Jane Carlin never used to dream. At least, not that she could remember.
Then someone suggested she ask God for help. Raised in an agnostic home, the idea of asking “God” for such a thing seemed absurd, but one night, she decided to give it a shot.
“If you’re up there,” she asked, laughing, “and I kind of doubt that you are, will you please wake me up when I have a dream?”
She woke up about five times that night.
The pattern continued over the next few evenings until she made another plea: “OK God, I am thoroughly convinced that you exist in some form or another. I am so exhausted, so please do not wake me up.”
She slept soundly through the night.
In her 20s at the time, the experience marked the beginning of a new passion: dream interpretation. Now 64, the retired flight attendant has spent decades researching dreams and helping people interpret their meanings.
In Fresno, she has taught at the invitation of the Fresno/Sierra Center of Eckankar, a nonprofit religious organization that believes each person has a unique and natural relationship with the divine, but doesn’t consider itself an orthodox religion. The Northridge woman will be teaching her next Fresno class in April with Rikk Hansen of North Fork.
To them, understanding dreams is ultimately just one important way of receiving messages from the divine.
During our interview, I wonder whether I’m brave enough to let them interpret one of my dreams, but before I can ask, they put my fears aside. Dream interpretation is complicated and personal, they say, and not something they want to do over the phone. Symbols mean different things to different people. Their goal is to help people get a better grasp on how to do this interpreting for themselves.
While we don’t have a dream-interpretation session, I do learn that perhaps my subconscious knows my waking self can’t handle what it needs to tell me. I confide that my dreams are often unusual, with things I normally don’t see in everyday life.
“The subconscious mind kind of works like an overprotective mother,” Carlin explains. “ ‘Oh, you’re not going to tell Jane that! That is going to overturn the apple cart!’ ”
So dreams like to tell us things in roundabout ways. Carlin and Hansen are all about decoding the hidden messages.
But there are some universal symbols, which typically mean the same thing for everyone, they say, such as falling. Carlin says that’s often the awareness of the conscious self coming back into the physical body.
Dreams can help in different ways.
“They show me facets of myself I am unaware of,” Carlin says. “They show me places where I’m lacking oftentimes, and they give me guidance out of the gullies and the trenches of life into a more productive way of living.”
Carlin once had a dream of a deceased family member, which helped her through immense grief.
“The message to me was, ‘I’m OK, but I’m moving into the next chapter of my existence, and you need to do the same.’ ”
And there have been more lighthearted messages, like when she dreamed she was at a costume party dressed as a stalk of asparagus.
“I woke up laughing. It made me realize, ‘Jane, you don’t eat enough vegetables.’ ”
Hansen once had a dream that gave him an overwhelming sense that “a big change is coming, and it’s positive.” Later that morning, he was laid off from work. His dream made it easier.
The 57-year-old now works as a coach for people making a big career change.
Carlin’s dream interpretation classes are rooted in teachings found within “The Art of Spiritual Dreaming” by Harold Klemp, spiritual leader of Eckankar. She realizes dream interpretation is not a science, and she likes it that way.
“I know in my heart that this is really real.”
The insight she has gathered from dreams has been positive, and that’s what counts.
“There’s a strength that comes from this knowingness. It grounds you. You have this inner guide that you are really strongly connected to, and no one can take that from you.”
Dream interpretation discussion and class
Rikk Hansen is leading a “Spiritual Wisdom on Dreams” book interpretation discussion at 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, at the Holiday Inn Express, 7115 N. Howard St., Fresno. Hansen and Jane Carlin will lead a free workshop on dreams from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 9, at the Woodward Park Library, 944 E. Perrin Ave., Fresno.