conjunction with, systems change. Aza Njeri also explores this in her session examining layers of systemic crises. She draws attention to the relationship between colonialism and narratives of modernity, which gives rise to radical dehumanisation that keeps the colonial project alive. This other-ing justifies widescale violent displacement of communities.

But these societal and cultural narratives - around modernity, coloniality, ways of relating to each other and the more-than-human – are not static or all-encompassing. They are always in flux. Paying attention to our dreams opens up the space to challenge these narratives and imagine life beyond them. To open the doors to a pluriverse, as Amaya Querejazu puts it, “kinds of worlds, many ontologies, many ways of being in the world, many ways of knowing reality, and experimenting those many worlds.”

Importantly, by accessing this collective imaginal realm, we claim our response-ability and agency. As Lana Jelenjev explored in her session on intergenerational narratives and collective memory, the weight of intergenerational trauma shapes individuals, families and societies. Their pain and suffering, the consequences of their actions, are passed down to us. Our present is an accumulation of the decisions made by our ancestors.

Our bodies house the grief of our ancestors. But as Lana reminds us, our bodies also carry the gift of their wisdom. Our liberation lies reconnecting with that deep knowing that resides in our bodies. By harvesting this wisdom and tapping into our intuitive intelligence, we can collectively expand the field of our possibilities. It can enable us to have courageous conversations about difficult subjects can confront the pain and trauma of modernity and systemic injustices and trust that expansiveness lies beyond these difficult to navigate subjects.

A course like Re/membering our Rooted Selves gently nudges participants to focus on the relationships, principles, and worldviews at the heart of our praxis. As I begin to question and re/story my relationship with dreaming, many questions churn within me.

What if we see dreaming as a form of sacred communication? What if dreams are the medium through which we receive wisdom from our more-than-human kin? How can we tend to each other and our kin by nurturing our collective dreams? How can we harvest the wisdom from our elders and use that as a source to resist and subvert the narratives of modernity?

When I think about addressing the systemic crises we face collectively, I remember adrienne maree brown’s words:

“We are living now inside the imagination of people who thought economic disparity and environmental destruction were acceptable costs for their power. It is our right and responsibility to write ourselves into the future.”

The future is always a question of the imagination. The seeds of liberation lie within each of us. Dreaming nourishes these seeds. Dreams beckon us to listen to the new worlds that are already sprouting all around us.

Even when I seldom understand what a dream means, the act of dreaming creates a portal to other realities. Every time we pay attention to our dreams, we step into a landscape of possibilities. Every time we pay attention to our dreams, we strengthen our collective resistance.

In the age of the polycrisis, when stories of crossing planetary boundaries and ecosystem collapse dominate the news, courses like Re/membering our Rooted Selves underscore the importance of collectively harvesting dreams. In community, we compost narratives that no longer serve our ecosystem. We weave dreams and stories to create a patchwork of relationships that gesture towards colourful worlds.

We might not live to see these emancipatory futures but our legacy matters more - to be remembered as ancestors who honoured, celebrated, and nourished dreams of liberatory, decolonial futures. Ancestors who recognised and accepted their collective response-ability to write these dreams into existence.


Pooja Kishinani

Pooja Kishinani is a wanderer, dreamer, and writer based in India. Her curiosity draws her towards exploring the power of the collective imagination as a tool of resistance, co-liberation, and dreaming new worlds into being. She lives and breathes stories, and can almost always be found at her local library immersed in the wor(l)ds of Ursula K Le Guin or scribbling away in her notebook.

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