Seven Steps to Dream Recall

Dreaming and Dream Recall Image result for images for dream recall

Dreams come to us and we remember them when we are ready to get it…the fact they’re coming to us means we’re ready. Robert Johnson

Are you able to remember your dreams? If so, how many dreams do you recall? Many factors affect dream recall including medication, stress, alcohol, food, illness, how many hours you sleep, how deeply you sleep and, of course, fear of recall. You might wonder: Why on earth would I be afraid to remember my dreams? There are many reasons including feeling uncomfortable or afraid about things we don’t understand or wish to face within ourselves. Also, we tend to invalidate the unknown. I have witnessed this many times while being interviewed about dreams on radio or TV. Inevitably, one person will challenge: “What research shows that dreams mean anything at all!?” Responding to such a question is impossible; it’s akin to the old saying: “The atheist can’t find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a policeman.”

Dreams are meant to help you, not harm you, and that includes the disturbing poisonous diamondback rattlesnake trying to bite you as much as the radiant golden chalice given to you by a loving, wise woman. And again, we dream every night whether we remember our dreams or not. Rather than asking someone, “Did you have any dreams?” Try this: “Do you remember any of your dreams from last night?”

The art of dream recall is like anything else you want to experience: you must have the desire to remember them. Dreams images often live in the shadows and if they haven’t been acknowledged or tended to in a long while (or, ever), they need some gentle coaxing. The more you seek to understand them, the more likely you will recall them.

Related image Dream Recall in Seven Steps

  1. Set your intention to remember your dreams before falling asleep. Before falling asleep, repeat 3 times: “Tonight I’m going to remember my dreams.” Tell your dream self that you are willing to remember your dreams, even if it’s only a small “snippet.” Like anything else in life, what we place our attention on expands and dream recall is no different. Dreams may seem silly but only to your waking mind. Often people who cannot remember their dreams are resistant for various reasons. This is understandable considering how confusing and frightening they might seem. Again intention and action are key; it is impossible to trick psyche, you are either committed to remembering your dreams or you are not.
  1. Keep a dream journal near your bed (or a tape recorder). The more you record your dreams, the more dream recall you will experience. Writing the dream down anchors it and demonstrates your commitment enabling you to progress from the mental level of intention to the physical level of action. The other important reason for recording your dreams is that you will have clearer recall upon awakening. If you wait to write them down, you risk losing the clarity of the dream including the feelings you experienced while having the dream, and your feelings are essential. Dreams are elusive and will disappear within seconds.
  1. Pose a question before falling asleep. It may pertain to any area of your life in which you would like some guidance. Allow any issues you are working on, or answers you are seeking, to come into your awareness as you fall asleep. Ask one question about a situation you are dealing with and have trust that your dreams will give you the answer(s). The issue isn’t to try and control the outcome of your dreams, so only ask open-ended questions.
  1. Record your dreams as soon as possible, even if it’s during the night. Try not to turn on any bright lights or anything that makes noise. Turning on an overhead light may take you out of a state of dream awareness and cause you to lose the dream completely. Using a light-pen works wonders. Always record the dream using the first person narrative “I” and in the present tense. The key is to keep yourself in the dream so you can recall as much as possible. You want to feel the dream as though it is alive, a living embodied experience that lives inside of you. Record even the smallest bits and pieces of your dream, they could very well be the catalysts for remembering the rest of the dream later in the day. Even writing down a snippet of your dream is helpful and often triggers the ability to recall the rest of the dream.
  1. Carpe noctem! If you awake during the night, seize the opportunity by focusing on what you want, e.g., guidance about a specific issue, desire or interest. Instead of worrying about your finances, health or “to do” list at 3a.m., choose what you center your energy on. Think about something in your life you would like to enhance, it could entail your work, health, or family. What you shine your light of attention on will often manifest as a dream when you fall back to sleep. I practice this regularly and have received dreams flowing with guidance about sensitive relationship issues, ideas for juicing up my creative projects, and even specific foods to add to my diet for increasing energy.
  1. Focus on dream symbols and feelings while recording your dream. Recall the feelings you had during the dream and upon awakening, but be careful not to judge your dream. Remember that the majority of dreams are metaphoric, not literal. People tend to think the worst about their dreams, which blocks their ability to understand them. Again, dreams are given to us to help us become more aware.
  1. Make a commitment to remember your dreams and develop your own “dream language.” As you do so, your dreams will become easier to remember and understand. Dreams are recalled within seconds upon waking so you may have only 15-20 seconds to “upload” a dream into your long-term memory banks. Your dream journal will become a valuable tool as you proceed on your soul’s adventure.

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Dreaming Your Way to Rebirth and Transformation in the New Year

Dreaming Your Way to Rebirth and Transformation in the New Year

Butterfly emerging from the planetThe New Year has long been associated with renewal and rebirth. In a number of North American Indian languages, the term “world” means “cosmos” and is also used to describe a new year. The Yokuts (native to Central California) might say that “the world has passed,” meaning “a year has gone by.” The cosmos is seen as a living entity that is born, evolves, then dies on the last day of the year, only to be reborn on New Year’s Day.

This time of the year has always been very special for me since my birthday falls at the beginning of the year.  As December unfolds, I harness my strongest manifesting skills by paying particularly close attention to my night-time dreams. Working with my dreams creates a powerful space for change and transformation to occur in the New Year.   

This winter I am working with a dream that has been most compelling. It is a snake-dream. The same snake has appeared in three different dreams the past few months.  Because I’ve always been afraid of snakes, the first one was troubling and frightening, and this makes sense considering that through the ages, “snake” has received a very bad rap. In fact, the snake is one of the least understood Biblical symbols.  Snake has frequently been depicted as evil and the cause for our human desires and temptations. For heaven’s sake, the snake was even blamed for tempting Eve which led to the downfall of paradise! Unfortunately, the shadow aspects of sexual repression, temptation and sexual guilt have tainted the deeper meaning of this amazing creature.

Because my Dream Tending™ teacher, Dr. Stephen Aizenstat, Co-Founder and Chancellor of Pacifica Graduate Institute, taught me to always ask the dream image: “Who is visiting now?” I felt drawn to inquire the snake about its presence. This charged question implies a familiarity with the dream image, as though it has appeared myriad times, dressed in different forms, with a similar assignment: Something very important is about to happen—or—is happening so WAKE UP!

Taking this urgency to heart, I journaled about the snake, my snake, which wasn’t just some boring brown common snake, but the green diamond back rattle snake. I thought to myself: Good grief, are you “visiting” me because of repressed sexual desires or fears, some generational sexual wounds that several women in my family have suffered from, or, are you here to reveal the plight of the unresolved sexual issues of the collective unconscious? Isn’t everyone in our culture suffering from some form of Puritanical sexual guilt?

As my confusion escalated, I recalled that some ancient cultures frequently refer to the serpent as being the most universal and auspicious archetype, one that symbolizes rebirth and transformation. I found solace in reading Mary Ellen O’Hare-Lavin’s review of The Practice of Dream Healing: Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries into Modern Medicine, where she discusses the healing, light-filled image of the snake: asclepius-god-of-medicine-thiras-art

The chthonic serpent image is an ancient one, utilized even earlier than Asklepius. Our healing ancestors were less interested in a “Higher Power.” The serpent image was used to represent a connection with both the upper world and the underworld. The serpent is a shape shifter and it journeys below the earth’s surface (a.k.a. underworld) as well as bathes in the sunlight of the upper world. In the Asklepian tradition it represented the healing and shedding of old skins for new ones. 

As I continue to delve into the snake dream image via journaling, drawing the image, and through a process called Embodied Dream Tending™, my snake dreams are evolving. The snake has shape-shifted itself from scarily circulating itself around my shoulders (Dream number 1), to sliding up next to me and laying still as I rest my hand against its head (Dream number 2), to transforming itself into a beautiful, verdant plant (Dream number 3).

Just as we are familiar with the serpent wrapped around the staff carried by the ancient Greek healer, Asklepius, snake now appears in my dreams symbolizing light and dark, spirit and soul, rebirth and transformation. Gone is the old fear based on some much distorted Biblical and societal perceptions. 

In fact, Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian-American archeologist, excavated hundreds of figurines from around the world and discovered a snake goddess figurine from the Palm of Knossos, Crete that dates back to 1,500 B.C.E.  This powerful female figure holds a snake in each hand demonstrating healing traits: fertility, rebirth and 010transformation.  Such a positive perspective can be seen throughout the ancient Greek’s view of how they regarded snakes as sacred. Instead of fearing them, they were used in restorative rituals and even the venom was used for healing. Not to mention the way snake represents Kundalini, a Sanskrit word meaning “coiling like a snake.”  Kundalini or “serpent power” can rise during deep meditation, up through the chakras, bringing a devotee to full spiritual awakening.

It’s not surprising that the snake has been visiting me lately during dream-time. I started a doctoral program in the field of Depth Psychology and Somatic Studies a few months ago and to say it’s been life-changing is putting it mildly. It’s been forcing me to face all aspects of myself, especially my shadow-side.  And like the snake, I see how all images—like all people—possess both dark and light. Dream images are gifts that our psyche is offering us.  Marion Woodman, a mytho-poetic author, women’s movement figure and Jungian analyst reminds us that honoring our dreams and their images creates a life-changing relationship with the unconscious and our psyches.

Dream images have the capacity to pave the way to your transformation. As you create a vision for the New Year, your dreams can reveal beliefs and perceptions that are limiting you. These may appear as “shadow” dream images, yet they are meant to help you, not frighten you. The snarling dog or fanged snake is calling for your attention. In fact, the more disturbing the dream images may appear, the more powerful they are. James Hillman, in his book Dream Animals once wrote:

Our dreams recover what the world forgets…The dream animal shows us that the imagination has jaws and paws, that it can wake us in the night with panic and terror or move us to tears…and see their living forms so that we respond to them with the gift of intelligence.

Further, not only do dream images possess the power to help us grow and transform, they have the ability to be our “daimon,” an ancient Greek word for “protective spirit.” In his book The Dream and the Underworld, Hillman states: “Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As the force of fate, this image acts as a personal daimon, an accompanying guide who remembers your calling.”

As I continue to connect with the snake during dream-time, my fear is transforming into trust and faith.  The snake who now visits has shifted from something disturbing and scary, to being my daimon, a protective escort who is more than happy to guide me on my journey. This hasn’t happened easily nor has it happened over night. It has taken months of committed effort to embrace the snake and open myself to its deeper meaning. True growth and transformation requires persistence and patience and dream work entails the same stamina. But it’s worth it, it’s worth every bit.

What might your night-time dreams be telling you? Are there any specific images that call to you? Dreams unfold in what is called the “imaginal” realm. The Sufis speak of the imaginal realm as alam al-mithal. In Hebrew, it is called the olam hamashal. It is the realm of imagination, archetypes and dreams.

May you find soulful guidance from your dreams as you journey through the New Year. In Numerology, the year 2014 reduces to “7” which represents spirituality, science and solitude. It’s a wonderful time to reflect on what matters the most to your soul, psyche and spirit. It’s also the perfect time to set your intention to remember your dreams, to write them down and allow them to reveal their gifts of wisdom.