I don’t know about you, but I used to spend lots of time daydreaming. Ever since I can remember, dreaming or daydreaming was one of the most exquisite pleasures of my life. When I was a child I used to visit my grandmothers during the summer – both of them lived in the countryside – where I would walk along the meadows, sometimes sneaking out to the forest to walk, walk, walk – and dream. I am not sure when it was I became aware of the power of our minds, but because I put more effort towards the pleasant vagaries of the mind rather than the dark ones I somehow realised we can affect the direction of our daydreaming. Of course, the pleasant ones were much nicer than the scary ones.
As an adult I continued my secret pleasure of daydreaming. For example, when I lived in Toronto, the long winters and the cold weather, the often-dark-for-months skies were the perfect invitation to extended times of daydreaming.
For me, daydreaming is associated with two things (apart from the fact that the dreams are mostly extremely pleasant): walking and cafes.
In Toronto, I walked daily from our house on Manning Avenue to the University of Toronto, where I was a student. These walks were unending experiences of adventures within my own mind: often I dreamed about being in a warm exotic place with someone I loved, or about being a famous writer. Sometimes I would dream about now-obscure philosophers from late Antiquity whom I found endlessly fascinating (and still do). I imagined their lives, their love stories, pondered their philosophical concepts.
The weather being the way it is in Toronto, sometimes I would seek refuge in a cafe. Mind you, I would never go to just any café, as I have always sought that je ne sais quoi conducive to dreaming. This usually meant a beautiful cafe with a special ambiance. I would enter, buy a coffee and muffin, sit and dream, and write in my journal. My journal gave me that wonderful pleasure of being with my own thoughts, which did not have to be put in the form of an academic essay or a short story. This was just the simple and supreme pleasure of playing with thoughts and words without having to conform to the expectations of others: lecturers or editors.
Thinking about it now, I acquired the habit of dreaming and writing in cafes when I lived in Paris, when I was so utterly seduced by that most beautiful of all cities. I had learned there the beautiful art of solitude and writing in a cafe. The French waiters were extremely understanding of my habit and sometimes would ask me about my dreaming and writing and would nod with understanding. It was, in fact, in Paris that I dreamed about studying at a North American University and, about a year or so later I was in Toronto studying at the University of Toronto. In turn, in Toronto, at least some years later, I began dreaming about travelling through southern countries around the world (not an unusual dream for a northerner). Sure enough, some years later I did just that.
It has only recently occurred to me that I do not daydream anymore, or if I do it is not often and not with the same intensity and pleasure. I realise my daydreaming dropped off when I began to meditate daily. Though this was not a conscious decision but rather a natural, if unexpected, outcome.
I also notice that since I have been meditating (it is now about 20 years), I have become more present. My walks now are less about dreamy desires and more about what is beautiful around me. I love Australian trees and birds, and the unusual flowers. I love living by the sea and observing how the colours of the water change, especially on warm days, how high and low tides create little lagoons. And I love to listen to the sound of the ocean.
So I dream less about what is not present in my life now and where I would like to be, and I am more focused on the pleasure of being where I am now. This could be the meditation, as I mentioned, or it could be the fact that I have fulfilled many of my desires and taken a great pleasure in doing so, even if some of this ‘fulfilment’ was extremely turbulent – I also dreamed about that.
Is there a connection between daydreaming and meditation? I think there is. I think that both are ways of connecting with ourselves, of acknowledging our desires, of looking within.
But if daydreaming is a free-flowing stream of images and desires, meditation connects us to something within us even deeper than that. It is another and, dare I say it, more profound dimension of our being that transforms us and takes beyond the limitations of what we know about ourselves. It may even take us to the most exciting questions: What is beyond my desires? What is beyond me?
I still walk a lot, I still carry my journal everywhere, I still spend time drinking coffees in beautiful cafes conducive to my writing. Except that now I ask myself different questions and I write about different things.
I have even begun to believe that perhaps it does not matter whether I become a famous writer or not, as long as I write about the things that are hidden deep within my soul – because I believe that depth is the same for everyone. I hope that we can walk this path together and that some of you would like to read what I write.