Tag Archives: Q&A

Q&A: Help! I Can’t move!

Ryan Hurd, today’s guest blogger and expert on Sleep Paralysis, sheds light on a sometimes-frightening sleep phenomenon

Q: What if any relationship exists between sleep paralysis, which I’ve experienced when I was 15-40 years old, and dream states?

A: Sleep paralysis is deeply tied to dreaming. In fact, the easiest way to think about sleep paralysis is dreaming with your eyes open, while also experiencing the muscle paralysis that comes with dreaming sleep. Body asleep, mind awake.

Most of the time, sleep paralysis (SP) is a harmless symptom that occurs when the brain does not shift its neurochemical gears all at once. For most, SP comes when sleep is disrupted and we are stressed, bodily and mentally. In these cases, SP can be managed by attending to personal sleep health as well as stress management. However, for thousands of others, SP is not so gentle, and is a symptom of a larger health issue such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea, as well as other health conditions that rob the body of healthy sleep. In these cases, SP is treated clinically to manage the symptoms, although there is no cure.Sleep-paralysis-book-cover-300

The feelings of paralysis, which can also feel like a weight on the chest or throat, generally last less than a minute or two. Dreamers say, “I feel like someone is holding me down!” The paralysis is actually a normal part of REM sleep, which we experience every night unawares. With the big skeletal muscles offline, the sleeper is free to engage in the energetic REM state without fear of acting out a dream, so as not to be a danger to self or sleep partners. But during SP, the sleeper can feel not only the paralysis but is also well aware what is happening, giving the episode a strangely lucid feel that some people say is “realer than real.” Others are adamant, “It was not a dream. I was awake!”

Beyond Paralysis: Fear and the Stranger in the Room

The defensiveness of being awake and aware is probably due to the more unusual qualities of SP that are not really hinted at in the bland medical term.  Many feel terrible and heightened fear, sometimes strong enough to be labeled death anxiety. Others detect a “sensed presence” or stranger in the room, the uncanny feeling that they are not only alone, but being watched keenly by an evil presence. This aspect of SP is no doubt the root of hundreds of ghost stories and folklore.

About 20% of sufferers of SP experience not only the awareness of the paralysis and mental clarity and the fear, but also strange dream-like visions, known as hypnagogic hallucinations. This is where SP really begins to sound more like a vision state than a dream. The hallucination generally is a person, or perhaps I should say an entity, as the personage can be an animal hybrid, an ethereal spirit, or a pale and thin toothed alien other. The paralysed dreamer sees the entity standing over them, and may also watch helplessly as the entity holds them down. The occurrences can get violent, and in fact often are sexually violent.

In Medieval times, the entity was known as the incubus—a male demon that sought out unsuspecting female dreamers. Men were similarly visited by a succubus, who could be alluring but may morph into a terrible form during the sexual act.  Dozens of “supernatural assault” traditions are known around the world today. In the West, sleep paralysis symptoms can be seen in alien abduction lore. What is unclear today is how common are sexual hallucinations that come with sleep paralysis, and indeed, how many of them are nightmarish compared with more pleasurable experiences.

On the Bright Side

In my studies, I have been surprised to discover that there are also completely positive accounts of sleep paralysis-related visitations, including ancestral visits, deceased loved ones, sexually healing encounters, as well as contact with positive healing figures such as angels and medicine men.

By affirming that one is safe within the sleep paralysis encounter, and with an attitude of curiosity and courage, many dreamers have found sleep paralysis to be a portal to several other extraordinary states of awareness, such as mystical guided journeys, lucid dreaming, and out-of-body experiences.

Personally, I have had both the positive and the negative encounters, and sometimes, even after all these years, I get frightened and must resort to ejecting myself from the encounter. At least, I figure, I can try again, as it seems I another encounter with the creatures of sleep paralysis is just around the corner.

For more on this topic, check out my book on the topic: Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night.

About the author:ryan-hurd-headshot

Ryan Hurd is editor of DreamStudies.org, a website dedicated to sleep, dreams and consciousness studies. He is also the curator of Dream Studies Press, where he has published several ebooks and showcases other interesting dream-related products. Ryan lectures internationally, and teaches at the Rhine Education Center. He is also a current board member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, and a member of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness.

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Q&A: Waste Not Want Not … “Aren’t dreams just the mind’s waste basket?”

Q: What is your opinion of the scientific explanation that dreams are merely a by-product of the consciousness; the mind is just processing what’s happened or what’s been perceived during the day? If this is true, then there is nothing mystical about them, right?

Signed,

Scientifically Minded

A: Dear Scientific,

Tuesday is trash pickup day in my neighborhood. You can tell because the street is lined with blue recycling bins and those big brown plastic trash containers on wheels.

As I walk down the block on my morning constitutional I notice, for instance, that the house where sweet floppy-pawed dog I love to stop and pet lives, always has a recycling bin overflowing with empty cans of organic beans and soy milk cartons, and of course some empty dog food cans. The house next door to that has a recycling bin filled with discarded Amstel Light bottles. Another house has old New Yorker magazines in theirs, and the next is all filled with old issues of Time Magazine. I make up little stories about what the people are like inside each house based on what they throw away. “These guys were probably watching the Patriots game this past weekend,” I muse, and “These folks were probably at the literary reading at the bookstore downtown.” And then there’s the bachelor who’s throwing away a perfectly nice charcoal-gray sweater just because of one tiny moth hole in the elbow! I can just imagine his pristine closets and I don’t even know his first name!

Know what I mean? There are the folks who have three Hefty bags stuffed with non-recyclables, and then there are those who have just one small grocery sack of garbage beside their overflowing recycling bins. Plus they have a compost bin in the back yard that the bears are always getting into.

Yeah, we’re talking trash here, and we can tell a lot about the people on our streets based on what they throw away.

So, even if it’s true, my Scientifically-Minded friend, and dreams are just our mind’s equivalent of the contents of the blue plastic bins and 30-gallon trash barrels that line the curb on Tuesdays, couldn’t we learn a lot about ourselves by sorting through our brain’s castoffs?

But here’s the deal. I don’t think that dreams are just the mind’s dust bin. That doesn’t explain the dream, for example, that predicted the exact apartment I would end up renting months before I even knew I’d be giving up my plans to buy a condo across the state and settle down in the next town over instead. Nor does this scientific theory explain how I was able to use dreams to heal from deep emotional scars when I was in college. Nor what to make of the dreams that have helped to predict a friend’s health conditions before she or her doctors knew she was sick.

Scientists have meaningful dreams, too. Get one alone and ask her about it and she will reluctantly admit that yes, there are dreams that have offered her new and helpful perspectives, or even inspired some of her best theories. (Go ahead and Google Kekule’s ouroborus dream for just one example of how dreams have led to scientific breakthroughs.)

But scientists can only definitively state what they can prove using scientific methods. And there is no microscope strong enough to see the psychologically meaningful or the mystically mind-blowing properties of dreams. But just because science has yet to prove something does not mean it doesn’t exist. So, my friend, I encourage you to read up to your curiosity’s content on the neuroscience of dreaming. But don’t expect to find all the answers there. Dreams are very difficult things to study using Newtonian science.

Bottom line? Be your own sleep and dream scientist, my dear. Keep a dream journal, and record your dreams. See what meaning they do or don’t hold for you. Track any traces of precognition or clairvoyance. And please report back.

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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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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Q&A: Can Dreams Help Me Evolve Spiritually? (Namaste, Dreamer!)

Q: How can dreams best be used to evolve one’s spiritual being?

Signed,

Evolving

A: Maybe it’s because I just got back from my weekly yoga class at the Y, but for some reason your question makes me think of downward facing dogs and backbends. Hang in there with me for a moment, Evolving, Dear. That’s not as random as it might at first sound.

You see, we’re supposed to do yoga to become enlightened, right? We know there’s gotta be deep wisdom scrawled in Sanskrit somewhere between all those forward folds and cobra poses. But face it. We also love yoga because it’s a great excuse to buy fabulous form-fitting flared-at-the-knee Capris and pretty little Spandex tops. (Or is that just me and some elephant-headed god is going to toss a bolt of lightning at me for my blasphemous remarks? No worries. I’m willing to risk it for you, Evolving One).

The point is that just as some yoginis (yes, I’m guilty as charged) can turn this deep spiritual practice into an excuse to get a little fashion-crazy, so with dreaming too it’s easy to get lost in the metaphorical bling of the exercise. For example, some dreamers–(yup, I’m guilty as charged once more), can get so caught up in amassing closets full of dream journals, or flaunting their lucid dreaming prowess–that they seem to forget what we’re doing dreamwork for anyway.

But, Evolving one, as you seem to suspect, dreams are about more than just consciousness aerobics. In fact, as much as I love showing off my knowledge of Greek mythology as I delve into a dream’s archetypes and allusions, the real reason I’m hooked on them is that in dreams I get to slip into state of being in which consciousness is as detached from my physical body as it can get without me breaking any laws or checking out for good.

Dreams are in fact a nightly invitation to a spiritual training ground that’s as rigorous and profound as any master yoga class. It’s up to us to accept the challenge and deepen our experience.

But how?

Let’s go back to the sticky mat for a moment. In yoga class the teacher cheerfully invites us to bend our bodies into seemingly impossible contortions. Then, in the face of our burning muscles and shrieking joints she offers breezy instructions like: “Notice your body’s resistance, bring your breath to that area, and simply soften and release.”

At first you think she’s some kind of saccharine sweet sadist, but you go ahead and do what she says and next thing you know you can touch your toes, arc up into a backbend, or sit in full lotus position.

Let’s apply this same instructions to dreams and watch our spirits evolve. Try it: When you find yourself face to face with a monster, an enemy, or a dream character you have nothing but scorn for … soften and release. Consider the possibility that perhaps the character who represents you in the dream is wrong, and that the toothless old woman or the axe-wielding wild man in your nightmare is right. Where can you soften your resistance to a dream scenario? Where can you release a habitual judgments or attitudes and open to new points of view? Apply this principle to even the most mundane dream and the results can be soul-shaking and supremely growthful.

For me, a terrifying dream of being chased by a band of killers while I sped past a student from my poetry class, literally woke me up to the fact that if I didn’t start honoring my inner artist, I’d be murdering a precious part of myself.

A client I recently worked with found that the repulsive man who stormed into her home in her dream was really asking her to accept her own imperfections and embrace a more laissez faire attitude, rather than clinging to her impossible-to-meet joy-crushing standards.

Look into your dream, find the point of conflict, then breathe, soften, and release.

Yeah, I know, that’s more difficult than enduring the burn of chair pose. Ever hear of growing pains? Uh huh. Spiritual and emotional growth is uncomfortable, too, but if you breathe into the discomfort you’ll find yourself becoming increasingly (spiritually) flexible. You’re softening your identification with your ego and starting to align with your deep, divine, core. You’re taking an evolved stance, Evolving One, which is expansive, nonjudgmental, curious, and joyful.

Downward facing dog, anyone?

Dreamily yours,

Tz …

…zzZZZZzzzzzzz

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.

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

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Q&A: How Do I Make This (Recurring) Dream Stop?

Q: I have the same dream again and again. What can you tell me about recurring dreams? Why do we have them and is there a way to get the dream to stop repeating itself?

Signed,

Stuck on Replay

 

A: Dear Stuck,

Stop me if I’ve told you this one before …

I have a good friend, let’s call her Ann. Some years back, she was beginning to drive me up the wall. Every time we spoke she’d tell me the same story again and again.

It got to the point where I dreaded seeing her number turn up on my caller ID. If I didn’t love her so much, I might have just stopped picking up the phone. But because I truly care about her I stoically answered her calls, and then I griped to another friend (again and again, I might add) about how tired I was of Ann repeating herself.

This pattern wasn’t helping anyone, except maybe the folks at ATT&T who were pocketing the money we three spent as we racked up minutes on our phone bills.

This, Dear Replay, is exactly what’s going on with you and your dreams. Dreaming, is in essence, a conversation. Depending on your belief system, it’s a conversation between parts of yourself; between you and God; or between you and universal consciousness. Whatever the case, it’s an important relationship worthy of at least as much attention as my relationship with my pal Ann. So, like me, you have a couple of choices:

1) You can prop the phone against your ear and let Ann go on and on like a broken record, while you troll the Internet for the best deal on those cowgirl boots you’ve been coveting.

2) Or, you can step away from the laptop and enter into a meaningful conversation with her about what she is saying and why she feels the need to repeat herself.

The fact that you’re writing to me implies that you really do care, so Option 1 really isn’t an option at all. I care about Ann, too, so here’s what I did:

The next time she launched into her spiel I said, “Ann, I feel like maybe I haven’t been a good listener because I notice that each time we talk you tell me the same story. Is there something you’re not getting from me that you need on this subject?”

Ann paused, then told me she just really needed me to hear her and to validate what she was feeling. So, I asked her to tell me the story one more time. This time I really listened. I asked her questions and took a genuine interest. And guess what? After that we were able to move onto new subject matter.

And that’s what you need to do with your recurring dream. Show the dream you’re really paying attention. Write the dream down. Consider each part of it with a curious, open attitude. Talk the dreams over with a loved one or therapist, or bring it to a dream group. Ask yourself: What has this dream come to tell me?

Chances are, if you give the dream your full attention, one of two things will happen: Either, it will go away, or it will change.

If it goes away and fresh dreams arrive in its stead, good for you. This is a sign that you got the message and addressed the issue the dream was raising for you.

If the dream changes; good for you, too. This is a signal that you are making progress. Keep working with the dream, paying close attention to any alterations in the repeating pattern. You may even start to welcome the reappearance of this dream theme, because the ways it changes will give you clues as to where your daytime attitudes and actions need tweaking.

Give it a try and let me know how it turns out. And I promise to listen closely, so you won’t have to repeat yourself.

Dreamily yours,

Tz…

…zzZZZZzzzzzzz

PS: My dreams repeat themselves almost as much as I do! Read more about recurring dreams here.

…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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Q&A: Bad Dreams? Good News.

Q: I follow you on Facebook and am interested in joining one of your dream groups. The timing is especially good because I’m going through a big change. My husband recently moved out after over twenty years of marriage, and I think it would be good for me to join a group. Here’s the problem, though: I only have bad dreams. Why would I want to sit around and talk about them?

Signed,

Bad News Dreams

A: Dear Bad News,

I truly empathize with your situation. Well, half of it anyway. You see, some six years ago, my partner of nearly 20 years moved out, just after my daughter went away to college.  I was blindsided by all of the changes … well, I knew my daughter would be going to college, but everything else knocked me off my feet. I knew my partner and I had problems, but I thought we could work through them together. Even more, I was totally unprepared for the emotional pain that the breakup unleashed in me. I’ve always been a strong, independent woman, but now I was reduced to seemingly unending tears. And yes, I had my share of disturbing dreams, too.

However, unlike you, Bad News, I’d long ago learned that my bad dreams were really good news. You see, awake we can distract ourselves with Netflix, Facebook, outings to the mall and back issues of the New Yorker. But asleep and dreaming, it’s just us and – well us. Those nightmares show us what we might be shutting out during the day. I knew if I looked mine in the eyes, they’d reveal what I needed to see. I knew, too, that unless I did, I’d get the bad news in more bad dreams, over and over, until I finally relented and paid attention.

This is kind of a tough sell, I know, but I want to sell you on it. Not because I want to sell you on a dream workshop, but because I’ve stood where you’re standing now—and my dreams showed up for me like a best best friend who’s not afraid to call me out on my denial, my bravado, or my bad behavior; a friend who, with all the love in her heart, will tell me what I don’t want to hear.

So, when I received your question, I wondered how I could convince you of the merit of looking into those dark dreams in a group of supportive others. I thought I could tell you what my therapist told me: “The only way out is through.” But I so much hated it when my therapist told me that that, that I figured you’d hate it too. Then I thought of all kinds of profound stories I could tell you to drive home my point. And then I thought, just tell her the dream.

So here it is — a dream  I had when I was in the depths of my despair after my breakup:

I am stranded at the side of a highway in the middle of the night beside an abandoned tollbooth. My car is gone. I’m all alone.

Then, I hear a disembodied voice telling me to look up to the sky. But I see only black emptiness above.

Look closely, I’m told. All I see is darkness.

Keep looking, the voice instructs.

Little by little I make out the tiniest pinpricks of starlight.

Finally, those little hints of light increase until before I know it the lights are intensifying and magnifying.

Now I am looking up into the most beautiful display of light; a combination of fireworks and falling stars all mixed up with a sense of cosmic celebration.

And wouldn’t you know it, I woke up feeling happy.

Happy, not because my situation had changed, but because now I understood: There’s no way, out, I realized, except (well, yes, my therapist was right after all) through.

I had to stand in the dark and look directly into the biggest scariest void in the universe (that void was in my heart, not the sky, you understand). It wouldn’t happen all at once, or even according to my timeline, but eventually I’d be happy. Truly happy. Maybe again. Maybe for the first time.

That’s what we do with our dreams, Bad News, we look them in the eye–even if it’s the eye of a Cyclops, or the eye of a raging storm. We squint till we find the pinprick of light in that anxious or scary or terrifying darkness. And you know what? It’s always there: a glimmer of hope that, if we let it, eventually grows into a light show that dazzles even the most frightened heart.

So, why would you want to sit around and talk about your bad dream? Because your bad dream, Bad News, joins someone else’s bliss dream, and someone else’s crazy repeating dream about mail stacking up on the stoop of her childhood house (oh, that one’s mine … well, anyway), and we put them all in the circle and we find our way through to the healing seed that’s in the center of each one. And then that seed grows.

Got it? I hope so. ’Cause we’re saving a seat for you.

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.

For another take on nightmares, click here.

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Q&A: Help … I See Dead People – In My Dreams

Q: What is the significance of dreaming about someone who has died?

Signed,

Mourning Dreams

 

A: Dear Mourning,

Back when I was 21, I woke from a dream that my Grandpa George was standing in front of a bank of elevators wearing the same rumpled trench coat he wore the last time I saw him. He was upset and asking me for help.

I sat up in a bed I’d built myself, in the second-floor apartment of a drafty old farmhouse in the college town where I still live. Back then I worked part-time in a Greek bakery and was finishing my undergraduate degree. In my spare time I rode on the back of someone’s motorcycle looking for the next adventure. In short: helping the people who I still thought of in that lofty category of “adult” was the last thing on my mind. And helping an adult who was, well, dead? Honestly, I wasn’t interested.

But in the few months since I’d stood beside my father at my grandfather’s grave as my relatives took turns shoveling dirt over his plain pine coffin, I had seen Grandpa George several times. In each dream he was disturbed, disheveled, and asking me for help.

The dreams become frequent and frightening enough that I mentioned them to a friend who suggested I speak to a medium. I needed help from the world beyond, she told me.

As a child, I’d had séances and worked the Ouija board with my friends until we were too scared to sleep. I thought I’d outgrown all that. And anyway, I couldn’t figure out why, if he needed help in the Great Beyond, my grandfather would be picking on me—rather than his wife, his two adult children, or one of his four grandchildren who’d recently graduated college. I decided that Grandpa’s spirit must have gone around to each of us while we slept, trying to get our attention. And I, the last in line, must have somehow left my dreaming mind’s door ajar. And in he came.

Grandpa’s visitations upset me in part because they revealed that my dreams were not just my own creations. Not to mention that they were inconvenient—and costly to boot. If I were to follow my friend’s advice and see a psychic medium, I’d need forty dollars to pay the fee. On my minimum wage salary, that seemed a princely sum.

The money, it turned out, was well spent. The medium found a spirit helper to work with my grandfather, and after that I didn’t see him in my dreams for some time. When he appeared again he was back to his cheerful, tidy old self.

My grandmother died some years later. She visits me in my dreams, too. The last time she was standing at the edge of a golf course; short, hunch-shouldered, and smiling broadly, just as I remembered her—except now she was wearing a loud pink pantsuit and a pair of over-sized black sunglasses that made her look like a comedienne from a late-night spoof. But she has never asked anything of me.

Older now, and wiser myself, I wouldn’t mind a bit, even if she did.

Yes, yes, I’ve done it again. I’ve gone on and on about me and have offered so little to you. But that’s okay, because you knew the answer to your question before you even wrote it down.

You see, Dear Mourning, you already know, as I do, that our dreams of deceased relatives and friends are worthy of our attention. Sometimes they offer comfort; sometimes they reignite our longing. They can be an opportunity to tie up loose ends or an invitation to remember and reminisce. Sometimes they are no more complicated than a cup of tea with an old pal. Other times, action is required.

You know you don’t need to interpret these dreams, but simply to experience them, and to continue to love—or learn to love—those who have left this world.

So how can I help? I can give you permission to believe what you already know about your dreams.

Permission granted.

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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Q&A: So many dreams … so little time …

Q: I know it’s important to write down one’s dreams, but I have so many each night that writing them all down feels like a part-time job. Help!

Signed,

Time Crunched

 

A: Dear Crunched,

Back when I was in my late 20s I worked as a reporter for a regional newspaper. One day our company sponsored a health fair during which representatives from a local hospital took over a couple of the administrative offices. Each of us in turn was called inside where we were pinched with pincers to measure our body fat, had our blood pressure taken, height and weight checked, and were asked a series of questions about our diet and lifestyle. In return we received a report containing recommendations for improving our health. All this in the name of preventative medicine—and, I’m sure, keeping down our group’s insurance rates.

In any case, after being poked and prodded each of us returned to our desk with a dot-matrix printout containing our health profile. One at a time reporters returned to their desks grumbling about being told they had to cut out their morning doughnuts, or cigarettes, and take up walking or table tennis to help them shed a few pounds. When I returned to my desk, I adopted the same exasperated tone as my weary co-workers and announced that according to my health profile my cholesterol levels and weight were too low and I needed to add more butter and eggs to my diet.

Let’s just say I was not the most popular employee on that particular day.

And so, Dear Time Crunched, all those frustrated dreamers out there in the blogosphere who dutifully place pen and notebook by their beds but either sleep poorly and so can’t catch a dream, or wake too quickly to remember much of anything, are just now taking up their tiniest violins to play for you. Wouldn’t they like to have your problem (and mine too, by the way): So many dreams, so little time, as they say. (I believe my grandmother had that catchy phrase stitched onto a needlepoint pillow on her fainting couch … oh, no, on second thought hers said, “So many men, so little time.” But I digress.)

Fear not, My Dear, you have come to the right place. I shall pull myself up to my full Size 4 Stature and stand up for you. Yes, this embarrassment of dream riches is indeed a problem that must be contended with.

Here’s what you can do so you can keep up with your dreams, and still get to work on time, do the dishes, and fit in an hour of wholesome Public Television in the evening:

  • Invoke the 5-Minute Rule: When it’s time to record your dreams, set a timer for five minutes and write what you can before the chime sounds. Imposing time pressure will force you to choose the dreams or images that are most interesting or meaningful to you. Focus on those.
  • Headlining: Consider each dream and give it a headline. List those, and leave the dream details for another time.
  • Night notes: Rather than record your dreams first thing in the morning, wait till bedtime. Time acts as an effective filter, and by nightfall you’ll only remember the most salient dream scenarios and the most important details.
  • In dreams we trust: Sometimes we worry that if we record dreams selectively—we’ll select the wrong ones and miss out on some gem of dream wisdom. Trust that your dreams are gentler and more forgiving than that. If there’s anything important that you’ve missed, it’ll come back around in another dream, another night.

Now that I’ve helped you manage your dreamtime, I hope you’ll dream up some fabulous new activity to keep you busy during those extra hours in the morning. Table tennis anyone?

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.

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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?

Signed,

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,

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.

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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.

Signed,

Forgetful

 

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.

TZ…

…ZZZzzZZZzzzz…

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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