Dreamwork Excerpt


Dreamwork goes beyond just remembering our dreams, though that is certainly the beginning. This book will begin with foundations in dreamwork moving into deepening your dreamwork practice. I’ll focus on practical ways you can use dreamwork in your personal growth and spiritual practice.

“Dreams make available to us a mine of psychological and spiritual treasures. They provide guidance vital to the journey, and they point to areas of ourselves where we need to work.”
–Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart

Dreaming: One path of the initiate
Dreams are an invaluable tool for transformative personal growth. I can experience entire worlds in my dreams that I could have no access to in the conscious world. In my dreams, I might interact with deities, archetypes, facets of the divine, of mystery. I might pass through a dark night of the soul that transforms me. An abundance of wisdom is available to us through our dreams that we might have no other way of gaining.

Taking on a personal practice of dreamwork is an initiate’s path. It is a discipline. To begin, I must know, “Why would I do this?” I must make the choice to do it. And I must follow it through with a consistent practice.

A Basic Dreamwork Practice :

  1. Formalize your intention
  2. Prepare to dream
  3. Dream
  4. Remember your dream
  5. Interpret your dream

Formalizing your intention
Much like in any magical, spiritual, or psychological work, possibly the single most critical piece is intention. What do you want? Do you want to get better at remembering your dreams? Do you want to use dreams to get to know yourself better, to transform yourself? Do you want insight into a major life decision? Do you want to deepen a connection with a specific deity or archetype?

Once you have an intention, you can make dreamwork a workable part of your personal practice.

Preparing to Dream
This might be as simple as stating aloud, “I will remember my dreams tonight.” It should involve a physical commitment such as keeping a pen and journal or tape recorder by your bedside. It might involve working with an archetype, such as Morpheus, Greek god of dreams. All these are practices that will help you formalize your intent, and should help you remember your dreams.

This is the easy part. Many people say they do not remember their dreams. Enough research assures me that while almost everyone dreams, not everyone remembers them. The exception is that certain sleep disorders prevent dream sleep, but these conditions are fairly rare. If you want to learn more about sleep disorders such as night terrors or sleepwalking, I recommend doing your own research. And of course, if you have some of the symptoms of a sleep disorder you should check in with your physician.

Remembering Your Dream
I find that writing the dreams down is absolutely the most challenging part of the discipline. The most important moments of dreaming are the first few minutes  after waking, when I really want to tuck back under the covers. I can’t stress enough how important it is to begin writing down your dream as soon as you wake up enough to do so. Particularly if you have challenges remembering your dreams, capturing even just a small essence of the dream will help improve your dream recall a little bit at a time. Dreams slip away very quickly sometimes.

When I’ve woken up enough that I can hold the pen, I write down my dream. Sometimes I make a few notes first to capture bullet points of different “phases” of the dream if it was complicated.

If I am having trouble remembering, I will lie in the position in which I slept, as sometimes this will help the dream return. It might sound strange, but it works. If you had an intense dream and had to get right up and go to work or an appointment and couldn’t write it down, sometimes you can get back into the dream and recall it by lying down in your sleeping position when you get home. I’ve tried this numerous times, and it really does help.

It might take a while to really remember your dreams. For me, the key is to write it down as soon as possible. Sometimes this is a brief snippet on waking; sometimes it’s two pages. The dream might keep until I’m on the bus to work. What I have found is that the closer to the time I awaken that I write down my dream, the more details I remember.

There are times in my life where I have diligently written down my dreams every day, and other times when I have gone months without writing down a dream. And, though I have fairly strong dream recall in general, when I haven’t written down a dream in weeks or months, my recall ability for dreams begins to fade. However, once I start writing them down again, my dream recall improves dramatically.

Again, even if your dreams are short, vague, or hard to remember, write down anything you can remember. Maybe it’s a color, a sense, a movement, or a snippet. Over days and weeks, your dreams will most likely become clearer.

It also helps to schedule your sleeping and waking so that you can awaken naturally. It’s very common to awaken naturally after a dream cycle. In fact, I would hazard a guess that one reason I have really good dream recall is because I tend to awaken numerous times during the night to flip over as my arm falls asleep.

I’m not going to go too much into the science of dreams and REM sleep here. However, oversimplified, we sleep in 90-minute increments. The sleep cycles get slightly longer as the night progresses. Whenever I’m taking a short nap, I try to plan for it to be either a 90-minute nap, or a 3 hour nap, so that I’m waking up more naturally after a full dream cycle. You will feel more rested than if you wake up in the middle of deep sleep. Your dream recall is also far better when you wake up right after a dream.

Interpreting Your Dream
Dreamwork is a difficult but rewarding discipline; not only do I need to write down my dreams, but I have to then unravel the mess of symbolism. And, sometimes it really can be a mess; dreams are notorious for not making logical sense. In addition, our dreams often bring out huge, frightening symbols in order to call attention to something that is going on, and it can be a challenge of my own personal fortitude to deal with uncomfortable imagery and feelings.

“… a dream is quite unlike a story told by the conscious mind. In everyday life one thinks out what one wants to say, selects the most telling way of saying it, and tries to make one’s remarks logically coherent. For instance, an educated person will seek to avoid a mixed metaphor because it may give a muddled impression of his point. But dreams have a different texture. Images that seem contradictory and ridiculous crowd in on the dreamer, the normal sense of time is lost, and commonplace things can assume a fascinating or threatening aspect.”
–Carl Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

In my personal dream practice, I am constantly exploring these dream symbols that may or may not make sense. Some dream symbols may not make sense to me for many years. Like any initiate’s path, it can take a long time to become proficient at. I look at the first dreams I wrote down and how it took perhaps two years to get any kind of depth and detail to my dream recall to get enough detail to really start interpreting my dreams.


You can also view the Interior Illustrations.

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