Running Dreams

My suspicion is that most runners do not dream -- or at least do not remember their dreams. As a runner, my sleep had the quality of ink; absolutely black and immediate. It could be that runners simply do not need to dream, as in waking-life they are able to inhabit an intermediate phase of consciousness, skimming underneath their minds as they roll down the road. Or perhaps the narcotic fatigue of training drags runners into sleep so deeply that by the time they re-emerge they've left their dreams unconsciously behind.

Lately, without exercise, I have been dreaming more, and I often dream quite vividly that I am running. Some hours later, I have to point my consciousness to the fact of my injured ankle and construct a counter-factual argument: I cannot run, and so therefore the run that I am remembering must have been a dream and did not happen.  That's how vivid they are.

Upon recall these dreams are are very bodily. The run comes back as vibrations and sounds. The images are peripheral, as when in the flow of running, experience becomes a type of tunnel that opens out from the mind. The eyes are less important than the hips, the shock, the balance.

The other day in my dream I was running up a mountain, and what I remember most was the downthrust of my elbows, my toes curling to grip the dusty trail, and the arch of my neck as my eyes searched up for the horizon. The sun was nowhere to be seen; the landscape was trimmed down to an intimate horizon in which everything was felt and included, as if the lavender on the side of the trail was not seen but felt. This is perhaps a hallmark of dreaming. The boundaries between mind and world, between sense and reality, are muddied, as the world itself is only thought and through that inversion thought itself is worlded.

I remember that inversion in the flow of the run. To be reminded that we are each centers of our own universes, each capable of expanding and dissipating, or contracting to a point of intensity. Cosmology states that the universe began in a tightly wound point of tremendous density, and it has been exploding outwards for eons. Our image of the universe is specks of lonely stars in gallons of black paint.

The inward universe does not mirror nature. We need both expansion and intimacy, distance and depth, beginning and endings, waking and sleep. The multiverse of experience is a billion drifting centers of a billion vague horizons, blinking open and awake and then at the end of the day contracting back and asleep.  Later we wake and remember that it was all a dream, and that it all happened inside our minds, but that it was still somehow quite real, as real as it gets.

The possibility that reality is a dream has always been seen as solipsistic -- as a way of arguing that the only thing that is real is individual consciousness. But dreams and runs do not eliminate the world. They interiorize the external. They collapse the barrier between self and world, not so that the one becomes the other, but so that they both mingle and refresh and inter-connect. We dream and run and remember, not escaping reality, but following paths back into it.


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