Many of us dismiss our nighttime dreams. After all, many of us can’t even remember them. As soon as we wake up, we’re focused on what time it is, what we’re doing and where we’re going. Our minds gravitate toward our to-do lists, and there’s pretty much no going back. It’s like the dream just evaporates, and we can’t recall a thing.
However, paying attention to our dreams can be powerful (and it can be done).
“Dreams are our hidden self; the other part of us that we need to get to know if we want to be truly mindful of who we are and why we are here,” writes Clare R. Johnson, Ph.D, an expert on lucid dreaming, in her book Mindful Dreaming: Harness the Power of Lucid Dreaming for Happiness, Health and Positive Change.
Johnson defines dreams as “highly personal inner movies that emerge from our unconscious.” So understanding our dreams helps us to better understand ourselves.
Plus, dreams can help to spark our creativity. We can use our dreams to inspire characters or plot points in our novels. We can use dream images in our paintings. We can use our dreams to explore new and interesting questions.
Johnson’s Mindful Dreaming is filled with practical tips for recalling and digging through our dreams. Below you’ll find tips from her book to get started.
- Keep a dream journal by your bedside. Use an unlined notebook, so you can devote one side for drawing your dreams, and the other side for describing them. Write your dreams in the present tense to help with recall. Before going to bed at night, underline any imagery that seems especially significant and write down your insights. Then tell yourself, “I will have vivid, beautiful dreams tonight, and I’l remember them when I wake up.”
- Instead of jolting awake to loud, jarring beeps from your alarm clock, set your clock to play your favorite gentle song every day. As soon as you open your eyes, ask yourself: What was I just doing? Who was I with? Jot down the answers in your dream journal.
- Pretend you’re retelling your dream to an alien from another planet. Since the alien has no idea what a window is or chocolate tastes like, explain these images (and actions). Say the first thing that comes to mind, which just might reveal surprising insights. For instance, according to Johnson, one person might say, “A door is something you can go through to get somewhere new,” while another person might say, “A door is something that traps you inside what it’s locked.” The second person might connect their response to feeling trapped in a relationship.
- Ask yourself these questions about a particular dream: Who am I in my dream? For instance, maybe you’re a younger self or an observer or animal. How do I feel in this dream? Do these emotions connect to anything in my life right now or connect to anything in my past? What is the central image, or emotional image or scene? Which part of me does this core image represent? Talk to the most negative or scariest part of your dream: What would it say? If there was light or beauty in my dream, what would that part want me to know? What is my dream trying to tell me? If I could change the ending of my dream, what would happen?
For many of us dreams are a rich yet untapped resource. Perhaps it’s time to pick up your shovel and start digging.