The Universality of Deep Listening


The following dream is from a long-time friend of mine who knows my work, Integral Deep Listening, but has been neither a student or practitioner of it. In fact, we have in the past had heated debates and agreed to disagree. However, truth is truth, whatever you call it, and it belongs to no one. David’s dream demonstrates that anyone who grows enough will at some point stop projecting their own meanings onto their dreams, others, and life, and start practicing their own version of deep listening. It doesn’t have to be my version, in fact the whole point is to find a path that works best for you as an individual. IDL contains tools and hints, but everyone needs to work out their own path.

Here is David’s dream, followed by some comments. Here’s the link to his full post.


To set the stage, for the past few days I have been dealing with some interpersonal issues that have been emotionally upsetting. Because dealing with emotionally charged interpersonal issues is a universal theme for all of us, I thought some of you might find this dream as interesting — and entertaining — as I did…


In my dream, I am living in a house that is attacked by a tenacious black blob monster. This is the second time it has attacked. It is small, perhaps a foot and a half in length. It is very dark — like a black hole — and has the consistency of tar. It is not sticky, but is very dense. And quick. It is highly mobile, agitated, and able to change shapes very quickly. When I first see it, I notice that it has bitten our family cat and ripped a chunk of flesh off her face, near her mouth. This really upsets me and I quickly grab the blob. I am not afraid of it, and do not feel personally threatened by it. While I am stronger, faster, and smarter, the blob is very fast and very sneaky. I want to stop it, once and for all, from harming anyone or anything, and prevent it from returning. So I grab it and begin ripping, pulling and stretching it. I’m thinking I will be able to kill it if I can pull enough of it a part so that it looses its integrity. But the darn thing pulls itself back together as fast as I pull it a part — and finally manages to slip away. So I turn my attention to figuring out how to stop it from returning.

As I walk through my house, I notice that there are a couple votive candles burning with prayer beads nearby. I’m not sure who placed them there, but I know they have been put there to help ward off the blob. “Hum,” I think to myself, “maybe prayer will do the trick”. Then another idea pops in my mind which seems like it might work even better: garlic! “Yes,” I think to myself, “all monsters hate garlic!” So I decide to make a big batch of garlic juice, put it in a quart-sized jar, and the next time the blob shows up, I will cover it with garlic juice.

That’s when I begin to awaken. But as I wake up, I catch myself: “Wait a minute, why am I fighting this little monster? Before fighting it, why don’t I try to find out what it is, why it came, and why this is happening?”

(Yes, even after four decades of knowing that it is important to befriend monsters, my first knee-jerk response is still to fight them.)

Anyway, after I remember what needs to be done, I imagine the black blob and begin talking with it. I ask it who it is and why it is causing so much trouble. Immediately, I receive the answer that the black blob is a personification of my anger, upset feelings, and frustration. And then a familiar story — the story of two wolves — pops in my brain..”

(to read that story, here’s the link again…)


The two points about David’s dream that are relevant to Integral Deep Listening is that it illustrates a deeper understanding of lucid dreaming as well as a core principle and process of Integral Deep Listening: asking questions of both dream characters and the personifications of waking life issues.

IDL emphasizes lucid living over lucid dreaming. This is because children and criminals can lucid dream; it is an aptitude or line of development, like mathematical ability or memory. Lucid dreaming is not intrinsically a mark of spiritual development. Why not? Your current level of waking development is the vehicle through which you perceive and assess all dreams, lucid or not. That means that if you are exploitative and self-centered and wake up in a dream, you simply colonize your dream experience with more exploitation and self-centeredness. There is nothing about being lucid in a dream that implies or impels you to suddenly, automatically, make better decisions. In fact, if you do your own research and read the many, many accounts by lucid dreamers out there, you will find that what they make of their lucid dreams, both while in them and later when awake, is framed by their current level of waking development. The same is true, by the way, of mystical experiences, including near death experiences. How could it be otherwise? We have to make sense of whatever we experience within the context of our cultural, social, personal, and physiological filters.

Notice that David did not become fully lucid. He did not become aware during the dream that he was dreaming. However, despite this fact, he made a decision about what to do that is superior to the judgment of most lucid dreamers in most lucid dreams. That decision was to stop assuming and to ask questions. This decision reflects a degree of lucidity and awareness that is far more important and valuable than whether or not David was entirely lucid in the dream. What you want to shoot for, according to IDL, is not full lucidity, but for higher quality wakefulness in your daily life, as measured by your ability to recognize and avoid drama, cognitive distortions, and delusions. This is far more important than whether or not you attain lucidity in a dream. If you learn to do these things in your waking life, it will be reflected by superior decision-making in your dreams, as it is in David’s. Another way of saying this is that David’s dream is a validation of the hard work he has done in his waking life to wake up out of drama, cognitive distortions, and delusions.

Asking questions of dream characters is both important and universal. It reflects a willingness to suspend one’s own biases, in a process that has been identified and studied as a phenomenological method. This is a higher order competency, because if you look at how you think, act, and draw conclusions in most dreams, you just assume. You see a monster or out of control fire and assume it’s a threat. You lose your keys and assume you’re incompetent. You fall a long way and assume you are going to die.  Are these assumptions correct? How could you know?

Most dreams are self-validating; you wake up scared, so your fear of the monster or fire was validated. You did lose your dream keys, so clearly you are incompetent or forgetful. You did fall a long way, so of course it was a life-threatening situation. Waking up in a dream mostly allows you to avoid the threat, not understand it. You simply impose your desired outcome on the dream. This is a form of psychological colonialism. With Integral Deep Listening, you are taught to suspend your assumptions and instead ask for more information. What would the monster say? What would the keys say? What would the air that you are falling through say? What would the ground you are about to hit say? What does it say about you and me that we very, very rarely think about asking such perspectives or, if we do, generally dismiss what they say as being worthless projections?

Asking questions instead of jumping to conclusions is a waking hallmark of wisdom – when the questions are not leading with a desired conclusion implied, as those of journalists generally are, – but really are open-ended and based on a spirit of honest enquiry. This is what David did in his dream, and it is the principle on which Integral Deep Listening is based and what it attempts to teach its students.

Whether anyone ever learns about Integral Deep Listening, something like it is part of the future of dream work, because it reflects the future of human development out of a self-centered projection of our waking assumptions, biases, and prejudices, into an open, receptive, and respectful attitude toward the entirety of our experience.

Thank you David, for sharing your wonderful dream. And now, we are all waiting to hear from your new friend, the Blob. Does it have anything else it would like to say to you? Does it have any recommendations to make, so you can test it to see if it is only a stupid delusion or instead pointing you toward the shortest, easiest next steps in your awaki

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