Life is but a dream…

By Lynne Baker


Many of us remember singing the nursery song, “Row your Boat” written in the late 1800s.  The lyrics are a beautiful metaphor for life and a sweet reminder that we can understand our life as a dream.

Dreams have been seen as important and meaningful for thousands of years.  In some cultures they are seen as offering wisdom, healing our bodies and minds, giving advice in practical matters and connecting us with inherent truths.

The ancient Greeks in the 5th Century BC spoke of dreams as containing significant information of value to the individual, relationships and sometimes to the community. In Homer’s writing the dreams of Penelope, wife of Odysseus, were thought to be symbolic and prophetic. Penelope was waiting for her husband to return from war.  One of her dreams spoke of many geese, which were killed by a magnificent eagle that later reveals itself to be her husband. Her husband returned to her soon after this.


“An unopened letter is like an uninterpreted dream.

The Talmud (Jewish Tradition)


The famous psychiatrist Carl Jung saw dreams as the psyche’s attempt to communicate important information to the individual. He viewed them as a natural phenomenon. So in his view, there is never any need to feel embarrassed or distressed by the content of a dream. They are all just messages from our unconscious asking to be understood.

Dreams can be consulted as an advisor.  When we place our life’s difficulties and issues in the context of our dreams it can give us the impetus to really live. Exploring our dreams can be a vehicle for going deeper into what is most important to us and connect us with the deeper themes in our lives. As we get to know ourselves more deeply we can become more connected to the work we are doing, and develop a greater connection to our community.


My earliest childhood dream was entrancing, and mysterious.  I was lying on my back looking at the stars. In that beautiful sky appeared shapes; triangles, circles and squares.  These shapes were iridescent and captivating, the whole experience was quite intense and overwhelming but also magical and somewhat humourous.

From a dreamwork perspective and in my own active imagination and exploration that dream has become significant in how I approach life and death.  If I return to that dream and it’s deeper meaning it helps me see my life as full of change and transitions.  Sometimes I can feel caught up in a particularly difficult moment in my journey; but the message of the dream for me is remember it’s still a mystery, and a part of the overall experience of being human.

Life is “but a dream” as the song goes.  If we can row gently, we can go with the natural direction our life is taking us.  Even better, if we can do this with a positive attitude then we can relieve ourselves of distress and worry. Our dreams are gifts, unopened treasures waiting for us to take the time to sit with them and let them reveal their meaning to us.




Gillespie, S. Living The Dream 1996

Homer, Iliad; Odyssey

Jung, C.J. Memories Dreams Reflections 1989


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