Plumbing the Deep Well - Tips for Dream Recall

"I don't remember my dreams", is a woe often expressed by folks who would like to open to the possibilities offered in working with dreams. It is also expressed by those who are already working with their dreams when they hit that inevitable "dry spell".

We all dream. Remembering our dreams takes presence, lightheartedness, and tenderness.

Basic tips for dream recall:

1. Never judge yourself over a perceived lack of dreaming or your ability to recall dreams. The resulting frustration further hinders our ability to recall. It is important to hold your dream recall with tenderness. Laying in bed before falling asleep, express your desire to be in relationship with your dreams. Set an intention to remember your dreams. You may want to meditate on your current dreamwork practice/homework, recalling certain moments of current dreams you are working with. You can also try reading material that inspires you or material which contains teachings that are important to you. Recently, I began reading from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying...this has prompted the recall of many dreams.

2. How we wake up is critical. Avoid using an alarm clock, or find an alarm clock that awakens you gently. There are some out there that use the sound of ocean waves or rain. I use often the Zen Clock  which has a progressive alarm. Waking up naturally to your own body's rhythm is best. Over time, if you choose, you can train yourself to wake up without an alarm.

3. Upon awakening, it is important to stay present with the dream. Repeat it in your mind several times if you can. The dream is quickly lost back down the deep well by a mind that jumps into the day ahead of the body. Even if you remember only a snippet of a dream, hold on to it in the way described above by repeating it several times in your mind. A snippet can be a scene or tableau, an image, character, or feeling (emotional or physical in the body).

4. Keep your dream journal near the bed. I use my iphone notepad. Whatever works for you. But write down everything you remember from the dream. Try not to interpret, judge, or shrug off the dream. All dreams carry meaning and snippets can often be quite powerful in their simplicity! No dream is a “bad” dream.

5. Keeping our dreams ever present is a practice. And, remember, we all have seeming “dry spells”. But my experience has shown me that what I think is a dry spell is a cluster of snippets, images and feelings which have moved my work forward in profound ways.

Some additional observations and insights into working with dream recall:

~ I have noticed that going to bed earlier and waking up earlier naturally improves my dream recall.

~ I have noticed that if I disengage from electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to sleep, this improves my dream recall.

~ I have noticed that if I wake up during the night that I will often remember a dream upon awakening. If I don't take a moment to write it down, I may not remember it even if I think I will.

~ Sometimes, I will write a dream down, go back to sleep and then the next day when I read the dream, I can't recall it even though it is written down. It's ok...keep it in the mix, it has meaning...even the fact that it can't be recalled despite your notes is information.

~ Increased stress in my world-side life distracts me from my spiritual life. This affects my dream recall. Even when we think we are not dreaming, it's not true...we are! We simply are overly distracted by our world-side lives. Take some time to slow down, check in with your dreamwork practice/homework more frequently. Incorporate mindfulness practice such as meditation or yoga into your life.

~ I have a trick I sometimes use that works when a dream goes back down. I imagine a deep, dark well at the bottom of which are my lost dreams and I dive down in with the intention of finding the dream. I allow myself to swim and then sink. Sometimes this works. A visual re-entry point back into the subconscious can help.

Artist: Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen

The Inner Solstice

When I think of the Winter Solstice, I think of the ever present cycle of life giving way to death giving way to life. It is the breath, the fullness and the release, like the ocean rising and falling with the pull of the moon. There are many mythologies associated with the solstice that go back to the ancients. Most carry a message of hope for the return of the light.

And what of our inner solstice? How do we experience the return of our own light? When our day wanes dark and the night reigns, do we feel the gathering of hope? Do we feel a quickening in our veins as we approach that moment when the sun stands still? A pause in the great cosmic breath is a perhaps a place for reflection before we begin the arc to fullness once again.

There is a very real lesson in the mythology of the solstice. It has to do with faith, acceptance and humility. Do we believe in that darkest moment that the light will return? Even in our highest moment, do we understand that darkness will reign once again? How can we allow space for the inevitable return of darkness without giving way to hopelessness? And how can we step with joy and humility into the fullness of our returning light?

As someone who has worked with others both in addiction recovery and through dreamwork, the mythology of the great cycle of life is encountered over and over as we face into each issue. Faith, acceptance and humility can't be found in idolatry or temples or the greatest teacher, but must be found within. And, it is not a singular event but one which we must continually return to. It is a process of becoming balanced, surrendering over and over to the great cycle.

When we live in the bated breath of anticipation of life and also learn to honor the embrace of darkness, we can find our own discernment within the rhythm of living.

Here is my winter solstice dream from a few nights ago:

Dream: I see doves peeling out of the earth from a mass grave that is around a huge old oak tree. As each dove peels free from the dirt, it rises up into the sunlit sky, first one, then twos and then small groups.
Blessings to you during this darkest and longest you rest in the belly of the divine mother...may you find faith in the return of the light.

"Spirit Rising" by Marina Petro

The Wounded Healer = Bodhisattva

 I had believed that climbing to the top of the mountain was to win, to come out on top, to survive. Before I understood there was a journey, I was simply the survivor of my life. Was this not better than becoming the victim of life? I disdained the victim, believing that to have survived was simply the better position to take. The simple truth of the survivor is that they move through life as a victim too.

And thus a terrible spin is born out of this simple reaction to the traumatic elements of our lives that would have us striving to be on top so as to dominate our fears, or becoming so overwhelmed by our fears that we hide so as not to be seen, never to speak from our hearts.

The survivor/victim are two sides of the same spinning coin. The survivor sees them self as the hero in the mythology of the trial in which they believe they survived. The victim believes that their experience is beyond their control from a place of believing they should have control. Their lot is hopelessness. 

But what is sacrificed at the altar of the hero, is the girl. And, perhaps what is laid at the altar of the victim is the boy. Most of us live either in one of these extremes or embody elements of both depending upon the situation and our trauma identified reaction to it. Either way it amounts to the loss of the soul self. 

The Alchemist's Hand - North Node Promise

This is my version of the Alchemist's Hand. I call it North Node Promise.

The dreams provide us with the imagery, often set in a metaphorical story, to move us into the feelings necessary for alchemy to occur within us. Alchemy, in the psychological sense, implies transformation, integration of opposites, and ultimately the transmutation of our inner conflicts into inner harmony.

"In reference to the divine work of creation and the plan of salvation within it, the alchemistic process was called the 'Great Work'. In it, a mysterious chaotic source material called materia prima, containing opposites still incompatible and in the most violent conflict, is gradually guided towards a redeemed state of perfect harmony, the healing 'Philosophers' Stone' or lapis philosophorum: First we bring together, then we putrefy, we break down what has been putrefied, we purify the divided, we unite the purified and harden it. In this way is One made from man [masculine, yang] and woman [feminine, yin]."

B├╝chlein vom Stein der Weisen, 1778
The dreams are as rich with archetypal imagery as the great hermetic works of the alchemists and mystics. As an Archetypal Dreamwork Practitioner, I work with clients to explore the images and motifs to help illuminate what they might mean for each dreamer.

The Sonnets

These poems are inspired by the dreams and were written as part of a dream writer's group that I belong to.

To bring this form of creative expression up from the depths of me is exciting and deeply moving. What we cannot convey or teach about this journey through rational discourse can be brought into the body through the creative act of expression in the form of images and words. I have found the poem to be a way to "paint" with words. Words drawn taut to illuminate, to intensify, to lift one up and crash one down into the contrast of light and dark, a chiaroscuro of vibrant images to bring one back to one's essence, to bring pause, to elicit tears and anger, grief and joy, laughter and brightness, angst and inspiration.

For to find myself at five and one standing before a door long closed and now thrown open, is a gift, sacred, not to be questioned or judged, not to be analyzed or chased.

The dream offers me an unwavering entry point into the creative depths of my soul.

I Remember, a Dialogue

The dream wants us to re-member ourselves. We are often fragmented psychically, emotionally, physically. We become comfortable in a state of spiritual obliteration. What was once know becomes forgotten. We often do not even know that we have forgotten. But the forgetting is really a turning away. This is not to say we choose this, or that we should berate ourselves for forgetting. But we compensate, cover, and find all manner of ways to protect ourselves from the devastation of our separation and fragmentation. We feel lost and abandoned. We become self-will run riot.

Re-membering through the felt experience of the dreams helps us to re-integrate, sublimate, and ultimately transform. In the words of Aristotle, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." This is to say, the result is often unexpected. The approach is one of faith, or reliance upon something greater than one's self. Once we establish this connection, we realize that has been a missing energetic force that can bind us back together. Through the dreams, the Archetypes seek to guide us back to our faith, our higher self.

In my dream writer's group, we explore various writing forms and techniques for conveying our experience of the dreams. In my recent class, we explored the dialogue.

In this short piece, the setting is from a current dream I am working with where I enter a beautiful glass house by the sea with my father. I am a girl, 14. I feel vulnerable because it is "Her" house, a woman who I am not quite sure about (an Anima figure), and yet safe because I am with my Father (Animus figure). The dialogue is imaginal, containing content from many of my dreams.


I: Father, who is this woman who lives here?

Him: She is your mother.

I: Why do I not know her?

Him: You do know her. You have forgotten her.

I: But why would I forget her? Does she not love me if she is my mother?

Him: Yes, she loves you dearly and will do everything in her power to bring you back to her heart.

I: I feel sad that I have forgotten her.

Him: We all forget. It is a condition of our existence to forget. But then, if we choose, we may remember again.

I: So I remembered her before and then I forgot again. If I remember now, does that mean I will forget again?

Him: Yes, for you could not have remembering without forgetting. Remembering would have no purpose for you without the forgetting.

I: Father, did I forget you too?

Him: Yes. And then you remembered. Do you remember?

I: Yes, I remember finding you in the garden. You picked me up and spun me around and around. It was pure joy. I remember I fell into your arms and you held me like a baby. You are a potter, a woodworker. You took me into your house and I remembered that it was my house too.

Him: Do you know this house we are in now?

I: Yes. I remember this house. It is her house. It is beautiful. I can see the sea. There is so much mist. I can be here now because you are here. Without you, I could not be here now even though it is beautiful. I would not have been able to see the beauty or feel safe coming in here without you.

Him: You speak the truth.  Do you remember when she first came as the Yellow Spinner?

I: Yes, I was frightened. I ran as fast as I could because it seemed she was hurting the boy. Then I saw her planting the field with garlic. I remember being with the Yellow Spinner next to a pond. She was sitting on a rock and I was sitting at her feet, a small girl, frog legged on the ground. She was talking to me and showing me something. She said that I must be careful how I speak of these things. She pulled out a piece of metal that was very old and pitted and black. She said “we are like this piece of metal but we can be like this” and then she wiped her hand across the metal and I saw that it was polished smooth and was made of some rare earth element that gleamed like nickel or titanium. She said that many people will come wanting this knowledge but very few understand the difficulty in attaining it and they become frustrated.

Him: She is wise. It is not easy to remember. There is pain. Do you remember the pain?

I: Yes. I remember the pain. There is much pain and the pain has made me very angry. I have been afraid of the pain and the anger and I never wanted to feel these things. Perhaps this is why I forget.

Him: Yes. Do you remember when she opened your heart?

I: Yes, I was brought to her in the wood. There was a fire and we stood in the fire together. She fed me porridge. I was very afraid, but I did not try to leave. I did not leave even when I saw the knife. The fear was incredible and somehow I stood there with her and she put the knife in my heart and I understood pain as something different than what I thought it was.

Him: Yes, you stayed. This makes you special.

I: I will stay now, in her house with you.

Him: She is here with us now.

I: Yes, I see her by the curtain. She is beautiful and I remember that I love her and that she loves me.

Anima by Red Pool

To find out more about the dream writer's group, visit: meeting dates to be listed soon.!

The Girl

This is a story about my Girl as I have experienced her in my dreams over the last four years. It was written as part of an archetypal dreamwork writer's group that I belong to.

The Girl

The world was a dark place and the girl was silent. There was really no fear because the darkness was so familiar. Anger was familiar too. It was a writhing deep anger that filled the girl and filled the darkness too. In fact it seethed with a opaque rage that spoke of injustices unfathomable. Truths that couldn't, shouldn't be spoken.

Every now and then a brief flash of light. Hope, but so dazzling the girl was befuddled, confused. It seemed  that there was heat in that light, possibility. In those moments the fear became visceral and rose in a bloom of passion and desire and terror. But there was fire and the girl feared the fired. Somehow the fire of her passion would become the oven of death or perhaps a funeral pyre in which memory and knowing burned blisteringly bright with pain and then subsided back to a stillness, a pulsating in the dark.

One day the girl awoke to a place of waiting. She knew the waiting as a place outside of the anger. Something was happening, there was a stirring. Her whispered prayers finding their way up through cracks in the stone. Someone knew she was here! Not just someone, but The One.

The one who she remembered. And in the remembering, the door opened. Light burned down on her shell-shocked face and she skittered out of the corner and took the light full on. Hands lifted her and carried her up.

There was magic in the forest and wild beasts clamored for her attention.  And then she found herself on a flag-stoned plaza. It was night, yet day. She looked with wonder up at the sky and saw three red planets stacked up in space. The stars were brilliant and there was the sun emerging in furls and explosions of fire from behind the darkened silent moon.

A Cry to Heaven

Dream: I see two train cars side by side. Both are filled with people. I can see their hands, fingers curled, reaching out through wooden slats like the Holocaust trains. I feel like they are desperate, trying to get to each other.

What does the dream bring? What depth of feeling does it want me to remember? What teaching and what medicine does it offer?

To be on the train is to know devastation. It is all of my life’s blood and hope and love turned to a wrenching anguish, loss, anger. It is wails of pain and rage and why’s. It is shaking, shock and anticipatory fear. It is alone, frantic whisperings. Chaos, disorder, loss, desperation, anguish. A cry to heaven.

Where is Grace in these moments? Others must have know God then. Perhaps not I. And even if it was true that I knew, did doubt not ride in on the darkness? How could faith raise a sword to the dark horseman of suffering?

Anguish (artist unknown)
In this moment, I am alone.  No family, no people in this moment, isolated even in a train car full of people.  Inability to speak, ask for help. Don’t draw attention. Even comfort would be too painful in this place.

Did I know what was happening? In the train car, do I care what is happening? Or am I lost in an inward spiral of doubt and pain and suffering....alone. There is psychosis in trauma and anguish is a physical sensation, a yearning to escape the body.

When we follow the dream, we turn inward, find the support of the Animus, the Anima. It is an inward journey back to the love, following the intelligence of the dream, even into the most devastating moments. In trauma reaction we turn inward too, but it is an inward turning of isolation and separation. Part of the descent is back to this place where all is lost to find ourselves again and our connection to love even in the suffering. The dreams can help us.

The Warrior's Journey - Interview with Archetypal Dreamwork Analyst Laura Smith

Please feel free to read this article about my creative journey within Archetypal Dreamwork published recently in Collective Dream Arts Magazine, 2014 Launch Edition.

Linked here with permission from Kayla Bowen, Editor, Collective, Dream Arts Magazine.

Please note that the images on the PDF link above are not of good quality due to the file share limitations. Consider purchasing a copy of this incredible 108 page, full color publication filled with dream-inspired art. 

Thanks. Love, Laura

The Bird and the Spider

Copyright © Estate of Fran├žoise Taylor, All Rights Reserved
Transformation is not linear. Imagine it like a mandala forming, but if you were looking at it from above, it might appear as a boiling caldron, each bubble blooming into existence to form a place in the mandala. The moment of the blooming is an awareness flooding, a new feeling opening, or perhaps alchemy happening. The mandala as transformation, becomes the love. Like nature, it is chaotic and unpredictable and yet still forms to an incredible, beautiful rendering of the soul. The human mythologies ripple through it, the cosmos tilt and spin, the natural world comes alive. One can feel the deep mystery at work. Now, imagine as you are looking at the mandala, that it shifts and reforms in a never ending bloom of transmutation of itself. And now you see that at the center is the still point, the girl/boy soul, which is infinity, unchanging, constant, whole, undifferentiated oneness...the boy/girl united.

I had the following dream while on an Archetypal Dreamwork retreat at Rowe Conference Center last month. The archetypal imagery of this dream is astounding as it presents a larger mythology of the journey of the spiritual warrior. The ultimate battle between good and evil which plays out in us all as individuals and as a collective. But it is my dream, so it is very specific and personal to me and my own struggle.

Dream: I am with a man and a woman. Suddenly a bird flies into the woman's mouth. And when she turns her mouth is sealed up like with skin that looks like scar tissue. Then I see her in profile and a huge tarantula crawls out of her mouth and lands on the floor. I feel terrified and run. Then we are in some underground sterile chambers that are small like berths on a ship but maybe some kind of surgical pod. I sense the structure is massive extending deep into the ground. I see the tarantula and it is being chased by the bird, but it is trying to get me. I start trying to get away from it and each time the tarantula tries to get to me, the bird dodges it away. But it is singularly focused and I realize that it will always be trying to get to back in its host and lay it's eggs. I think we will have to go deeper in the catacombs, but then I think there is no place deep enough that we can get to to ever truly be safe, that it would always find a way in because it is so singularly focused.