This post is sponsored by my fiends at Mountain Rose Herbs
Dreams are half of our lives. Our most personal and private lives. Tucked away between the twilight hours of dusk and dawn, the possibilities of dreams are limitless and never confined to the self imposed restrictions of waking life. I sometimes feel like if I didn’t have any biological needs to be awake, I would stay in dreams indefinitely. For as long as I can remember, my dreams have been remarkably vivid, adventurous, and deeply emotional. My first dream journal entry is dated October 12, 1995. I was nine years old, and that night I went on a mysterious swamp venture through dark and murky channels, heavy hanging Spanish moss all around. Everything was green and gray, and there were castle ruins sunk to the bottoms of the swamp with a maze of broken walls jutting out of the bottomless black water. I was looking for a friend that was lost in the swamp without a raft, likely holed up in the bigger castle ruins that seemed so far away I’d never make it. I kept making wrong turns, hitting dead ends and would erupt in these surges of anger and frustration that I couldn’t do anything right…I’d never make it no matter how hard I tried. My little raft was falling apart in little pieces every time I got angry. I remember having the feeling that if I didn’t keep it together, I’d get lost in that swamp forever too, and no one would come looking for me. When I woke up from that dream riddled with failure, I wrote it all down. I read over it now and it’s all just as vivid as the night it first happened. At the end of the entry, I noted that all I wanted to do now was continue going back to keep trying. I couldn’t just leave my friend in that dark, abysmal subconscious swamp. And who was that friend anyway? I fell asleep every night for months afterwards trying to have the same dream, but it didn’t happen again until February of the following year.
In between, I wrote down all of the my dreams. I dreamt of carnivals, a cancelled Christmas, endless seas of white sand dunes I had to keep climbing, having to take a math test for a class I’d never been to, sailing in a green sea with Prince Caspian, being killed in a huge battle, flying kites at the beach, planting a tree on my own planet (shortly after I read The Little Prince, I imagine), and making a river out of crunchy fallen leaves. There were dozens of others, and I have them all written down. Hundreds of hours of my childhood are all document and I would never remember it otherwise. My dream life then (and now) was way more adventurous than my waking life ever seemed, and it was all mine. I never had to tell anyone what I was up to. Every now and then, I’d have the most amazing lucid dream. In the middle of some weird part of my adventure, I’d realize I was dreaming and immediately try to fly and it worked every time. I hoped I could do that if I ever got back to the swamp.
My cousin taught me a trick during that span of time to recognize when I was dreaming. Everyday, at least 10 times a day, I should stop what I was doing, look at my hands and ask myself, “Am I dreaming? How did I get here”. I’d get into the habit so much in waking life that I would eventually do it while I was dreaming, and soon enough I could do that every night in my dreams. I repeated this hand practice all the time at school, as practice of course, but also to remind myself that life wasn’t always this boring. Around January, I would go to sleep at night knowing I’d figure out I was dreaming and be able to do anything I like. Finally, one night in February, I ended up back in the swamp on the same raft in the same murky maze looking for the same person. I was in the dream a long time before I remembered the trick. I had lost my temper so many times before then that I barely had a raft left to float on. Once I realized I was dreaming, I just took off flying towards that larger castle ruins (made good time, too) and abandoned my emotionally frail raft. I made it to the ruins and started looking around, through all of the corridors and empty abandoned rooms…the place was silent except for the sound of bullfrogs that echoed everywhere like a song. I looked and looked. There was nothing. Empty. The feeling of having something or someone to find completely left, and I was overwhelmed with disappointment. All that for nothing. Just wake up. You failure.
……. but I did make progress.
My cedar chest is full of old dream journals. I’ve kept them since that first swamp trip. They’re packed with every spectrum of emotion, all of the highs and lows. Failure. Anger. Lust. Love. Fear. Elation. Longing. Hope. Hopelessness. Despair. Excitement. Dread. They are all just as real as waking life. I’ve just paid attention to thousands more hours of them. They’re my stories. My whole life. Now that I’m older, though, that hand trick doesn’t always work for me anymore. I’ll just forget, or be so consumed by a dream I won’t even consider it an option. But I still want those lucid dreams sometimes…and I eventually (and accidentally) found a new trick with a lucid dreaming herb – Mugwort.
For the past few years as I’ve gotten to intimately know herbs, I’ve been crafting a dreaming tea blend that I drink before bed to encourage lucid dreams (although it doesn’t always do the trick). It’s a combination of mugwort, chamomile, passionflower, spearmint, oatstraw and orange peel. The chamomile and passionflower help to relax my mind, calm my body and slow me down from the fast pace of a busy day. The oatstraw replenishes my body with it’s building nervine quality and gentle nutrients. The orange peel is a hint of zingy aromatic flavor and the spearmint just smells like a dream. And the star of this celestial blend is the mugwort itself. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) has a mystical history as one of the most magical herbs – used for protection mostly, and named for the Greek goddess Artemisia, the goddess of the hunt and the forest and the hills. I’ve found that mugwort sometimes helps me to slip into lucid dreaming more easily…perhaps because as an adult, I’m more far removed from my ethereal imagination than I was was a child. This autumnal dreaming blend is one of my favorites to create. I blend up a large batch and use it up for several weeks. The addition of the celestial tea strainer is particularly fitting.
When I imbibe in this dreaming tea, it usually always takes me to the forest with a swift stream and large, towering trees. It’s become one of my favorite dreamscapes to visit. It’s calm and beautiful and always autumn. I like it most because when I’m here, the only emotions I feel are happy and safe and calm. There are no tasks or expectations or fear or uncertainty. It’s just my magical place. With mugwort, each person has their own experience, and I’m always curious where this dream blend will take you, too.
Photography by moon sister Renee Byrd