Exploring Dreams

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A dream diary is not simply a record of your dream life.  It provides the raw material for dream exploration and interpretation. Your dream diary is your secret garden, an inner Eden in which many of the plants and creatures have not yet been named.  Dream interpretation is like an archeological dig. As you read through your dream record, you can begin to sort and sift, identify symbols and themes.  There are many levels and categories of dreams, which I’ll be covering in future posts.  A dream can fill us with terror, or a dream can be so numinous, so profound that we never forget it. The experience and memory of one superconscious (“Big”) dream may sustain us for an entire lifetime.

Dream interpretation is an “inside job”.  It is best to interpret your dreams from the inside out –  using your intuition and a contemplative approach.  Most of the time, it is advisable to resist the urge to take dreams literally.

Dreams are cinematic – they usually have a story line, even if it is a seemingly irrational one.   Our intellects may dismiss our dreams as weird or nonsensical.  It is true that many dreams are non-sense – but they make “soul sense.”

To a mono-lingual American, Chinese characters look like nonsense – but they’re not if you know the language.  Dreams are coded. The more you work with your dreams, the more you will begin to learn and understand their language.  Nothing that we experience in the day and the night is without meaning.

 

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Keeping a Dream Diary

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“If one will keep a dream diary regularly, he will be benefited beyond his expectations. It is recommended that he look back over his dreams at the end of each month. He will acquire the gift of cognizance or mentation. From this, he will begin to intuit and observe what his soul is saying to him.”  Ann Ree Colton, Watch Your Dreams

It is helpful to keep a dream diary and a daily journal, as our daytime and nighttime experiences keep up a constant conversation in our subconscious minds.  A friend of mine types all of her dreams into her computer, which is great because then you can use the “search” function to find recurring symbols in your dreams.  When my children were little, we didn’t have personal computers, let alone laptops, so I got into the habit of hiding in the bathroom every morning, and writing my dreams in a spiral bound notebook.

In my dream diary, I always write the date and the day of the week, as well as what sign the sun and moon were in when I had the dream (for example, Sun Aquarius, Moon Leo). Also note special days and times, for example, full moon or new moon or Christmas or a wedding anniversary and so on.

The book, Watch Your Dreams, has several pages in which Ann Ree Colton describes the kinds of dreams that we have depending on what sign the moon is in.  It can also be helpful to briefly note how you felt when you woke up from a dream (angry, happy, exhausted, etc.)   When recording a dream, it is helpful to either underline the important symbols, or to jot them in the margin or at the top of the page. (Important symbols are usually nouns – “cat”, “car”, “house” – or actions “swimming”, “cooking”, “driving”.)

You could also use a highlighter to mark the important symbols in the dream.  This practice will be helpful when you work on de-coding the dream, and will also help you determine the theme of your dreams when you look back over your dreams at the end of each month.  Even though individual dreams may seem to have no relationship to one another, you will be amazed to discover a coherent theme when you read a month’s worth of dreams in succession.  I also find it helpful to make little “dream drawings” in my dream diary, especially if I find it challenging to adequately describe what I saw/experienced in a dream.

If I have had more than one dream in a night, I leave space between each dream entry.   After I record the dreams from the night, I look up the symbols in books I trust, and I briefly write down the meaning of the symbols in the spaces I’ve left between dreams.  Looking up a few symbols right away and writing them down really helps to anchor and amplify what the dream is saying.

How To Remember Your Dreams

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“Dream recollection is vital in a spiritual life. One must stay close to his dream-wisdoms that he may grow in faith, in truth. The dream-wisdom remembrance is the kind of wisdom that builds the spiritual life.”  The Third Music, Ann Ree Colton

First, it will be helpful if you prepare your body, emotions and thoughts for sleep. Avoid alcohol in the evening, as alcohol suppresses R.E.M. sleep.  It is also a good idea to go to sleep at the same time every night.  Avoid watching upsetting programs on television. Avoid looking at your computer for at least a half hour before bed.  Take a hot bath or shower. Anything that relaxes your body and mind is a good idea.

Second, it will be helpful if you pay attention to your sleep environment.  You will increase your chances of dream recall if your sleep environment is not disruptive or distracting.  Make your bedroom into a peaceful, orderly, well-ventilated, dark, quiet sanctuary. Make sure that your bed is comfortable.  Optimally, there should be no light in the room.  You can put black-out shades or curtains on your windows and make sure that you do not have glowing cell phones, clocks, computers etc. near your bed.

These days it is challenging to eliminate artificial light in a bedroom, but doing this will not only help your dream recall, it will also greatly aid your physical health! If you can’t eliminate light in your bedroom, you can try wearing a sleep mask.  It can also be challenging to eliminate noise from your sleeping environment.  If barking dogs, traffic, or other noises keep you from creating a quiet, peaceful sleep environment, you might want to try wearing ear plugs when you sleep. The goal is to completely unplug your senses.

One night, I had set up a lamb stew in a crockpot in the kitchen, to cook overnight.  I had to get out of bed and turn it off, as the fragrance of cooking food was too stimulating and was disturbing my sleep.

Right before you turn out your light it is very helpful to speak what Ann Ree Colton calls a “pre-sleep mantram” to prepare yourself for sleep.  One example: “When sleep falls unto me, the claims of the day will cease to bind me, for in the night I am free to immerse my heart in the renewing pool of God’s perfect peace.”

Place a notebook, pen, and flashlight by your bed.  If you wake up in the night and remember a dream, get yourself to wake up enough to write it down.   When you wake up in the morning, don’t open your eyes, don’t move, don’t speak, as doing this might wipe out memories of a dream. (Before going to sleep, remind your partner that you are trying to work on dream recall and ask that they not speak to when you first wake up.)

If you have to use an alarm to wake up, try to have the least disruptive alarm possible. Anything that jars you awake will usually cause instant dream evaporation! (I use the alarm function on my cell phone and wake to a soft harp sound.)  If you do remember a dream, lie in bed with your eyes closed and replay the dream in your mind, as this will store the memory of the dream in your brain, and then write it down immediately, if possible.  Even if you only remember a fragment of a dream, write it down.  Working on dream memory is like exercise – keep at it, and, little by little, you will build dream recall muscle!