What's in a Dream?
Dreams have always fascinated me, and I often turn to my dreams when I am seeking guidance or insight that eludes me in my waking reality. I ask my patients about their dreams. Most often people don’t remember them, or they’re surprised by the inquiry, wondering how it relates to their health concern. In my experience, dreams are of great value in the healing process. Here is a personal story about how a dream helped me through a time of great fear and anxiety.
Several years ago I went in for a routine check-up. A few days later my phone rang and I was informed that my lab test revealed a significant abnormality. I was asked if I had ever used intravenous drugs, had a blood transfusion, or if I regularly engaged in unprotected sex with multiple partners. My only addictions are caffeine and the music of Ben Howard. I’d never had a blood transfusion, and the only time I did engage in unprotected sex was with my partner of 5 years, who was in perfect health. I was asked if I had been feeling sick lately. I told them that I felt fine. They informed me of the two diagnoses they were considering and I was asked to come back in for further testing.
I hung up the phone and over the next few days I became someone that I didn’t recognize. My vision went black. My stomach sank and my heart jumped into my throat. I was paralyzed with fear and I couldn’t move. I went back through every moment of my life and wondered if somehow I could have missed something, somehow put myself at risk of either of these two illnesses. I spent the next several days in absolute despair. I tried to rely on friends, family and colleagues for reassurance that there was likely some sort of mistake, and even if the worst case turned out to be true, that I would find a way to manage it. Unfortunately, consolation generally doesn’t help me. If I truly am scared, I need to take time to be alone so that I can reconnect with myself. At the end of the day, the only three things that I trust are my own intuition, the wisdom of my body, and my dreams.
In an attempt to stay calm, I decided to meditate. My shallow breaths became deeper, I focused on my heart center and I tried to find a place of strength. I spoke to my body and told her that I was scared. I asked her to communicate with me and let me know what was really going on. I told her that I loved her and no matter what happened, I would do everything to make sure that she was restored to a state of balance and wholeness. That night I had a dream.
I dreamt that I was in a chaotic city and my phone rang. It was my doctor’s office – they told me that my lab results were in. I rushed to the office and sat down, fearing the worst. The doctor was a young, beautiful woman. The office was spacious and didn't feel clinical at all, which put me at ease. I noticed that she was wearing a necklace with a heart pendant on it. In my waking life I associate the heart with intuition. She had a warm smile and I felt safe with her. She put a hand on my knee and showed me the results. She smiled and said, “the woman who took your blood made a mistake. I’m sorry that you’ve been so scared. Everything is normal. You are just fine.” I woke up the next morning feeling like myself again. I was calm and grounded, which I had not felt in days. A short while later I went in to the lab and had my blood tested again, this time with full confidence that everything was normal. A few days later, I got a call informing me that indeed, everything was fine and that the original test had been performed incorrectly. They apologized for the inconvenience and I bit my tongue. Clearly we had different ideas of what constitutes an inconvenience.
In our hectic culture, we tend to rely on our heads more than our hearts, our doctor’s assessments more than our physical lived experience. I ask my patients about their dreams because I find that very often our dreams point to areas in our lives where we may be stuck, where we may be struggling, or point to thoughts, feelings and experiences that we suppress in our conscious, waking lives. When a patient shares a dream with me, I ask them to describe the experience of the dream, the emotions. More often than not, whatever emotion comes up is one that they are dealing with somewhere in their waking reality. As healing progresses, it is sometimes the case that dreams also change- I find this to be the case particularly when I’m treating someone with homeopathy.
So how can we get more in touch with our dreams?
Before you fall asleep, set the intention to have a dream, and set the intention to remember the dream. You can even set specific intentions and ask for guidance regarding certain areas of your life. I do this regularly and with great success. If you’ve asked for guidance, trust whatever comes. Explore it with openness and curiosity.
If you have a dream, write it down. Make it a habit. This communicates to a deeper aspect of yourself that you take the dream seriously. Take some time with it, preferably in the morning. Write down whatever you can remember including images, symbols, colours, and any emotional impressions or experiences.
I don’t recommend using dream dictionaries because your dream is specific only to you. If you dream of a tiger, ask yourself what tigers mean to you. What do they represent? How do they make you feel? What did it look like? What was it doing?
Begin to relate to your dreams as a meaningful and legitimate form of reality. Too often we dismiss our dreams. “Oh, it was just a dream!” This is an all too common phrase. Some Indigenous cultures believe that the dream world is more real than our waking world and I am inclined to agree. Our waking world is full of rules, expectations and social norms. None of that exists in the dream world. It is a world free of any restraints, suppression or expectation. Our most authentic self is able to express itself in the dream world, where as in the waking world, as much as we try to live authentically as often as possible, chances are there are some areas and instances where you’re not able to be 100% authentic.
Pay special attention to recurrent or very vivid dreams. These are both just signs that your subconscious is really trying to bring your attention to the subject of your dream.
Be patient. If you don't usually dream, or if you don't feel that you are receiving the guidance that you are seeking, be patient and persistent. As a conscious dreamer with over a decade of experience, I still have periods of time when I sometimes feel impatient. It's natural, and like all things, this too will change.
Dreams are powerful, and have the ability to guide, heal and comfort us. I invite you to make your dreams a bigger part of your waking life and see what shifts occur for you.