THE BLOG

Change the World in Your Sleep

02/23/2015 11:35 am ET | Updated Apr 24, 2015

What issue scratches for attention in your corner of the world?

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote, "Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach." Also within our reach is an aid to solving those challenges, big or small. When it comes to problem solving, innovation, and new ideas, dreams are our greatest natural resource. Here are two of my favorite examples that prove it.

I collect dream stories to share in my dream workshops (and in this blog), and a few days ago I heard environmentalist, author, and activist Winona LaDuke talk about a dream that reminded me of another famous activist's dream. LaDuke, who lives on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, spoke at a Minneapolis event for Honor the Earth, the organization she co-founded nearly 25 years ago to raise awareness about environmental issues on Native American lands.

The theatre at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis was packed with fans of panelists LaDuke, Eve Ensler, Louise Erdrich, and a Lakota women's health advocate named Patina Clark.

Most of the talk was about the epidemic of sex trafficking that is victimizing Native American girls and women in the man camps of the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana. LaDuke, a Harvard-educated Ojibwe who we soon learned takes her dreams as seriously as her politics (she was Ralph Nader's running mate in 1996 and 2000), also spoke about her efforts in 2014 to block the proposed Sandpiper Oil Pipeline that would transport Bakken crude across northern Minnesota to the Great Lakes.

As LaDuke has said elsewhere, "That amount of oil going across northern Minnesota -- land of 10,000 lakes -- would make this an oil superhighway." That is a problem, because the pipeline builder, Enbridge, has a bad track record for spills.

The idea for a peaceful protest that would draw attention to the hazards of the proposed pipeline came to LaDuke in a recurring dream. "I have a lot of horses," she told us. "I kept dreaming about riding against the current of the oil. Riding against an oil pipeline."

At first, she explained, she thought the dreams were about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that the Lakota were protesting in North and South Dakota. She visited some of her Lakota friends to tell them about the dreams. "'Those are good dreams, Winona,' they told me."

Back home, she waited for her friends to call to get help in organizing a ride against the pipeline, "but those Lakota didn't call." Then it struck her that she had her own prospective pipeline to deal with in northern Minnesota. "My dreams were telling me to ride against the Sandpiper pipeline," she said, "and as soon as I realized that the Lakota called me and they and a lot of others got together to organize the ride."

Held last August, LaDuke's new campaign, "Love Water Not Oil," covered 200 miles across the Mille Lacs and White Earth Reservations, the heart of wild rice territory that would be impacted by the pipeline. Along the way, the riders held tour stops to bring communities together for concerts and to share stories about the land.

Mahatma Gandhi also received specific instructions for activist action in a dream. As Deirdre Barrett writes in The Committee of Sleep, Gandhi was disturbed by the Rowlatt Acts passed in 1919 by the legislature of British India. Designed to inhibit protests, the laws infuriated Gandhi and many of his country people. The laws passed on March 21, and that night Gandhi had a dream that changed, well, everything.

Gandhi dreamed that he should ask the nation to observe a general hunger strike in protest. He made his plea in newspapers throughout the country, asking everyone to close their businesses and make April 6th a day of fasting and prayer. People everywhere responded, and that dream-inspired protest launched a three-decade campaign of nonviolent protest that led to India's independence in 1947.

LaDuke and Gandhi's dreams of action tell us that our minds do not stop working when we sleep, but in fact tune in to deep wells of creativity. We are wise to listen to our dreams for real-world advice on how to make a difference in the places within our reach.

Antonia Felix, MA, MFA, is a bestselling author, educator, and creator of "Deep Knowing: A Dream Workshop." She is an adjunct professor at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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