At the end of our lives, we will have spent almost 7 years dreaming, most of which we won’t remember.
“I don’t dream.” Is the most common response I get from people when they discover the line of work I’m in. Never more than two minutes elapses before the same person will say, “…but I did have a strange dream last night.”
Welcome to Dreamspeak, a column in which we’ll be exploring the intriguing world of dreaming. We will be looking at the art and architecture of dreams, learning practical methods for understanding their structure as well as marveling at their mystical qualities.
The truth is we all dream every night. While we are asleep, complex symbols are narrated together in a sophisticated order to form our private myths. Yet every morning, we wake up with amnesia. Or, if we do remember something, it reads like gibberish. This is not because we need an expert to interpret our dreams, but because we have forgotten our mother tongue, the language of symbols.
Our psyche generates, grows through and is healed by images. So intrinsic are they to us that our everyday speech is made up of them. We ‘dig our own graves’ and get ‘knots in our stomach’, we find ourselves ‘feeling raw’. But in our infatuation with the literal world, we have forgotten how to recognize these symbols when they appear in our dreams.
Like most things, dreaming strengthens with intention and discipline. Here are some tips for recall that, if earnestly followed, will have you dreaming up a storm.
1. Before going to bed, set the intention to remember your dreams. You may want to re-read some of your previous dreams to strengthen the waking/dreaming bridge, or meditate on a question you’d like answered.
2. How you wake up is fundamental. Avoid using an alarm clock. Train your body to wake you up instead – you’ll be amazed by how accurate the body clock can be.
3. Keep your eyes closed and remain in your waking position. The dream can easily be dislodged, (especially by your to-do list), so stay present with the dream, as if carrying a fragile creature across a rickety bridge.
4. If you remember just a fragment, try not to judge or interpret it. Just hold that fragment, (be it a scene, image, character or feeling), and “rehearse” it in your mind several times until it feels solid.
5. Keep a blank journal by your bed and write down everything you remember. Dreams are like lovers; they’ll blossom if you pay attention to them and abscond if you ignore or invalidate them.
6. Be playful & persistent. Find enjoyable ways to explore your dreams in greater depth. Share them with a friend, start a dream group, paint your symbols or Google them on a quiet morning. Stay tuned for further clues in waking life.
While it’s normal to experience fluctuating recall cycles, the important thing is to recognize dreaming as a vital part of your life. Like a great teacher, it will reward and challenge you ceaselessly in return. Do you know what you did last night?