Dream a Little Dream with Me

I want to focus specifically on dream work because it is something I am doing more frequently. I find it fascinating and extremely insightful. And, well, we all dream. Everyone dreams and that includes animals. Carl Jung proposes that this would not be the case if it did not serve an evolutionary purpose. (fun fact, if you google “how do we know that…” one of the top things google will guess that you are searching for is “how do we know that dogs dream”) For now, I’m asking you to trust me that they do. Our dreams must give us something to learn, to keep us alive and safe and to grow.

So they help us grow and they also help us discover new things. Every dream has some new information coming from the depths of our unconscious, trying to make itself known. In a recurring dream or a nightmare, it may be that the lesson is of deeper importance or greater urgency and the unconscious is trying that much harder to get your attention. This is what I have discovered to be true about dreams as I’ve learned more about how to work with them. I would be weary of any person or book that declares they will interpret your dreams. Rather, it is a process and a practice and there are ways to be in relationship with your dreams, to treat them as guides and teachers.

When you are in the sacred space of sleep, your ego is on break and your unconscious comes out to play in the dark. The unconscious is a world of symbols and archetypes, of emotions and questions and longings and infinite potential. This energy of the less tangible and less logic-based things in life uses people and symbols that we attach meaning to in our waking life, to create stories that we can use. These stories are our dreams.

Anyone with a broken heart or goal or desire that has not yet come to fruition can tell you that the internal, intangible world is very real and the brain, soul and heart aren’t always on the same page. So dreams can be a bridge between our unconscious and conscious selves that can keep us moving forward when we cross them.

In our waking life, we can look at the themes, the symbols, the archetypes, the emotions and the questions present in the dream to learn something and grow. Jung proposes that everything in the dream is a symbol that holds information about yourself. Each person in a dream is representing a facet of yourself…a quality you want to garner, a shadow quality you need to work with, a quality that will help you with your current life circumstances and so on.

It is common for people to have a dream about someone they just randomly saw the other day and say, “Well, obviously that person was in my dream as a coincidence of seeing them the other day.” Jung would argue otherwise on behalf of your unconscious. We potentially see hundreds, maybe thousands of people a day. Your unconscious seeks opportunities in the real world for synchronicity because those things can then grab your attention and be studied as symbols. It’s as if your unconscious is scanning your experiences for the right symbol to use and when it finds it, boom it edits it into your dreams so you have the opportunity to work with it.

So here are some primary things you can start doing:

Before you go to sleep, focus on your desire to remember your dreams.

When you do remember them, lay in bed and go over the dream again before moving.

Write the dream down and give it a title.

Describe the themes that you see in the dream.

Record the emotions and energy you felt.

Think about the questions that the dream is posing to you.

Identify the symbols in the dream and record what you associate with them.

Keep a journal of dreams and look at them in a series of 10 for patterns that occur.

In certain cases, you may want to draw your dream or move and act it out to dig deeper into the sensations and messages.

Keep asking yourself how this relates to your life experiences…What is familiar? When have you felt this before? How does this make you feel now? What new perspective is being introduced? What is the invitation from this dream?

This is plenty to start with. Other practices for getting in touch with your emotional and unconscious world within can also help.

First, acknowledging that this part of you is alive and working on your behalf all of the time. Focus intention, perhaps in meditation, through writing or wandering in nature, on your desire to notice and nurture your unconscious world. Also, while I don’t rely on dream dictionaries, there are a myriad of books out there that can help you to learn to work with your dreams.

Here are a few recommendations of books that have been helpful to me:

Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill: Using Dreams to Tap the Wisdom of the Unconscious, by Jeremy Taylor

Dream Symbol Work: Unlocking the Energy from Dreams and Spiritual Experiences, by Patricia H Berne and Louis M. Savary

Man and His Symbols, by Carl Jung

I also recommend seeking out dream groups, a dream practitioner or a therapist who offers dream work or deep imagery work, retreats and workshops. I learned so much about dreams from my vision quest and the month-long transformation retreat I did in the Amazon, in addition to my personal practice.

Dreams are personal. It can be so helpful to have someone guide you through the process and dream work in a group setting can be extremely powerful as well. I have made major life decisions based on dreams and gained many insights. I occasionally have lucid dreams and even literal dreams that have come true the next day. There is a whole world of possibility for those courageous enough to explore. Happy Dreaming!

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Countdown to 2015 – 2 – Into the Dreamy Depths

I think it’s time to specifically call out the unconscious part of ourselves too and why we have it and what we can do with it. So as the countdown to 2015 nears its end, let’s take a look at what’s going on inside.

“Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.” ~ Carl Jung

I think this is true and I think both are important as well as integrated. The unconscious is the part of the iceberg immersed in the ocean…the unseen, the feelings and emotions, the intangible. If you’ve ever had a gut feeling, woke up from a dream or had butterflies in your chest from falling in love, you’ve experienced the unconscious.

I’m going to write from a Jungian perspective because it is familiar territory and it resonates with me deeply. Jung identified both the collective unconscious and the personal unconscious.

The collective unconscious refers to the human template basically, what are the things the characteristics that all of us receive when we’re born, share with each other and contribute to in how we live our lives. The ability to think, feel, to breathe, our unique ability to analyze and be aware of ourselves as individuals and aware of our thoughts.

The personal unconscious refers to our unique experience of the collective unconscious. It is the culmination of our experiences, the influence of various cultures and communities we are born into, the season and time of day we first experience and the impact of all of this and more on how we individually express and manifest it all.

I think we can all agree that we are not just these static bodies made up of all this physical, tangible stuff and nothing more. Where does the change take place…not physical changes, but how we change as people over time? Where do our experiences go as we accumulate more of them? Where does the growth we experience in our lives occur, the learning? How do we evolve and apply ourselves and express ourselves? Where does creativity live? What does our conscience look like and how does it operate? Why do we seek new experiences and goals and dreams?

And so there is much we can learn if we are willing to dive into the depths of the intangible world within…we might call it our souls. What would it look like to acknowledge this and engage with this energy?

How do we do that? A number of ways.

The realm of the unconscious is that of symbols, where it plays around with ways to express itself and work its way into our consciousness. Symbols are containers for energy, meaning, information, values, emotions. They give us something physical and tangible to identify with so that we can then process all these unknowns with what we do know.

This is why storytelling is important and why we have cultural myths. This is what we experience in dreams. This is one way that nature is a mirror for us. This is something we can find in our own writing and art if we commit to a practice and then experience ourselves through our own creations.

Initially I wrote a whole section on dream work for this post, but there is just too much information there and if you’re like me, you get a bit antsy when a blog post just won’t end even if it is interesting. So expect a post on dream work sometime soon. (Follow this blog and you’ll get an email when it comes.)

For now, my recommendation would be to get curious about your unconscious world and search for some practices that most appeal to you for getting to know it.

Maybe it is sitting with some of the questions above. Maybe it is starting to journal, take nature walks, meditate, record dreams, read poetry or philosophy or a book about Carl Jung. If at all possible I think a long term, solo journey in nature is the most ideal way to dive into this stuff.

Might I suggest some topics to consider:

“Who am I?” ok maybe that is a bit intense. But what makes me, me? My values, qualities, talents, passions, personality?

How do I process information?

How do I express myself?

How do I want others to approach me?

What are my shadow qualities?

What triggers challenging emotions in me? How do I handle that when it happens?

When do I feel the happiest and most alive?

What was my childhood like?…both the things I loved to do for hours and also my defense mechanisms and strategies that I used as I discovered I was my own person?

What do I need to let go of in my life that doesn’t serve me anymore to make space for new?

What new things do I want to invite into that space?

..all territory of the unconscious and the soul.

To me, not befriending your unconscious is like not celebrating your birthday. Your unconscious is there and it is active whether you like it or not and it has a critical role to play. We all have the opportunity to get on board with that and have a conscious approach towards it and actually be grateful for the gifts that lie there. When we don’t, what resides there can often arise in ways that aren’t so comfortable.

“You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.” ~ Johnny Depp

With our birthdays, we’re turning older whether we like it or not. Aging is a reality. Celebrating your birthday is an opportunity to celebrate your life…holy shit, we’re alive! That’s pretty cool. To me, a birthday is a symbol of our life and an opportunity to check in with what we’re doing with it.

Ok, off my soap box. Happy birthday to everyone and happy exploring of your unconscious. This is just the tiniest of introductions to all things unconscious, but my hope is it was interesting in the least and a call to curiosity and action at the most.

Thank you for tuning in to this series of ten blogs posts on personal development practices for a fulfilling 2015. If you’re just arriving, welcome! Here’s where we’ve been:

10 – Setting Intentions

9 – Expressing Gratitude

8 – Wandering in Nature

7 – Playing with our Passions

6 – Letting to go Excuses

5 – Law of Attraction and Ritual

4 – Self Care

3 – Finding your People

If you like what you are reading, please consider backing my kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! and please share too. The campaign is focused on writing and publishing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to a life designed around passions and also includes an interactive guidebook to help those wishing to make their own personal changes.

I have 2 days left in my campaign, all or nothing! I will beg. I will. Please.

You can read more about my story at erinkmac.com and continue to receive this blogs by clicking the ‘follow’ button.

Thank so very much for coming along on this adventure.