Category Archives: Interpretation

Get more from your dream life in 2017

As the old year comes to a close, it’s time to take stock and think about what you’d like the new one to bring. Intention is a powerful magnetic force, and focusing on what you want greatly increases your chances of achieving it.

The sharper the focus, the better the chance; having a vague notion of something you might like to achieve is like throwing a dart in the general direction of the darts board and hoping it’ll hit the bullseye. It could happen, but it it’s not very likely.

Once you’ve set a goal, you need to think of practical steps you can take to work towards it. As you’re reading this blog, I guess you’re interested in dreams, so here are my suggestions for anyone who’d like to get more from their dream life in 2017.

  1. Make dreams part of the conversation. Talk about dreams generally, with your family and friends, and share specific ones you happen to remember. Talking about dreams, whether you have regular recall or not, increases dream awareness even for experienced dreamers. The secret of happy dream talk is to treat your dreams like the experiences of waking life; keep it brief, keep it interesting, leave out any long-winded boring bits and, most important of all, don’t try to interpret, either your own or other people’s. One of the reasons we can feel reticent about sharing dreams is because we think they might reveal something about us, and focusing on finding meaning takes our attention away from the actual experience of the dream. Besides, as Alfred Adler wrote, The realm of meanings is the realm of mistakes. 

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    Dream sharing in the family whatsapp from one of my children, the day before our Christmas get-together including new addition, one-year-old Daisy.
  2. Let go of psychological interpretation generally. If we value dreams only as a source of information about our waking life, that puts an automatic filter on our recall. We will tend to remember and write down only the dream material that we identify as important or relevant, and miss the good stuff that takes us outside our waking understanding and into the complete unknown. Letting go of trying to interpret dreams could be interesting for more experienced dreamers as well as beginners; try it for a few months, and see if your dream life changes.
  3. Keep a dream diary. I’ve put this one last because it’s what everyone says and I didn’t want you to roll your eyes and abandon me mid-post! But everyone says it for a reason; it works. It’s the power of intention again. By buying a lovely notebook and placing it beside your bed, you’re setting the intention to record something when you wake. At first, you may not have many narrative dreams, but just fragments or single images – however random, uninteresting or irrelevant they feel, write them down. Draw them. Value them. From these little scraps, dream recall will gradually develop. Have faith and stick at it. I recommend you set the intention for a manageable amount of time initially, say 6 weeks, to record something every day. You will need to set your alarm 15 minutes before you have to get up, so that you’ll have time to wake slowly and enjoy that gradual surfacing from sleep.

You can read more about creative dreaming – that is to say, experiencing dreams rather than trying to interpret them psychologically – in Patricia Garfield’s classic book, Creative Dreaming, or in my own Writing in the House of Dreams.

I’ll also be running my Writing in the House of Dreams course in Cornwall later in the year, so sign up for my newsletter if you’d like a heads-up when I set the dates, or contact me, without obligation, to discuss a one-day or residential workshop for your writing group further afield.

That’s one of my New Year intentions in place – to include creative dreaming in my 2017 workshops programme – now time to ponder some more.

Do you set intentions at New Year? Could one of them be to get more from your dream life?

 

 

I dream, therefore I am

I enjoy reading about quantum physics because it’s basically an exploration into the nature  of reality – matter, energy, parallel universes – all the things that I myself love to explore through dreaming.

Recently, I stumbled upon an article in Mother Nature Network with the intriguing title, Parallel worlds exist and interact with our world, say physicists

It takes the theory of parallel worlds a step further, because it proposes that they might not only exist, but also affect our lives in this one and, here’s the exciting thing, we might therefore be able to investigate them.

Now there’s a new theory on the block, called the “many interacting worlds” hypothesis (MIW), and the idea is just as profound as it sounds. The theory suggests not only that parallel worlds exist, but that they interact with our world on the quantum level and are thus detectable.

When I read about this, it reminded me of discovering that science had proven matter is actually energy – a fact that dreamers, shamans and other psychic explorers have always taken as read. I feel that science is not about discovering phenomena so much as discovering rational explanations for them.

Of course, when I talk about dreaming, I’m not talking about the psychological – that is, scientific and rational – way of being a dreamer. As soon as you let go of the psychological model, you understand through creative dreaming that the psychological model is far too small.

We are much more than what we think and understand about our self and our life. Our world is much more too. From just this universe, to parallel universes and now to parallel universes that interact with the one we know, the doors of perception are being cleansed.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern~ William Blake

Dreaming is an opportunity to cross the borders into other worlds. We live in this world as if it’s our one and only life, but for a dreamer like me, it nests among other lives and way beyond, stretching to infinity.

It doesn’t matter to me whether this can be explained, or even whether it’s ‘real’ in the scientific sense. It is real because it makes my reality. I dream, therefore I am.

 

Why you should never read someone else’s journal

In the long hiatus between my mother’s death on October 19th and her funeral last Friday, I wasn’t able to focus on work much at all, and that felt OK and appropriate. I slept a lot, dreamt a lot, read non-fiction books and wrote in my journal.

I was working through some of the exercises in Change Your Story, Change Your Life: Using Shamanic and Jungian Tools to Achieve Personal Transformation by Carl Greer one morning, when it occurred to me that anyone reading my journal after I died might not understand, as I do in the writing, that it’s an experiment, and not a report.

Slow start warning: I nearly gave up on this book after the first chapter, which felt like puff and waffle. Glad I didn't.
Slow start warning: I nearly gave up on this book after the first chapter, which felt like puff and waffle. A few chapters in, I’m glad I didn’t.

Actually, my whole journal is a perpetual work-in-progress. Every page I write is part of a creative exploration. It isn’t me – it’s a kaleidoscope of all the possibilities of me, and I’m aware of that when I’m writing in it in much the same way as when I’m gathering notes for a work of fiction, knowing all the time that many of my ideas won’t fit the story and will have to be discarded.

A journal or diary is a first encounter with ideas and events, before you’ve had a chance to ponder and decide what you think of them. To get a true sense of a person’s life, I guess you’d need to read their autobiography, because there you have a completed work. Where a journal is a mess of notes, often contradictory or inconsequential, an autobiography is an expression of the writer’s identity, his or her choice of what’s important and how they understand what’s happened.

I was struck by something in Natalie Goldberg’s book on memoir-writing Old Friend from Far Away last week; she says we shouldn’t think we have to be old before we can write a memoir. We don’t need the whole story all in one go, at the end. We can write memoirs from time to time throughout a long life, and each one will be the most complete expression of who we are and how we understand our lives up to that point.

In that sense, I guess autobiography could be seen as a work-in-progress too, but the difference is that in autobiography we are writing what we know about ourselves and our life, whereas in journalling we are feeling our way along the borders of our knowledge, and what we find must be judged as me or not-me, accepted or discarded, as part of the process of becoming.

If you read someone’s journal – as well as the obvious problem that it is private writing and they did not intend it to be read – you will not find the person there, and thinking that you will could give you every which kind of wrong impression, like listening to someone’s dreams and believing you can interpret them. A good dream therapist will simply hold the dream so that the dreamer can look at it from different angles, because only the dreamer can find out what it means.

I love my journals
I love my journals

I include all sorts of things in my journals – dreams, ideas, experiences, book reviews, quotations, drawings, writing exercises and creative experiments. I love them, just as I love my dreams, specifically because they don’t define me.

With both, there’s a feeling of infinite possibility, a continuously forming sense of direction, so that even at the end of a lifetime of journalling and dreaming, I’m sure there will be no conclusion, because the conclusion is always up ahead.

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My children have strict instructions to burn my diaries without reading them when I die. What would you like to happen to yours?

Can a dream really change your life?

When you tell acquaintances and strangers that you write and teach about dreams an interesting thing happens – the polite, interested look disappears, their faces light up and they straight away tell you about a dream they’ve had…

This is the first sentence of Writing in the House of Dreams and I wanted to tell you about recent example, when a complete stranger told me this story.

He said that as a young man in his teens he had experienced intense suicidal feelings, and he happened to be going out with a girl who felt the same way.

They talked very seriously about suicide and he was in no doubt that they would indeed end up killing themselves.

Then one night he dreamt they were waiting for the last bus near a roundabout on the edge of town, after an evening out. Everything looked orange under the street lights and there was no-one else around.

When the bus finally arrived, the dreamer saw through the windows that all the passengers were skeletons.

‘Don’t get on the bus!’ he said, grabbing his girlfriend’s arm. ‘We don’t want to get on that bus!’

When he woke up, he thought the dream had been about her, and that he should tell her not to think about killing herself any more, but then he realised it was actually about both of them.

He thought, ‘If we’re not getting on that bus, we need to think of good reasons for living. We need to find out what we want to live for.’

From that day, the dreamer stopped obsessing about suicide and started to live purposefully, and at times in later life when things felt hard, he remembered that dream, and stayed off the bus.

As I write this, I’m struck by the curious fact that decades after the dreamer had this dream, there’s now a website for people considering suicide that uses the term ‘catching the bus’ to mean killing yourself.

I’ve heard lots of stories about people who have had a life-changing dream at a time of crisis, like this man, but sometimes a not-at-all epic-seeming dream can change the way we see the day-to-day things we’re going through, and help us over a hurdle.

For example, I had a dream that coloured balls were pouring from the sky as if someone was emptying a giant ball-pool. They were bouncing off the ground and landing all over everything.

I thought, ‘This isn’t right! The balls all belong in one place. They should all be landing in one box.’ When I woke, I knew it was about a situation that had been making me feel annoyed (it was ‘a load of balls’) and realised I had been  judging everyone according to one person’s behaviour.

That dream didn’t change my whole life forever, but it did change the way I was handling a passing situation. Big changes, little changes – dreams can provide an opportunity to consider things from a different angle when our conscious mind is going round and round, stuck in the same groove.

There’s another great story of a life-changing dream on Tzivia Gover’s blog 

Have you had a life-changing dream, or has someone else told you about theirs?

What is your purpose? Try this experiment and see!

When I read Tzivia Gover’s blog post a few days ago about asking a dream symbol, ‘What is your purpose?’ it felt timely for me because I had just dreamt about an image that recurs fairly frequently in my dreams, so I had an obvious one to try the technique on.

In the dream, I was walking along a cliff path, looking out across the clear blue water. I felt happy and full of energy. As I came down towards the bay, I saw a woman in a bright floral summer’s dress  lying languidly in a wide shallow boat, gently rocking.

I noticed an enormous fish, almost as big as the boat, swimming around in the water  nearby. There was no sense of danger. It was, as I recorded in my dream diary, simply ‘extraordinary and remarkable.’

I walked on, and saw several more of these huge colourful fish, as I came down onto the beach and crossed a wide rushing stream.

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These days, I don’t usually try to interpret individual symbols in my dreams, I just enjoy them, but today I asked the enormous fish, ‘What is your purpose?’

Nothing came to me immediately, so while I was waiting for a reply I pondered, ‘What is it about this enormous fish? It’s not scary, it’s just swimming around in its natural element of water. Yet it is a remarkable fish.’

Then I realised, ‘What is the purpose of this remarkable fish? To be remarkable!’

I feel my life is remarkable, as anyone who has close contact with their dreams and imaginary worlds will feel. I seek the remarkable in my work, always trying to break new ground.

My book Bullies, Bigmouths and So-called Friendswas identified by the Independent critic as the first real self-help book for children; Writing in the House of Dreams and the book I’m working on at the moment, When a Writer Isn’t Writing: How to beat your blocks and find your flow, both mix themes to make unusual hybrids.

My fish is an ordinary fish in its ordinary element and yet it feels remarkable. My life is an ordinary life but my purpose is to find the extra-ordinary within it. That’s what brings me pleasure, the same as  when these enormous fishes swim into my dreams.

You can find your symbol too; you don’t have to wait for a dream. Simply sit quietly for a few moments and take a few slow breaths. Still your mind.

Lower or close your eyes, and move into your inner space. Ask, ‘What is my life’s purpose?’ and let the question float away, as you take a few more slow easy breaths.

Now think of an object, and accept the very first thing that drops into your mind. Don’t judge or rationalise it away.

Examine your object from every angle, noticing its particular characteristics. I notice that my huge fish is always brightly coloured, always swimming in clear water and always on its own.

Ask your object, ‘What is your purpose?’

Again, don’t censor or rationalise; go with the first answer that pops into your head.

If you try this, because my purpose is to find and celebrate remarkable things, please share! What was your symbol, and what insight did it bring?

 

 

Making art from a dream, by Susan Levin

Yesterday, I reviewed Susan Levin’s book, ‘Art from Dreams’ and I’m delighted to welcome  her into the House of Dreams to talk about the dream behind her artwork, ‘Home.’

HomeI am writing about the piece titled “Home” and the accompanying dream.

Dream: I am on a boat in the Detroit River headed for summer camp. I talk to someone about Detroit—how the city is out of money. We dock briefly along the city’s shore. I go for a walk, barefoot, through the muddy streets. I see little children in slum housing. I walk up the steps to the bank. I clean my feet with water so they will be less muddy.

Dream interpretation: I have to get down with uncovered feet to get close to the truth of my difficult childhood, growing up in a dysfunctional family in Detroit. The city of Detroit is bankrupt—it’s losing its libido for me. I walk barefoot, slogging through the mud of my past. With my uncovered feet, I get close to the truth. The slum of my childhood. Boats are a womb-like container that carry us on our life’s voyage. We all need a sense of security to help us navigate.

Being sent away to summer camp, where I don’t want to go, adds to my sense of being an outcast. By cleaning my feet as I go up to the bank, I am relinquishing my feeling of impoverishment. Something in me has money in the bank. I am coming to a part of myself that is substantial. I have my own resources—my own currency in the bank. I am approaching the SELF, going upstairs to a higher level of understanding.

Cleaning the feet has religious overtones, a rite of purification. I was destined to be barefoot in the mud, living in a slum, when I instead deserve to be in a bank with clean feet and access to money. My inner resources, which were never acknowledged or nurtured, are now accessible.

Have you ever been moved to create a visual image by memories, thoughts and feelings that have been stirred  up in a dream?

Book Review: ‘Art from Dreams’ by Susan Levin

Today, it’s my pleasure to review this new book by Susan Levin, ‘Art from Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage, Assemblage and Poetry.’

As a seasoned traveller in the inner world myself, I love reading about other people’s dream adventures, and one of my all-time favourite books is CG Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, for that  reason.

There isn’t very much to read in Susan Levin’s book,  just a one-page introduction and ten short poems, but I really like the way the brevity of the text brings the focus strongly back to the images and makes the book, in itself, a dreamlike experience. Levin lets the pictures tell their own stories, and give an impression of the  journey overall.

The first half of the book is called ‘My Jungian Dreams.’ Here the poems expand on the images, exploring the artist’s thoughts about consciousness and experience in an open, direct way.

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In the second half of the book, ‘Nocturnes,’ there are no poems, just a set of striking images with intriguing titles such as ‘Message from horse and snake’ and ‘Ship of souls.’

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The mixed media and collage approach feels to me an exactly appropriate way of conveying the quality of a dream, this bringing together of disparate objects into a unified experience of colour, tone and feeling.

The night after I read Art from Dreams I had a very visual dream which reminded me of one of Susan’s collages. At the bottom of the picture, me with a glass of sparkling wine; above that my Writing in the House of Dreams book launch cake, and flying above that in the clear blue sky, a young woman on a brightly-coloured hang-glider.

The book is beautifully produced and bound, a lovely object which readers will return to, and take inspiration.

Tomorrow, Susan will talk about the process of one of the artworks in the book here in the House of Dreams. Don’t miss it!