Harvesting your dream wisdom
Dreams are by nature ephemeral; they tend to melt away with morning light. In order to fully engage them and receive their gifts, a bit of discipline is necessary. I have found it well worth the effort.
Through remembering our dreams—cultivating them and exercising the muscles of recollection—we are able to link our subconscious and conscious minds. In doing this, we strengthen the connection and dialogue between the two and even have greater access to our intuition during our waking hours.
Engaging this powerful tool involves the following four steps:
Step 1. Prioritize sleep
The first step to a more integrated relationship with your dreams is to prioritize sleep. This, in itself, is a powerful self-healing technique. Sleep really is medicine, since our bodies do so much in sleep: physical and spiritual growth and healing occur when we slip into an altered consciousness where our brain waves slow.
Go to bed early. Using an eye mask will allow the pineal gland to activate and give you rest even if there is ambient light. Herbs like catnip, skullcap, lemon balm and lavender can help you to transition into deep sleep. If at all possible, don’t set an alarm. When we’re not jarred awake by an alarm, we can have a gradual re-entry into wakefulness, allowing our slow brain waves to support us in remembering our dreams.
Step 2. Write down your dreams in the morning
Keeping a dream journal is a step that I find essential—actually writing our dreams down while we’re still in a liminal state. It will be much easier to interpret them later if they’re written. I find it’s easiest to have a journal that is dedicated to dreams, rather than mixing it in with other journaling and writing. Keep the dream journal close by your pillow so you can scratch notes in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.
Just write down what you remember, as it comes. I encourage you not to try to interpret your dream as you’re writing, although you might put notes at the end of your entry on some of the feelings and tones of the dream. These can be useful when you go back to interpret. Don’t worry about creating a narrative—just record your impressions; whatever threads you can follow. Make sketches like, “the room was laid out this way…” Do this before you get out of bed, if possible.
Step 3. Harvest your dream wisdom
Later in the day, or even within the next few days, it's time to go back and interpret your dreams. A little distance allows the emotional intensity to subside a bit and the underlying message to come through.
A simple traditional technique is to feel out what parts of yourself are represented by each character or object. Note in the margins just a word or two that you associate with that object or person. Look at it through the frame of reference of how the different parts of yourself may be interacting and bringing forward wisdom for you.
You could use other techniques as well. In the Wise Woman tradition, it’s not a matter of either/or. It’s both/and. The important thing is to actively engage in the process.
There’s a lot out there on dream analysis. Symbols can be archetypal or they can be very personal. Rather than initially relying on the internet for a download of information, author and Jungian scholar Clarissa Pinkola Estes and other wise woman perspectives suggest that our own interpretations are most valuable. That’s part of cultivating and honing our own intuition and trust for ourselves.
Step 4. Collect the seeds
Wintertime is my favorite time to listen to my dream world, with the long nights. Over the winter (or whatever season you're in), collect these kernels of wisdom, allowing them to brew and infuse, knowing that after this inward season we’ll be called to move into new directions and growth. In these times, it is even more important that we glean wisdom from our dreams to navigate a path that is in alignment with our guidance from unseen realms.
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