There are nine articles on this page, which respond to some of the most frequently asked questions about the dreaming experience and additionally cover basic information most of you need to know as you continue your own Journey Within.
Blessed Dreaming to You... Roberta Ossana
We all dream every night, on the average of 60 - 90 minutes. This was confirmed over 40 years ago in sleep research laboratory studies. Most cultures around the world have been paying attention to and valuing their dreams, for centuries..... probably from the beginning of time. There are countless instances of dreams having been responsible for the composition of music that we are all familiar with, for many inventions we have come to take for granted, for the founding of many of our churches -- the Bible is replete with visions -- and for much of our great literature, art and poetry, etc. Even though all of this is true, the majority of us have never been encouraged to value our dreams; most of us we told, when we awakened as children from a nightmare, "Donít be afraid, it was only a dream!" Most of us were never encouraged to remember or talk about our dreams, either at home, in school or in church. Consequently, many of us report "I donít even remember my dreams."
The truth is, dreams provide us with specifically individualized information and by determining to remember our dreams, we can and will recall them. I can verify from the testimony of many individuals Iíve met and talked to over the years, that the effort is definitely worth it!
But, be aware. If you decide to begin remembering, paying attention to and following your dreams..... this is a life-long journey.... not a quick-fix method for overcoming past woundings, finding solutions to present problems or prophesying the future. Itís not ĎNew Ageí.... Dreams are a common human experience!.... I repeat again, we all dream every night.They tell us the truth about ourselves and our world.... and we, by and large, live in a world full of deception.
A word of caution: Dreams most often come to us in symbolic language and metaphors. You may need to look up those words in your dictionary.... and assimilate their meaning. Dreams are most often not to be taken literally. For example, if you have a dream in which you hit your neighbor over the head with a ball bat.... the response to that dream would not be to do that action, even though you may be angry with your neighbor. An ideal reaction would be to ask yourself: " Is my neighbor merely mirroring a lack or negative trait of my own? How can I direct the angry energy I feel toward my neighbor, constructively.... to acknowledge and ultimately, resolve the problem.... peacefully?"
Ultimately, dreams are a mystery and the best we can do is explore, together, this vast and fascinating territory.
If you seldom or never remember your dreams and want to become a better dream recaller, here are some hints:
Most important of all is to want to recall your dreams.
Iíve known many people who say they never remember their dreams.... but as soon as they:
1) take a few minutes before going to bed, set a voice-activated tape recorder or dream journal and pen by their bedside and take a little time to focus, to affirm "When I awaken, I will remember my dream,".... or
2) when they make a determination to develop a dreamsharing relationship with a trusted family member or friend.... or join a dream group....
THEY BEGIN REMEMBERING THEIR DREAMS! Itís true and it will happen for you..
Most of what it takes is setting the intention and affirming that you wish to remember your dreams..
The Kahuna people of Hawaii and the Aboriginal people of Australia evolved a simple gesture for remembering their dreams. In essence, they suggest taking a full glass of water to bed, drinking half of it and saying to oneself: "Upon awakening and drinking the remainder of this water, I will remember my dream." Every time Iíve done this, it works!
Because dreams are like the morning mist that disappears at sunís arrival on the new day, it is important to record every detail that can be remembered. Most dream details will be forgotten if they are not somehow recorded right away. ....This is not true of all dreams.... some dreams contain such powerful imagery that they can be recalled for the rest of our lives by just focusing on them.
Although itís always better to awaken (into this dream) naturally, you might try setting a gentle alarm clock a few minutes before you would normally awaken, to allow time for recall and recording.....
Itís best to avoid over-eating, drinking alcoholic beverages, using any mind-altering drugs, etc. before going to bed if you want to remember your dreams with clarity.
Record whatever you remember. If you only remember the ending of the dream.... write or record that first.... often, it will unfold in reverse order. Even remembering and recording a small fragment of a dream can yield valuable information. I remember a woman who said she never remembered her dreams who came to our dream group one evening so excited! but at the same time apologetic, because she had remembered -- only a fragment -- of a dream. She was dishing out strawberry ice cream at the kitchen sink in the home where she grew up. We worked and played with that dream-fragment for over an hour and you would be amazed at what was revealed to the dreamer!.... so jot down whatever you can. This is OK.
If you have time, draw some of the imagery; if youíve little time, note the main symbols/imagery/story, so that you can fill in the picture at your leisure. Always note how you FEEL about the dream upon awakening.... and record the date you had the dream!
Whatever you remember, make a point to discuss your dream with others. Even if, at first, no one -- not even you -- can make any sense of it. This action helps to validate to yourself that you value your dream. Best of all, do something, enact the dream, somehow: Draw the major symbols in the dream, write a poem about it, sculpt it, etc.
You will find embracing this dimension of your natural experience a
most gratifying and fascinating dimension to add to and enhance your life.
If you are now -- or have ever - had a series of dreams that are the same dream, or the same dream with slight variations over time.... Pay Attention! This type of dream -- the recurring dream -- is repeating itself and being recalled for a reason. Usually, a very important reason!
Letís agree to call the source from which our dreams emerge..... the Dream-maker within. When the dream-maker continues to bring the same scenes, story, dream to us ..... many times.....over time.... the obvious suggestion is that we didnít understand it last time.... so, here it is, again!
When the dream maker is so persistent, insistent and (I might add) patient.... you can rest assured that the message being repeatedly imparted is of great significance to you. Most often we simply donít get the message.... donít understand on the conscious level what is being conveyed.
Often, with recurring dreams, the dreamer will notice slight variations on the theme, over time. This is occurring because -- whether we consciously understand the purpose of the recurring dream or not -- we are getting it on an intuitive level and we are responding, taking action, making changes.... in our daily lives as a result. Dreams do work in this way; they do a us good service whether we remember them or not.... or whether we understand them or not.
For any and all of our dreams, however, it is of great value to develop dreamsharing relationships.... and especially so with recurring dreams and nightmares. The sooner we gain understanding and insight, the sooner we can take action in our daily lives to respond and/or remedy the situation.
Shirley MacLaine, in one of her current books, recounts a story of a recurring dream in which she is always being chased by a ferocious bear and always felt she was being outrun, couldnít run fast enough. She always awakened terrified.... just before the bear was going to catch up with her. At one point she learned about the technique -- taught to us originally by the Senoi people of Malaysia -- of learning to stop running but rather to STOP!, turn around and confront whatever it is that is pursuing us..... and ask it what it wants.
Ms. MacLaine did this the next time she had her recurring Bear Chase dream. She stopped, turned around, put her hands on her hips and said: "Allright! Thatís it! Iíve been chased around enough by you! Just what is it that you want?" And at that point, the "ferocious" bear turned into a Sweet and Shy looking Yogi Bear type character, and with knees together and index finger in its mouth, the bear said: "I donít know! Itís your dream!"
The bear, in its ferocious form, never returned in her dreams after that confrontation.
Often, even though we are adults, we can remember a recurring dream series that we had as children. Even though this happened many years ago, this Ďdream-themeí remains very important. Carl G. Jung, well known for his vast contribution to our knowledge and understanding of dreams, believed that recurring dreams in childhood are often previewing our destiny! If you do have memories of this nature, it would definitely be worth the effort to locate a knowledgeable person to discuss this with.
What is most important, here, is to understand what is being communicated by the dream-maker within. Often, we are not well enough informed or educated in unraveling the mysterious, symbolic ways in which our dreams are presented.... to Ďget ití on our own. In fact, no matter how much we know, intellectually, we can always come to a quicker understanding of our dreams when we share them with someone -- or a group -- that is equipped to help. Today, there are a growing number of people who are becoming better and better educated and experienced in assisting dreamers to come to a better understanding of the meaning of their dreams. And, fortunately, for us at this time, there is a growing body of literature and information available.... many, many good books to help us become better acquainted with dreamsí language. Any good reference librarian or bookstore proprietor can refer you to the literature they have available. Ask around..... youíll find the information you need! .
The one feeling that is most associated, almost synonymous with nightmares is.... FEAR!
I will begin this talk by remembering a woman in our dream group in 1989, who had a dream in which a ferocious BEAR loomed up large onto her dream-screen. She was terrified and awakened sweating and shaking! She drew that BEAR on a large sheet of butcher paper and brought it to the dream group, taping it up on the wall before we began the evening session. That BEAR was a member of the dream group that night.... and we spent the entire time talking about her dream and its possible implications.
During the next week she was diagnosed by her medical doctor as having lymphatic cancer! The BEAR was warning her that something had gone seriously astray in her body. My dream mentor of the time suggested that that BEAR was an angel in disguise. If it had not been for that dream, she would probably not have consulted with a doctor....
The next week in dream group, she brought another dream, which we very attentively focused on all evening. This dream contained the Rx for her treatment. Itís a long story.... but this woman, who had been told by several medical doctors that her type of cancer was almost certainly terminal, followed the advice of the bear and subsequent dreams.... and is very vitally alive and well, to this day. I certainly do not mean to imply that this was an overnight process or that the dreams were exclusively responsible for her healing. This woman was very thorough and discriminating in choosing among medical and natureopathic options to help facilitate the healing process; she incorporated dietary and physical fitness changes into her daily routine, etc. Her healing was a hard won victory.... Her dreams and the work we did together as a group to unravel their messages, were extremely significant in her path to healing.
The best culture we can look to today for teaching us to deal with nightmares is a little known band -- now probably extinct, but discovered in tact in the 1930ís & 1940ís -- called the Senoi. They were a nomadic band of the Temiar tribe from the Malay Peninsula. This tribe is reputed to have been the "Dream People" because they made most decisions -- from the personal, to the family to the community levels -- based on their dreams. Dreams were an integral part of their lives! It is believed that parents, having been raised in a culture where dreams were so revered, were well equipped to educate and enlighten their children in this regard.....
So, in the mornings, at the breakfast table, much of the discussion centered around what each member of the family dreamed the night before. Children were encouraged to share their dreams from the time they were able to talk about them.
It has been discovered, in modern day research, that children of all cultures frequently have nightmares. In most cultures, it is common for children to dream of being chased by monsters or hideous beasts of some sort.... or of flying, and beginning to fall. Do these dream themes sound familiar?
In most western cultures, parents have not been, until recently, provided with information about how to work their children through these nightmares. The Senoi, it is believed, knew exactly what to do. When a child would report a dream of being pursued by a monster and of awakening, frightened, the parents would calmly and quickly inform the child that, the next time they have a dream of this nature.... to become aware that they are dreaming.... to recognize that their dreambodies cannot be hurt.... not to run away from the monster/beast.... but to turn and confront it. To ask it what it wants. To do battle with it, if necessary. To demand a gift of it.
If the child reported a dream of flying and beginning to fall.... they were encouraged not to awaken... but rather to go with the fall, to recognize that they were being called to go within the Earth and that their dreambodies could not be injured by the descent..... or, they were encouraged to become aware that they were dreaming -- a state often referred to as lucidity -- and go back into the flight.
In this way, the Senoi were teaching their children at a very early age, to confront their fears.... on an emotional level. This is a very important point and one of the ways our dreams bring opportunity to us. In our culture, we put extraordinary emphasis on educating the intellect..... but, until recently, very little emphasis on educating our emotions. Dreams do help us to heal wounded emotions and gain emotional maturity.
So.... when you have a nightmare.... donít be so quick to say to yourself: "Whew! It was only a dream!"Find someone to help you explore the meaning of the imagery, the symbols, the story of the dream. Be willing to face your fears and you may come to relish your nightmarish dreams. They may just be your angels in disguise!
In addition to Ďhavingí dreams, we can decide to request certain or specific information of our dreams. In other words, we can, in our conscious state, make a decision to do what individuals in various cultures around the world have done for centuries..... ĎIncubateí a dream. The word incubate is a common one... but for the purpose of this discussion, a brief, relevant definition, is: To develop, as by planning. The word comes from the Latin, in-, on + cubare, to lie. To lie on.... or in this case, to sleep on!
How many times have you heard the phrase..... "I think Iíll sleep on it!" It seems certain that phrase evolved from so many individuals getting needed solutions and/or information from their dreams!
Since this is a very valuable use to which we can request assistance from our Ďdream-maker,í let it be understood that dream incubation is a technique by which we can better understand inner and outer caused conflicts, solve problems, unblock writerís block.... resolve a plethora of seemingly unsolvable dilemmas.
It is best to utilize this process when you are not unusually tired and when you have time to work -- through focusing and journaling in your dream journal -- on the issue, question or conflict you wish to have your dream address. Write as much as you can about the specific issue, with the goal of designing a clear and specific question. Once you have clarified and written the question down, commit it to memory, turn off the lights and now, the easy part..... go to sleep..... and dream on it!
As is true with prayer, be careful and specific in what you ask for.
My own experience and most of what Iíve read about this process indicates that dreams which have been requested -- or incubated -- in this way are generally easier to self-interpret, clearer.
As always, though, it usually helps -- and you can almost always learn more -- by talking it over with a caring partner or friend.... or in a dream group.
Most people, though they donít often talk about it openly, are interested in their dreams and in dreams, in general. Because itís not a commonly discussed topic, it takes some initiative on our part to learn, who -- among our acquaintances -- would like to set aside some time in discussions to share dreams.
Developing a dreamsharing relationship is as simple as deciding you are going to share some of the nightís harvest of images with others.... preferably others who will and can do more than tilt their heads to the side and say "Gee, thatís weird!" If you -- and the other -- are beginners at this art, the simple act of listening to one anotherís dreams.... respectfully.... can be a great gift to them.
Beyond sharing and listening, the territory can get quite complex, especially if you are just beginning. Dream is one word that embraces a universe of meanings, symbols, purposes, types, time and space. It takes sharing, patience, practice..... and with time and experience, the inner dreamscapes becomes more familiar. And, when we work to find and then bridge their meaning into our everyday lives..... we change.....
Some keys to better understanding our dreams is in 1) the opening scene of the dream, 2) noting the major characters, 3) the major symbols and the main story or event that is being shown. All of the above are usually.... most often.... represented symbolically and metaphorically. To most of us, this is a new language and requires a unique set of tools for understanding. A symbol is not usually itself, not to be taken literally; a symbol points to something else..... and that something else can usually be uncovered through a process of sharing, being questioned, asking questions, making associations.... and listening to what our dreamsharing partners might think a symbol.... or an entire dream....would mean.... if it were their own.
I mentioned in the opening message that our dreams are uniquely designed and individualized information, most often meant exclusively for our understanding and always for our good health and well being. This is true. And this is why it is very difficult, if not impossible, for someone else to interpret my dream or your dream. For instance, if I have a table with a dish on which sits a carrot in my dream, I could associate that image with carrots equals good health, that my body was stating a need, through that symbol, for the nutrients found specifically in a carrot. If you have the same symbol.... a carrot.... in your dream, your association might be to a 10 karat diamond. Another person might automatically associate with Bugs Bunny!
What the carrot means for each of us is distinctly different!
So, the art of dreamsharing involves finding trusted friends, a dreamworker or dream therapist.....or developing trust within a small dream group. Each person involved needs to work at developing skills in listening, asking relevant -- not probing -- questions of the dreamer and, with the dreamerís permission.... offering a projection of what the dream would mean "If it were my dream...." allowing the dreamer who is sharing to feel safe and always be in charge of the process.
It is important to realize that whenever you, the dreamer, give someone else permission to speculate upon the meaning of your dream, it is purely that, a projection..... and while their insights might be of value.... we are not playing games at being therapists, here.
It is our belief that, since we all dream, every night.... that with sincerity and dedication, we can learn to help one another to better understand our dreams and take full advantage of this virtually free information that is made available to us each and every night. Dreams are a very natural and common human experience; it is healthy to share our dreams!
Of course, good books on the subject are now readily available and very helpful. Many dream groups will choose among the plethora of fine literature available and dedicate part of the group time to dream study.
It is only possible, here, to encourage you to find someone or a small group you trust with whom to share your dreams and to introduce you to the art of dreamsharing.
The word DREAM is one simple word that encompasses a vast universe of experience, purpose and meaning. There are many purposes for which dreams come to us and are remembered. Any one dream can have layers upon layers of meaning and it may be weeks, months.... even years, before the full meaning of a dream is revealed. This is true... and in many ways, we do complicate an already labyrinthical -- but common -- human experience by labeling all the potential we can tap while we are asleep.... with this one simple word: DREAMS.
If we compare the experience of dreaming -- and what it can do for us -- to a cornucopia (the definition of which is, abundance) .... a cornucopia overflowing with a variety of fruits and vegetables, this is an apt metaphor. While a banana may contain the best source of nitrogen for our bodies, an orange provides an equally valuable and necessary abundance of vitamin C. Likewise, any given dream may serve to heal and/or nourish different aspects of our being: body.... /mind.... spirit and soul.
Dreams are like this. They come for many purposes.... and the majority of people agree dreams ALWAYS come to benefit our physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.... even, as stated earlier.... nightmares and equally disturbing dreams.
Types of dreams include....
The most common type of dreams we have are those of a Personal nature. Dreams which -- in symbolic and metaphoric language -- reveal situations and/or conditions related to our own unique lives: our past, our woundings, our past and present relationship problems. Typically embedded in this type of dream is guidance toward potential healing and/or solutions to our own unique situations.
Warning dreams come to do just that: warn us of various things.... for instance, something going or gone awry in our bodies.... or of the upcoming death of a loved one..... impending disasters, etc. In these instances, the dream has come to help us avoid a negative eventuality by, for example, reconsidering health issues, choices and perhaps travel plans..... and/or to prepare us, as in the instance of the forthcoming death of a loved one.
Precognitive dreams: these are dreams which actually show us conditions that may occur in the future. I say may, because if a dream shows an undesirable potential future situation or condition.... it comes as another type of warning dream.... very strongly indicating a need for us to make change or alter our plans, so as to avoid this possible eventuality. There are individuals far more experienced than I who believe that all dreams utilize symbols from our own unique past to reveal possible conditions in the future. I emphasize possible because the dream may be serving the purpose of warning us that.... change is in order! Take this into consideration in exploring your dreams!.
"Visitation" dreams: These are among the most special of our dreams and are characterized by our having contact, in the dream state, with someone who has passed away. Most individuals seem to agree that this type of dream is an actual visitation from the spirit world!
Healing dreams: Many -- if not all - of our dreams do contain symbols and information we need to heal a dis-eased condition.... whether that be physical, relational or emotional. I personally had the experience over a decade ago of developing a very odd physical condition for which I sought medical help. After three doctors and hundreds of dollars worth of prescriptions -- all of which only worsened the condition -- I had a healing dream and within 24 hours, I was healed! Itís true!
Visionary dreams: More and more every day, we hear the phrase:
"Hold onto your vision!" Most of us know the Bible, especially the Old
Testament, is replete with visions that provided insight and guidance.
Native American culture is almost synonymous with the Vision Quest....
sending a young aspirant, warrior or healer to seek a vision for the purpose
of revealing her or his unique purpose and destiny.
This type of dream is characterized by a feeling of ultimate recall, clarity and highly charged energy upon awakening.... It is an experience that rarely needs to be recorded in a journal because it is literally forged upon our mindís eye and remains so.... often for our entire lifetime
Lucid dreams: Lucid dreaming is the experience of becoming aware that we are dreaming while we are dreaming and remaining -- or developing the ability to remain -- in that dream state. Lucid dreaming often occurs naturally but many people utilize various techniques and technological devices to attain it. Lucid dreaming. like the experience of visionary dreaming, is also characterized by heightened, exhilarated energy. Once the lucid dream state has been experienced, one can hardly wait until the gift of this experience returns again!
These are but a few of the most common types of dreams we have. In the index of current book on the subject.... under Ďdream typesí..... there is a listing of nearly 100 types of dreams! .... to give you an idea just how vast a range of purposes our dreams serve and encompass.
Two important points before I end this sharing: 1) When you recall a dream, pay particular attention to how you FEEL about the material presented and make note of the feeling tone in your journal, as the feeling tone is often an excellent clue as to the type and purpose of the dream; 2) Put special effort into locating a dreamsharing partner or a dream group with whom to learn more about how to take full advantage of the information presented in your dreams. I can guarantee you, it is definitely worth the effort.
When we share our dreams with another person or in a dream group, we are sharing a very deeply personal and sensitive part of our being. In order to feel safe in doing so, it is best to have ground rules or ethics that are agreed upon by those involved. Here are some basic ethics:
First and foremost, confidentiality. It is best to request and agree that any dreamsharing dialogue among individuals will be contained within those relationships.... right up front/in the beginning. Confidentiality is prerequisite to developing trust.... and trust is a necessary ingredient in experiencing quality dreamsharing;
Secondly, No one in a dreamsharing relationship should feel pressured to share a dream. It takes some individuals time before they feel safe to share.... and thatís OK. When a dream is shared, the dreamer is in charge of the process and maintains the power to comment if theyíre feeling uncomfortable and/or wants to stop the process at any time. When the dreamer allows questions from the group, they are to feel completely comfortable if they choose not to answer.
Listening with full attention and respect for the dreamer and the dream is about the most important skill we need to develop in any dreamsharing relationship. It takes courage to do this work and listening attentively conveys a message to the dreamer of our respect for their courage in being willing to share.
When asking questions of the dreamer, let them be open-ended, not probing or intrusive. Weíre not attempting to be therapists here! To quote an extraordinary dream pioneer, Montague Ullman, "....no one in the group is to assume the role of therapy.
Put another way, the only therapist in the room is the dream itself." An example of an open-ended question is: "How did that (person or event in the dream) make you feel?" not, "Did you feel angry?" or "Is that what your father used to do to you?" Work on developing skills at open-ended questions, which allows the dreamer to make their own associations and connections. Open ended questions are one of the key ingredients in dreamsharing that can help a dreamer to get an AHA! of meaning from the dream. One well respected dreamworker suggests you tell the dreamer you are from a different planet when asking questions about events, persons, symbols in a dream. That way the dreamer has to work to give a full description and definition of any given part of the dream. A good suggestion.
When a new discovery is made by the dreamer.... try and build on the connections they make in an open-ended way, as well. This is one of the places where the genuine excitement in dreamwork is to be found!
Remember, no one will ever fully get it! -- or understand -- the meaning or layers of meaning -- of their dream.... but the dreamer. It is important to restrain ourselves from telling someone what their dream means. As stated earlier, the best place in the dreamsharing process for making statements regarding your feelings and thoughts about any given dream is after asking the dreamerís permission for you -- or the group -- to comment on the dream. Each comment made is best prefaced by a statement like: "If it were my dream..... "
Lastly, throughout the dreamsharing process, the dreamer is to be fully aware that 1) they are in charge of the process and can choose to discontinue at any time and 2) any comments made by you or members of the group are purely projections.
These are a few of the basic ethics or ground rules most dream groups choose to adopt. You will develop and add your own, as you evolve your own dreamsharing associates.
The first dream I personally recalled as an adult was like watching a major movie production! I was overwhelmed! This dream occurred in 1976. 5 years later, I found myself involved in overseeing a community event that was like experiencing the dream, step-by-step.... from beginning to end. This experience changed my life and is primarily responsible for my having committed myself to learning more myself, sharing what I learn with others and encouraging all of us to pay better attention to this incredibly valuable experience we call, simply, dreaming..
Most of us have had the experience commonly referred to as deja vu. The term deja vu.... comes from the French and means, literally.... "already seen." Often, when we have this feeling, it is because it has been foreseen in a dream..... perhaps even in a dream that we didnít recall, consciously.
When this feeling occurs, we always stop.... and wonder..... or think, "Iíve been here -- or done this -- before." Sometimes we can make the connection; often we cannot.
Did the dream -- or prescience -- reveal this moment, this event.... in advance for a reason? Did it help us to be prepared for this moment? I donít believe anyone knows the answer to those questions.....
But, for all of us.... there is something special about those moments of deja vu. It is a special experience and one that deserves to be noted, respected.....
Ultimately and most often -- like dreams -- it is a mystery. And, it is this mystery that keeps us seeking, ever open and fascinated......
Please remember that we are fortunate today to have an abundance of
good books, journals and individuals knowledgeable in helping us to awaken
to the value of our dreams. In each issue of the Dream Network Journal
is a listing of over 50 Networkers & their contact information. Call
one or more of them today! Visit your local library or go to your nearest
bookstore and ask to be guided to what is available.... You will be guided
to what you need.