23 May 2018

Daydreaming is such a wonderful distraction for us as human beings. In our busy lives we often avoid such trivial behaviour or label it as unproductive and not worthy of a mature approach to life.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we find Joseph daydreaming as he ponders the news that Mary is pregnant. We are told that, ‘while he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream’. If God used day-dreaming as the method to reveal his plan to Joseph, surely there it’s a practice that is valuable to people, even in the modern day.

Young people spend much of their time daydreaming. They think about their future, their hopes, their desire to be somewhere else or to be doing something else, working out what they hold true and how they view the world.

Our culture transitions this behaviour from a young age so that it ‘fits’ various frameworks that provide an outcome that is considered useful. As a society we assign a value to thinking. If it’s not quantifiable, it’s considered worthless. Of course such practices are useful and necessary in their own way. We have to harness our thoughts to be able to concentrate and respond to specific needs in our lives. But very often this the only model of thinking we encourage. This is such a shame.

Unstructured deep thinking was something that was important to humans for many thousands of years. It helps us develop new and creative solutions, better ways to interact with one another and awareness of what is real.

St Ignatius was a dreamer. When he was a young man, he was injured in a battle at Pamplona and spent many months recovering. He spent much of this time daydreaming. Ignatius noted that ‘thoughts and ideas used to come over him’. Rather than dismiss them he followed them and explored the course these ponderings took.

His ponderings had no predetermined outcome or reason as such. He simply allowed thoughts to enter his consciousness and moved along with them, exploring what came from these experiences. From such moments he became clear about a new way of life and a different outlook that moved him deeply and offered him consolation.

Daydreaming is the opposite of mediation. In meditation the intention is to moving away from thought or consciously letting thoughts move aside so that the meditator might find what is revealed. When one daydreams they allow themselves to be distracted and go with the thought. Like sitting beside a river and watching what goes by and allowing your mind to be distracted or captured by something that is passing by rather than letting it float by as meditation would promote.

Daydreaming allows us to be curious. When we daydream we enter into petite abstraction—little preoccupations. There is no framework required or style to follow. When we daydream we are guided only by our thoughts, in doing so we go deeper and deeper and with great curiosity we explore ideas that might never have come to us before.

God moves within our hearts and the Holy Spirit guides us as we complete our life’s pilgrimage. Daydreaming is purely human, whole and life-giving. We shouldn’t dismiss unguided as juvenile or less worthy of our time. Following the track of our minds opens up new ways for God to communicate with us, and can open up new pathways for us to follow. The dreamers are those who experience true freedom.

Brendan Nicholls is the liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius, Geelong.
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