Dreaming is a natural process that happens just by virtue of being human. And like other natural processes such as breathing, it does its work whether or not we pay attention to it. But like with breathing, if we do pay attention, we can begin to have a different and perhaps deeper kind of relationship to it. When we learn how to purposely take deeper breaths, we begin to have new kind of living connection to our body. It can be like this and so much more when we pay attention to the natural process of dreaming. When we intentionally dive deeper into our dreams, we develop a new kind of relationship with the totality of ourselves and to the world we live in.
Humans have a good understanding of bodily processes like breathing, but dreaming continues to be something mysterious that we can’t quite pin down. Over the ages, there have been countless theories as to why we dream. In ancient Greece, it was believed that dreams came to heal the body. People would visit special temples to dream and be cured. In the last century, Sigmund Freud theorized that dreams came to fulfill wishes, often of a sexual nature. Carl Jung, friend and student of Freud came to his own conclusions. He believed that dreams were a portal allowing the conscious mind to access deeper unconscious energies. These include the “collective unconscious,” archetypal experiences common to us all. Many of today’s dream theories stem from Jung’s approach.
We can learn about theories and more theories. But it is often our actual felt experience of our dreams that really matter to us. We wake up with heart pounding after being chased by a scary man, or after flying over the top of our neighborhood. These moments, just after awakening can be incredible and can fill our bodies with a mystical kind of feeling and wonder. The sensation of the dream experience sometimes feels realer than real. Maybe this is why that no matter what the dream content, many of us are drawn to paying attention to what we experience in our dreams.
It is the actual dream encounter is that pulls us in. Sometimes it feels as if our dreams are begging us to pay attention to them. Often, we quickly jump out of bed to start our day and sadly, the dream begins withering away. Sometimes we downplay the experience saying, “That was just a dream.” But what if our dreams are asking us to have a deeper kind of relationship with them? And in doing so, what if we can begin to have a different kind of experience in our waking world? A richer, deeper experience.
Why should we pay closer attention to our dreams?
Dreams know us better than we know ourselves
The dream realm has access to all of our remembered and un-remembered experiences. For various reasons (often self-protective) the memory of some of these experiences gets tucked away or pushed down into the recesses of our unconscious minds. Dreams have a way of allowing certain material from these deeper places to bubble back up into our waking consciousness. We can then re-engage with this previously lost material in a safe and healthy way.
Dreams come to heal
Dreams know about our hurts and our traumas. They start the process of healing by bringing awareness to these difficult places. Examples include dreams with physical trauma such as car accidents, skin wounds or scars. One client had a recurring theme of limb amputations. Although these kinds of dreams may feel like nightmares, they show up to help us to feel into our need for help. It is in these vulnerable places that we can begin to receive the support that we need. Sometimes the dream setting will be a hospital where perhaps a doctor or nurse will show up. I had one of these supportive dreams where I was in a hospital, lying on a gurney being tended to by a doctor and a nurse. Although the dream was years ago, I can still feel their tender love and support.
Dreams show us who we really are
As we move through life, we forget who we really are…who we were before we got conditioned into the person we’ve become. Often our dreams come to show us these lost parts of ourselves. A client came to me with a dream where she joined in with a circle of singers. In the dream, she felt engaged, joyful and alive as she sang with the group. The dream gave her this experience, which helped her re-ignite passion with in her that had long ago been put aside.
Dreams connect us with the sacred
There are people, animals, images and objects that come into our dreams to be in relationship with us. My dream teacher, calls these experiences “sacred encounters.” These sacred beings/images find ways to provoke us, heal us and to love us. One of my clients had a dream encounter with some wolves. She was standing near a wolf pack feeling afraid and alone. Just then the baby wolf began playing with her, tugging on her clothes. The dream gave her an experience of a sacred archetypal connection across the boundaries of this physical world. These encounters can take many forms. In a recent dream, a man slipped a letter under my door. This too was a kind of sacred encounter.
Dreams help us to feel more deeply
Many of us tend to lose the capacity to fully feel our feelings. Some of us go numb after a traumatic episode. Others gradually lose connection as they step through difficult or even mundane life experiences. Our culture tends to celebrate positive feelings and push away difficult feelings. However, if we don’t allow the full spectrum of our feelings, we find ourselves living a kind of flat-lined life. Dreams want to wake us up to the fullness of all of our feelings so that we can live a truly vibrant life.
Dreams come to course correct
Last night I had a dream where I was telling someone a half-truth. She called me out on it, saying she didn’t believe me. The dream is showing me a way I operate in the world, sometimes speaking half-truths. It can be painful for us to see the darker parts of ourselves. These are places we would rather not admit to. Dreams are extremely honest. They want to help us grow by shining a light of truth on us, giving us awareness of the destructive ways we operate.
Dreams are this and so much more. They are an amazing natural resource available to us all. Paying attention to your dreams is like opening a door to incredible natural wisdom that is already held within you.