The Wisdom of Dream Work
I began the process of working with my dreams earlier this year after some major shifts in consciousness led me to consider how storytelling and symbolism can be catalysts for healing.
I am by no means an expert in dream interpretation or analysis, but the personal work I’ve done so far has been incredibly meaningful. I have strong conviction that each person has everything needed to heal past wounds and hurts existing within them at any given moment. The
subconscious is a powerful tool to aid us on this healing journey!
Most all of us have had dream experiences that linger into waking life, whether it is a recurring dream, significant symbol, or nightmare that woke us in the middle of the night.
I like to think of these as messages sent by the subconscious to say, “Hey! Pay attention! This is important!” There are also some dreams that leave us wondering “What just happened?!” Though they may not have the same impact, there is still wisdom to be gained!
Are you ready to learn more about dream work? Part of the process of dream work is creating conditions where dreaming can occur.
Here are a few ideas as you wind down for the night~
Create a bedtime ritual
One of the lessons my Mom taught me growing up was the importance of a gentle bedtime routine. This signals the body to prepare for sleep and quiets the mind after a long day. Create a bedtime ritual around soothing activities, such as taking a warm shower, reading, or sitting with a cup of tea along with your regular self-care routine.
Remove technology before bed
Have you ever been tired, but woke up again after looking at your phone for a few minutes? Smartphones and TV emit blue light, which tricks the brain into thinking it is still daytime. Advertisements and media are created to hook the brain—which is why some of us find ourselves checking social media without a conscious thought. The less technology you can have before bedtime and present in your bedroom, the better!
Try Moon Milk
Moon milk, an Ayurvedic remedy to promote sleep, can be helpful here—tryptophan, an amino acid in cow’s milk, induces drowsiness by regulating the body’s natural circadian rhythms. If your diet is dairy free, any non-dairy milk can be substituted (almond is my favorite). Look for recipes containing nutmeg, a mild sedative, to get a similar effect.
You could infuse a moonstone with an intention for use in dream work and wear it to bed or keep it under your pillow. I used to sleep with my favorite tarot deck with the same intention before learning about moonstone! A word of caution: sleeping with moonstone during a full moon can bring about vivid, often unsettling dream experiences—not necessarily nightmares, but not always pleasant. I have found this extremely helpful for working through complicated issues, but I sometimes wake up unrested. The choice is up to you.
Read up on Feng Shui
I cannot stress enough the importance of a bedroom that is serene and relaxing to promote good sleep and dreams! The ancient practice of Feng Shui has some excellent ideas for creating this space, and I can attest to their effects. As much as you can, cover reflective surfaces in your bedroom so you will not see movement in your peripheral vision. Make sure you have a clear line of sight from the bed to the door. Have as few eyes (from pictures, stuffed animals, etc) as possible in the bedroom. All these things will calm your body’s fight-or- flight response so you can get better rest.
Ask for dreams
I have been amazed at how readily my subconscious responds to a simple
request for dreams. My favorite way to tap into this power is guiding myself through a meditation as I fall asleep. Like a bedtime routine, imagine the same images in the same order every time. Some people count down from 10 to 1 or connect with a guide in a place that feels safe and familiar. I also use this time to ask for dreams about specific issues if I could use extra help.
Keep paper and pencil at the ready
As soon as you wake, write down every detail from dreams the night before, even if it feels insignificant. These details may make more sense once you can look at the pieces in context.
When you are ready to begin learning from your dreams, here are some things to keep in mind~
Write your dreams down as if they are happening
Writing dreams like a story in the present tense connects us to the experience as if we still have a foot in that realm. For example, instead of writing “I dreamed I was walking on a rooftop,” write “I am walking on a rooftop.” Can you feel how this places the dreamer back in the middle of the action? Include feelings you had within the dream as well as what actually took place. You may be surprised at what else becomes evident as this process unfolds.
Annotate your writing
Once I write down the content of my dream, I annotate it like I would any piece of literature. I underline symbols, archetypes (characters), and associations that are significant to me, write notes in the margins, and connect themes from past dream experiences. Though many resources online are available for interpreting dream symbols, take each one with a grain of salt. My greatest breakthroughs have come from using intuition over the internet to give my dreams meaning. These descriptions do not take into account the personal and cultural history we have with certain dream symbols, which can often be the difference between understanding a message and becoming confused.
The owl is a great example—in some cultures, owls represent warnings and death. In others, they are considered very lucky!
Here are some additional things to remember as you travel deeper into dream work~
-People in dreams almost never represent real people
More often, the subconscious uses people you know to represent qualities or aspects of yourself.
What happens in dreams is happening in real life
The subconscious speaks in the language of symbols, but it also exists in the present tense.
Think about how it relates
Think about how that dream situation relates to something happening to you at this time.
Pay attention to recurring dreams and symbols
This is the subconscious trying to process something significant.
Talk about your nightmares
As an adolescent, I struggled with anxiety and would get terrible nightmares multiple times a night, especially before exams. The one thing that helped was being able to tell someone what I had dreamed. This made it seem less scary and allowed some space to process.
Consider turning your dreams into stories
Did you enjoy reading fairy tales as a child (or still love them as an adult)? You can create your own, based on your dream experiences! I have had a few dreams so significant to my growth that it seemed right to craft a story from them to be read again when I’m struggling or to share with others. Many famous books, works of art, and music pieces were inspired by dreams!
If you are interested in learning more about the language of dreams, I highly recommend reading up on Carl Jung’s work on symbolism and archetypes. Additionally, Maureen Murdock took many of Jung’s ideas and reframed them to more closely resemble the experiences of women. Both are great resources for continued reading.
About the Blog Writer~
Carley is an artist with no preferred medium. She was part of the GoddessCeremony Utah Goddess retreat in the summer of 2017. She is passionate about creating safe spaces for people to heal and share their stories, and plans to compliment her career in mental health by becoming a trauma-informed yoga instructor in the near future. In her spare time, you can find her journaling, doing farm work, or exploring the great outdoors with her dog. She currently lives in Wisconsin. You can follow her adventures on Instagram at havedog_willhike.