Before I Wake

Ryan Hurd wants us to remember our dreams.

A strange creature haunts Ryan Hurd’s dreams. Long-bodied,
pointy-snouted, spiky-haired, it’s half-weasel, half-snake. In order to
better understand this recurring image, Hurd has painted it, beady-eyed
and chocolate-brown against an azure sky. “Dream art” is one of many
techniques he employs as a dream scholar and dreamworker who believes
those narratives unspooling in our sleeping lives bear potent wisdom
— even warnings — for our waking ones.

Although he laments that Western culture renders us “unititiated and
untrained” in interpreting them, dreams “are trying to get our
attention” — revealing underlying anxieties and issues and
even as-yet-undetected physical illnesses. Hurd’s Dream Studies web
portal cites anecdotes such as one about a woman who experienced
“insistent nightmares that plagued her nights,” then sought medical
advice, “only to be turned away several times. The nightmares
continued and one pointed out to her a specific spot on her
breast. She went back to the lab and asked again for a
test. A lump was found that the earlier scanning had missed.”

Although some in the burgeoning dream movement ascribe such marvels
to angels, spirit guides, or the god-self, Hurd prefers to call
dreaming “an experience of imagination that occurs in a number of
states of consciousness: not only the sleep states of REM, non-REM, and
the threshold states of hypnagogia, but also as waking dreams,
near-death experiences, and shamanic reverie. In all of these
experiences,” he says, “information of the external world is dampened
as we withdraw into a private realm which seems — as it occurs
— to be just as real to our senses as the physical world.”

Having kept dream journals since his high-school years in Atlanta,
Hurd had earned a BA and spent years working with archeologists,
excavating North American ruins, when he decided to earn an advanced
degree in dreams. Unsurprisingly, almost no schools offer courses on
that subject, much less degrees: “The big universities won’t even look
at it,” Hurd sighs. Then he discovered JFK University’s Consciousness
and Transformative Studies Program. He has since earned the program’s
Dream Studies Certificate, authored an e-book — Enhance Your
Dream Life: Sleep Better, Dream More, Live Your Purpose
— and
created the web portal. He’s hosting a dream talk and workshop at the
Fremont Main Library (2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont) on
Saturday, October 3. 

“My big goal is to make Western culture into a dreaming culture. The
United States is anti-dreaming,” Hurd says, “because dreaming is
irrational. We’re fighting the Enlightenment on this issue, but dreams
bring out all these ways of knowing that are just as valid” as those of
which society approves. He cites a centuries-old Iroquois ritual during
which tribespeople acted out their unnerving dreams — even if
those performances entailed breaking tribal taboos, expressing violent
urges, or revealing untoward lusts. Such rites, Hurd notes, served to
“air the dirty laundry in order to reduce its charge and prevent
unconscious acting-out that could escalate if left unchecked. I wish
dream-sharing was a mandatory start before every meeting of the United
Nations, by the way. Hey, I’m a dreamer.” 1:30 p.m., free. ACLibrary.org

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