Sunday, December 16, 2018

Using dreams as content

I wrote this post years ago - before doing a workshop on using dreams to inspire imagery. For some reason it doesn't seem to have been posted, or I can't find it. I have been thinking a lot about dreams lately, in part because it's harder for me to remember them now. It's a sad fact, as I have gotten older I more often wake up with some kind of ache. Nothing serious, but enough to make me roll over before I am completely awake. Moving before remembering dreams makes them harder to remember. So I am revisiting all my tips for remembering dreams.

Remembering dreams:
*Keep a dream journal and pen by the bed. Keep the journal open to a blank page. I prefer a ball point pen and those cheap Mead 9.5 x 6 notebooks. They are not too big when the used pages are folded back. I sometimes keep mine on the bed next to my pillow.
*When you go to bed, as you fall asleep, say to yourself "I want to remember my dreams" and "I want to write down my dreams." It helps to repeat this several times.
*It also helps to read thru your old dream journals.
*When you wake up, don't move. Or go back to the position you were dreaming in. See if you can remember a dream. If nothing comes right away, make your mind blank, an image may arise. If that doesn't help, make a mental picture of people in your life, one at a time. Visualize a person and say their name. Think of it as a question to your dream self.
*It may be hard at first to remember dreams. Try to think in terms of valuing whatever comes up. All images that come into your mind could be regarded as a gift from your subconscious. You want to send a message to your subconscious that you are listening and value whatever comes up. Jot down even the smallest fragments of dreams.

Writing the dream down:
*Go over the whole dream in your mind before starting to write it down.
*Also write down those odd words and phrases that pop into your head as you wake.
*Don't turn on lights and move as little as possible to write down the dream.
*To write in the dark: write large, and leave a fairly big space between the lines of text. You can use your hand to sense where you are on the page and keep your place. Try to complete each letter before going on to the next. Dot your i's and cross your t's before going on.
*Later when you are awake you can go back and read the dream. In the spaces between the lines clarify words that may be nearly illegible.
*Write it all down, whether it seems important or not. Your dream self may tell you it's not interesting, but an hour later your waking self may be amazed.
*Try to not judge the content of the dream.
*Sometimes writing the dream will remind you of more dreams.
*It's very hard to put dream imagery into words at times. Those elusive moments when things shift from one state to another, when a car becomes a bicycle, are hard to describe. Do your best. You will probably improve with practice.
*Make a quick sketch or two. This is not fine art - just get the gesture, size relationships, whatever strikes you as interesting/odd.
Above: Dinosaur Wave, 2010. This copper and brass book more or less illustrates a dream.

How to use your dreams:
*You might want to keep your dream notebooks private, that makes it easier to write whatever happens in your dreams. Sometimes dreams are too weird for public consumption. I take a "middle way." Occasional dreams go into books word for word. Mostly I use parts of dreams. But my real goal is to be more in touch with my dreaming mind.
*When working on a significant project, around birthdays or other anniversaries that are meaningful, be sure to note dreams.
*It may help to keep lists of images that seem important or repeat, or to list what you have been or have done in dreams. These are clues that lead you to the more "important" dreams.
*You may find it's useful to have your most interesting dreams typed into the computer. It's time consuming but useful to be able to search for words.

Should you use a dream dictionary?
I would say "No." Images have meanings, but they are very personal. As you write your dream, you may think you know what the dream means. That's okay, it may be an important insight. But don't lock in any one definition. Dreams can have many meanings, all at once. For example: According to online dream dictionaries going up stairs can mean being ready for success or change. Going down is supposed to be always bad. I can't agree. I have dreamed multiple times of going down stairs, into the earth. I read that as a dream about going deeper into myself - exploring a level that is not easily accessible. Which is a very good thing. And I have dreamed of going up stairs to an all white room where I see important things. I wake from those dreams feeling very good.

The meaning of the image can change and grow over time. Many artists have the experience of thinking they know what a particular piece of their art means, but a year later, or 10 years later, they come back and find a whole new meaning. I don't think they were wrong in the first place, they just didn't see all the meanings. Images and dreams have a life of their own.

If it seems important to find the meaning of your dream, free association is better. What does this dream person or object mean to you? What images or thoughts arise? Be gentle with your dreams. Have a conversation with them, as you would with a friend. Listen to what they say. You don't have to interpret them at all, they can just exist.

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