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.


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