“Though we seem to be sleeping, there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are.” J. Rumi (translated by C. Barks)
We all dream every night as we pass in and out of our REM cycles, but usually remember only the one or two dreams that we have just before waking. (Animals dream too, by the way – just watch your cat or dog at sleep, chasing those dream birds or bunnies as they twitch and make sounds). Recently at a dream workshop I was conducting, a participant complained that her problem was that she was flooded by dreams; commonly remembering four to six dreams every night: she couldn’t keep up with the volume. They weren’t necessarily nightmares, just dream overdrive, but leaving her exhausted when she woke up. Other members responded, “I wish I had your problem- I can barely remember any”.
The latter seems to be the more common complaint — the poverty of dream recall; but the converse — the plague of too much recall — is also a dilemma. The rest of this post will look at ways to either enhance recall or to contain the deluge when the problem is dream overdrive.
Better dream recall
Dream drought? Can’t remember a dream to save your life? Try these suggestions:
- First and foremost don’t expect that you will be able to recall a dream if you haven’t written it down or recorded it some way. Dreams have the substance of mist or wisps of smoke: they need to be solidified in writing or recorded orally to gain enough substance in the waking world. So get a journal and keep it by your bedside. It could be a beautiful fanciful one, or a simple spiral notebook – your choice. Be sure to have a pen on hand as well.
- Learn to recognize a dream when you have one! This may sound obvious, but many dreams are not long narratives with a clear story line. One line remembered from sleep is a dream. One phrase counts. So does a single word. Don’t dismiss these dream fragments – often they contain the essence of the message your dream mind is sending you in a crisp “readers digest” format. In addition, the productions of our mind from the in between zones of waking and sleeping- the hypnopompic and the hypnogogic zones, where we are not quite awake nor quite asleep – these are dreams too.
- Dreams do not come only in words. If you wake with a feeling state that is not explained by your immediate environment – that is what you are recalling from your dream. Wake inexplicably happy? That is your dream. Wake feeling anxious for no apparent reason? That too is your dream. Have an image or a picture? – that is your dream too. Record these.
- Your body may remember your dream even if your mind doesn’t. This is called positional memory. Put your body back in the position it was in when you dreamt- that is, if you sleep lying on your left side with your knees tucked up, do that now. Often the dream will float right back into your brain as your body accesses this body memory of it.
- Imagine wrapping yourself up in your dream. Reach your arms out, grab the ends of your imaginary dream shawl or dream tallit, and wrap them around you as you close your eyes. Your dream may be close at hand.
- Before going to sleep at night, set your intention to have a dream, and to remember it and to be able to write it down. Write that sentence in your dream journal just before going to sleep. This is called dream incubation. Once you have primed the pump and have started remembering, you can also use this technique to ask for help and guidance on specific issues or dilemmas.
Dream deluge? Feeling flooded by too many dreams? Try these:
- Use your dream journal to set an intention to only allow the dreams of highest priority into your conscious mind, and to filter out anything else. Incubate something like “I will remember only the essence of the dream that is in my highest good and best interest.”
- Hang a Native American dream catcher near your bed. The blessing story that goes with these is that the dream catcher snares any upsetting dreams or nightmares in it’s threads, and the narrow hole in the center allows only positive dreams to come through. You can also infuse it to snare an over-abundance of dreams.
- Surround yourself and/or your bed and/or your room with a bubble of light for protection, safety, and good boundaries. Find the color(s) that are just right for your purpose.
- Imagine closing a door in your mind before going to sleep; this door is to the portal between the waking world and the dreaming world. You can also add a phrase such as “I close the door to unwanted intrusions in the night”.
- Say the word “No” strongly, perhaps even out loud, to your dream muse. Be firm and clear that you are setting a limit and boundary.
- Before going to sleep, decide if you would like a dream to come through. Then write a sentence or two about the issue or topic you would like guidance on; and end the writing with a seal (“chatimah” in Hebrew) such as “may it be so”, or “just this and no more”
May your dreams be right-sized.
Dreaming is a healing process…a vital means by which we bind up our wounded spirits and rekindle our hopes for the future.” (Kelly Buckeley)
Last year the Boston area held the world in horrified thrall during the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon. Stories have appeared in the news media off and on all year about the healing and recovery of the survivors, and stories of courage and selflessness of responders. Many are planning to run or cheer on this year in honor of those who were killed or affected by the bombing and it’s aftermath. As a Watertown resident, I have walked the streets less than a mile from my home where the suspect was finally recovered. Scenes of the bombing on Boylston St., of the responders and victims that day, the lock down in many towns, the images of SWAT teams patrolling the quiet neighborhood and banging on doors, to the final recovery of the second bomber under the boat- these images have been engraved in many of our memories. For some, they have shown up as persisting nightmares in various literal or symbolic forms over the past year. While the distress has abated for most as the year unfolded and life returned to the new normal, as the first anniversary approaches the city and our psyches are revisiting that time, and we can hope to use the anniversary to mark healing and courage and our unwillingness to be bowed down to the false gods of violence and terror.
Kelley Buckeley (Dreams of Healing, 2003) tells us that we make meaning out of tragedies publicly when people build monuments (think 9/11 or the Vietnam Memorial) or set up spontaneous memorials (think piles of running shoes and flowers on Boylston Ave.). Inter-personally, we have conversations and prayer circles, and internally people dream dreams. Our dreams can guide us in the direction of hope and healing; our job becomes to pay attention to them, and to direct them toward resolution and wholeness of being.
Our dreams can be both landmarks of our internal process when “bad things happen to good people”, (to quote Kushner), and a source of healing and solace as we attend to them and use their generative powers to move forward: to creating meaning out of chaos, hope out of despair, and a forward-moving life force out of the depths of darkness and sorrow. A hallmark of a therapeutic modality called AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy) has as some of its tenants that we are all wired for growth, that we all have the capacity to experience joy and delight, and that nothing that feels bad is ever the last step. I love these philosophies! It reminds me of what the proprietor of the hotel in the movie “The Exotic Marigold Hotel” also tells us (in his lovely Indian accent): “Everything will work out in the end. And if it hasn’t worked out, then it isn’t the end yet.”
Post-traumatic nightmares can actually be a sign of a vigorous life force that is pushing forward to bring in potential allies of deep powerful inner strength and resilience that need to be brought forward into consciousness. Dreaming in and of itself is a healing process- it is one of our system’s ways of digesting and processing information. (With the legacy of trauma, the body/mind adage “what isn’t sufficiently metabolized can become metastasized” can have great meaning).
Dreams that follow a crises do not aim to simply return the dreamer to the status quo, rather they aim to develop a whole new understanding of the self and the world that encompasses the trauma, and help the dreamer to rise out of the ashes of their broken self to find new hope, structure, and meaning for their world. (Buckeley) Dreams are one of our most powerful sources of meaning making.
Buckeley continues, “Nightmares are more like a vaccine than a poison.” This understanding follows the homeopathic principle of that a minute dose of a negative substance inoculates us to the disease or distress. Our dreaming selves are struggling to deal with the psychological distress and spirit anguish caused by traumatic events. “…Although dreamsharing by itself does not cure a disease, it does have the power of enhancing conscious awareness of both our deepest fears and our greatest strengths… At times of great suffering and vulnerability, this kind of enhanced self awareness can have a deeply re-vitalizing effect.”
We can assist our dreaming selves in this healing process, whether the nightmarish distress is from trauma, loss, illness or parts unknown. We can incubate dreams at night before going to sleep; spending a few moments quietly tuning in, then writing in our dream journal our desire for our dream guide to send us healing dreams in the service of our highest good and best interests. We can be general or specific, depending on what we already know about our nightmares or our day distress. We can orient ourselves, as recommended by the Talmud, to find the gift in every dream. We can hold the expectation that if it hasn’t worked out, that it is not the end yet. And you are all invited to participate in a day retreat workshop on Sunday May 4th on “Dreams of Healing: Dreamwork and Transformation” where we will learn dreamwork principles, journey together, and find our way in the nearby woods for a short waking dream journey. Click here to find the link to the flier for registration.
May we all dream together of inner and outer worlds of peace
“May morning be astir with the harvest of night…”
A few weeks ago we spoke (read?) about using the resource of our dreams to enhance our creative process. In this post, I’d like to expand on some of the ideas from last time, and provide some “how-to’s” to work with several methods.
Let’s start with story. Our dreams usually come though with some kind of story line. It may be a very short story of a sentence or two, or at times a full-length narrative. We can examine our dream story both for it’s personal meaning (for healing, problem solving, spiritual questing, etc.) but also as a story in and of it’s own right. What is the major plot? The dynamic tensions between the characters? The sources of conflict, and how/if they are resolved? Is there an inner or outer journey involved? These types of questions and use of other literary devices can both provide the basis to turn our dream story into art, and to re-create the story of our own lives as metaphor or road map.
By re-writing our dream story: re-structuring dialogues between characters, resolving tensions in the dream, adding in resources our dream characters need right within the dream story itself, we can create new and more satisfying endings. Instead of turning left at the crossroads in the dream, what would happen if we turned right instead? Instead of drowning when the ship capsized, what would happen if we were able to call our dolphin allies at that moment to carry us to safety? These new journeys can then become part of our new life story, and/or the basis for our art forms. We remember that the Gestalt perspective on dreams tells us that everything in the dream is an aspect of ourselves, so when we make shifts in our dream story, we are making shifts in our self-story simultaneously.
Rabinowe states (in IASD’s Dreamtime, Winter 2006), that “Each dream is a microcosm, a living network of interacting images. Each dream holds a simultaneous reflection of the body, the soul, the waking life and the unconscious that can be understood on multiple levels. Out of this realm of mystery and paradox, a wellspring of inspiration (can) open up…”
The most important indicator of the meaning of our dreams are the emotions felt within and just following the dream. The emotional resonance of the dream within the context of our own life provide the core of meaning that makes this “My Dream”, as opposed to “Anyone’s Dream” (i.e. Green St. is the street I grew up on, Mary Smith was my college roommate, Snowball is the name of my cat who died last week). You may have associations to the word Snowball such as cold, wet, fun, messy, etc., but if my strongest association is to my beloved cat and loss, that is the core of meaning for my dream. And if people dream about a ship going out to sea, one may feel hopeful and excited, another may feel anxious and distress, and a third may feel seasick- each of which provide a different meaning to the core image.
What happens then when we work with the core emotional dream state- can we play with shifting or changing or enhancing it? What if we re-write our dream changing the core emotion from anxious to anticipatory – that slight shift can open up whole new worlds for us. What then happens to our musical composition, or our dance piece- or our lives- if we play out a different emotional tone? What if we changed the setting; and instead of having the ship go out to sea from Boston harbor, it left from Hawaii? Or we replayed the dream scene as if we were feeling hopeful, instead of despairing- what would happen then?
We feel emotions in our body- that is why they are called “feelings”- because we feel them. What happens when we tune in to our physical response to the dream- what do we notice? Where in our body to we have the sensation, and what does it feel like? (i.e. jumpy, peaceful, tight, hard, soft, warm, tingly?) How does tuning in to our emotions and sensations in the dreams inform our poetry, our dance, the characters lives in our novel, the decision we have to make about that project at work? Dance these emotions in your body, act out these sensations; let them move through you physically; when you embody the emotion you discover new dimensions of it. Engage your friends, your family, your dream circle to act out a scene from your dream.
We had great fun one time with one of my members ubiquitous toilet dreams, as she gave us roles of being the toilet bowl itself, the pipes, the water flushing, the sticky handle…and then we added some WD40 to make the handle flush more smoothly and invited a plumber into the dream to clean the pipes out. Each person then spoke from the perspective of what they were representing- the voice of the toilet bowl, the voice of the handle, the voice of the new plumber, etc. The dream flowed much more smoothly after we acted it out and added in things that the dream seemed to need! (Those who are interested in this kind of body/mind work can look up related links on Focusing, Somatic Experiencing, Sensory-motor Psychotherapy, and psychodrama).
The images of our dreams provide perhaps the richest source of visual arts. Draw the images; paint them, collect found objects that call to you while focusing on your dream, and then make a collage or shadow box of them. Go out to find found objects to create a scene from your dream; find different objects to represent different characters, locations, emotions. (a yellow or crumbling fall leave to represent the passage of time, a stick stuck in the ground to represent feeling stuck, a smooth stone to represent calm peaceful feelings, a spray of bittersweet to represent your parents, shells, tree bark, flowers, feathers, twine, bottle caps, whatever your neighborhood provides) …let yourself be surprised. Rabinowe reminds us that the most important aspect of translating a dream with found objects is the serendipity of what you find. Sit and contemplate what you have created. Then feel free to write, draw, create a dialogue between the objects representing the characters, or emotions, or landscapes in the dream; speak with the voice of one of the objects you have chosen. Let the images you have chosen speak to you from this visual form to provide a new dimension to your dream and your creative process. And most of all- enjoy the process and the delight of the dream and creation.
“There is much to be learned at both sides of the threshold.”
Creativity. First of all, we need to have enough of our own juice in supply to be able to create something else. If our well is dry, we can’t get water from it. It took me several vacation weeks and enough solitude this summer to resupply my well. Our wellspring can dry out for many reasons: overwork, stress, worry, illness, lack of sleep, lack of meaningful deep sleep, and simply the too much-ness of our plugged in everyday lives. It is a chronic modern problem. In the “old days”, before electricity (to say nothing of computers) we would naturally wind down as darkness fell and settle into our first sleep . Our “first sleep” of the night lasted for a few hours, followed by a normal nocturnal wakeful period. Here inside the deep early morning silence we could think, muse, easily remember our dreams. We would rest in this soft fertile space until we naturally nodded off again in our second sleep till morning light: this was the norm for pre-industrial society.
I must admit, I was relieved when I learned this, and don’t reach for the Tylenol p.m. so quickly now when I wake at 3:00 a.m. I highly recommend the book “World Enough and Time: On Slowing Down and Creativity” by Christina McEwen where I discovered this tidbit. It is so beautifully written that I devoured it quickly on the first read; and then followed the directive of the title for a second slow and savory read.
What resources do our dreams have for us in our creative lives? Countless authors, musicians, scientists etc. have credited their dreams with providing the answers to previously unsolved questions about the project they were working on. The phrase “let me sleep on it” has real value. While we are asleep, our brain function is different than when we are awake: during sleep our left analytical brain goes off-line, and our right brain imaging and creative centers go more on-line. We thus have more access to thinking outside the box while asleep, and can dream up options that we would not have considered while awake. In addition, as I am sure every dreamer knows, we frequently do outrageous things in our dreams that we would not “dream of” doing in our waking lives. Thankfully, our internal censor is asleep as well, so we can try out things that our waking superego may have not allowed.
To use our dreams as a creative resource, we first have to remember them. I encourage readers to review my blogs of April and May 2012 for several chapters on remembering, recording, and incubating dreams with a purpose in mind.
The clearer the question we ask and write down as we prepare to sleep and dream, the greater the likelihood that we will receive a reply from the dream universe that is clear to us and needs less decoding to understand. If, for example you are stuck on writing that next chapter in you book, don’t simply ask to “get unstuck”. Be specific: i.e., ask for inspiration on “what do the characters of Jamie and Claire need next for the part of the story about passing through the Standing Stones, in order to make sense of time travel in the context of their relationship through time and space”? (fans of the Outlander series will know who I am referring to!) That clear. Or “What shades of blue do I need next for my palate to make the water shimmer in my painting?”
We can tap into our creative source from at least three primary aspects of the actual dream material: the narrative story line of the dream itself, the emotions and sensations we experience in the dream, and the images and pictures it brings to us. These three elements can include both what happened in the dream as well as what you thought/experienced/saw in the pre-dream preparation and the post-dream continuation of the dream journey.
Other sources of creativity from dreams may come from:
1.) Associations to place; the topography or landscape or a feature the landscape of the dream
2.) A particular character or the interactions between characters
3.) A color or colors that catch your attention
4.) What you title the dream
5.) What happens when you re-enter and move around inside the dream
6.) The aha’s or insights you get from the work on it
7.) Perhaps most importantly for the creative aspect of our dreams, the action plan you use to move your answers out into the world based on that dream work.
Victoria Rabinow, artist and dreamworker in Santa Fe says “…dreams have a voice and presence of their own…my role is to create a space in which (we) can enter the living experience of (our) own dreams.” In addition to writing them down, we can embody our dreams, draw or paint them, act them out, dialogue with them, dance them…More on these ways of dream working next time…
“Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” -Vaclev Havel
We are getting close to the night we will plan to dream together to end gun violence, improve mental health care, and work together to dream the world we want into being. If you haven’t bookmarked your calendar yet, please do so for the night of January 20, the eve of Martin Luther King day, (not co-incidentally the day of our next presidential inauguration!) If you haven’t read the call to action from the previous blog post of 12/31/12, please read it to review the dream action plan. So simple, you can do it in your sleep! Remember to incubate the dreams by setting your intention. For a more complete discussion of incubating dreams, see the blog post of May 14, 2012, entitled “The Ancient Practice of Dream Incubation”. The posts of April 29 and May 8 will give you more tips for remembering your dreams. And if you want to continue to receive posts, sign up on the blog page on the right margin under the archives and categories sections where it says “subscribe to this blog” (and you can also send me your email address to be added to a mailing list).
For those of you who would like to read more about this idea dreaming the world we want into being, here is an excerpt from Alberto Villodo’s book “Courageous Dreaming: How Shaman’s Dream the World Into Being” (Hay House, 2008): (heads up that it is a bit long, but in re-reading it several times, I didn’t see how I could shorten it any more and keep the poetry intact. So, skim quickly, or read slowly, or save for later, depending on your energy right now)
“…Whether you realize it or not, we are all dreaming the world into being…. As soon as you awaken to your power to dream, you begin to flex the muscles of your courage. Then you can dream bravely: letting go of your limiting beliefs and pushing past your fears. You can begin to create truly original dreams that germinate in your soul and bear fruit in your life.
Courageous dreaming allows you to create from the source, the quantum soup of the universe where everything exists in a latent or potential state. Physicists understand that in the quantum world of the universe’s smallest elemental parts, nothing is “real” until it is observed. But quantum events do not occur in the laboratory only. They also happen inside our brain, on this page, and everywhere around us. When you observe any part of this dream, the great matrix of energy, you can change reality and alter the entire dream.
Modern physics is describing what the ancient wisdom keepers of the Americas have long known. These shamans, known as the Earthkeepers, say that we are dreaming the world into being through the very act of witnessing it. Scientists believe that we are only able to do this in the very small, subatomic world. Shamans understand that we also dream the larger world that we experience with our senses…
…The dreamtime, the creative matrix, does not exist in a place outside of us. Rather, it infuses all matter and energy, connecting every creature, every rock, every star, and every ray of light or bit of cosmic dust. The power to dream is the power to participate in creation itself…
…Shamans of the Andes and the Amazon believe that we can only access the power of this force by raising our level of consciousness. When we do so, we become aware that we’re like a drop of water in a vast, divine ocean, distinct yet immersed in something much larger than ourselves. It’s only when we experience our connection to infinity that we’re able to dream powerfully. In fact, it’s our sense of separation from infinity that makes us become trapped in a nightmare in the first place. To end the nightmare, to reclaim our power of dreaming reality and craft a better reality, we need to have a visceral understanding of our dreaming power in every cell of our body and stop feeling disassociated and disconnected…It takes courage to taste infinity.
The Earthkeepers believe that the world is real, but only because we are dreaming it into being. When we lack courage, we have to settle for the world that is being dreamed by our culture or by our genes — the nightmare. To dream courageously and be empowered, you must be willing to use your heart and make a conscious decision to dream a sacred dream of joy, peace, glory and having the life you want…”
Hope to read your dreamings here next week.
Our hearts go out to the victims at Newtown, and all the other victims of gun violence. In addition to signing petitions, showing up, and contributing funds, we as dreamers can contribute in a special way. We can work to dream the world we want to see into being by actively incubating dreams. There is a long history and precedence for this: the aboriginals of Australia believe that this is how the world came into being in the first place- the ancestors dreamed it into being, and by following the ancestral song lines in the desert each clan can follow their particular totem animal’s dream. Shamans and healers from all cultures believe in the generative and creative power of dreams. Group dreams are all the more powerful.
My Thursday Dream Circle (thank you Starr, Mia, Joy, Joyce, Barbara, Ruth) suggested that we could together send our collective dream energies toward ending gun violence, establishing better gun control, getting better mental health services; in short, whatever it takes to avoid the senseless tragedies we have been pummeled with in the last several decades. As many of you saw in the Boston Globe, these random shootings seemed to happen once every few years during the 60’s and 70’s, and more and more frequently through the 80’s and 90’s, several times a year in the early part of this 21st century, and already 3 times just since this summer in 2012!
Tzivia Glover manages a blog called 350 dreamers, which practices synchronized global dreaming for the purpose of healing the planet. She writes that the goal of her blog is:
1. A belief in the power of dreams
2. Belief in the beauty of community and communal action and
3. A commitment to healing on all levels from personal to planetary.
It occurs to me that we too could dream a version of this, and dedicate one night to specifically incubate dreams toward the healing of gun violence in our culture. A timely and reasonable date seemed to be in honor of Martin Luther King Day: January 21, 2013. After all, he said, “I have a dream…” that we will all be able to live together in peace and harmony; without violence.
John Lennon said it “…Imagine all the people, living for today…nothing to kill or die for…imagine all the people living in peace…You might say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”
Theodore Herzl said it: “If you will it, it is no dream”.
And finally, Rodgers and Hammerstein said it in South Pacific:
“You’ve got to have a dream,
If you don’t have a dream,
How you goin’ to make a dream come true?”
(From “Happy Talk”, South Pacific).
So: A call to dream action for all dreamers: It’s easy to do. Incubate a dream on the night of January 20 in which you ask your dream guide to send you a dream for healing from gun violence. Write this intention (your kavanah, in Hebrew) as clearly and succinctly as you would like. Spend anywhere from just one or several minutes on your statement of intention. You can be specific if you like: i.e. dreaming to have President Obama and Congress pass assault ban rifle laws, or doubling the funding for mental heath services, or passing stringent background ckecks; or even to have the NRA see the light and forbid anything but carefully supervsied hunting rifles! Or be general, or creative, or spritiual- whatever suits your style the best. Keep your dream journal close at hand to jot down the dream(s) you receive that night or on the morning of the 21st. Post any dreams here on this blog site in the reply section (along with what you incubated if you want); and we can see together the energy we create. Please pass this on to anyone who you think would like to join us.
May we live together in peace.
P.S. And who remembers this! :
Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream
words and music by Ed McCurdy (often sung by Simon and Garfunkal)
Last night I had the strangest dream
I’d ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
Filled with women and men
And the paper they were signing said
They’d never fight again
And when the paper was all signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful pray’rs were prayed
And the people in the streets below
Were dancing ’round and ’round
While swords and guns and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground
Last night I had the strangest dream
I’d never dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.
TRO-©1950,1951 & 1955 Almanac Music, Inc.
New York, N.Y. Copyrights renewed
Used by permission
The Temple of Asclepius
“Dreams are answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.” ~X-Files
The Ancient Practice of Dream Incubation:
In ancient Greece, the Dream was honored as a resource and physician’s guide for healing all manner of illness, both physical and spiritual. The Greek god of medicine and healing, Asclepius, would oft-times give a “prescription” for his patients to go to sleep in the sacred dream temples in order to have a healing dream. When they got there, the patients would ritually cleanse and purify themselves, set a healing intention about which they would like to receive the dream wisdom, and then sleep the night there, often in the company of many others who were also seeking a healing. Then at night, the temple priest or priestess would set loose small non-venomous snakes among the supplicants, which then would slither about and were thought to whisper the healing dreams into the ear of the sleepers. In the morning, if the supplicant had a dream, the priestess would help the to interpret it.
Nowadays, snakes are generally no longer part of the prescription (lucky for us!). But the rest of the ritual can be easily adapted in the privacy of your own bedroom. The core of the practice is to spend a few quiet moments before going to sleep to write down the question, the dilemma, or the issue that you would like some guidance on. You can have your own personal “Q and A” with your dream guides. Spend a few minutes, or more; but try to end with as specific a question as possible. The more specific your question, the easier it will be to see how it is answered in the dream. If you want, you can also spend a little time cleansing yourself or your room to prepare a sacred space. A salt water bath, or lighting a candle or incense can help to clear the psychic space for answers to come through. If all goes as planned, you get free dream therapy every night! You can get your dreams to work for you with these simple steps. Then, when you awake, write down the dream on the same page as your question, so even if it is not clear to you right away how your question is answered in the dream, you can easily go back and remember what you were asking.
My most powerful experience with incubating a dream was when we were getting ready to adopt our daughter from China. When we originally got the referral (that’s adoption language for “your baby is waiting”) she was about nine months old. We had thought that the baby would be somewhat younger. The head of the agency said to us “If this isn’t the right baby for you, we can give you a different referral.” What a decision to have to make! After looking at my husband, I said “Can I go home and dream on it?” The director agreed, and that night I went home and wrote in my dream journal that I needed an answer to come through clearly and unambiguously, and right now! (You know how dreams can be– I didn’t want to have to decode too much symbolism to figure this one out.) I was very bossy with my dream guide, since there was so much at stake. I woke once or twice in the night– no dream yet. But in the morning I had my answer.
So – before sharing the dream I received, here is the background material the dream is referencing that you need to know in order to “get” what I immediately knew on waking. For our anniversary that year my mother-in-law had given us a garden shed to store our tools in, and the labor of the guy to build it. The spot for it was under our deck (our house is on a hill, so the yard slopes and our deck is high up.) As he began to put it in, he discovered that it wouldn’t fit under the deck. But he told us “No problem, I can dig down, and put a foundation in and it will fit just fine”, which is what happened.
OK—So here is the dream I received:
We were putting in a tool shed, and it was bigger than we expected, but it was just right and fit just fine.
Couldn’t get clearer than that! Our “just a little bigger than expected” baby is now almost 15 years old. We dug down and put in a great foundation.
Let me know your experiences with incubating dreams.
It is on the whole probable that we continually dream, but that consciousness makes such a noise that we do not hear it.” Carl Jung
Last time we discussed a few techniques to help you remember your dreams. Developing a practice of dream recall is like any other practice–it gets better with practice! So don’t be discouraged if it takes a while before you remember them on any regular basis. Also, it is perfectly normal to have periods of time where you remember many dreams, and dry periods where you can’t capture a thing. It could be that your daily life is so full at the moment that there is no room in your psyche for more information to come through. Or you may already be working deeply in your waking life (in therapy, in journaling, in deep conversations, for example), so that your dream muse feels that your inner life is being covered for now! In any case, here is a handy list that may help you to “prime the pump” of your dream life.
TIPS FOR REMEMBERING DREAMS
1. Be prepared, or, you can’t fool your unconscious. Have dream recording materials right by your bed so your dreaming self knows you are serious.
2. Accept and value every dream or dream fragment; don’t dismiss anything as too trivial or too small. Write down even a word or phrase if that’s all that comes through- you will be amazed at how much information you can get out of just one word once we get into understanding the dream material.
3 Pick an unpressured period of time to try to remember (like a vacation or weekend) if there has been a long period of non-remembering.
4. Allow yourself to waken spontaneously without an alarm clock. One friend of mine calls her alarm clock her “dream eraser”!
5. On waking, lie still and review the dream in your mind before moving. Allow the lingering images of the last scenes to act as a hook to help you recall earlier portions.
6. Record your dream before doing anything else – even before sitting up if possible. Of course, if you remember it later in the day, it’s never too late to write it down. I seem to have a penchant for remembering in the shower – so I just keep repeating it to myself until I am dry enough to write it down.
7. If you know that you had a dream but can’t remember even a bit of it, write the date and the word “dream” in your dream journal, thus honoring the process and prompting future remembering.
8. Share the dream out loud with another to set it orally as well as in writing.
9. Lie down and bring your body back to the same position that you slept in to stimulate positional recall. I love this one- if I lay down on my side and curl up, even later in the day, I can often recapture the felt sense of the dream, and then the rest of it rolls in.
10. Use the image of wrapping yourself in the dream as you would a shawl –- taking the edges of the dream and wrapping them around you to envelope you back inside the dream. Feel with your body the sensations of being wrapped up in a cozy shawl of dreams.
11. Write down your immediate thoughts and/or feelings as you awaken, even if you don’t think they came from the dream. They may have emerged from the “hypnopompic or hypnogogic zones”, the in-between states between waking and sleeping.
12. Sketch out, or draw your dream. A picture can be worth a thousand words- sometimes we get insight when we can see the dimensions and colors and shapes of our dream images that words alone cant do justice to.
13. Practice dream incubation before going to sleep at night. In brief, this means spending a few minutes before going to sleep writing down the question you want answered; and then writing the dream down on the same page, so that you can see the connections between your question and the answer; which may be in dream code and then figured out in relation to the question. Next time- more on this…
May your dreams be abundant! Let me know how it goes…