Friday, June 09, 2006

The importance of dreams

One practice we can incorporate into our meditative experience is paying attention to our dreams. A passage from The Inner Art of Vegetarianism Workbook: Spiritual Practices for Body and Soul by Carol J. Adams describes a way to get started:
Every night our unconscious comes knocking at the door. Will we open it? This is the gift of dreamwork. A poet once said that poetry tells it "slant." Dreams are revelation with a slant. They are the language of the heart. The problem for most of us is that we do not speak the heart's language. My basic approach to dreams is that they are not teaching me something I already know, but something I need to know but have not acknowledged.

To work with dreams we need to remember them. This is much simpler than people think, because dreams want to be known. Recalling your dreams begins when you decide you want to recall them. As you go to sleep, imagine yourself waking and writing down your dream. When you wake up, write down in your journal whatever is in your mind. Even if you recall only one image, write it down; recall it as a photograph. If you recall nothing, write down what you feel. Each day as you do this, your dreams will become less wispy and fragmented. You can also lie back in bed in the position you were when you awoke and see if the dream appears to you.

By working with a dream fragment, you bear witness to your dreaming self that you want to know what you're dreaming. That act will call forth more dreams. As you write down your dream or dream fragment, tell youself how important this dream is so that you can defeat any restlessness in the mind that questions why you're bothering. You're giving an answer: "Because it is important."

This is the process of making friends with your dreams, of bringing them into your waking life. If you allow your dreams to speak to you throughout the day, you will remember more of them.

If you share your dreams with other people, remember that only the dreamer can say whether the meaning offered for a dream is resonant and true. No one can really tell you what the dream truly means; that's up to you. If you feel an "aha!" in response to someone's comments or through your own dreamwork, that may be a sign that this interpretation of the dream is valuable.

Often a dream will seem meaningless to me before I write it down and as I'm actually writing it out, the interpretation will come to me. It's also a good idea to talk about a dream with someone who is skilled at interpretation. What's really valuable is the two of you working it out together.

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