When I am sharing dreams I often enjoy playing the Space Alien Game. This means asking the dreamer to explain a character or element in the dream as if speaking to an extra-terrestrial who has just dropped in from another star system and has little or no idea of how things operate on Earth. Speaking as an inter-galactic drop-in, I may ask you to explain a refrigerator, or a hippopotamus, or George Clooney. If we are talking about George, it won't be enough to tell me that he is a movie star, because I may never have heard of films or actors. You are going to have to explain what is a cinema, and what is a role - and what roles you most associate with Clooney.
I once played the Space Alien Game with a dream of Garfield the Cat. During a break in an evening lecture for a church group, a very earnest woman approached me with a question. She wanted to know whether she could meet her guardian angel in her dreams. "Absolutely!" I told her without hesitation.
I started to explain dream incubation. "I've done that," she cut me short. "I've read your book Conscious Dreaming and I know about setting intentions for dreams. The problem is, I asked three times to meet my guardian angel. And three times I got Garfield the Cat."
It struck me that the original meaning of "angel" - άγγελος - in Greek is "messenger". Was there some sense in which Garfield could be a messenger for a woman who had clearly given much of her life to service for others?
"Pretend I've just landed from another star system," I invited her. "I've never seen the funny pages and I know almost nothing about humans or their imaginations. Tell me who is Garfield the Cat."
"Well, he's greedy and selfish and always looking out for Number One."
"Is there a sense in which he could be a messenger?"
She thought for a moment, then glanced at the line at the well-stocked buffet. "Do you think it would be okay if I jumped the line and got a piece of chocolate cake before it's all gone."
"Garfield would say, Go for it!"
She ran to the buffet, shouting, "Garfield told me to do it!" and came back with chocolate cake and the grin of a mischievous child all over her previously solemn face.
I played the Space Alien Game on another occasion with a dream of a hermit crab. A woman artist who felt trapped in a hollow marriage told me that for years she had dreamed of a hermit crab, or a succession of them.
"I've just arrived from Arcturus," I informed her.'"Tell me about the hermit crab."
"It's a sea creature. It's different from other crabs because it doesn't grow a shell of its own. It borrows the shells of other creatures. It moves from house to house."
Her eyes widened in recognition as she made the last statement. "I know what the hermit crab is telling me," she said with sudden conviction. "It's telling me I no longer need to stay trapped in a borrowed house that no longer suits me."
She took decisive action to honor this insight. She took on a teaching job her husband had told her she would never be able to fulfill, asserting her own value and moving towards financial independence. She started spending more time by the sea which she recognized as her natural habitat, and made a series of paintings celebrating the freedom of wind and wave and light. When she was ready to leave the marriage, she met a new partner who was able to fulfill emotional and sexual needs that had long been repressed.
In our Active Dreaming approach to sharing dreams, we recognize that it is the task of the guide to help the dreamer become author of meaning for her own dreams, and her own life. Asking a dreamer to explain a dream element to an innocent or mystified ET can bring up deep levels of knowing that had not previously entered consciousness. As with any of our processes, we always want the exchange to end with action to embody the guidance and energy of the dream in physical life. This may bring back the playful child to the over-serious adult. It may free the creative spirit from the confining shell of a sterile relationship.These are examples of real magic, which is the art of bringing gifts from one world into another world.