Pop Ups and the Destiny Strand of Things (or How to Be Fully in the Dream We’re Actually In)

Pop ups are images that specifically try to get our attention. I call them “pop ups” because of their activity—because they try to pull the dreamer’s focus—and because I don’t know what else to call them. Due to those pesky online ads that won’t leave us alone, however, some folks find a degree of difficulty getting past the name “pop ups.” So go ahead and call them what you will; the point is to notice what they’re doing.  

Pop ups (or whatever name you settle on) are everywhere and are actually very easy to spot/see/feel once you know what you’re looking for.


In long dreams, all sorts of pop ups may occur, whereas in short dreams the entire dream is rather like a pop up.

The Dreamtime, I contend, is trying to teach dreamers that images—both waking and dreaming—are trying to get our attention.

By noticing pop ups we develop our noticing capacities.



Developing our noticing capacities helps us to stay present to what I call “the dream we’re actually in.”  

With patience and practice, staying present to the dream we’re actually in develops our powers of attention to the point of being able to notice what’s coming into being now, and now, and now . . . .


The shiny quality of pop-ups has to do with trying to get dreamers attention, with trying to get dreamers to notice them. 

This has everything to do with the light of the images’ being, the light of pop ups and is similar, therefore, to the way that certain people have a lot of light in their being, so long as “light” is not imagined literally.

Pop-ups reveal the matrix of the dream, and of the world.  Paying attention to pop ups therefore gives us a kind of map of things and, at the same time, help us to navigate.

Try not to let yourself become too distracted by the content of pop-up images; focusing too much attention on the content of images takes us down the rabbit hole and away from the activity of dreams. It seems that what pop-ups want, almost exclusively, is that we notice the activity of “popping up,” which reminds me of that line from one of Rumi’s poem:


The miracle of Jesus is himself,

not what he said or did

about the future.


Forget the future.  


I’d worship someone

who could do that.


Somewhat surprisingly, pop ups are not personal.  In other words, it turns out that pop ups objectively pop up.This is nevermore dramatically revealed than when tending dreams in groups. Everyone listening to a particular dream will notice precisely the same pop ups. If we allow this revelation to fully penetrate, the implications are utterly STAGGERING.

Pop-ups, like all images, are entirely dependent on our attention—which is the activity of tending the images, of caring for them and the presences behind them.


Tending dreams means that when images are entrusted to our care we agree to look after them.  

Sometimes these images are given to us directly (in both our own sleeping and waking-world dreams) and sometimes dreamers offer them into our tender care and attention.  

If we imagine, as I am suggesting, that everything is dreaming all the time, then part of the task of being human is noticing pop-ups.



The adherence to a psychological past is completely dead—the only living aspect, with regard to looking back over our shoulder to the past, has to do with pop-ups.


Pop ups try to get our attention in order to orient us toward the destiny, coming-into-being, strand of things.

Sometimes things get doubled up in obvious ways (two birds, twins, etc.) and sometimes the action of the dream gets doubled up.  Even more rarely, is when what the dream is doing gets doubled up. All of this doubling up is, I suggest, for emphasis, so that we might notice and pay particular attention.

When anything gets doubled up in the dreamtime it is specifically trying to get our attention. 





Recurring dreams are pop-up images that try to get our attention in insistent, almost nagging ways, as though they simply refuse to take no for an answer.  


If images are indeed alive and trying to get our attention, isn’t it because the entire created world is seeking our ongoing, creative participation? By their very nature then, pop ups, seem to be trying to let us in on this open secret. I suggest, therefore, that it’s not what we do about pop-ups but rather with them, how we tend them, that matters. And it’s this central, ongoing, essential activity that makes up the art and practice of dream-centered living (which is why it’s also the subtitle to my book: Icons of a Dreaming Heart.

In the coming days, I plan to post some illustrative examples of pop ups from both sleeping and waking-world dreams. Until then, my friends, sweet dreams!

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments regarding pops up, please don’t hesitate to send them along. As always, I’d love to hear from you.  


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