Dreamwork: A Portal to Your Inner Wisdom
In my last post, we explored the power of expressive arts for opening to greater creativity and inner harmony, and in this post, I’ll share another highly effective method for accessing your inner wisdom and guidance: dreamwork.
With expressive arts, you allow yourself to freely express yourself through any form of art—without concern for the end-product, or for what others or your inner critic may say about your creation. This helps you come closer to your true self or soul and find greater inner harmony and peace. In turn, this can lead to more ease and authenticity in your relationships at home and at work, and with yourself.
Discovering your own unique way of expressing yourself is empowering, and enhances your self-confidence, not only in your creativity but also in meeting your life challenges. You begin to trust yourself, your instincts, and your creative ideas or impulses more than ever before.
In fact, my training and experience in expressive arts and the powerful dreamwork method I will describe in this post are what allowed me to have the courage and trust to write my fantasy trilogy, The Star Seer’s Prophecy.
DREAMWORK: A Portal to Inner Wisdom and Guidance
When I began my inner work of healing and transformation, I was puzzled and somewhat disturbed by my mysterious and sometimes bizarre dreams. I wanted to understand myself more deeply, and longed for a greater sense of inner harmony and authenticity. And I had an uncomfortable feeling that these dreams were disturbing me because they wanted to tell me something I needed to—but didn’t necessarily want to—hear.
Moving beyond intellectual interpretation to active imagination
I began studying various styles of working with dreams and found that the commonly used analytical and interpretive approaches to dreams left me feeling frustrated. I might understand the symbolism intellectually, but my dreams still seemed like an alien landscape that I couldn’t enter.
Then I learned an approach called “active imagination,” focusing on listening to and interacting with the characters in my dreams. It was through this approach that I found myself feeling at home in that not-so-alien landscape.
“Talking” with your dream characters
What works best for me in working with my dreams—and could for you as well—is writing dialogs with dream characters. How? In a nutshell, imagine the dream character before you, ask questions and then pay attention to what arises within you as if it is a response from the character. It could be a feeling, image, sound, or words. Write down whatever you hear/see/feel. (See below for more detailed instructions.) At first, this may seem strange. What is needed is a willingness to suspend disbelief, and allow your imagination free rein. The rewards can be life-changing!
It’s that simple yet can seem difficult, because it is not a skill that most of us have ever learned. Why would we want to?
WHY DO DREAMWORK?
The point of writing these dialogs is to connect with the hidden side of your soul, beyond your waking personality, in order to become more integrated, authentic, self-confident, and whole.
For me, practicing this kind of imaginative interaction with my dreams helped me feel more whole and not cut off from that mysterious inner realm where dreams, imagination, buried memories, and unexpected desires and thoughts come from. Western psychology calls it the unconscious mind, or the right brain, but I prefer to call it the dreaming mind— the hidden half of myself.
When I write dialogs with characters from my dreams, what they say is often surprising to me—sometimes challenging but always deeper, wiser, more compassionate or humorous, than anything I could ‘make up’ by myself—proof perfect that my ego, personality, and even my human point of view—are suspended. This allows me to receive wisdom and guidance to use for my own healing and creativity, and enhances my authenticity and integrity in all that I do in life.
For example, when I wrote the first draft of The Star Seer’s Prophecy, it was like writing down a dream and listening to the characters in the story tell or show me what to write. (More about that here.) In addition, I have found that sometimes dream characters will speak with wisdom and compassion to all of us about the challenging times humanity and the Earth now face. (Read more here.)
YOU TOO CAN ACCESS THE WISDOM OF YOUR DREAMING MIND: HERE’S HOW
- Keep a journal by your bed. This will be your dream journal where you’ll write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. To being with, write down any scrap you can recall, even if it’s just a color, a mood, an image, or a word. Remembering your dreams takes practice, but if you keep at it, you will most likely recall more dreams than you ever imagined you were having.
- As soon as you can, set aside time to sit quietly and review your dream. Notice which character in the dream—person or animal—stands out to you in some way: attractive or repellent; bold or subtle; central or half-hidden.
- Write down how you feel about this character. For example, “I’m glad to see you.” Or “You scare me,” etc. As in our last post, do not edit what comes. Just allow it to be.
- Tune in to the dream spirit, and ask: “Who are you?”
Then patiently pay attention to what arises for you in response to this question, whether it is a feeling, image, gesture, or word. For me it is a matter of listening within for their response. Don’t be surprised if these aren’t linear, day-to-day type of conversations. They might not even start with words, but with a growl, squawk, action, or facial expression. Whatever it is, write it down. It’s a conversation like no other, more like finding a way to communicate with a wild creature or a person from another culture.
- Ask for clarification or more detail. If you don’t understand their response, say so! Ask the characters or dream spirits to use words for you. In my experience, they will do so, and the dialog rolls on from there. Don’t get discouraged if this doesn’t happen for you—keep asking and listening. It takes some time to feel comfortable dialoging in this way. (As we discussed in my previous post, it’s important not to let the inner critic start judging what you are creating as you write out this dialog).
- Continue asking open-ended questions that can help you discover more about this dream character and why they showed up in your dream. Write everything down as you go. Some starter questions to use:
- Why did you appear in my dream?
- Why did you do (such and such) in the dream?
- What do you have to tell me?
- What do you want me to understand or do?
- Write down your responses to what the characters says, and keep asking questions until you feel the dialog has reached a sense of completion.
- Very important: thank them with respect and gratitude. This helps deepen the connection with your dreaming mind, and allows you to hear the messages of your soul more clearly. Just as you’d thank a friend for having a deep, meaningful discussion with you, so too you’d thank these dream spirits for sharing their wisdom. It’s a matter of developing a trusting relationship between your waking and dreaming minds.
By practicing this approach regularly, once a week or so, you may find that dream characters show up more often and share deeper insights. The whole process, if you continue over some time, can help you connect with your aliveness, creativity, strength, and joy.
If writing isn’t your thing, you can use the expressive arts methods with your dreams: draw or paint or dance with the energy or mood of the dream; or move as one or all of the characters; or act out a dialog with a dream character.
Our dreaming minds have much to say to us, and will share their wisdom and compassion with those of us who will listen. I hope you will listen well and gain the benefits of greater integration, wholeness, and harmony with yourself!
“The Wisdom of Mischief” is one of my favorite dreams and dialogs: This one helped free me up from outdated ideas of who I should be, and to trust my own intuition and desires. Follow this link to read this dream and dialog. You can read many more of my dreams and dialogs combined with my expressive art on my personal website: www.soulplay.com
Have you ever worked with your dreams?
Would you consider trying out this method?
I hope you will give it a try and
let me know how it goes.
I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
The Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual: A Step-by-Step Introduction to Working With Dreams