Posts tagged #dream interpretation

Dream Interpretation: Acting on Your Night-Time Dreams

All of us do dream interpretation as soon as we wake up each morning.  Even if our dream interpretation is only, "That's meaningless nonsense I can forget about."

Some dreams pack an intense emotional punch: we not only remember them, but we feel their images and energy throughout our waking day.  These are the dreams that we don't want to dismiss.  Instead, we get curious.  We want to know what's behind those gripping images and sensations.  What's alive inside of me that could have created that? Unless you've been trained as a Jungian or Freudian psychologist, it's likely that your method of dream interpretation is rather haphazard and loose.

You may have seen dream dictionaries and have gotten the idea that decoding a dream is just a matter of looking up its symbols. While it's true that some dream elements have universal connotations that you'll want to be aware of, dreams are subtle and slippery creatures.  If you really want to do dream interpretation you have to learn to think as your dreams think.

Along the way, you'll discover the symbols (people, places, objects) that have deep significance for you.  This is the process of discovering the myth, or spiritual adventure story, that you're alive to live.

Taking action on your night-time dreams

In order to discover and live your spiritual adventure story, you need to not only interpret your dreams but also to take action on what you learn from them.  Dreaming is a process of spiritual evolution that requires our active participation. Most people, by paying no attention to their dreams and doing nothing to act in response to them, squander an unbelievably valuable opportunity for developing their consciousness and thereby expanding their enjoyment of life.

So many of us go through life without an awareness of our own myth.  This lack of awareness makes us hungry and leaves us without a sense of our own rich power; we go seeking for a story outside of ourselves.  We become attached to movie stars and musicians, attracted to consumer goods, fixated on the physical.  Not knowing our own purpose and our own power, we look for it elsewhere.  We end up weakening ourselves in this process; we become sick, depressed, tired.

Ancient people didn't live this way.  It used to be common for both men and women to undergo intense rituals and quests that would bring them directly in touch with the mysteries of their own soul.  They would go out into the wilderness, dream great prophetic dreams, and then base their names and their paths in life on what they learned from their dreams. Now, our society doesn't support such quests.  If we want to be in touch with our soul power, we have to do it ourselves.  And this, among other things, means paying attention to our dreams.

The physical body and the energy body

We all have a physical body.  What's more difficult for us to understand in this day and age is that we also all have an energetic body.  This energetic body holds traces of all we've ever experienced or felt, just like our physical body holds scars and bumps. Our energetic body needs nourishment and exercise just as does our physical body.  We neglect it at our peril.

During the waking day time, our physical body is in motion and our energy body is in a less active state.  During night-time dreaming, our physical body is at rest and our energy body is alive and wandering about.  Where is it wandering about? Well - let's see. Our physical body moves in the physical world -- and it just so happens that our energetic body moves in the energetic, or subtle world.  This subtle world contains numerous layers and locales; it's not a single unified "place" but rather a field of possibility.

Mundane dreams

It's important to realize that most of our dreams happen at an energetic level that's fairly close to our physical body and experience.  These are the "boring" kind of dreams.  They play out anxieties or simple wish fulfillments.  They may contain some metaphoric images, but mostly they're rather literal and don't require all that much thought to interpret.  For example, you may have had dreams like these:

  • You're standing in the grocery store check-out line, and the clerk has just finished ringing up your order.  You reach for your wallet to pay, but realize you don't have it.  You're embarrassed in front of the other patrons in line.
  • A really sexy person in your acquaintance gives you a long, charged kiss.
  • You sit down to a nice campfire with a group of your friends and eat roasted marshmallows.

These mundane dreams feature people and locations from your ordinary life.  It doesn't take much pondering to realize that they're about simple anxiety, desire, and love.  These dreams serve a rather straight-forward teaching purpose: they make you aware of what you're feeling.  They give you an opportunity to come face-to-face with how you see yourself in the world.

 The most important action to take with these kinds of dreams is just to acknowledge them and use them as reminders to deal honestly with the emotions that they emphasize.

For example, after you dream about lacking your wallet in the check-out line, you may want to admit to yourself (without judgment and without trying to 'fix' it) that you really do care a lot about what other people think of you. You really would feel mortified if you ended up forgetting your wallet.  Just take a deep breath and sit with that.  That's who you are right now. Another example - if you dream about kissing some sexy person, you may want to admit the sincerity of your attraction.  Again, just breathe it in.  You don't have to act on it or do anything about it, you just need to know it and honor it.

As we pay attention to them, our dreams serve the function of widening our knowledge of ourselves.  Mundane dreams, though rather dull and not all that thrilling to interpret, are still important because they prevent us from getting stuck in denial.  The more we become acquainted with our own daily fears and longings, the more intimately we know our own humanity.  We become less likely to judge someone else's anxiety or lust.  We understand that those same feelings live within us.  This knowledge gradually makes us more loving.

Psychological dreams

The more fully we know ourselves and the more loving and accepting we become, the more we start to have a second kind of dream.  This second kind of dream we can call a psychological dream.  It shows us something about our own psychological make-up that goes deeper than just surface fears and wants.  Psychological dreams often strongly invoke the past in some way: we dream of our parents or of people we knew long ago.

These dreams feature symbols and settings that are a good deal stranger than our mundane dreams.  What's the reason for this strangeness? It's that psychological dreams represent what the energy body finds when it wanders farther away from the physical body.  The further the energy body moves from the physical body, the more fantastic become its adventures.  The land of the psychological dream is often a land that still throbs with our childhood perceptions and emotions.

Psychological nightmares are much more terrifying than mundane anxiety dreams.  In psychological nightmares we are faced with replays of the traumas we endured growing up.  No matter how wonderful our upbringing, we all suffered some kind of trauma in the journey from childhood to adulthood.  This hurt lives on in this second layer of energetic territory.  For individuals who were abused as children, this is an extremely difficult place to confront.  Our psychological dreams compel us to make real peace with our pasts.  Until we do this, these dreams take us again and again to dark and ugly territories.  Psychological dreams demand more subtlety of interpretation than mundane dreams.  This is because they're speaking to us about events, places and feelings that we have done our best to forget.

In order to understand your psychological dreams, you'll have to be very honest with yourself about what happened to you in the past. This is a natural process: just consider the content of your dream and allow it to "connect the dots" within you.  In order to move through this level of dreaming, you'll have to nurture in yourself a strong intention to forgive and heal.  Here are some examples of psychological dreams:

  • You're being chased down a dark alley by a menacing figure in a white mask.
  • Your parents have laid out their table for a fancy dinner - and you're the main course.
  • The girl who was mean to you at school puts a red snake in your bed which turns into a dragon.

These kind of dreams are more symbolic and require more figural (i.e., metaphorical or tropic) thought to unpack.  For example - you're the main course in a fancy dinner your parents are eating - could it be that your parents once "fed" on your energy and accomplishments? Did you feel at some level threatened or overwhelmed by their attention to you?

How to Think Like Your Dreams Think

Dreams think in metaphors, puns, story, and drama.  In other words, they think in poetic devices.  In order to understand your dreams, you also have to be willing to think poetically.

To think poetically means to consider elements of the dream in terms of all their connotations and associations.  It means encountering the dream as a holistic experience and meeting it with your whole heart rather than coming at it as a problem to be solved with your mind alone.  Instead of asking yourself, "What does this mean?" try asking yourself, "What kind of metaphor is this? What does this symbol make me feel? What does it invoke in me?"  For example, you may realize that the red snake put in your bed by the mean girl from school makes you think of the blood of your first menstrual period and how threatened you felt by the changes of puberty.

But menstrual blood is not what the red snake means - it's a possible symbolic association for the red snake.  The red snake is not just a dramatic stand in for "menstrual blood" - it's also a red snake - something slithering and alive and startling.  Something possibly dangerous and definitely strange to find in your bed.  What feelings does its presence evoke in you?

Psychological dreams are more challenging than mundane dreams to resolve through action.  Often it's not enough to simply acknowledge the feelings that a certain dream tells you about: you usually have to do something to show your energy body (i.e., your soul) that you "get" what it's showing you.

For example, if you've thought a lot about the dream of your parents eating you at a fancy dinner table, and you've realized that the dream is about your feelings of being consumed by your family life, you may need to take the steps of learning how to set and enforce more appropriate boundaries with your family.  Such a process could take months or years.  No matter how much work it is, you need to do it if you want to progress on your journey.

Another example: if you realize that the red snake in your dream makes you think of your first period and the trouble of transitioning from childhood into adulthood, you may need to re-examine your thoughts about your feminine identity.  Do you need to revise or expand your beliefs about what it is to be a woman?  Do you need to inwardly forgive the mean girl at school who teased you for your pimples and awkward clothes?  Do this, and you'll heal the unease that the dream points to.

Once you've worked through a large quantity of your psychological dreams, you arrive at the third layer of dreaming: spiritual dreams.  Tune in soon to learn just exactly how those kinds of dreams work and what interpretive tools you need to meet them.





image: [jurvetson]

Posted on April 18, 2012 and filed under Dreams, Uncategorized.

What Are Dreams

We all must wonder sometimes: what are dreams? Are they just weird little synaptic hiccups? Or something vaster and stranger?

Theories abound about what dreams are.  Scientists only have a very basic grasp: they know that when humans dream, certain perceptual areas of the brain light up with electrical activity.  This knowledge doesn't really solve any mysteries for us.

I want to offer that what we experience as dreams are actually worlds similar to our waking world in some regards.  How can that be? you might wonder.  Our waking world is so firm and solid - there's the ground beneath our feet, the hours that drag out through the day while we're at work, our stable identities and our stable friends.  Meanwhile, in dreams things shift and alter constantly.

Dreams Are Energy

It can be because our waking world, just like the worlds we experience in our dreams at night, is only energy interpreted by our minds and senses into a specific configuration that seems very stable.  Both dreams and the waking world are just streams of energy.  Though the energy of our waking world certainly appears quite stable compared to that of our dream worlds, it's actually not rock solid.  Far from it - everything we experience as matter is made up of tiny particles moving very rapidly through space.

And consider this: do you remember exactly what you ate for breakfast two mornings ago?  And don't your friends always recall stories about your exploits together rather differently than you do?  And haven't you often perceived things in a certain way that you later learned to be false or incomplete?  I ask these questions only to point out that there's many facets of our reality that are subject to shift.  Memory is especially vulnerable, but even present-moment happenings can be experienced very differently by various subjects.

The Dream Body

Just as we have a physical body with physical senses, we also have a dreaming body with dream senses. The sense organs of the dreaming body correspond to the chakras, or energy centers, of the body. One of the reasons why the worlds we experience in our night-time dreams don't seem as stable as our waking world is that our dreaming senses are not as highly developed as our physical senses.  Many of us have undergone a very thorough education in navigating the physical world via our physical senses (remember your parents telling you to always "look out" for dangerous things and to always "listen" to them? they were drawing attention to and training your senses as they did that) and a very poor or nonexistent education in navigating the dream world via our dream senses (did your parents or teachers ever give you dreaming advice other than suggesting that you have "sweet dreams"?)  In many other cultures in other times, the cultivation of the dream senses and the navigation of the dream world was considered just as important (if not more so) than the cultivation of the physical senses and the navigation of the waking world.

How could navigation of dream worlds possibly be more important than navigation of waking worlds?  Don't we need to know how to get around in the waking world in order to survive? Absolutely, yes.  And in that sense the waking world has a fundamental importance.  But our present society wrongly values the navigation of the waking world so much more highly than that of the dreaming world that we actually end up having a lopsided and less happy existence.   "Man cannot live on bread alone" is an old proverb.  It means that human beings are more-than-physical creatures who need more-than-physical nurturance.  It's not enough to just survive.  We need to flourish at the level of soul, of spirit.  And the dreaming experience is so crucial because that experience is actually where the soul can find its nourishment.

If the human physical form is nourished by food, water, and oxygen, the human soul is nourished by the symbols given to us in our dreams.  Just like we have to gather food and water and oxygen in order to survive, we have to gather and assimilate our dream symbols in order to flourish.  This is something that goes almost entirely neglected in our society because the prevailing paradigm doesn't like to recognize that there's a vast source of power beyond any worldly or material power. The capitalist system that we dwell in masterfully controls material resources and material power.  It has, however, no such monopoly on immaterial power.  The only way that capitalism can perpetuate itself is by having its institutions teach us to deny, ignore, minimize and otherwise neglect the vast power of insight and creation that comes to us each night through our dreams.

Revolutionary Dreaming

By choosing to meditate, keep a dream journal and practice dream interpretation, we begin to cultivate our dream body and our dream senses.  We grow closer to integrating the energy streams of dreams with the energy stream of our waking world.  As we achieve that integration, life within our waking world becomes more intuitive and more in harmony with our deep being.  This occurs because most of us mistake who we are: we think we're our waking egos, a little separate "I" with a personal history of grievances and desires, longings and fears.  In a way, this is correct.  We are our egos. But we are also much more.  We are souls, and our waking ego is just one little part of the whole soul that we are.  The work of being alive is to come to know ourselves as complete, integrated souls.  As we do this work we shed our pettiness and selfishness and become aware of our connection to the larger forces at work in the universe.

As we become fully integrated (Keats liked to say "made") souls, we are more and more capable of working for the good of everyone rather than just for the good of our individual egos.  We're of greater service to others; we generate less drama in our lives; we experience greater joy.  We don't need to look to the external world for validation through status, power, physical gratification and material wealth.  In short, we become free of the snares of greed that tie us into capitalism.  Instead, we become the sovereigns of our own selves, capable of answering directly to the source of everything that exists.

image: [zbigphotography]

Dream #2: The Red Velvet Room with Two Sisters, The Urine-Soaked Sweater, and the Spiritual Conspiracy

The Dreams  

A red velvet room.  I'm interacting with and watching two teenaged girls who are a chubby and so distressed by it-- they feel left out of all social happenings, scorned, inferior.  Both of the girls have long dark hair.  They're sisters.  The younger one is thinner than the older one, but the younger one is more distressed and more self-conscious.



I'm getting ready to clean a broken toilet and the sleeve of my favorite sweater, the one with the fur collar, drops in and gets soaked with urine.  I'm momentarily repulsed but I decide to clean it in the sink by letting it soak in water with soft detergent. I feel a kind of pride in this simple hands-on laundry action. My mother is in the background, working on her own stuff.


There's a kind of conspiracy plot going on which looks shady but which is actually designed to help me.  I'm a young, male high school athlete who gets coerced into going out to the wrong side of the rail road tracks late at night to meet up with a gang of thugs who have something I really want.  I show up there and have a kind of tense confrontation-- after I leave, a figure steps out of the shadows and pays the thugs big piles of cash for going through the whole drama with me-- the figure paying the thugs is talking to them about my spiritual growth and his hopes for my future, explaining to them about how hard it is for me to have to talk to and work with disreputable characters like themselves.


The Feelings, the Associations


So, first off the red velvet room reminded me immediately of Twin Peaks. Except my dream was a lot less freaky, sadly.




I get a sense that the two dark-haired sisters who are self-conscious about chubbiness might represent my present and past self-- when I was younger I was thinner than I am now and also a lot more hung-up about it.  Today, I'm working on losing some pounds, but I'm doing it all crazy-healthy like, via a nutritarian diet. Seemed like the dream was speaking to me about lingering anxieties that I have in that arena.


My beautiful sweater getting soaked in urine -- a frustrating result of my own carelessness (why did I have the sweater with me in the bathroom to begin with?)-- this felt like a very daily, unsurprising misfortune that might happen to me-- but there was something about this object which is so sleek, sexy and nice getting all messed up in the toilet which was particularly gross. To get a little Freudian, I think it make have something to do with feeling like my sexuality is being dirtied or lowered.


My pride in the simple solution of soaking the thing in soapy water -- a feeling of resourcefulness, of joy in knowing how to do slight house-wifey type stuff.  My mother's presence-- seem to suggest her own hard work, her own sexual issues mirroring mine.


Finally, the conspiracy between the figure and the hoodlums might be the most interesting dream of the night.  It gives me some hope-- like maybe some of the scary and difficult things going on for me right now might all really just be agents of a force who's working for my higher good.  Wouldn't that be sweet?


The Mystery

The mystery of the dirtied sweater is the plaintive song of a dead crooner.


Your Response to Me

As perpetually, I'm open to hearing your thoughts about what any of these dreams mean-- and I'm also interested to hear what you've been dreaming about lately?




The Start of My Dream Journal - Dream #1: The Pet Store

The Decision I've decided to start keeping a public dream journal.  I'm always going on and on to my students online and offline about the importance of keeping a dream journal in their commonplace books, and I fully believe in being the example for those I'm working with, but it's sort of hard to let them see me walking my walk when my dream journal is a secret little thing I keep under my pillow.




But laying out the contents of my subconscious mind for all to see is a rather radical thing to do, isn't it?


It is, but my heart tells me to "be a transparent rose" so that's what I'm doing this morning and all mornings for the next 7 weeks. I'm lacing myself together with rosy-fingered dawn in order to tell you some tales straight outta my subconscious.


So here's a bit of what happened in dreamworld last night.  It's the tale end of a dream.  I woke up at 6:00 am, my alarm going off, with my most urgent thought being "I have to quiet that alarm before it disturbs my partner" rather than "I have to remember my dream."  Having an urgent thought like that, I notice, disrupts my dream-memory process. So I only remembered the last little bit of what I sense was a much larger dream.


The Dream

Here's what I remember: I see an elderly man, homeless.  He wants to get into a pet store to use the rest room.  The door to the pet store is locked even though there are employees inside. The employees won't let him in.  The elderly man enlists the help of a little boy to trick the door open.  Somehow, the boy is able to open the door.  He props the door open with a little trash basket which has magical door-propping properties.  The elderly homeless man goes in and uses the rest room.  I wake up.


The Feelings, The Associations

I felt identified with the elderly homeless man. Earlier in the day, when driving out of a shopping center, Dey and I saw a man standing on a traffic island, holding a sign around his neck that said "Homeless."  Also earlier in the day, I'd been getting angry about income disparity in the US, thinking about Occupy Wall Street and had posted this Thomas Jefferson quote to facebook:

‎"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs".

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president of US (1743 - 1826)

So Thomas Jefferson is talking about homelessness engendered by corporations and financial institutions that are threatening our American liberties.  And I'm seeing homeless people. And the folks occupying Wall Street are camping out in a park, without a roof. And I feel identified with them, too.


Why was it a pet store? Well, I'm in love with a little pomeranian named Sparkle who lives in the window of a pawn shop on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield.  She's always alone in there at night with the DVDs and funky old electronics, behind the half-shattered window.  I can't get to her.  No one is loving her and cuddling her at night. I feel like she's homeless, too.  So the pawn shop isn't exactly a pet store, but it holds a pet (Sparkle).


So the old man in my dream was homeless and breaking in to a place that I associate with homelessness (the pawn shop / pet store).  I feel afraid of homelessness, poverty, the condition of the outcast.


The wily little boy is a mystery to me. Who's he?


The Mystery

This is something I like to do for my dreams-- to make a metaphor out of a mystery in them-- so as to deepen and extend the mystery. The metaphor pattern goes like this: The mystery of ___________ is _____________."


So, the mystery of the little boy who props open the door is an attack at the feet of the rich.


Your Response to Me

Want to offer any insight about what you think my dream means? Post in the comments below.


What to tell me what you dreamed last night? I would love to hear about it and discuss it with you.


Love, Carolyn

Posted on September 26, 2011 and filed under Dream Journal.