6 Canons of Dreamwork


Article first published on The Natural Dream.

6 Canons of Dreamwork
by Laura Smith

Dreams have long been lauded as sources of divination, and sadly, in more recent time, by some as detritus resulting from the human mind performing a ritual house cleaning. But for those who pay attention to our dreams, we intuitively know that there is a deeper meaning to dreams and dreaming and we understand the potential that our dreams have to offer. Deeply rooted cultural wisdom tells us that we must honor our dreams. I would go one step further and say that we must allow them to live and have an active role in our emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual well being as individuals, as a community and as a species.

Here are 6 canons of dreamwork that can help you better understand what dreams are and why paying attention to your dreams is important.

Canon 1: Dreams are both organic and inalienable. They are part of the over arching human morphology and are produced naturally, without artificial chemicals or stimulants. Human beings dreaming appears to be universal and true as far back as we can know. They are as natural as all other human functions, produced not as waste as some seem to believe, but as an organic alchemical agent which attempts to facilitate change and growth within the emotional, psychological, physical and/or spiritual body. As such, dreams are inalienable. They cannot be separated or taken from us. Once a dream is remembered and especially once you have worked with it, it forever holds a place in the psyche even if forgotten later. Some believe the plants and other animals dream too, indeed some would argue that the world itself, as a living organism, dreams. If true, could this not be where our eternal Archetypes and mythologies come from? The dream can be viewed as living and eternal and as such we can enter into a relationship with it, returning over and over again to a moment where we can re-experience what the dream has to offer as both a reminder and also to promote new growth and healing.

Canon 2: Every Dream Carries the Possibility for Growth and Healing. Dreams actively seek to bring about our emotional, psychic, physical and spiritual growth and healing. Often the dream may bring difficult emotional content relating to childhood or adult trauma, wounding, loss or other habitual patterns which block us in our efforts towards wholeness, healing and joy. The dream may mirror behaviors which are unconscious and will show us the possibilities of who we are as our innocent soul selves. This mirroring quality allows us to begin to accept ourselves more fully and to make choices for ourselves from our deeper intuitions rather than from our unconscious or trauma-driven reactions.

Canon 3: Every Dream Holds the Possibility for a Sacred Encounter. When we dream, our dreams often carry elements of the profane, or that which is mundane and of our daily outer world lives and thus perceived and known by us in some specific way. However, each dream also contains that which is sacred, or that which is set apart from us, an unknown or previously unexplored part of ourselves which, when encountered, may be revelatory. The dream landscape is littered with sacred artifacts in the form of images, symbols and metaphors which associate to memories, feelings, aspirations, and desires. When we meet a dream character, whether it is someone we know or someone we don’t know, an animal or other non-human entity, this is a wholly sacred encounter. Characters, creatures and other entities may be reflecting something of our shadow, a behavior which is blocking us or may be a powerful Archetype whose sole function in the dream is to guide, teach, support and love us unconditionally as we move deeper into our inner life to discover the hidden treasure within.

Canon 4: Dreams Convey Meaning with a Poetic Sensibility. Dreams do not speak in a language that can be understood in a rational way. They speak more as a poem, with imagery, symbols, metaphors and seek to invoke deep feelings which open our intuitive body. The messages may be a metaphor which speaks to a personal mythos or idea we hold about who we are, how we are living or what our future might hold. The metaphor may also carry the energy of the collective unconscious which holds true in a more universally accepted way. A symbol in the dream, as a sacred artifact, may have a very specific set of qualities and meaning for the dreamer, which evoke memories and feelings. The artifact may also be imbued with the collective wisdom associated with the symbol socially, culturally or universally. But ultimately the dream must be understood through the feelings they evoke and the activation of authenticity and intuition within. This is an ancient language that has evolved unique to human beings and which taps into the depths of the human experience in a humanistic way.

Canon 5: Dreams come from a Power Greater than Ourselves. Dreams come from a creative and universal source and as such should remain beyond our power to control. They are revelatory and unfolding in real time/dream time. Choices we make in dreams come from two sources: our deepest fears or our deepest intuition. When we attempt to place our egoic/waking world ideas of what we think something should be onto a dream, we are not in our deepest intuition. We are attempting to play God, believing we know what the message of the dream should be rather than accepting what it is as a sacred encounter and an opportunity to learn and grow. When we turn to face the lion in our dream, we face into our deepest fears from the place of our deepest intuition. This is particularly true when, in the dream, we are conscious in the moment of what we are doing. A primary teaching of the dream has to do with trust, namely trust in something greater than our own machinations if we are to grow in our understanding of who we are and why we are here. Our trust often begins in relationship to a dream mentor that we are working with, but ultimately we begin to trust the Archetypes who come to teach, guide and support us. We begin to learn what true faith feels like as something outside of us that we can rely on in daily living.

Canon 6: Every Dream is For You and an Opportunity to Reclaim Wisdom and Intuition. Each dream has an intended message for the dreamer, however, this message may be layered. There are numerous associations a dreamer may have with the elements contained within that dream. These associations can take us down many paths toward understanding of the dream. Sometimes, we will only reach one layer of understanding, other times we may make a connection to multiple layers of meaning and understanding for ourselves. Firstly, each dream is for the dreamer and the dreamer’s benefit. That others might benefit, our community or even the world, is a by-product of the dreamer finding the intended message of the dream that is just for them. While dreams often seem nonsensical, they actually make sense. But this “sense” must be incorporated into the emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical bodies of the dreamer. This embodiment is the message of the dream truly and deeply received. Ultimately, a dream make sense to us once we receive its specific message for us. A dream message fully received become a portal into the reclamation of our wisdom and intuition and allows us to make better choices for ourselves and thus to carry a message of hope to others.

Artwork: Odilon Redon ~ The Yellow Sail, Final Journey, Guardians of the Soul

2 comments:

  1. Thank you! Beautifully stated and articulated. Profound in meaning, and enlightening to all of us in the search for our true selves, our wholeness, our authentic self.

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    1. Hi Sula...thanks so much for your comment and glad that this post found its way to you.

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