DREAMING IN INDIA
Richard A. Russo
On January 3, 1995, over forty people gathered in Pune for "Dreaming in India," an international conference on dreams co-sponsored by ASD and its Indian counterpart, the Indian Association for the Study of Dreams. Joining the majority of participants from India on the lovely grounds of the Tata Management Training Centre were representatives from Germany, South Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, and the U.S., including ASD members Robbie Bosnak and myself.
After inspiring opening addresses by co-directors Bosnak and Anjali Hazarika, and a warm welcome from our host, Dr. Francis Menezes, Director of the Tata Centre, we got down to work. Each day began with small dream groups, during which the cross-cultural aspects of dreamwork quickly became apparent, as we found it necessary for the dreamers to provide some cultural background in order for the group to begin to understand the dreams. I found this had an unexpected benefit; in addition to getting to know my Indian colleagues better, I learned a lot about India as well. Around the dinner table, we had fascinating discussions of Hinduism and Indian culture and politics, but in the small dream groups, cultural information came connected to the concrete experiences and feelings of the dreamer. Instead of describing "Hindu burial practices," it was "In my family, when my father died, this is what I had to do." It wasn't just the Indian participants who needed to provide some cultural context for their dreams; I found it instructive and at times rather daunting to try to explain to my new friends what family life was like in the United States.
The conference theme of "Violence and Non-Violence" kept appearing in the dreams we shared, and was addressed by many of the guest speakers. I was particularly moved by the words of Mr. N.K. Firodia, who knew and worked with Gandhi. When one of the participants told him she'ddreamed of coming to Pune and meeting Gandhi in a setting like the Tata Centre, and asked what he thought Gandhi would have said, he told her to teach others by making a living example of her own life. Each conference day ended with a meeting of all the participants. We shared dreams, discussed what had happened in the workshops, and tried to address issues of violence, non-violence and world peace. It was not easy. Cultural differences, stereotyping, gender issues, and conflicting goals seemed to thwart us at every turn -- but we stuck with it, and when some profound emotional or spiritual truth managed to break through, we fell silent in awe and gratitude and felt an identity with each other that transcended the differences that seemed to divide us. As Bosnak later said, "it was so much easier to communicate in the small groups, but if we are to get to the depths of societal debate, we must learn how to do it in large group settings." The large group was difficult and frustrating and provided some of the most moving moments of the conference. We may not have found the secret of world peace, but I'm convinced a good start would be for world leaders to step away from their entrenched positions and begin sharing their dreams.
In addition to expanding my experience and understanding of dreamwork, "Dreaming in India" introduced me to the incredibly rich and deep culture of India. I carried home memories that I will always treasure, like the scene in one of the film clips we saw when Lord Krishna appears and everyone -- even the cow -- breaks into song; the Saturday night flute concert of Keshav Ghinde; and the exquisite moment when Yogini Gandhi danced the dream of the centipede (which had been shared by one of the participants). I learned powerful meditation techniques for self-transformation through the practice of Yoga Nidra, and experienced the Hindu trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva as stages of the creative cycle in Primula Pandit's clay workshop (and delighted everyone, including myself, when we removed our blindfolds and found I'd unknowingly created a lingam and yoni!). Perhaps my most treasured memory will be rising early each morning to share dreams with my roommate, V.K. Upadhyay, a petrochemical scientist from Agra who helped organize a dreamsharing group amongst his colleagues and has documented over seventy dream-assisted solutions to research problems.
Above all, I learned the meaning of acceptance in India. Both at the conference and while traveling afterward, I found that the best way to deal with the overwhelming experience that is India was to let go of all preconceptions and expectations, to let go of the desire to be in control, to refrain from easy conclusions and interpretations, and instead, to open myself to what was actually happening and try to experience it as fully as possible. Which is, of course, where we start in dreamwork.
Richard Russo is the author of Dreams are Wiser Than Men.
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