Most people dream spontaneously, allowing the unconscious to spin out whatever wacky tales it concocts on any given night. Always surprising and valuable, (and often hilarious), this kind of dreaming can also leave you feeling more like a passenger than a driver on your dream-journey. Instead of just receiving endless ideas from the unconscious, why not offer it back some questions and actions as points of focus?
You’ve heard about of the ‘power of intention,’ how setting an aim or purpose before entering into a conversation, ceremony or journey can produce miraculous results. Dreaming is no different. The simple act of forming a strong question before going to sleep, also known as Dream Incubation, can constellate the dream-answer you need.
The first step is to develop a reliable dream recall. If you’re just starting out, it’s good to spend some time letting your dreams erupt naturally, so you can take inventory of your dream patterns, players and powers. But when you feel more comfortable, you can begin to jam with your dreammaker.
Whether you are an athlete who’d like to master a tricky maneuver, an entrepreneur who wants to drum up more business, a writer who needs a story idea or a father with a hard-to-reach kid, dream incubation is a powerful tool for finding creative solutions to your everyday puzzles.
Start by taking 5 quiet minutes before bedtime to clear your head of the day’s debris. Then focus on your dilemma until a question forms solidly in your mind. You may want to stay away from either/or questions, since dreams are notorious paradox-makers, but frame your question in such a way that doesn’t assume you’ve considered all the options.
Once you have your question, write it down on the top of a blank page so that you can write your dream-answer under it when you wake up. Now the waking mind may try to convince you that your dream is unrelated nonsense before you’ve even had a chance to record it. Don’t listen to that sneaky weasel! Try to suspend your rational judgments until the dream is safely written down.
When you read the dream back, look for the image that might represent your problem as well as the creative strategy being offered. If you’re lucky, it will be obvious and literal like the following dreamer’s incubation was:
“I’m a triathlete. After an important, upsetting race where I biked and ran well below my capability, I decided to incubate a dream about it. After a week of focusing, I remembered this dream: ‘I’m with my coach discussing how I was so tight and cramped during the race. He suggests regular sports massages for the racing season to avoid lactic acid build-up in my muscles and says he knows a guy who could do it.’ When I awoke and phoned my coach, he confirmed the dream and connected me with his massage therapist. A few weeks later I won my first major race, and two weeks after that I qualified for the World Championships in Hawaii.” (R.C., courtesy of The DREAMS Foundation)
If your dream-solution is metaphoric, you’ll have to do a little more digging but keep a particular eye out for puns and wordplay. Once you’ve got it figured, you might decide to test the dream strategy out right away. If you’re not sure, you can always do further incubation to confirm your interpretation. Whatever the case, be sure to give thanks for the dream you have been given by following it up with action. Have fun out there!