In my last post, I shared 3 steps to decode even the most mysterious dream, and I said the most important fourth step is taking ACTION.
So why is action so important?
Let’s say you’re taking a class, and you’ve gone to all the lectures, done all the homework, but you decide to skip the final project.
"That’s OK," you say, "I already got what I needed from this class. I have the knowledge."
Leaving aside not getting a passing grade, do you really have the full experience of the class without doing the project? Have you taken in all the knowledge it offers?
Of course not.
And you could wake up from a dream, say, “Wow, that was a great dream. I had fun.” And just like not doing the final project for a class, without taking action on the dream you will not have the full experience of the dream. You won’t have the complete message the dream shares with you.
So what does it mean to “take action” on a dream?
I’ll give an example from one of my recent dreams. I awoke after the first of three solo-parenting nights having had an “anxiety dream” where a project I had worked on was scrapped by the person in charge and I was called in to an all-day meeting, requiring me to cancel my plans and causing me great frustration at having to re-do so much work.
When I did a reality check on the dream, it seemed plausible that my work would have to be re-done. The action I took was a centering exercise I do when I’m feeling underappreciated.
Later in the day, while in the midst of a planned day of fun with my children, I received an email saying that my piece of the project wasn’t working as expected and could I please make some changes.
Because I had taken the initial action to center myself and prepare for the negative feelings that arose, I was able to respond kindly, give a timeframe that worked for me to complete the work, and go back to having fun with my kids.
I think anxiety dreams are something we all experience, so the next time you have one, run through the Lightning Dreamwork process on it, and you will be prepared for what comes next in waking life.
I’ve opened up a closed Facebook group for dream sharing so please join us!
It breaks my heart when people dismiss their dreams - “It’s only a dream” or even worse, say that to someone else.
I’ll hate seeing descriptions of fantastic sleep adventures from Facebook friends, that end with, “Weird” or “WTF.” I know that if the dream was significant enough for a Facebook post there’s some juicy energy to work with.
Usually I’ll post a quick “If it were my dream” statement and if that opens up, great! If not, I’ve at least planted the seed of valuing dream information.
I’m sure you’ve had a dream where you just had no idea why it happened or what it could mean. We all have those. Or maybe you wake up with a half-remembered glimpse or even just a feeling.
These are all messages for you from your soul (or higher self, or the Universe, or however you like to imagine it).
Active Dreamers play a quick and easy game that makes decoding dreams lots of fun, and most importantly, brings dreaming back to a communal activity. Most dreams happen alone but the information and images they bring help everyone you share them with.
So what is this game, you ask? It’s Lightning Dreamwork. It takes less than ten minutes and all you need is a dream (or something like a dream) and a partner or group to play with. (If you don’t have a partner, I’ll be yours. I always liked pairing with the teacher, so as the teacher I love returning the favor).
The very first rule is that the dreamer is the authority on his/her dream. We’re not analyzing each other or dictating symbology. This goes to the overall goal of creating a safe (and fun!) space for dream sharing.
I’ve used this process in just about every situation imaginable, with friends, family, coworkers, even strangers. The worst that can happen is you’ll have spent a few minutes exercising your imagination.
Here are the three simple steps to decode even the most mysterious dream with Lightning Dreamwork:
Step 1: The Dreamer tells the dream like a story
Give it a title like it were a book or movie, then tell the dream as best you can remember. This isn’t the place for backstory or how the dream relates to your waking life. Entertain us.
Step 2: The Partner gets more info about what to do with this dream
There are three essential questions that will point to decoding this dream.
Question 1: How did you feel upon waking?
This is how we know what direction to take. Your emotions on waking are the biggest clue to what the dream is here for. (and this is why I no longer have “nightmares” - I know how to recognize the importance of certain dreams)
Please resist the urge to analyze when reporting your feelings. If you could start your sentence with “I thought” then start over. What were the actual feelings you remember? Anxious? Surprised? Calm?
Question 2: Reality check
The reality check is how you know whether this dream is giving you a literal warning to heed. Do you recognize any of it from waking life? Is it possible it could play out (even metaphorically)?
Question 3: What do you want to know about the dream?
Before the rest of us start playing a different game, this tells us what the dreamer wants to focus on. Many people have surprised me with the answer to this question.
Step 3: The Partner(s) offer their associations
Always, always, always, always, always, always start sharing with “If it were my dream” or “In my dream of your dream.” And as much as possible keep things in the first person. This can be grammatically tricky but it does get easier with practice.
For example, if you’ve just shared a dream with me about a horse, I might say, “If it were my dream I’m reminded of the horses on my aunt’s farm and how gracefully they play with each other.”
Or I might share something I know about the dreamer, such as “If it were my dream, I see the connection to my graduate work in psychology that I quit early so I could take care of my mother.” It’s temping to say “I see the connection to your graduate work” but the dreamer needs to remain the authority on the dream so keeping our suggestions in the first person removes any projections of its meaning.
The different perspectives we offer each other on these dream symbols and landscapes is magical. I’ve had so many dreams that seemed like almost a throw-away with no hope of gleaning information or action, then a quick Lightning Dreamwork round and suddenly I’ve got a secret handshake from the Universe on an important matter.
Lightning Dreamwork has a very important fourth step, once the dreamer has heard the partners’ associations she decides how to honor it by taking action.
This is super important and stay tuned because I’m going to write about it more next week.
I’m not much of a rulebreaker (I’ve been accused of being a “rules lawyer” in board games).
When I was a teenager some of my teachers said I was born in the wrong decade, and my commitment to social justice would have served me better if I’d come of age with the hippies in the 1960s.
No, thanks. The music is groovy, but I’m not down with free love, drugs, or civil disobedience. That would be breaking the rules.
Yet there’s a little part of me that says, “Those are the Man’s rules, man! If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
I think that part gets a lot more public face-time than I give it credit. If you took a poll of people who know me and asked, “Is Gretchen a rulebreaker?” I’m guessing most would say yes.
Because there are rules that I just don’t see how they apply to me. So I ignore them, and just do things differently.
My husband and I were domestic partners for 7 years before we got married. We did all the “important” stuff before signing the paper (buying a house, having kids). I just didn’t want “the Man” in our relationship. I joke that we had more rights and responsibilities with each other before we got married (it’s true).
Is making a choice outside the norm rulebreaking? I don’t think so, which is why I say I’m not a rulebreaker.
If you’re like most of the women I work with, you’re screaming, “YES! Gretchen! You ARE a rulebreaker!” and then maybe there’s a whisper of “and I want to be one, too.”
I’ve been talking a lot lately about listening to your dreams. If you’ve been trying to do that, but feeling like you’re falling short, my guess is you might be living by someone else’s rules.
Let’s figure out how to break them. Or just ignore them and do it your way (which is WAY better).
Watch your email for an invite. (If you aren’t on my email list, get on it! You get a free gift)
The Iroquois have a word for the secret wish of your soul, especially as it’s revealed in dreams - ondinnonk.
If you aren’t listening to your dreams, you might never know the secret wish of your soul.
If you’re feeling, or have ever felt, stuck, frustrated, lost, hopeless, aimless, or unsure, your dreams just might have a clue to help you move past it.
The first step is to remember your dreams (which I gave some tips for here).
Sometimes, dreams are literal answers or even roadmaps for your soul’s desires. I remember a time when I was unsure of what to do with my life, and I had a very vivid dream of me hosting a group of women for a retreat, which even featured details of the activities I led. You bet I created waking-life versions of them.
Yet other times when I’ve sought information or explanation, something more symbolic arises. In one particular dream, I was preparing a feast in someone else’s house, and their appliances were all industrial-sized and on casters. That showed me that I require flexibility to create, and in order to serve the large numbers of people who need me, I’d better get some good equipment.
So how do you know what these cryptic dreams mean and are trying to tell you?
If you’re looking for a concise dictionary of dream symbols, the best way I know is to create it yourself. I’m not going to tell you that if you dream of teeth falling out you have anxiety, or it’s only nerves if you dream you’re sitting for a test for a class you never took, naked. Those archetypal dreams very well could mean that for you, but only you can say.
I’m going to share some essential info that will be the Rosetta Stone for understanding your dreams. Are you ready? Here it is:
Your emotions on waking are the best clue about what the dream means and what to do with it.
When you have a “big dream” that might be revealing your ondinnonk, you’ll know it. When I wake from those, I feel excited, focused, clear, loved, and all sorts of other good things.
Or I might wake up terrified.
In either case, the dream gets my attention. I know it needs me to listen.
Stay tuned next week for my 3-step practice for decoding dream mysteries.
Very often when I tell people I am a Dream Teacher, their response is “I wish I could remember my dreams” or “I wish I could remember better dreams.”
Oh, do I know that feeling. All through my early years I had very vivid dreams, and would wake in terror from them. Yet when I’d describe the dream to someone, the story would seem perfectly normal and not at all like something out of a horror movie.
In 2005, I needed a weekend getaway and decided to go to Kripalu for a workshop. I browsed through the catalog and saw a friendly, smiling man offering a workshop on dreaming. “I have dreams,” I thought. “I wonder if this will help my nightmares.”
Since that workshop with Robert Moss, I’ve never had another nightmare. I have dreams that leave me with strong emotions, and I have dreams with elements of fear, but I no longer wake in terror from a seemingly ordinary dream.
But even now I do have “dream droughts” where I wake knowing I dreamed yet failing to hold on to any memory of it, or even feeling like maybe I didn’t dream at all (I’m pretty sure I do dream every night even when I don’t remember).
The best way I know to remember dreams involves three simple steps.
Set an intention before sleeping. Basically, ask the Universe for a dream. If you’re up for it, ask for a specific dream. “I would like guidance on the big meeting tomorrow.” or “I’d like to talk to Grandmother who passed.” or “I’d like to visit Tahiti.” You can even write a little note and put it under your pillow.
Give yourself a little extra time in the morning. I find that often the rushed mornings are the ones with no dream recall. When you wake up and start to remember a dream, try rolling to one side or the other and see which way is easier to remember the dream. It’s almost like tapping into a muscle memory.
Make a habit of writing down your dreams. It only takes a moment to write down a one-line title of the dream and your feelings on waking from it. If you have more time, you can write more. Something about the act of writing it down sets the pattern that dream information is important and it becomes easier to remember.
Try these three steps tonight and let me know how it goes. If you want an extra boost to your dream recall, you can order a DreamBraid(tm).
No matter what I do in life, I always try to help people live their dreams. When I say that, I mean more than just your goals and aspirations.
Your dreams are clues to the secret wishes of your soul (the Iroquois had a special word for it, ondinnonk).
Some of the most spectacular episodes of my life were prompted (or enhaced) by dreams.
I saved my sister’s life based on information from a dream.
I secured a big promotion in my job at the time, because I dreamed a warning of what not to do.
I’ve given countless reassurances to people from loved ones who passed over, then visited me in dreams.
This doesn’t mean I have a special gift; in fact, not so long ago if you asked me about dreams I would have given you a funny look while trying not to think about my frequent nightmares.
I’ve been an Active Dreamer since 2005 and that’s how I’m able to bring these wonderful gifts from my sleeping adventures. I completed all 3 levels of Dream Teacher training from the Robert Moss School of Active Dreaming in 2011.
You don’t have to do any special studies to become an Active Dreamer. All you need to do is remember your dreams, and honor the gifts they bring to you. (Stay tuned for my next post about how to do that)
What gifts are waiting for you in your dreams? I hope you’ll share with me!