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Deep Listening to Dreams

Lake Michigan at Grand Haven Pier
Lake Michigan at Grand Haven Pier

In the dream circles that I host, we explore what it means to deep listen to the figures, to the energy, and to the landscapes that appear in waking visions and night dreams.


Dreaming is not confined to night. There’s no dream rule that says a sleep cycle is required before receiving messages from psyche. Some of us experience an imaginal shift in so-named daydreams or perhaps we have a vision while journeying in our meditation practice. The dreamscape presents itself in various ways. However, there are essential elements when exploring these imaginal experiences: curiosity and desire. Clarity around dreaming comes when we allow deep curiosity about what is presenting itself from the wild dreamscape, and when there is sincere desire to understand the emerging messages.


How do We Begin

Even the most prolific dreamers will report dry spells in their dream world. Stages of life, medications, menopause, and our complicated lives can overwhelm the time that we spend in self-care. This includes the lack of attention we give to our psyche that generously offers us unconscious messages from the dream time. It’s understandable. However, even those of us who insist we can’t remember dreams can fill a journal with important information that is coming forward.


First, keeping a pencil and paper or some recording device at your bedside is key. Entering sleep with an intentional desire to remember something – anything – of the dreamscape is equally important. Calling in any spirit guides or protective energies helps too.


Details vs Brevity

Yes, there are some of us who can recount a whole narrative from their dream. What’s important, though, isn’t always quantity. Commit yourself to remember at least one dream figure. This image does not have to be accompanied by a story or even a segment of a story. Although, it’s wonderful when it does. If your dream memory is challenged, try to remember how you are feeling when your eyes open. Are there any emotions, colors that come to mind? What is your body sensing as you awaken? This is important information from your dream experience. Write those brief dream thoughts down quickly.


Then, at some point, go back and create an image. If you wrote words like tired, sad, scared or excited for example create a figure that you think looks like that feeling. Draw it, paint it, or describe it more fully in words. Ask yourself, if “sad” were a figure or an animal what would it look like? Allow yourself to get lost in an imaginal space during this creative time. Now, you have a dream image to work with.


If you remember a full-on narrative, this could be equally challenging. Sometimes the story is so complicated with figures and emotions that it’s overwhelming. Our mind immediately races to interpret a meaning. Pause and take another look. There may be so much going on in the dream that it’s difficult to see what’s hidden in the dreamscape’s background. So, pick one figure or one section of the dream and work on that. You can go back and work different parts of the dream later.


Illuminating Dream Images

It takes practice to put rational thinking aside after our initial dream observations and queries. Resist interpreting too quickly. Because now we have the opportunity to deep listen to what is emerging from the unknown – from the personal or collective unconscious.  


One way to deep listen to your dreams is to enter a dialog with the characters who stepped forward. Carl Jung’s The Red Book is a wonderful model for how this kind of interaction can bring healing. For years Jung recorded his “fantasies” in a personal journal where he engaged in script-like dialogs with his dream figures. He also animated these figures by creating elaborate mandalas. 


Jung demonstrated how it’s done. In your dream journal it’s helpful to give your dream figure context by creating an image. Then ask your chosen dream figure a question. Once this question is recorded answer it from the dream figure’s point of view. Do this back-and-forth dialog for a time. Write quickly so not to overthink this interaction.


When you are finished, soften the gaze of your eyes. Breathe deeply. Relax the muscles of your forehead, roll your shoulders, and breathe out any lingering emotions from your dream query. Open your eyes and take another look at the drawing you created as well as the dialog. What do you notice? Remember, like any self-care practice, you can deep listen to your imaginal realm whenever your curiosity and desire are ready to explore again.

Find out more about the spring 2024 dream circles here. And, there is a complimentary one-time dream circle class offered soon on Friday, April 12 at 1-2 pm ET (US/CA). Register for the free class here.

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