is for dreams
I pay attention to my sleeping dreams. I consider them valuable gifts from my soul.
I’ve kept dream journals since I was a teenager; studying dreams has been a life-long journey and delight; I even considered doing my Master’s thesis on lucid dreaming. But truthfully, I don’t think you need advanced degrees or endless studies to reap the gifts of your dreams. An open mind and heart are enough.
Dreams challenge us to know ourselves better. They invite us to learn a richly expressive, oh-so-beautiful private language. They invite us to remember, in the most simple way, that we are so much more than we often experience ourselves as in our often-limited daytime vision of ourselves.
I love this quote by Marsha Norman:
“Dreams are illustrations…from the book your soul is writing about you.”
We’re a culture who on the whole don’t honor or respect dreams, and so they get fraught with all kinds of needless challenge. We aren’t encouraged to remember them, or work with them, or put them into the context of everyday occurrence. They’re treasures certainly, but they can be approached easily, gently, as an everyday friend.
There are so many ways to work with dreams. Opening them up – interpreting them – reaching into the depths and pulling out messages – can be approached in countless ways.
People often turn to dream dictionaries. I’m not a big fan. I think they can be helpful in the sense of the first breadcrumb on the trail to understanding, but I absolutely believe that dreams do not express themselves in pat one-size-fits-all symbolism, nor can they be understood out of the context of the dreamer’s life. Which makes you the expert on your dreams! Make your own dictionary.
Here are things I do:
-I record my dreams. I do this as I wake from them, often several times a night. I’ve developed the ability to write in the dark, and in fact once I’ve grabbed my notepad and pen, I jot away with my eyes closed. This helps keep me from entering a too-wide-awake state so I can easily slip back into sleep when I’ve finished writing (with the bonus benefit of not waking my partner by flipping on a light).
-In the morning I type up the dream(s). I date them, including what phase and sign the moon was in when I had the dream.
-I give every dream a title.
-I don’t work with every dream I have. There are certainly periods where I’m more active and periods when I’m less, but some dreams clearly call for me to look at more deeply. And so I do. There are billions of ways to do this. I might suggest you find one or two ways you like and work with them for a while, but I also suggest that you try different things as well. Keep your approaches fresh and varied – varying your perspective and entry point into the dream can be very helpful.
Some possible ways of working with the dream: work with the symbols; apply key questions; dialog with dream or any parts of it; immerse yourself in the symbols; process the dream as a metaphor; re-enter the dream; carry the dream forward.
One of my favorite things to do is express the dream in art form.
-This may mean drawing (or however you’re playing) particular parts of the dream – characters, or particular symbols, or be more general and allow yourself to capture the “feel” of the dream.
-I’ve written poetry directly and indirectly from my dreams. You can play with key words, phrases, consider doing a “found” poem from cut up bits of the dream. My dreams are often very punny, and filled with curious language so I find it a delight to work this way.
-Jungians do a lot of work with dreams in series and this can be a wonderful deep exploration and a way to create a body of work.
-I also happen to love to work with dream fragments. I’ve done several projects with fragments, both mine and with other players. But it’s been a while and I think I feel inspiration arriving to play in this way again.
-Approaching your dream through other symbolic expressions can be a helpful and interesting entry point as well. So a tarot spread or an I Ching reading can open things up.
I believe there are all kinds of ways in – opening the door, climbing ladders, sliding down chutes, politely knocking, going through a side window, tramping through the garden. Dreams are rich landscapes and there’s no reason to be limited in how you play. My dreams are a deep source of nourishing self-care for me, and I love my nighttime adventures as much as I love my waking life.
There are tons of resources and guides out there, and here are two I have infinite respect for and have had great joy playing with:
Connie Kaplan and Toko-pa Turner.
So what about you? Do you pay attention to your dreams? Any practices you want to share? Done any dream art? Do tell – you know I love to hear.
This is so fascinating to me – thank you so much for sharing this! I go through periods of having unpleasant dreams – sometimes so much that I dread falling asleep. But other dreams are the opposite. Some nights before going to sleep i’ll ask for healing to take place as I sleep and I know, from my dreams, that healing is happening.
Sending wishes for sweet dreams Gin!
Hi Deborah, I love what you say here about dream dictionaries: “I think they can be helpful in the sense of the first breadcrumb on the trail to understanding, but I absolutely believe that dreams do not express themselves in pat one-size-fits-all symbolism, nor can they be understood out of the context of the dreamer’s life.”
I always see my dreams as my subconscious trying to speak to me in a language only I understand. I used to be very good at that dark-writing and kept dream journals for years. Since having my children though I’m mostly a sporadic dream record keeper. I will say that your post has inspired me though. I really love the idea of typing them out and including the moon phase, and the ART idea! Wow! Can’t believe I didn’t think of that one myself ;P
The excellent thing about a dream practice is you can always return to it when you can and when you’re inspired- dreams are ever-present friends always there to connect with. And you get to play in whatever you like and is a right-fit. I love no-rules practices. 😉 It is rather exciting having a private language to communicate with yourself isn’t it?
I used to never remember my dreams. The last year, I’ve started to remember more. The last 4 months, when I have a dream I write out all of the details and then notice what comes up – what is the symbolism, what does it mean to me, what lessons are there. I’ve only had 4 or 5 that I remembered enough to write down. But they were HUGE for me, and have meant a lot. I like the idea of naming them and creating art. Hmmmm, you have my wheels turning!
Perfect! I’m excited for you. And now you have an official dream practice started. 😉
Deborah you are so amazing with the knowledge you have and how you so freely share with us. Thank you for all that you do. 🙂
This post really interested me, not because I can analyze dreams as a matter of fact I’m the complete opposite, I can’t do that very well. When I remember dreams I ask myself what it might be about and I never get very far. It always feels so overwhelming. You have certainly inspired me to take one little step at a time and to not be afraid.
Thanks Suzanne. I like to think of knowledge as this big flowing river. We can dip our hands in it, even hold a handful for another to take a sip from, but it’s all there for everyone. We just get to decide what part of the river has the scenery we most like to stand nearby. 😉
And yay you – curiosity and small steps are all that’s needed for any exploration.