Over the last month I have been paying a lot of attention to my dreams. Don’t worry – I’m not about to tell you all about one of them, I promise! But allow me to share a few ideas, books and practices that I am finding helpful.
Lucid dreaming Lucid dreaming means becoming aware that one is dreaming while one is dreaming. I’ve enjoyed work by Robert Moss and also this book as introductions. As well as being a rich and ancient practice in its own right, exploring lucidity in dreams helps us see how dream like our daily reality is. Perhaps life itself is very much more fluid, flexible and spacious than our often heavy stories and emotions allow us to see.
Relating dreams to physical and emotional patterns. Arnie Mindell discovered that our physical body symptoms invariably show up in our dreams and vice versa. He coined the phrase ‘dream body’ as a way of pointing to what shamans, indigenous people, meditators and the like have known for millennia, namely that we are an undivided whole. We all have vastly greater depths, connections and wisdom than our day to day thinking minds and ego structures allow. Relating our dreams to information we are receiving from other parts of our psyche is helps us tap into this wider and deeper intelligence.
Dream re-entry. Dream re-entry is the practice of consciously re-entering into a dream to explore and develop insights, themes and information. It builds on Jung’s practice of active imagination. You can do this immediately after waking from the dream – while in the twilight zone, or as a specific activity anytime during the day. You can even re-enter significant dreams from many years ago and find new insight and understandings.
A dream journal. Anyone interested in dreams needs to keep a dream journal. I record my dreams on my phone and then type them up the next day. After a while I quickly start to see patterns, recurring themes, and connections in my dreams that show up in various ways in my waking life. It’s fun, interesting, insightful and occasionally astonishing.
And why bother with any of this?
Good question. Well, a key idea for anyone working with change is to recognise that our primary processes don’t really support us to change. Primary process means our normal, day to day sense of our ego-identity. This is the cluster of stories, beliefs and habits that make up who we believe we are. Yet we are all so very much more. To believe overly in our usual story of self – personally or collectively as a team, organisation or culture, requires us to marginalise and exclude masses of other emotions, thoughts, stories, impulses and experiences that don’t fit with the primary picture. When we exclude all that, it is much harder to open up to the new, to the possibility of transformation of who we think we are.
Anything we can do to become more conscious of and embrace information coming from beyond our primary identity is very helpful in enabling change to happen. Therapy, meditation, travel, study all do this. Many approaches to personal and professional development do this.
I’m a big fan of many of those. It turns out that dreaming is something we do every night. It’s free, totally available and takes almost no additional time to fit into a schedule.
And as I am discovering, it opens up a rich world of discovery, possibility and adventure.
Sleep well and happy adventures