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.