Tag Archives: Dream interpretation

The Dream Journal: An Essential Tool for Dreamers

Dream Journal Basics, Step by StepIMG_2728

The dream journal, whether you keep yours in a notebook or in a computer file, is the most useful tool you have when you set out to examine your dreams.

Since a dream is not a tangible artifact that you can hold onto and examine, the dream report in your journal is the closest you can come to preserving the dream for future study. So, the first step is to get the dream down on paper. Each morning take a few minutes to record your dreams in as much detail as possible.

Use your dream journal as a field scientist would. Bring the qualities of observation and curiosity to your dream, just as a botanist would bring these qualities to the study of a rare or beautiful plant. Here’s how:

  • Adopt the scientist’s attitude of objectivity and curiosity when you record your dreams.
  • Consider the the Basic W’s: Record who you were with in your dream, what you were doing, when the dream seemed to take place (time of day and season), where it took place.
  • Check in with your five senses: What did you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in the dream? Experiencing smell and taste in dreams is less common than seeing and hearing—but be alert to the possibility of all sensory experiences, nonetheless.

Dream Journal Tips:

DO: tell the whole story of the dream in as much detail as possible.

DON’T: analyze, interpret, associate, or editorialize just yet. Dreams have a way of slipping from memory within minutes after waking.  So first get the detailed dream report down on the page. Once you do, you have preserved the dream for further study, and you may choose to delve into its possible meanings and messages.

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The Dream Journey from Overgrown to Growthful (A Corner View* Post)

The untended garden

Recently a client brought me a dream in which an unkempt man, who the client described as repulsive, stormed into his home and found the dreamer’s garden untended and overgrown. In the dream, my client was furious at the interloper and also ashamed of the state of his garden.

But as we stayed with the dream and welcomed the intruder into our dream replay using active imagination, my client saw that this dream character was asking him to accept his own imperfections and embrace a more laissez faire attitude, rather than clinging to his impossible-to-meet, joy-crushing standards.

If we look at the antagonists in our dreams: The shadowy figures who give chase, the animals who bare their teeth, and even the environments that threaten to choke, drown, or bury us, we’ll find great teachers.

In this case the client looked at the situation from different angles, including the intruder’s point of view and even the garden’s point of view. Stepping into the unkempt man’s shoes, my client was able to see that despite his imperfections, this man was not ashamed of his appearance—in fact he was full of confidence.

As for the garden, it was simply doing what it enjoyed doing: Growing and creating life!

Unintended growthSunflower faces

Now the dreamer looked at his own character as reflected in the dream. Rather than being ashamed of his perceived laziness, the dreamer came to understand that he was taking a much-needed rest. Sure, he’d get around to weeding, but first he needed to accept the state of affairs as they were, and to see the positive aspects of what he reflexively judged as a problem.

Looked at with curiosity, and without judgment, our dreams can help us soften our resistance and consider new points of view. When we do this, we nurture the seeds of self-love, we create a sense of inner expansiveness and we make room for previously rejected, abandoned, or misunderstood parts of ourselves. In this frame of mind, it is easier—and more joyful—to pick up the hoe and go about our work of tending our inner—and outer—gardens.

Apply this principle to even the most mundane dream and the results can be soul-shaking—and delightfully growthful.

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Learn more about how to develop A Mindful & Yogic way to sleep, dream, and live better at these upcoming workshops:Weds. July 22, 6:30 p.m. at VegaYoga in Holyoke, Mass.and November 12-15 at Sivananda Ashram and Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas.

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.

*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 “Overgrown.”

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Your Brain on Dreams

Deficient, or just plain different?

Throughout history, dreams have alternately been hailed as messages from the gods and dismissed as random hallucinations. But rather than place dreaming on a mystical pedestal, or look at dreaming as a deficient form of consciousness, let’s instead look at dreaming as an alternative form of consciousness and a different way of thinking.

Your brain on dreams

Sure, equating dreams with thinking might seem at first to make dreams less interesting or less meaningful. But I believe that understanding the brain basis for dreaming makes them all the more intriguing and significant.

After all, knowing the science of how the heart works, and the biochemistry of oxytocin which is released when we embrace another person, or even when we pet a dog or cat, doesn’t make love any less desirable, mysterious, or spiritually significant, does it?

guy w teddy bear

Likewise, understanding a bit about the brain science of dreaming will deepen your connection to your dreams.

The logic behind those illogical dreams

For example, ever wonder why dreams seem to operate in their own world of crazy logic? Well that’s because at least two important regions, the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the precuneus, are de-activated during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the period when most dreaming takes place. This makes it difficult to fully exercise short-term memory when we dream, both within the dream and upon awakening. Thus you might dream your college professor is dancing with your deceased mother, even though the two of them never met in waking life. This also helps to explain why it’s difficult to recall dreams on waking. Making decisions or directing our will is likewise difficult while dreaming because of these changes in brain activity during sleep.

The dreaming brain is highly active and operating with a different chemical makeup that gives it a distinct array of abilities as compared with the waking mind. But a lot remains the same, too. Thoughts, attitudes, memories, and feelings result from brain activity when awake. When dreaming the same is true—just with altered brain activity. If we see these alterations as imperfections, or evidence that the brain is simply firing on too few cylinders, it is easy to dismiss dream content and write it off.

If, on the other hand, we accept dreaming as a different but valuable form of consciousness, there is much to learn, wonder at and explore.


Adapted from Consciousness in dreamsKahn D1Gover T. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20870068

Freud v JungCatching up on my reading, I came across this in The Sunday New York Times Magazine’s story, “Tell it About Your Mother: Can brain-scanning help save Freudian psychoanalysis,” by Casey Schwartz:

“Throughout Freud’s writings… again and again [Mark Solms, neuropsychologist and Freud scholar] said that he was eagerly looking forward to the day when it would be possible to reunite his observations from the psychological perspective with the neuroscientific ones.”

The day has come! This is an exciting time to be exploring dreams and the unconscious, taking advantage of what we know from science, psychology, and mysticism.

Read the full article, reflect and enjoy.

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You Don’t Need Dr. Freud—It’s Easier Than You Think

Much has been made of the mysterious nature of dreams—too much, I’d say. We’ve been duped into believing that you need a degree in psychology or a high-paid analyst to understand them. At the very least we’ve been led to believe that we need a dream dictionary or a pile of texts on Jungian or Freudian dream interpretation to get the meaning of dreams.

Everybody dreams!

Everybody dreams!

But dreams are democratic: they come to everyone equally. Everybody dreams! The barista who handed you your chai latte this morning dreams, and so does the person who cut you off in traffic. Your best friend dreams, and so does your best friend’s dog. Even babies in utero dream.

oldmansleep

The average person will have some 200,000 dreams by age 80.

Whether we remember them or not, we dream several times each night, and the average person will have had some 200,000 dreams by the time he or she turns 80.

And remember, these are your dreams. They are speaking the language of your very own memories, personal associations, hopes, and fears. The only book you really need to understand them, is the book you write yourself—figuratively by creating your life anew each day, and literally by journaling your wake and dreaming experiences.

All you really need is an appreciation for and curiosity about the creativity, humor, wisdom—and yes, mystery—your dreams contain. By entering into a dialogue with your dreams on the page, their messages and guidance will be revealed, and you don’t have to sweat a drop.

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(Dream) Practice Makes Perfect

Dreamwork Podcast CoverWhat would it mean to have a dream practice, the same way some people have a yoga or meditation practice? (Hint: You don’t need a sticky mat, but prepare to fluff up your pillow!)  Listen in to learn more:

IMG_4811This episode of my podcast, DreamWork, was recorded at Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat in Nassau, Bahamas, during my stay there in November, 2014.

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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.

Have a Dream Question? Send it along! I’d love to hear from you.


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Dreamwork: From the “Life is But A Dream” Department

What’s your purpose?

One quick way to unlock the messages in a dream is to consider the objects or characters in a dream and ask each one: “What’s your purpose?”

This question can be asked of any object in a dream: a rhinosaurus, a bicycle, a loaf of bread, an elevator, or a cloud.

For example, I had a dream about a coffee pot sometime back. I don’t drink coffee, nor do I own a coffee pot. So what was such an object doing in my dream? Using “active imagination” I simply thought about the coffee pot in my dream, and asked, “What is you purpose?”

I don't have a coffee pot in my kitchen. But one turned up in my dreams.

I don’t have a coffee pot in my kitchen. But one turned up in my dreams.

A coffee pot is something I use (and borrow) only when company comes to visit. Brewing a pot of coffee makes people feel warm and welcomed. The one that showed up in my dream encouraged me to ask how I can bring more warmth and hospitality into my relationships.

Now, at the new year, I take this opportunity to reflect more deeply on this idea. I ask, “What is my purpose?” That is, what is my higher purpose; my true purpose? This question is trickier when applied to the complexities of a human life than it is for a utilitarian object like a coffee pot, but still, it is worth asking.

When I look at my life as if it were a dream it is difficult at first to find just one purpose. As the youngest child in my family, I often provided levity to balance out some of the ongoing tensions and anxieties around me. My parents liked to tell the story of how I once hopped onto the table and danced along to the songs on the jukebox at the Hot Dog House where we’d eat on Friday nights, or how I donned silly hats and plastic sunglasses with little swans or birds at the corners while on family vacations in Florida when I was 6 or 7. In my pre-teen and teen years, I was the family member to say what wasn’t being otherwise being said. I turned in my seat in a movie theater at 13 years old to tell a couple of boys about my age to “cut the crap” when they began loudly cracking homophobic remarks about one of the actors on screen. A few years later I’d insist on challenging my parents’ view that our family was perfect and everything was “fine,” upending the status quo of valuing facades over feelings.

So, growing up I was the one to make people smile—or to startle startle them.

Now, as a teacher of poetry for teen mothers in a crime- and poverty-ridden inner city, and as a dreamworker and a writer, as well as the mother of a grown daughter, and the daughter of an ailing mother, I sometimes feel at a loss to answer the question of my life’s purpose. I feel pulled in so many directions, it’s difficult to find the through line.

But when I look back at what I’ve written here, I see that my early job description: To make people smile—and perhaps to startle them, too, isn’t so far off. These are the elements of waking up, after all aren’t they? And waking people up is the job of a teacher, writer, and dreamworker (not to mention a mother!)

Whether we wake up to our dreams, wake up within our dreams, or wake up to the lives we’re living, these are the key elements: We startle out of our dreams or startle awake within them; then we smile to realize we are present and aware, awake and alive to the adventure. As a teacher, a writer, and a family member, these are the things I do. You might even say, that’s my purpose.

Come to think of it—that’s what a good cup of coffee does, too!

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Your Turn: Look at your life as if it is a dream. Can you name your overall purpose—within your relationships, your work, and your spiritual life? Try to narrow it down to a few words or a short phrase: In this dream of my life, my purpose is _____________.

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Q&A: What do I do when dreams get confused with reality?

 Q.I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing dreams from waking reality. I can fool myself into thinking I’m dreaming when I’m awake if I try. It’s kind of disconcerting and un-grounding, like reverse lucid dreaming. What can I do to strengthen the boundary between dreaming and waking?

Signed,

Boundary Issues

 

A. Dear Boundary Issues,

Here’s what I’d like you to do: Take a walk outside today. Find yourself a collection of smooth, solid rocks, scoop them up and put them in your pockets.

No, I’m not being facetious, and I’m not speaking in metaphors. Go ahead, get outside. Select some pretty stones, smooth stones, stones that sit nicely in the palm of your hand—and pocket them. Let them help hold you on this earth.

This isn’t punishment or penance of any sort. I’ve prescribed this same therapy for myself from time to time. Now that you’re settled firmly on this sweet blue planet, let’s talk.

You see, Dear Boundary Issues, while I spend a great deal of my waking time and energy spreading the Good News about dreams: how we should pay more attention to them, honor them, talk and write about them … there are times when I know it is wisest to pull back a little and put our slippered feet solidly on the hardwood floor of waking reality, and honor time we have here, as well.

Dreams and waking are two ends of a continuum of consciousness. We slip in and out and between these states all the time, moving from focused problem-solving, to relaxed day-dreaming, to fantasizing, to going to sleep and having ordinary dreams, lucid dreams, and more. This is healthy and usually quite productive.

Skillful dreamers can slip in and out of various states of consciousness with relative ease. This can be a way to access hypnotic states, trance states, healing Shamanic journeys, and more. When done with intention, agility, and perhaps even a bit of training—this is a wonderful gift to have.

Then again, confusing wake life with dreaming can be a slippery slope to psychosis. Thinking you’re dreaming when you’re awake can lead to all kinds of problems, like deciding to fly off the ledge of tall buildings, for one.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to dance along the boundaries between states of consciousness as much as the next dreamer. And if you can move through dreams within dreams and delve into deep philosophical and metaphysical discourses about how all of life is a dream, and then suit up for work and navigate waking reality just fine, then no problem.

You might even choose to take advantage of having a thin boundary between sleep and waking states of consciousness. But if you do, take care. Such explorations require the balance—and ballast—of a rock solid sense of self. Check in with friends and a trusted therapist to see if you fit that bill. Then find yourself a salt-of-the earth spiritual teacher or guide who has her or his feet planted firmly on the ground, who has a clearly articulated ethical and moral framework for their spiritual work, and ask this person if you can study with them. Even then, keep in close contact with your trusted friends and counselors to get an honest assessment if you’re veering to far off into dangerous territory.

But first, let’s get back to those rocks that are weighting down your pockets. Let them be a reminder to mind the boundary between sleep and waking. Perhaps it’s time to start putting a little more emphasis on the latter. Give your dream journal a break. Drink plenty of water, chew your food slowly, and indulge your five senses.

Because here’s the bottom line, Dear Boundary Issues: Living in bodies is a unique and splendid limited-time offer. Even if we live to be 120, our time in skin suits is still a blink of the eye compared to the eternity our souls have to travel all the invisible realms. So while we’re here encased in flesh and bound by bones, enjoy all the perks. Gravity is a pretty cool phenomenon when you think of it … not to mention color, wind, rain, and skin to skin contact. Play with these earthly delights all you can. Don’t undervalue the eyes-wide-open opportunities presented by so-called ordinary reality.

And let me know how it goes.

Dreamily yours,

Tz …

…zzZZZZzzzzzzz

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.

Have a Dream Question? Send it along! I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

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