Lot’s of people pay little attention to their dreams or claim they don’t dream at all. This is unfortunate because dreams help inform us of our health, contribute to problem solving and creativity, and sometimes even have an extraordinary impact on our waking lives. I can recall dreams from when I was very young, and growing up I’d sometimes dream vividly of people and places I’d see later in life. The dream realm is undervalued in society, but many of our challenges in waking life have the potential to be addressed meaningfully in dreams.
Remembering: If you have trouble recalling your dreams there are a number of ways to start. Some people suggest drinking a full glass of water before bed so you’ll wake up mid-dream with some memory of it. I’ve heard it really works, but I wouldn’t advise it for long term. The urge to go to the bathroom, for me, affects the quality of my dream and interrupts sleep. It’s good to try if you’re practicing recall. What I find most effective is setting an intention before I fall asleep. When you direct some focus on remembering, attention becomes intention. I also keep a bag of mugwort by my bedside which helps. The smell from under your pillow helps with more clear dream recall. Start recording or writing your dream immediately when you wake up for the most accurate details. Don’t try to think too much about and rationalize it until you’ve finished getting it all out! Even to record some of the feelings you’re left with is a step in the direction of dream remembering.
Interpreting: So once you remember the dream experience…what do you make of it? Dream interpretation has been around from early human history. Many cultures accept dreams as integral to their way of life. Communities would gather to share their dream experiences, which contrasts much of the disinterest in dream sharing apparent at present. There are all sorts of books and guides for dream interpretation, ones that predict wealth and marital status, but to isolate and reduce some of the symbols in your dream often does it injustice. There are infinite ways to interpret, but I most like to go by feelings. What were the feelings and reactions you had in the dream? How did you feel as soon as you woke up? Some people consider that everything in the dream, people, places, objects are all reflections of you. To dream of a house with multiple floors might be the depths of your unconscious, for instance. I tend to dream of a lot of random animals spontaneously and sporadically. The animals inform me of my emotional state at the time and feel like spirit guides in a sense. There’s not really a wrong way to approach dreams.
Practice: In some cultures, mostly those of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism, people practice dream yoga for spiritual development. The idea is to practice becoming lucid in the dream state (or becoming aware you are dreaming and taking control of the dream) and using lucidity to do yoga and meditation. Practicing yoga in the dream state is believed to be even more ‘effective’ for attaining altered states of consciousness. To become one with the “Clear Light” is a way of preparing for the transition of death. Dreams can do some pretty powerful work!
Extraordinary Types: There are all sorts of dream types. In my recent class on extraordinary dreams we focused on the various impactful dream categories. Some of them include dreaming of a past life, clairvoyance and precognition, lucid dreaming, creative dreams, nightmares, spirit interaction, and dream telepathy. Past life dreams might feel like a very vivid memory not lived in this life. There is of course belief in reincarnation for this type of dream to be recognized this way. Clairvoyance and precognition involves dreaming of an experience that happens later in waking life. The dream realm does not know linear, ordinary time we abide by, so often with these, people expect the experience to immediately follow when it could be years later. Lucid dreaming is a fabulous remedy for people experiencing nightmares, PTSD nightmares, or to resolve an issue. It can also help for children to combat the frightening experiences. In the few times I’ve become lucid in my dreams, the situation I was able to manipulate resolved an issue in my waking life. Personally, I like to let my dreams continue spontaneously and unpredictably, but lucidity certainly has a purpose and many claim the quality of their dreams are not affected by the ability to change them. Stephen LaBerge is an expert in lucid dream studies and the ‘how to’s.’ Creative dreams are the sources for some of the most groundbreaking discoveries and artist work known today. The creative process is similar to dreaming states. For people looking to solve problems (creative blocks, scientific breakthroughs, or life decisions) dreams remove the obstacles our waking, thinking minds place. Setting an intention works well here. Creativity is also a great way to work with dreams and fully understand them. While our dreams can be intimate and have been said to be a gateway towards our repressed unconscious nature, I think of them as access to our more authentic selves rather than revealing the dark dirt of humanity. Dreams can unlock potential and foster our growth with greater awareness. Many people believe they are better able to connect with the deceased in the dream realm. My class did a dream telepathy experiment which was so fascinating! One person set intentions to “send” an image to the rest of us and meet us in our dreams, while we set intentions to receive. Stanley Krippner has a plethora of research on the way dream telepathy works and is a leader in all dream studies.
I believe all dreams have the potential to be extraordinary if only we gave them more value. I also see dream experiences as equally important to our waking experiences. Start a dream journal or a dream sharing circle to open to more of life!
“If we take seriously the notion that dreams are creative by nature, they are then canvasses or better, perhaps, open stages: ever ready for the spontaneous display of the multidimensional mind” — Fariba Bogzaran and Daniel Deslauriers, 2012
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