I am in favor of setting intentions for dreams of the night. Sometimes I will simply say, to my dream producers, "Show me what I need to see."
Sometimes I will set a specific intention for help or guidance. This might be general: "I open myself to the power of healing" or "I open myself to my creative source." It might be quite specific: "i would like guidance on publishing my new book" or "I would like to know how to handle the meeting next week".
I might set the intention to go on an adventure or to rendezvous with a friend, or a group of friends, by common agreement. Dreaming is social as well as individual, and it can be wonderful fun sharing dream memories after a night when you made it your aim to meet others at a certain place. The best locales for a dream rendezvous, I find, are those that you have already discovered in the dreamlands - that magic library, that cottage with the blue door, that apple orchard, that cove where mermaids sing.
When you set a specific intention for dream guidance, be ready to be surprised. You may find it hard, at first, to make a connection between the dream you recall and the intention you set. this may be because you have lost the best part of your dreams. It could be because the source of your dreams - which is wiser than the ordinary mind - may be unimpressed with your theme and is sending you something it considers more important for you to consider.
However, I find it is always a helpful and creative exercise to try to make connections between the dream and the prior intention. This may require a lot of imagination and some element of detective work. The exercise may prosper faster when you draw on the imaginations of others, offering you feedback according to the "if it were my dream protocol".
Sometimes the nature of the guide who appears in dreams is startling.
When I was writing my first book on dreaming, I set the intention, "Show me how to bring the gifts of dreaming to many more people in our society." In my dream, I found myself under a huge circus tent. In the center was a character in a loud plaid suit, with a hat, smoking a big cigar. He performed impossibe acrobatics, leaping to the top of the tent, spinning fast in midair as he came down. Then he leaped into the bleachers and started smooching and cuddling an attractive blonde. I knew his name was "Marty", pronounced New York style.
Now lucid in the dream, remembering my intention, I said to myself, This is my guide?
Marty leered at me and gave me a horrible wink. Then he said, round the edge of his stogie, "It's about entertainment, kid. It's about entertainment."
I came from this dream laughing. Marty may not have been the most evolved spiritual guide, but he was the counselor I needed. I kept his advice in mind as I completed the book that was published as Conscious Dreaming, and I have kept it in mind ever since.
Recently, in developing my practice and teaching of lucid dreaming, I have been experimenting with setting intentions in a rather different way.
I let my body rest for the first cycle of "industrial sleep", when the body is most in need of sleep and repair . Then, when I stir from sleep in the middle of the night, I relax and compose a mental statement about where I want to be in my dream experiences.
If I feel in need of healing, I might say, "I am in a place of healing."
If I want creative inspiration, I might say, "I am in a place of creativity."
Around 3:00 this morning, in the liminal state between sleep and awake, with the soft patter of rain in the redwoods outside my window in California, I composed the following statement: I am living the life I am meant to live.
I found myself in a thrilling but gentle and caring adventure. I was given an assignment by higher authorities to save a woman's life. She was bent on self-destruction, and I was to play the role of the undeclared guide who would reawaken her to all the reasons she had for living.
My assignment required me to get on a plane to Tegucigalpa. My seat had been reserved next to the woman who was bent on suicide. I would appear to be a charming stranger, meat by chance.
I threw myself into the role with gusto. Soon the woman was coming alive again, swimming and diving in glorious blue waters, enjoying music and an excellent dinner.
I came from the dream thinking, Yes, this is part of the life I am meant to live.
Drawing by RM