Shamanic Dreamwork – A Diagram of Personal Experience
Standing richly decorated among your own realized Self
embodying Your Truth and holding shiny pieces of the grandest discovery
of all that Is to Be Discovered-
Holding misshapen keys, fitting only the most specific doors
the kind that await within our deepest dreams.
Excerpt from A Dream of Our Becoming
The realm of conscious dreamwork is a multi-dimensional, insightful and unpredictable practice overflowing with possibility. My dream life has always been vivid, and when I came to understand that these nightly occurrences were offering me the potential to explore aspects of myself and the Universe, I was inspired to look deeper for these answers. Before I began actively working with my dreams I would often awaken exhausted, confused and frustrated. I would be overwhelmed by the events of the evening, and feel as if I had been swallowed and regurgitated, into and from entire worlds that existed when my waking life took pause each day- living multiple lives and different timelines every night. When I would engage others in conversation about my dreams, which I felt plagued by at the time, they were usually regarded as a meaningless indulgence in the surely compromised condition of my sanity and psyche. Better to ignore them, try not to think about them, “just don’t worry about it”, and by all means: “let it go”. The “real world” was all that existed, and everything else was delusion or fantasy- the same redundant advice that echoed through the pages of so many of the chapters of my life. But so many questions about reality lingered. If these experiences were just a product of my overactive imagination, then why did they feel so “real” and effect my physical body and emotions in a way that could not be dismissed? To say that I frequently woke up on the “wrong side of the bed” would be an understatement; I felt like I was waking up in an unfamiliar world, having to re-acclimate myself to this reality each and every day, after experiencing any number of colorful scenarios in a myriad other realms.
Many of my dream recollections from this time of disconnect were tumultuous and unpleasant. There was a lot of my being chased, running, hiding, trying to escape, and fighting to save myself from forces that were after me; though I may not have often seen or encountered exactly what this something was- I felt terrified and convinced that it was going to catch me if I didn’t keep trying to get away. Later I discovered that these are classic hallmarks of the dream and soul trying to get our attention; being “stalked” by the dreaming as Robert Moss extrapolates from many indigenous understandings. Some people fear entering into an active dreamwork practice because of these “nightmares”, thinking that by ignoring or suppressing them they are sparing themselves from further discomfort. But from my experience, the dreamworld does not “chase” or choose it’s “prey” haphazardly; for the people who usually experience these recurring themes are naturally active dreamers, gifted seers and shamans waiting in the shadows to be awakened. The dreamworld and the many guides and lessons that await within, are trying to reconnect- to stir and inspire remembering in the heart and soul of their “captive” audience. Once you decide to stop running and trying to escape the inevitable truth of your giftedness, you find that you no longer need to be chased, and you can turn and face yourself and the visions that await beyond the veil of waking life- with courage, confidence and intention.
The dream world is a boundless spectrum of experience, that no one method of interpretation can encompass. When consciously working with your dreams you will encounter many parts of self and psyche. Past, present, future; ego, higher self, personality fragments; spiritual guides, teachers and sometimes negative entities; astral, multi-dimensional and otherworldly arenas; shadows and light… an endless web of possibility. There are many theories for analyzing and working with your dreams, and there is something of value in nearly all of them.
I have read and researched several authors and approaches on the subject of dreaming and dreamwork, and thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from each in unique ways. I have taken what resonated with me from what was offered, and formed my own system of personal dream engagement which is free to constantly shift and grow as new information and experience expands my perspective and understanding. I have a difficult time with ritual or guided technique, aka following explicit instruction, because I am a spontaneous, auditory and kinesthetic learner. Intention and personal guidance affords me the freedom I need to develop my own approaches as my practice deepens. However, these explicit approaches may work perfectly for you, and I encourage you to explore the myriad topics of dreamwork for yourself- to determine what best fits your needs and interest. Something you encounter along the way may be the metaphorical launch pad that catapults you further into the realm of conscious, co-creative dreaming.
The most powerful and important tool that you have for working with your dreams is in exploring what the images and circumstances mean to you personally. I infrequently rely on archetypes or symbolism without weighing the insight with my own resonance and discarding what doesn’t seem to apply. I have found Eugene Gendlin’s focussing approach to dreamwork very helpful, and upon reading his book on the subject, realized that this was something I had been doing instinctively with dreaming and other topics of self-exploration for years. By using a method of free-association in analyzing certain elements or symbols within the dream, and by following what Gendlin refers to as the “felt sense” of the dream, image or circumstance, you can uncover many of the insights waiting and encoded within. Though some elements of the dream may indeed be universal, the dream is highly personal to the dreamer.
An example of using focussing to work with dreams would be to pick an image from the dream; an example from my dreaming would be a broken elevator, and then free-write or associate on what that image brings to mind.
A broken elevator: levels, movement, traveling, journey, unfamiliar places, being a guest somewhere, hotels, apartments, not being able to get where I’m going, feeling stuck, obstacle, I can’t move, where am I going, how will I get there, is this safe, what will happen to me, how did it break, will it still work, is there another way, another elevator, should I take the stairs, insecurity, fear, potential…
After letting yourself expand upon the freely associated elements of the image, sit with what arises and see what triggers that sense of “Yes, that’s it!”, within you. Gendlin describes this as the feeling that you get when you remember something that you’ve forgotten. We are all familiar with the scenario of having forgotten something, and trying to remember what it was. When you do remember, you feel and know that what you have remembered is the same memory that you had forgotten. You “just know”, by having followed the “felt sense” of forgetting to the place of remembering, and POP- there it is. “Aha- That’s it!”. The same is relevant in dream exploration.
“The felt sense isn’t a usual feeling, like angry, scared or sad. In addition to such recognizable feelings a dream also leaves you with a unique felt quality that fits no category. You cannot think it. It is an indefinable, global, puzzling, odd, uneasy, fuzzy sense in your body… Direct the questions there- to the felt sense. Then you wait to see if something new comes to you.”
Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams, Eugene Gendlin
It is standard dream interpretation “law” in many modern shamanic and psychotherapeutic circles, that only the dreamer can determine what the dream truly means. And in many cases, it is perhaps not meant to be analyzed at all, but consciously, actively and creatively engaged with, brought into the waking world and used to deepen the understanding of the individual’s overall conscious and unconscious experience. Everything from dream storytelling and sharing, enacting dream theaters, creating works of literary or visual art, and using the insights to fuel decision making in waking life are elements of conscious engagement with your individual dream experience. Moss refers to the dream often calling for the dreamer to take action in waking life, and encourages the exploration of the recalled imagery for potential counterparts in “reality”, which may be indicative of something needing to be addressed. Countless people throughout history have attributed significant breakthroughs in business, science, art and religion to guidance received in dreaming or “twilight” states. I have personally experienced many of these varied applications for dream world scenarios and messages in my own life; following guidance received to new information about past lives, deciding on the name for my website, an idea for a painting or poem, and visiting a particular person or place.
The only clear exception that I would note on the subject of dream interpretation would be if and when working with a spiritual intuitive (healer, shaman) to determine what the dream may mean, as a response to your own intuitive guidance to do so. In my experience, this is much like doing tarot or a “reading” for someone, in that the intuitive receives insight from the dreamer’s guides and higher self to clarify certain images and events from the sequence in question. But the “law” of resonance still and always applies to ANY intuitive reading, dream related or otherwise. If something does not resonate with you, let it go.
“Mind itself is not contained by the brain and body; rather, the brain and body are contained by mind, by consciousness.” **
Dreamgates, Robert Moss
I developed an interest in astral projection aka out of body experiences, near death experiences and lucid dreaming years before I began consistently working with and recording my dreams. I successfully travelled “out of body” and achieved full lucidity in dreaming a number of times, and have since realized that there are a limitless range of states of consciousness in waking and dreaming life. Full lucidity in dreaming can be very exciting, and offers the dreamer all manner of possibility, many of the more fanciful that I have repeatedly explored and enjoyed; flying, walking on water, etc. However, this focus is not always conducive to encountering the lessons that the original dream path may have intended, and these behaviors often result in the abrupt ending of the dream and physical awakening. This can be frustrating or relieving, depending on the dream. The ability to gain lucidity and will yourself to awaken from an unpleasant scenario is certainly useful, though some teachers may urge the dreamer to remain inside (or even re-enter) such a sequence, using it as an opportunity to go deeper into realms of shadow.
I now aim to achieve a balance between lucidity and detached consciousness, frequently finding myself experiencing multiple levels of simultaneous awareness as the dream unfolds; the participant, the observer and increasingly aware levels of consciousness which communicate with one another during the sequence. It could be likened to the “dream within a dream” phenomenon, signifying multiple levels of awareness and experience within a single dream or sequence of dreams. This allows me a spectrum of control to use for dream navigation.
Once, when becoming lucid in a dream (somewhere on the near fully conscious end of the spectrum), after having informed my dream companion that we were dreaming, being ignored, and then telling him again emphatically that, “This is a dream!”- my dream companion looked up, directly into my eyes (which does not often happen in dreaming) and said, “I know. Don’t ruin it.”
**The term “out of body” is actually an illusory misunderstanding, since the body is within our consciousness, rather than our consciousness being within the body. This is a misperception based on countless lifetimes of programming through human experience and learning to operate a physical body. Inelia Benz expands upon this concept in an interesting and entertaining way during her interview with Bill Ryan, as she claims that this is her very first incarnation, and therefor recounts her early difficulties with navigating in form, unaccustomed to the idea of consciousness focussed through/on the location of the body.
Whatever you do in beginning an active process of exploring dreaming and various states of consciousness, DO NOT stress or force yourself to make any technique work for you that does not resonate after trying it a few times. I have found that this is an ineffective and counterproductive means of practice, and often results in the creation of physical, mental and emotional blocks which will frustrate and discourage you rather than assist you in your goals. Be patient with yourself every step along the way, and release any unfair expectations you may have about how the process should be. Allow yourself to be open and curious, willing to unconditionally experience what presents itself for your engagement. You will continue to learn more about yourself and the process with each new day. There is no pinnacle of learning with this or any other modality of self exploration. Allow yourself to enjoy the journey, and don’t seek to compare yourself to anyone else, even if that someone is yourself at another time or juncture- as your dreamwork will ebb and flow with the tides of your life and the cosmos.
Teachers can only share what works for them, and only you can determine what works for you. Just because a million people achieved success with a certain technique, does not mean it is any more or less valid that another until you try it for yourself. If anyone claims that their methods will work for everyone, you can keep that in the pocket with your grain of salt, and feel free to toss it in the compost bin if/when it proves to be misleading.
Many people do not believe that they can remember their dreams, or think that their individual circumstances complicate any possibility of lucidity or retrieval. Though every person’s case is unique, and certain factors such as medication, diet, amount of sleep, stress level and drug use will certainly effect your individual experience with dreamwork, I believe that there is often more possibility and potential available than your circumstances would indicate. Balking at any statements of dreamwork being an impossibility, from my experience as the mother of a co-sleeping toddler, who also shares her bedroom with an early-to-rise-by-alarm husband and a sleep-talking dog, having lived in big cities and apartments, and moved 3 times in the past year, (and yes- keep this one with your grain of salt,) “If I can do it, so can you!”
Obviously there are certain factors, like diet, which will cause your experience to vary on a near nightly basis, depending on how you approach your health and nutrition. If you eat a lot of dairy one day- for instance, per Doreen Virtue, this will “cloud your aura”, not to mention your arteries. Caffeine is going to make you restless and irritable, resulting in less sleep and a strained nervous system, which will effect your ability to travel as deeply into the dream realms, et al. Listen to your body and notice your reactions to everything you expose it to. There are also certain foods and herbs which can be safely experimented with, reputed to improve dream recall, clarity and general cognitive function. I have had success with some of these, such as vitamin B supplements, but because of my extreme sensitivity to absolutely everything, I cannot take even small doses on a regular basis without it disrupting the balance of my system. I stick to an intuitive diet, and a random vitamin or herb here or there. You do not want to develop a dependence on any substance in the process of working with your dreams.
When you begin your dreamwork practice, remember not to take the project too seriously. If you are interrupted, or find your practice interfered with by the daily happenings of life, make an effort to remain patient with yourself and others. If you live in an apartment, you will be woken up by your neighbors; if you are a parent- by your children. If you have pets, or your husband snores, or there is a thunder storm… you get the idea. The first and most important thing you can do is STAY CALM. The second that you get caught up in the story about what’s happening around you, how unfair it is and how pissed off you are about it, the dreaming will start to fade with an exponential vengeance. If you handle the situation as calmly as possible from a detached perspective, and then manage to return to your normal sleeping position for even a few moments before rising (or returning to sleep), your chance of successful recall is much higher.
The key that I have discovered, as Gendlin refers to it, is in focussing on that felt sense of the dream which lingers just below the surface of your consciousness; like that lost or forgotten something that you know will POP back any moment. If you can keep calm and focus on this sense, this feeling of the dream in between the abrupt awakening and your attempts at recall, you will be amazed how often the details bubble and pop back up to the surface with increasing ease.
I personally sleep with an eye mask and a pillow over my head, effectively creating a quiet cocoon or cave-like environment to dream within. This is something that I have done since childhood, because of my sensitivity to sound, light and other stimuli, and it works quite well for me. Whenever I awaken or am awakened during the night, I focus on that felt sense of the dream until the details surface, and repeat them to myself mentally- as much as I can recall before I drift back into dreaming again. Find key points that you can later use to recall further detail upon waking; images that stand out and help to connect the dots within the sequence. Colors, places, people, objects. A small string of key details will often trigger more of the sequence when you get the opportunity to work with your recall and recording. And if nothing else, these stand-out details are an excellent place to start with your journaling.
It is often suggested that if you awaken to an alarm, that you choose something stirring but not unpleasant, set it for a bit earlier than you need to get up, and use the snooze to facilitate your incubation before jumping up and rushing into your day. Maybe use your time in the shower to focus and retrieve more of the details left to recover. I usually take about 5-10 minutes to “retrieve” or “translate” the dream in the morning, effectively focussing and pulling through whatever details I can manage in the small window of opportunity that my two year old allows me. He is my built-in snooze button.
I awaken to a sudden demand for “milk-juice”, retrieve a non-dairy filled sippy cup and fresh diaper from the living room, and return to the bedroom- deliver the beverage and change my son’s diaper, then reposition myself deep within my cocoon, blocking whatever excess stimuli possible and focusing on recall before arising to begin my day. Meanwhile, my toddler crawls over and lounges upon me as if I were inanimate, the cat begins his chorus of incessant meowing to be fed, and I am frequently engaged in stirring conversations about my hair and other body parts. Rather remarkably, and perhaps a testament to my female brain, hard-wired for multi-tasking, this usually allows me to remember the events of the dreaming for much longer than if I were to simply rise and begin to record them immediately. It can sometimes be hours before I have the time and space to focus clearly on recall and recording. I have tried using an audio recording device before, but I tend to gravitate towards doing things manually or hands on, aka “the hard way”. This option may be something that works great for you, however, and is often suggested by teachers of various dreamwork modalities.
Write down, type or record everything you can remember in a dream journal as soon as possible. Preferably before talking to anyone or reading anything, checking email, turning on the television, or exposing yourself to other stimuli which will cause the details of the dreaming to scramble and fade. But do not be discouraged if this isn’t possible, and if you were able to take the time to incubate before rising, and you have the string of details I mentioned to use as reference, then whenever you can manage the time- you may be surprised how much still lingers and arises in your awareness. It is important to recall as much detail as you can, even if it seems fragmented or unimportant. Many dream sequences may be challenging to describe in 3 dimensional terminology, therefor use the best approximation or closest match to the experience you remember having.
There have been many times when I judged or considered a portion of my dreaming to be trivial or a waste of my time, only to later realize that the exact pair of brown gladiator sandals I had spent much of my dream shopping for, seemingly at random, surprisingly arrived at my house the very same day in an unexpected shipment of surplus from my fashion-loving aunt across the country. This sort of precognitive experience may seem unimportant, but we cannot truly know what is being used as practice to attune our skill and awareness for the eventual receiving of something of greater value. This training actually began in early childhood for me, though I did not realize this was taking place until much later in life. There were many occasions in my youth where I was frequented with bouts of deja vus. Something would occur in my daily life, like standing on a chair in the middle of class, and I would literally see the merging of the present moment and the moment of precognition as if they were happening at the same time before me; like a screen within a screen of my awareness. If I had not learned to accept my dreams of standing on chairs, precognitive shoes and giant octopi (among other things), I may not have been prepared to receive the dream of the Occupy Movement months before it happened, or any number of the far more illuminating sequences I’ve been blessed with. I am still learning how to determine when and if a dream is precognitive before it happens in waking life, so if anyone has any advice in that department, I would certainly be grateful for the suggestions.
Overall, I have come to view and describe my approach to dreaming as shamanic, because I resonate with the dreaming traditions of my own and other native and indigenous cultures. An aspect of dreaming that I have not seen explored as thoroughly in my studies, are the many elements which are not simply aspects of our psyche or reflections of ourself, but actual encounters with beings, either the astral/souls of those currently incarnate here on earth, or beings from other worlds and dimensions, including alternate timelines and past/future/alternate selves. I have participated in discussions and teaching in dreaming that translated into waking life on more than one occasion. The first time that I had a conversation in dreaming that resulted in the spontaneous change of heart of someone in waking life, seemingly “out of the blue”, I was singing the same Monkey’s tune that I was the day that fated pair of sandals arrived. I have also participated in numerous soul retrieval and healing dream sessions, for myself and others- individually and collectively.
I have learned to recognize when I am encountering a projection of some aspect of my own psyche vs. the real disembodied presence of a being beyond my individual soul. There are certain tell-tale variables that signal this awareness for me, though they are somewhat difficult to describe, and would vary for each individual in their own experience. There is an aspect of “you just know” within the entire arena of dreamwork- and life for that matter, as cliche as that may sound.
Sometimes your dreaming will be corroborated by someone that you know, expressing the same or similar images and events as a sequence you encountered. This is a wonderful experience in sharing and validating your own dream life as something other than a random collection of psycho-babble. Though it is rare for two people to experience the exact same imagery and circumstances when dealing with the 4th or higher dimensional consciousness, from what I have gathered from my own perspective and research. Based on the common understanding of the Astral, mental and successive planes, whatever form the energy takes around you is entirely responsive to and created by your thought and intention, therefor even when sharing an experience with a fellow dreamer you are going to recall a variety of unique and personal expressions of the sequence, a result of your particular and unique perspective.
There is no way of predicting what you may encounter once you embark upon a journey of conscious interaction and practice with your dreams. There is as much variation in experience with dreamwork as there are with all other aspects of reality. Your experiences will range from the mundane to the outrageous, as the sheer innumerable realms and levels of consciousness are well beyond description. Working with dreaming is one of the clearest forms of “evidence” available for the reality of our multi-dimensional existence.
I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.
Another phenomenon that I will briefly touch on, having a wealth of experience in this less-than-comfortable state, is the occurrence of what is commonly referred to as sleep paralysis. My first encounter with this often frightening and bizarre state of consciousness began around the same time that my spiritual awakening was triggered. Though I still have much to learn within this bittersweet pocket of potential, this state of being between levels of consciousness, I now know that this is a great opportunity and launch point for out of body travel, and with practice you can quiet the conscious mind and body’s immediate urge to struggle and learn to “use” this occurrence to your benefit rather than suffer from it. It is this resistance and fear that is responsible for much of the discomfort associated with the typical descriptions of these experiences.
As with dreaming, there are various levels of consciousness which can be experienced with sleep paralysis, and struggling when you find yourself within it can result in physically painful fluctuations in control, leaving you rather drained and disturbed upon finally waking fully and regaining control of the body. The classic hallmarks of this experience are being conscious of your physical surroundings in waking life, while simultaneously dreaming in various degrees, which is essentially superimposed upon your immediate surroundings. If you have never experienced this phenomenon before, it may be somewhat difficult to comprehend, and likewise difficult to relate to just how challenging and mind boggling this experience can be. The more you practice and learn to navigate this and other varied states of consciousness along “Jacob’s ladder”, the more control you will have, and the more rewarding and balanced your experience can become.
There are a variety of contributing factors to why certain people experience this phenomenon, especially the use of drugs and medication, though personally I have noticed that sleeping during the day is when almost all of my experiences have taken place. Some of these recent happenings, as I’ve curtailed my instinct to react out of fear over the years, have been absolutely fantastic- so know that there are possibilities within this seemingly torturous realm of semi-consciousness.
I will also briefly discuss the frequency of relating this experience to mythologies of old, including succubi, demons, etc. It has even been surmised by psychologists that this state is where the accounts of alien abductions originate. I am not particularly convinced by either of these explanations, and my personal understanding is that the fearful encounters with entities while in sleep paralysis are often direct manifestations of our desire and emotional bodies, literally running a havoc and muck as a result of the confusion that results on multiple levels of consciousness at once. The phenomenon is essentially a result of a “normal” biological function going amiss. Therefor it is not unlikely that our consciousness would react chaotically. It would be understandable for the conscious mind to associate the idea of being held down by an unpleasant entity with the literal stuck-ness of physical paralysis, and our typical reactions to struggle and escape with a frantic mentality. However, this does not mean that there are not entities that exist within the various levels of consciousness and dreaming that have less than love and light filled intentions, though I have not found and refuse to dwell on much concern about them, and thus far this intention has served me well. In regards to alien abduction, I do believe in the reality of these occurrences, and also in the possibility of their taking place on multiple levels of consciousness- along the spectrum of dreaming and waking life. Though I have made it very clear to any potential mischievous entities that, to put it bluntly, “Momma don’t play that.”
Our collective experience and programming play heavily into what we experience in the myriad nodes that exist along the spectrum of consciousness, and it is no secret that we have been continuously inundated with fear and negativity from childhood through the media, education and religion. These subconscious programs often manifest themselves in dreaming and waking life, and in the various stages of consciousness we may find ourselves in between.
I worked with a client once who shared with me a dream that had plagued her since childhood, of a man she would meet in the hallway steps of her family home that would render her completely terror struck and speechless. She wanted to know what this was about, who this person was, and what she could do about it, so I offered to do a dream journey for her- to explore who and where this “entity” was coming from. That night I was visited by an entity, in a sleep paralytic state of in-between consciousness. This “entity” WAS fear; hairy, bumpy, dark, amorphous but humanoid, coming at me from the doorway with arms outstretched. When I awoke from this vision and calmed my physical body from the fear reaction it was experiencing, I instinctively and intuitively new that the man in my client’s dream, and the visitor I had experienced, was a manifestation of fear itself (and specifically of her fear). Upon re-entering the dreaming I was shown other indications of where this fear was stemming from, including a connection to the medieval imagery of hellfire and damnation associated with her traditional catholic upbringing. Ironically but logically enough, from a psychological perceptive, this person also had an obsession with watching documentary programs about serial killers, and forced herself to endure things frequently which terrified her- feeding the “fear monger” ever more fuel for its terrifying fire. I also realized after working with her case that I would be very careful what I agreed to take on with dreamwork for clients in the future!
As much as I am careful about what I expose my body to physically in the way of nutrition, it is equally as important to nourish the body mentally and emotionally, and exposing yourself to disturbing and fearful images to feed a twisted psychological addiction to being terrified for the adrenaline rush it supplies, is not only detrimental to your waking life, but absolutely havoc wreaking on your dreaming life. If you plan to enter into a practice of active dreamwork I suggest dealing with your addiction to fear and smut television right from the beginning, otherwise you will find your dreams filled with all manner of regurgitated dramas from the media.
Regardless of how much you practice working with your dreams, how much control you gain over your lucidity or how accurate your recall becomes, the energy of the Universe and your daily life will still continue to shift and flow, influencing every aspect of your life and dreaming. Sometimes certain sequences simply will not translate. You may be keenly aware within the dream, and the felt sense may be strong upon waking, but the experience may be happening on a higher plane of consciousness than you can integrate (consciously) into 3D. And that’s ok… let it go. Sometimes there simply is no language to describe your experience, and the felt sense, a single image, or the knowledge that something amazing took place is all that you have to record. Sometimes a sequence may be too disturbing or challenging emotionally to record in detail. These feelings and your reactions and emotions upon waking are as important as the symbols and events you recall when journaling your dreams.
Sometimes you will be too tired physically or mentally to focus on recall at all, and you may hit the snooze button only to immediately pass out and later awaken realizing that you cannot remember a thing. That is good, right and ok, too. There have been days, weeks and entire months that I have taken off of consistent dreamwork. Though consciously working with my dreams has been deeply transformative and enlightening, alleviating a great deal of suffering and confusion from my previous experience, I still consider it a great adjustment to wake up to this “reality” every day, and it takes me a certain amount of time to decompress and prepare myself to interact with the physical world each morning. I give myself a lot of wiggle room when it comes to this and any practice in my life.
Start where you are and work with what you have. I’ve heard more than one person set dreamwork on a pedestal, as if were simply too demanding and high maintenance, or too difficult for them to manage from where they are. The fact is, there are no absolute rules with dreamwork or any self explorative modality, and unless you simply have no interest or resonance with the process, there is no one reason why you cannot begin a personal dreamwork practice. The more that you work with your dreams and various levels of consciousness, certain techniques, intention and methods of recall- the more you will open to engage with a wider spectrum of your experience as a spiritual Being.
I would compare the process of beginning dreamwork to beginning a yoga practice, in that many people are intimidated by the idea of doing yoga because they believe that they are not flexible or balanced enough to succeed. Both yoga and dreamwork are about learning to settle in where you are with what you have, to stop the story that you are telling yourself about what’s happening, and fully immerse yourself into the process without judgement- relaxing into the posture. After a few weeks of practice, with yoga, dreamwork, or any other modality, you will be amazed at just how “flexible” you are!
Intention is the single most important aspect of conscious living and dreaming. Stating your intentions, along with your gratitude for the many blessings in your life, helps to put you into a receptive state as you enter into the secrets of the night. If there are any particular issues or questions that you wish to meditate upon at this time, inviting an answer into your dreaming, keep them as succinct and simple as possible. I have a habit of compounding my intentions into run-on sentences, which is not only confusing for myself and my own consciousness, but no doubt highly amusing for any of my spiritual guides/teachers that may be listening on in the cosmic vicinity. Stating that you intend to dream with clarity, to recall your dreams, or to become lucid (depending on your goals)- with a focus on offering yourself in service of the highest good, are elements of my practice that I would recommend. These are all good ways to set the tone for the dreaming to come. Go with whatever feels right as you spontaneously enter this space for yourself.
Working with your dreams allows you to embrace the reality of the adage, “life is but a dream”, awakening you to a realm of synchronicity and symbolism in waking life that enhances and compliments the insights your dreaming has to share. Themes and images from your dreams will often appear in waking life, serving as guideposts- pointing you in the direction of your intentions and lessons.
Like unplugging from the matrix and willfully and consciously re-entering the game to play with new awareness, dreaming consciously presents an entirely new realm of possibility within waking life. Of course, there are certain physical laws that do not apply to dreaming, but you will also find that there are certain facts about “reality” that are actually un-truths that we’ve taken for granted as a result of continuous indoctrination, and the world is much more open and mutable than we have previously imagined.
As our Universal and Global consciousness begins to shift, secret truths and technologies are revealed to the masses, and increasing shifts in awareness and ability surface from the depths of human potential, who knows what incredible potentials we may uncover within ourselves and our world. The mythologies that permeate so many of our ancient cultures certainly had their root in some level of experience, wherever on the rungs of consciousness these visions appeared, and the idea that Jesus walked on water, for example, or that inter-dimensional beings are ever-present just beyond the veil of our conscious perception, leaves a wide and all-encompassing realm of infinite potential available to be discovered.
After years of dedicated study to the process of dreamwork, I can say that my overall health and happiness has been completely transformed as a result. Actively and consciously working with my dreams has literally changed my life, and afforded me more balance, sanity, peace and understanding than I ever thought possible. Remarkably, I no longer awaken as exhausted as I did in years past, though I sometimes recall as many as 5 or more vivid sequences in a night. There is a deep sense of serenity and comfort that emanates from within my being now, which has allowed me to view waking life with more patience, clarity and a wider perspective than I previously experienced. I feel a sense of solace and communion with the Universe, and I have found the practice to be immensely rewarding and enlightening.
“There are equal measures of mystery in dreams and wilderness… Every dream is an opportunity to develop our relationship to soul.”
Soulcraft, Bill Plotkin
There are so many facets of dreamwork that I have barely begun to touch on them here, and if you are interested I suggest looking into the subject further from whichever perspective best fits your personality; psychological, shamanic, etc. I would personally suggest researching a variety of methods and reading more than one author, to get a clearer picture of the spectrum of possible approaches you might incorporate into the development of your own conscious dreaming adventures.
During your nightly sojourns into the realm of “All that Is”, you will find doors, windows, classrooms, vehicles, worlds, paths and beings leading you well beyond your wildest imaginings. You will find joy and frustration; seeming randomness and majesty within the endless scope of your interconnected Being. By exploring recurring themes, symbols and images from your dreaming through the use of varied states of consciousness, including others not mentioned here- like meditation and self hypnosis, you can enter consciously into dream states to investigate the source of your inspiration and your challenges. Your guides and higher self are constantly conspiring to send you messages and direction, hoping to engage you in a creative exchange of consciousness, and wake you up to the reality of your dreams.
by. Rachael Ehrlund