In our dreams, we have access to a personal doctor who makes house calls, provides an impeccable diagnosis of our physical, emotional and spiritual condition, and doesn’t charge a cent. If we are not in touch with our dreams, we are missing out on a tremendous resource for self-healing. Here’s why:
· The body talks to us in dreams. It shows us what it needs to stay well and previews possible symptoms long before they manifest. If we recognize these messages from the body, and act on them, we may be able to avoid painful and costly medical intervention further down the trail.
· Dreams are also experiences of the soul, and show us the spiritual sources of wellness and illness. The Iroquois say that dreams reveal the “secret wishes of the soul” – as opposed to the narrow agendas of the ego. If we honor the soul’s purpose, as revealed in dreams, we move towards health and balance. In traditional Iroquois practice, it is the duty of the community to listen to dreams in order to help the dreamer to identify and honor the wishes of the soul.
· Our dreams provide us with fresh imagery and energy for self-healing.
· By going back inside our dreams and consciously reshaping our inner dramas, we may be able to help shift the body in the direction of health.
· Dreams invite us to reclaim vital soul energy lost through pain or grief or addiction. Absence of dream recall is sometimes a symptom of soul loss. Dreams in which we encounter a younger version of ourselves or return again and again to earlier scenes from our lives may be invitations to bring home parts of our energy and identity that went missing.
· We can bring through dream guidance for others as well as ourselves.
· Dreams give us a direct line to sacred sources of guidance and healing. In sacred sleep, the ancients not only sought diagnosis and healing images; they sought a direct encounter with the Divine Healer. We can ask for dream healing in the same way.
Here’s how to bring the energy and magic of dreams into daily life, in four easy steps:
1. Make a date with your dreams
Before you go to sleep, write down an intention for your dreams. Make this a juicy intention – eg “I would like to be healed” or “I want to meet my soulmate” or simply “I want to have fun in my dreams and remember.” Have pen and paper ready so you can record something whenever you wake up. Write your dream in a journal later, give it a title and see if you can come up with a personal motto or “bumper sticker” distilling the message or quality of the dream.
2. Share dreams with a partner
Regular dream sharing is wonderful fun, builds heart-centered relationships, brings us fresh perspectives on our issues and helps to nudge us towards taking appropriate action to honor our dreams. You’ll want to begin by creating a safe space where you and your partner will give each other undivided attention. Whoever is sharing a dream should tell it as simply and clearly as possible, giving the dream a title. The partner then asks a few simple questions. Start by asking how the dreamer felt when she first woke up – the first feelings are usually an excellent guide to the general character and urgency of the dream. Ask the dreamer whether she recognizes any of the elements in the dream in waking life, and whether any parts of the dream might possibly be played out in the future.
You are not going to tell each other what your dreams mean. You don’t want to steal the dreamer’s power, or to lose the energy of the dream in verbal analysis. You can offer helpful, non-intrusive feedback by saying to each other, “If it were my dream, I would think about such-and-such.” Finally, you’ll want to ask the dreamer, “What are you going to do to honor this dream?”
3. Act on your dreams
Dreams require action! If we do not do something with our dreams in waking life, we miss out on the magic. Real magic consists of bringing something through from a deeper reality into our physical lives, which is why active dreaming is a way of natural magic – but only if we take the necessary action to bring the magic through. Keeping a dream journal and sharing dreams on a regular basis are important ways of honoring dreams and the powers that speak through dreams. Here are some more suggestions:
· create from a dream: turn the dream into a story or poem. Draw from it, paint from it, turn it into a comic strip
· take a physical action to celebrate an element in the dream, such as wearing the color that was featured in the dream, traveling to a place from the dream, making a phone call to an old friend who showed up in the dream
· use an object or create a dream talisman to hold the energy of the dream: A stone or crystal may be a good place to hold the energy of a dream, and return to it.
· use the dream as a travel advisory: If the dream appears to contain guidance on a future situation, carry it with you as a personal travel advisory. Summarize the dream information on a cue card or hold it in an image you can physically carry.
· go back into the dream to clarify details, dialogue with a dream character, explore the larger reality – and have marvelous fun!
4. Go back inside your dreams
When I started living in rural
When I found the courage to step up to the bear, he embraced me and we became the same size. He showed me we were joined at the heart by something like a thick umbilical, pumping life energy. He told me he would show me what people need in order to be healed. I later discovered that the bear is the great medicine animal in Native American tradition, and that the most powerful healers of the Lakota are the members of the Bear Dreamers Society, composed of those who have been called by the Bear in dreams and visions. Today, when I lead a healing circle, we call in the spirit bear.
Our dreams may offer us gifts of power and healing that we can only claim by going back into the dreamspace and moving beyond fear or irresolution. We may need to go back inside a dream to overcome nightmare terrors, to clarify whether the dream is about a literal or symbolic car crash, to talk to someone who appeared in a dream, to reclaim our own lost children, to use a personal image as a portal to multidimensional reality – or simply to have more fun!
Dream reentry is one of the core techniques that I teach and practice. If you would like to experiment, start by picking a dream that has some real energy for you. It doesn’t matter whether it is a dream from last night or from 20 years ago, as long as it has juice. Get yourself settled in a comfortable, relaxed position in a quiet space and minimize external light. Focus on a specific scene from your dream. Let it become vivid on your mental screen. See if you can let all your senses become engaged, so you can touch it, smell it, hear it, taste it. Ask yourself what you need to know, and what you intend to do inside the dream. And let yourself start flowing back into the dreamspace…
In my Active Dreaming workshops, we use shamanic drumming - a steady beat on a simple frame drum, typically in the range of four to seven beats per second –to help shift consciousness and facilitate travel into the dreamspace. The steady beat helps to override mental clutter and focus energy and intention on the journey. If you are doing dream reentry at home, you may wish to experiment with a drumming tape or soft music.
The applications of the dream reentry process for healing are inexhaustible. In this way, for example, we may be able to travel inside the body and help to shift its behaviors in the direction of health. In her wonderful novel for kids of all ages, A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle describes a journey into a world inside one of the mitochondria of a sick boy; when things are brought into balance inside a particle of a cell, the whole body is healed. As we become active dreamers, we can develop the ability to journey in precisely this way. Our dreams will open the ways.
We will practice these techniques and explore further paths of adventure, creativity and healing in my new online video course for The Shift Network, The School of Imaginal Healing. Classes begin on November 20.
Art by Robert Moss: (1) "Serpent Staff in the Sky" (2) "Dancing with the Bear"