Q&A: Working to Understand Dreams

Q: Do you have any suggestions for how I can work to better understand the messages contained within my dreams?


Seeking Understanding

A: Dear Seeking,

Did you know that in my other life I’m a poetry teacher? Yes, I teach teen mothers, and other young adults and adults in literacy programs. My students have had a wide range of educational experiences—well, not such a wide range, really. Their experiences range along a narrow band of really bad encounters with the public school system. They have a great deal of trouble spelling some of the most basic vocabulary words, like through and maybe, and knee. And it’s my job to introduce them to the works of Rosetti and Whitman, Plath, and Poe.

I had no formal training in how to be a teacher when I first set foot in a classroom, so I stood clutching my folder of poems before a room full of teens whose babies were downstairs in the daycare, or whose pregnant bellies peeked out from of the unbuttoned waistbands of their jeans.

I decided right away to skip the whole “what do does this poem mean?” discussion. Shakespeare’s “wandering bark,” Dickinson’s “mechanical feet” going round on their “wooden way” were baffling to my students—as they were to me the first several times I read them. Instead I asked: “What does this poem make you feel?” and then “Oh, really? What in the poem makes you feel that way?” After a while I might press further: “Any idea why someone would have written about all this stuff?”

Oh, but you were asking about how to work with the messages in your dreams, right? I guess it was that word work that got me thinking about teaching, because that’s technically what I do for work. And work is hard and I don’t want to work, I want time to play and experience life. And I definitely don’t want poetry to turn into work. Poetry is mystical and mysterious and beautiful and totally accessible as long as no one asks me what it means and as long as I don’t ask anyone what it means.

So, to answer your question, Dear Seeker: Put your feet up, get yourself a drink with a paper umbrella in it. Stop working so hard. A dream isn’t something to decipher like a message tapped out in Morse Code; it’s the creative musings of your inner poet wooing you with sweet somethings.

But you want to know what it’s saying? So, listen.

Z Tell someone your dream. Your cat will do if there’s no one else around, and if there is no cat, talk your dream into the voice recorder on your phone. Let the images, the colors, the quality of the light, and the sense of movement in the dream wash over you. Notice how you feel. Which parts make you anxious? Which parts make you sigh? Where in your body do you feel it? Let yourself sink into a state of wonder. Allow your curiosity to be piqued. Marvel at the view.

Z Write the dream down, slowly. That’s another way to listen deeply. Grab some color pencils or crayons and sketch it. Wait for the message to unfurl like a morning glory opening to the sun.

Z That might be enough …. but if not … go ahead and dive into each image. Associate and amplify to your heart’s content.

 Z Find a dream group or a dream therapist. (Okay, that’s a little shameless self-promotion there, but a dream therapist has to eat, too, right?).

Z And since I am, after all, a poetry teacher…why not try writing a poem from your dream. You can find instructions elsewhere on this blog by clicking here.

Dreamily yours,



Want to learn more about your dreams? Contact me to find out about upcoming dream groups in western Massachusetts, or individual dream sessions by phone, Skype, or in person.

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Q&A: Help for the Forgetful Dreamer

Q: I have a hard time remembering my dreams (I usually remember the nightmares). What can I do to help myself remember my dreams? I might remember part, but it gets foggy within seconds after waking.




A: Dear Forgetful,

I am a woman of a certain age—No, I’m not being coy, I’d tell you my age, it’s just that I can’t remember it.

But seriously. I am at a time of life when I forget a lot of things in my waking life: Where did I put my keys? My glasses? Oh, is that them on top of my head? The dreams however—those I remember.

So, that’s a little pep talk for you, dear Forgetful One: If I can remember dreams, you can too. It’s also my way of opening this conversation up a bit. In waking life we accept that we remember some things and forget others. But when it comes to dreams, we more or less expect to forget. Scientists tell us that low dream recall is the norm because the brain chemicals that support short-term memory recall are tamped down when we’re dreaming. But there must be more to it than that. After all, in cultures that value dreams, people remember dreams on a regular basis—the way we some of us remember the batting averages of every Red Sox player that ever lived, or lines from favorite movies or songs we haven’t danced to since the days of three-piece white suits and disco balls.

My point is this: In our cultures where dreams are considered bizarre or random occurrences void of meaning, guess what—the general population tends not to remember them.

As for you, my dear Forgetful One, you do remember some dreams. You remember the scary ones. No surprise! When dreams really want to get our attention, they deliver something we’re not likely to forget: Breathless chases, sharp-fanged dogs, and terrifying falls from high mountain passes—no wonder some people don’t want to remember their dreams.

So, kudos to you for wanting to recall more of them, despite the fact that the opening sallies have been a bit disturbing. So, how to remember more dreams? That is indeed the question.

For starters, do exactly what you are doing. Taking a genuine interest in your dreams is an important first step. And that means taking an interest in all of your dreams, not just the ones that include blissful flights over emerald green tree tops.

One way to show your dreams that you are paying attention is this: Put a pen and pad by your bed (or your smart phone with the record function ready to go) and record your intention to recall your dreams before bed. Write it down: “Tonight I will dream and remember my dreams in the morning.” Then write down something in your notebook when you wake. Do this for a week or more, and that should get the dreams flowing.

But here’s the thing … you need to welcome all comers. If you get anxious dreams, scary dreams, or seemingly random and bizarre dreams, snippets, sounds … whatever, write them down.

Dreams sometimes behave like teenagers, you see. They test you with their moods, and ugly outbursts—but if you stick with them and let them know you’re listening and honoring all of who they are, they’ll start to share the wise, warm, and loveable souls that dwell deep inside as well. And anyone who’s raised or taught a teen, knows that it’s well worth getting past the nightmare moments to get to the dreamy depths of who they really are.

As for that morning fog, yes, for most people if we don’t grab those dream memories before our feet hit the floor they’re lost forever. So, remember that notebook you’ve placed by the side of your bed? Grab it before you roll over and kiss your sweetie good morning, before you check the time, or get up to pee. Write down whatever you’ve got, and then get going.

I hope this helps clear a little of that dreamy fog away, so you can step onto the Royal Road to your unconscious. & do keep me posted.

In the meantime, may you be well and dream well.



Visit me at Third House Moon for more information about dreams and dreaming.

P.S. You may also enjoy this post about Forgotten Dreams

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Your Own Internal GPS Makes the Journey More Fufilling


This week’s theme (thank you Corner View) is “Replace” … so I’m hitting the RePlay(s)” button and re-blogging this post from last summer. (Get it…Replace/Replays … well, anyway, Enjoy!)

Originally posted on All the Snooze That's Fit to Print:

Chrysler 300 Dashboard - 1955

(Photo credit: MR38)

In this dream I am driving a car along a scenic mountain highway, with rising cliffs to my right, and a deep ravine with a river flowing at my left. I call over to the driver in the next lane over, and say, with my voice full of swagger: “Guess what? I’m driving without my GPS this time!” And just as I shout these words, the road tilts so it is practically vertical; my car starts to slide toward the deep ravine below. I struggle to right the car, manage to get back on the road, and wind up dead-ended at a ferry dock with no boats.

In waking life, I often say that the dream is like each person’s internal GPS. They are our own impeccable technology that can guide us to our best future – that is – if we choose to listen.

This dream…

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A Dreamer Writing … blog tour

Recently, author and blogger, Jean Raffa, invited me to join her in a blog tour that highlights authors who write about intuitive understanding.

I believe it was Jean who introduced me to the concept of the Golden Shadow during a seminar for my first dream studies intensive in Charleston South Carolina with Justina Lasley and the Institute of Dream Studies. If this recollection is correct it is quite fitting, because when I met Jean, when I was a student in the Institute for Dream Studies, she became that golden shadow for me. Jean stood before our class delivering a lecture on “Dream Theaters of the Soul” (based on her book of the same name) and I saw an intelligent, compelling, stylish woman who was confident and articulate in helping me and my fellow students delve deeply into dreams. I wanted to embody those traits, too. I have since been inspired by reading her book, Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine through Jungian Dreamwork.  San Diego: LuraMedia. 1994. In that book Jean focuses on “Integrating fragmented aspects of women’s personalities and reclaiming feminine power” through dream work. (Introduction, p.13). So I am honored to have been asked to be part of this blog tour by such an accomplished woman, and one whose presence and work has inspired me.

I encourage you to visit her blog  where she writes deeply and beautifully about her inner life, dreams, and healing. To learn more Jean and her work visit her web site athttp://www.jeanraffa.com and my blog athttp://www.jeanraffa.wordpress.com.


For this blog tour I was asked to answer four questions about my writing. Here are my responses:

What am I working on now?

As a writer and a prolific dreamer, I am busy creating awake and asleep. So, I am not working on just one writing project, but many. Here’s an incomplete list that represents the ambitions represented by various piles of paper strewn across my desk:

  • Wake Up to Your Joyful Life (working title): The manuscript for this inspirational self-help book is due to the publisher on August 1. Like my previous book, Mindful Moments for Stressful Days, this one will contain tips and techniques to help add joy and meaning to everyday life.
  • The Wake Up to Your Dreams Journal Experience: This will be a guided writing practice for dreamers and other curious and creative souls who want to sleep, dream, and live better. This book grows out of my Third House Moon Dream Journal, and brings the experience to a deeper level.
  • I am also working on a proposal for a book about teaching poetry in nontraditional settings. This book is based on my work teaching teen moms poetry at a school in Holyoke, Mass. That journey is chronicled in my book Learning in Mrs. Towne’s House.
  • Then there are the blogs: I write about dreams and writing at on my blog All the Snooze That’s Fit to Print, and about dreams and global healing on my blog 350 Dreamers.
  • Oh, and I have a collection of personal essays and poems that are cooking on the back burner, too—but doesn’t everyone?

Working on all of these projects at once is a little like experiencing several different dreams each night … which I also do, by the way. My mind asleep is just as busy. I recall several dreams a night … which leads me to question #2.

How does my writing process work?

As a dreamer, my life is dedicated to process as much as product. I’m deeply interested in and engaged with the work and play of self-growth and deepening consciousness—awake and asleep.

As a writer I commit to the process, and try to let the products take care of themselves.

I occasionally ask my dreams to inspire my writing. I try to go to the writing table as close to waking as possible, when my mind is still groggy with dreaming. That way I capitalize on the highly associative and creative dreaming brain, and often bring images and ideas from dreams onto the page.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Genre? What genre?

In the dream world we’d say I have thin boundaries. The line between dreaming and waking is a dotted one at best. Waking and dreaming experiences influence me quite fluidly and equally. I dream consciously and am conscious of my dreams while awake. So I’m not one to see a line and stay on one side or the other of it. I use fictional techniques of dialogue, vivid description, and narrative in my nonfiction. My dream writing is grounded, practical, and informed by science as well as mysticism and psychology, and I bring dreams into teaching poetry and poetry into just about everything I do.

 Why do I write what I do?

Like anyone who has lived more than a few decades, I’ve suffered my share of losses. One in particular knocked me to the ground and for some months I stayed there clutching my gut. But something inside poked up like the proverbial green shoot through the still frigid spring ground. It was an insistent thought that I must find something wonderful in the world. A tiny thing, even. Or I would never get up.

So, I began to count them – the wonderful things. At the end of each day I searched my memory for something beautiful or lovely. The task seemed destined for failure, and the first few nights I came up with scraps of other people’s laughter or dim bits of color. I worked my way up to ten wonderful things each evening. These nightly lists formed themselves into a rope by which I was able little by little to pull myself back to a life that was contented, happy sometimes, then joyful for longer and longer stretches.

For me, happiness became a learned habit, and in my books I try to empower others to take the reins of their lives and be responsible for their own joy. For me dreams, mindfulness, and writing are the ways I know to help to do that. So that’s what I write about—in various forms.


Thank you so much for reading this.  And now I’m delighted to introduce the authors and bloggers who will continue the blog tour next week with posts about their own fascinating work.  If you don’t already know them, you’ll want to check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Sherry Puricelli, MHA, MDiv is an author, poet, minister, professional dream coach, owner of Connecticut-based AwakeNDream, and a regional representative of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. She leads retreats, classes, workshops, and sessions using her Transformation Dreaming™ technique and empowerment program combining coaching and dreamwork tools, embodiment, and ceremony. You can read her blogs at www.awakendream.com and http://dreamingglobalillumination.com

Justina Lasley, M.A. is the Founder and Director of the Institute for Dream Studies and the developer of DreamSynergyTM, an innovative and comprehensive process for uncovering dream meaning leading to personal transformation. She is an author of Honoring the Dream, In My Dream…, and soon to be released Wake Up! Use Your Nighttime Dreams to Make Your Daytime Dreams Come True. Justina shares her enthusiasm, keen insight, and talent for relating to others, facilitating rapid movement toward a more authentic, spiritual, creative and fulfilling life. She is a lecturer, a trainer for dreamworkers, leader of individual and group dreamwork and a facilitator of workshops. Visit her website at www.DreamSynergy.org.


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My Dream Business is Growing

“We grow great by dreams.”

Woodrow Wilson

Dreams have a new home on Main Street in Northampton.

Dreams have a new home on Main Street in Northampton.

My dream business is growing … and that’s good news for me and you!

Dreams on Main

I have new office space in downtown Northampton, at CLINIC Alternative Medicines, 98 Main Street.

More Dreams for You

This means you now have more opportunities to learn about what your dreams are telling you and how your dreams can help you live a more joyful and meaningful life.

I am available to work with you on your dreams Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in person, by phone, or Skype.

We’ve Got Class

I will now be offering dream classes and workshops on Wednesday evenings. The first one, Dreams 101, takes place Wednesday, July 9, 7:30-9 p.m. Click here for details.

Chaaarge it…

I now accept credit card payments for dreamwork, in addition to PayPal, checks, and of course cash never goes out of style. Take advantage of discounted prices this summer. Visit my Third House Moon website for details.

Book It—Online!

You can now book appointments for dreamwork online by clicking here and choosing Dreamwork from the menu.

Let’s Talk About It

I’d love to hear from you. Contact me with questions, comments, or to set up an appointment.

Clinic Noho Office


This is a Corner View Post. Corner View is a weekly appointment – each Wednesday – created by Jane of Spain Daily, where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme. Travel around the world by visiting more Corner View posts starting here.


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The Gift of Dreams (Corner View*)

At age 13, I received a gift from my grandfather: several books including a paperback copy of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. He gave it to me because he knew how much I loved dreams, but it was too difficult for me—or maybe it just wasn’t saying what I wanted to hear about dreams.


I danced around my interest in dreams for decades. Sometimes I’d pay attention to mine and write every one down. Then I’d go through periods of trying to ignore them. After all, no one else I knew was talking about their dreams, and besides, some of my dreams were scary or disturbing. But they were still present, even in their absence. Whereas some people claim they don’t dream in color, I feel I don’t live in color when my dreams are muted.

So, eventually I decided I wanted to know more about them. About a decade ago, I gave myself another gift: I ordered Robert Van De Castle’s Our Dreaming Mind from a new age book-of-the-month club. But my life got busy, and the book remained on a shelf for a good five years, maybe more, until my daughter grew up and moved on to college, and I had time to work my way through the encyclopedic tome, chapter by chapter. I then moved on to the works of Moss, Johnson, Jung, and everything else about dreams I could get my hands on.

I have since made a bold a commitment to not just learn about dreams but to dive into them. From 2009-2011 I was enrolled in a dream studies certification program, and now I help other people understand the gifts of their dreams. This commitment to dreams, and the time I’ve carved out in my life for studying dreams, working with them, and helping others get in touch with theirs, has been a great gift, for which I am most grateful.

2014-06-24 20.35.12

A thank you note to my Grandpa Ben dated July 1976. It reads: “Thank you also for the Freud books. They are a challenge to read, but they are also very interesting.”

Thank you Grandpa, for the gift of your love, and for encouraging me to follow my dreams.

2014-06-24 20.40.55

RIP Grandpa & Aunt Essie.


*Corner View* is a weekly appointment – each Wednesday, where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme. This week’s theme is “Gifts”. 


To unwrap the nightly gift of your own dreams, consider giving yourself a time to pay attention to them.   Visit my blog atThird House Moon to learn more.  The gift of dreams keeps on giving.


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Dream Into Soulstice


Let’s set our intentions Friday night June 20 to dream into the Summer Solstice. On the 21st you can post your dreams to “350 Dreamers” Facebook Page.

Originally posted on 350 Dreamers:

Image Soulstice is a powerful time for personal and collective shifts.

 Soulstice is a time to heal old energies and empower what you want to manifest.

 Soulstice is a good time to meditate on your current life situation, set intentions, and pray for guidance and support. It is also a good time for building community through soulstice gatherings and rituals.

 Ask yourself: What do I want to bring into my life at this time? What do I want to let go of?

In the days leading up to Soulstice, look at your life and your dreams to get a clear picture of your successes, challenges, and needs or desires at this point in your life. Once you’ve identified the most important one(s), ask:

 How is this dream/situation serving my spiritual growth?

 What is the lesson and the gift in this dream/situation?

 What is the…

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