Usually, when a dream ends, you wake up. Maybe you feel a jolt and your shoulders rise to your ears, frightening you, or maybe you just gracefully glide from la-la land to reality as if nothing had ever happened. Then, you rub the sockets of your eyes a few times and eventually flutter them open, unable to remember any of it. Game over.
Or, had it just begun?
Morocco, for me, had always been a dream. To see the snakes in the square and smell the orange blossom in the air. The sand of the Sahara, the toothless tea merchants, the plentiful souks, the heaping tagines and the “Here’s looking at you, Kid.”
Could this all actually be?
It wasn’t a country I knew very much about, to be honest, but it beguiled me. It seemed so foreign. So magical. So unlike anything I’d experienced before.
As I sit typing this from a window seat on Royal Air Maroc, soaring high above the tip of Africa to itsEuropean northern neighbor, I can confirm that after 10 days there, it is a living dream; one that lasted long after I woke.
To my surprise, though, I realized I can still see—and travel—pretty clearly with my eyes wide shut, too.
On Monday morning, during the final class of a three-day yoga retreat I took in Casablanca, we spent the first 60 minutes moving from asana to asana while blindfolded.
The night prior, 10 yogis ranging in nationality from Swiss and French to British and Thai sat around a tiled table in a villa by the sea scooping spoonful after spoonful of homemade vegetarian Moroccan dishes. As we were passing the olives and pouring the fresh citron juice (otherwise known as lemonade), Mathieu, our teacher who I know from Paris, said aloud: “Tomorrow’s class will be about frustrations.”
After three intense days of hip-openers, back bends and inversions, each of which conjure up their own emotional energies, I’m not quite sure any of us knew what to expect for ‘frustrations.’
“Maybe balancing poses,” someone guessed. Indeed, those are frustrating for the flat-footed yogis among us, myself included.
But we didn’t discuss it much further, instead letting the mystery linger on our tongues with the lentil soup we’d just been served.
It wasn’t until we all settled in our spots at 8:30 the next morning, and saw Mathieu removing the props we’d gathered to help us with our practice—blocks, water bottles, straps—that we learned of his intention to lead us through a 60-minute flow without the use of our eyes.
Once there were no obstacles around us, we each wrapped brightly colored scarves around our eyes and familiarized ourselves with our mats by feeling around its edges.
Then, we stood up and began with sun salutations.
Downward dog. Chaturanga dandasana. Upward dog. Downward dog again. Warrior One, into Two, into Triangle. High Lunge into Standing Split into Half Moon.
Some were easier than others—in general, or just on the left side as opposed to the right. But the act of moving without seeing; of traveling on our mats (or off, in some instances) with our imagination and the sole knowledge of what we already know—or think we know—was exciting.
There were frustrations, for sure. I couldn’t even get up into Tree pose, the sharp pain in the arch of my foot greater, somehow, without the ability to focus on any one point ahead of me. But the act of practicing blind only heightened use of our other senses—the sound of Mathieu’s instructions; the touch of a neighbor’s foot after accidentally ending up on her mat.
It was to know something real without seeing it. Just like I did in my Moroccan dreams.
Only now, with eyes open experiencing them in person, is to allow the bright blue shutters on the white-walled medina in Essaouira to twinkle; the smell of jasmine in the riad to linger on my clothes once I’ve left it.
Admittedly, it took a bit—especially in Marrakech—to really feel its pull and attraction; to distinguish what I’d conjured thousands of miles away in the comfort of the Western world I know from the foreign one I was now enmeshed in. Tourists seemed to be everywhere and nothing felt authentic. Everything appeared as if it were planted there for those of us who’d dreamed of one day seeing it in person.
But I poked and prodded beyond the snake charmers and drum circles in the massive Jemaa el-Fnaa Square, weaving among the twisty, wind-y souks and behind the kasbah to find the soul of the city. Each day beget another truly real experience:
The man who “didn’t want money” but gladly helped direct us to the tanneries where we got a (very smelly) tour of workers stripping and dipping animal skin for leather. (This was not for the faint-hearted vegetarian among us.)
Or the one who caught us eyeing the Hebrew letters on his artwork prompting him to ask if we were “Juif” before having us sign his “book of visiting Jews.”
Or the dye and textile merchant who wrapped our heads in scarves as if we were princesses of Arabia.
Or the student near the spice market who, again, “didn’t want money” to help us find the tucked-away synagogue.
Or the carpet dealer who spoke perfect English outside the Bahia Palace and was happy to let us come into his shop to gawk at rugs despite having no intention of buying one.
Then, on purpose as opposed to happenstance, we ate with expat restaurateurs changing the Moroccan dining scene; explored the 250-year-old home of an Israeli-Moroccan fashion designer; listened to thousand-year-old fables told in Arabic and learned how to cook in a tagine with preserved lemon. (Stay tuned for more in-depth stories on all those via various publications!)
Back in class, I started to wonder what would happen when I took the blindfold off; whether I’d jolt back into reality or flow more gently now that I’d experienced such fearlessness; such imaginative grace while moving without any distractions or expectations.
Just like any good dream, I was torn between not wanting it to end and wanting to know what would really appear in front of my lids and lashes once they popped open.
What was fact? What was fiction?
What would I remember? What would I forget?
Could the unknown become known?
Are dreams even dreams if you’re not sleeping?
What I discovered on the mat that day, and in those leading up to it, is that frustration breeds stimulation and stimulation happens when dreams are realized.