Veronica's Garden

Rachel Creager Ireland on writing, living, the Flint Hills, and the Post Rock Limestone Caryatids

Tag: Dreaming

Practical Conscious Dreaming

Someone asked on Twitter what writers do for inspiration, and I mentioned that I had recently dreamt an idea for a novel. “Lucky duck!” she replied, which slightly surprised me. Lucky to have dreams? Like saying someone’s lucky for having two eyes. Well, yes, I am, but most of us do, and you probably do, too.

I wasn’t consciously looking for inspiration that day (or night, rather), but if I had been, dreamwork might well be a method I would turn to. I wrote previously about how I’ve cultivated my dreaming over the years. If you feel a lack in your dreaming, I’d encourage you to try it. You might be surprised what you can discover in dreams.

If you do remember dreams, here’s an exercise you can try tonight. Deep winter is a good time for dreaming, though you can do it any time of year. Prepare yourself to sleep in your usual ways —put on pajamas, brush your teeth, whatever you always do before going to bed. I’m getting sleepy just thinking about it. Take your journal to bed with you. Clear your mind of extranea (that sounds like a real word, don’t you think?). Keep only the question you want to ask. Write it in your journal, as clearly and specifically as you can. Then set the journal near enough to reach when you wake up. Turn out the light and let the question float around in your mind as you fall asleep. As soon as you wake, write everything you can remember.

Sometimes when I do this practice, I get amazing insight into my question. Once, Kirstie Alley appeared and gave me some sound advice. Other times I don’t find anything I can make sense of regarding the question or any dreams I might have had. Sometimes I have a strong feeling that a dream is meaningful, but I can’t find a way to relate the dream to the question I asked. In those cases I suspect that the question wasn’t really right to lead me to a useful answer.

Whatever happens, I love dreaming and dreamwork. If I can’t apply a dream to a particular problem, it could well be fertile material for some other project, such as a poem or a story. I hope later this month to release a collection of surrealist short stories based on a series of dreams I had years ago, when I first started writing fiction.

What do you dream? How do you inspire yourself to dream? How are you using your dreams in your waking life?

Cultivating the Dreaming

I dreamt our family was set to go on a trip, but when the time came to get on the bus, I wasn’t packed. I couldn’t even get to my room against the crowds of people all going someplace. There were lots of stairs, there was a hotel room with piles of clothes and other junk that I had to clear out. The bus left without us.

I woke up pretty glum and related my dream in a post on facebook. My friend Kay Shandler replied, “You have the neatest dreams. I rarely dream!” This surprised me because Kay is a skilled energy healer, and I would assume that intuitive healing would require substantial capacity for imagination. Imagination, intuition, and dreaming are all related, and maybe sometime I’ll write a detailed post about that.

But it led me to think about my dream history, because it isn’t an accident that I dream vividly and remember my dreams. I’ve cultivated my dreaming intentionally over many years.

As a child, I never remembered dreams. My sister sometimes talked about her exciting, vivid dreams, and I think everyone in my family related dreams upon occasion, but I never remembered them. It felt like a wonderful and mysterious experience that I was missing out on.

Eventually I learned techniques for enhancing dream recall. I read books about dream interpretation. I kept a journal by my bed, ready to receive any dream that might come. I though about dreaming before I went to sleep. It took time because I had chronic insomnia, but by high school I was recording dreams frequently, sometimes three or four times in a night. I still have my dream journals from that period, and they are filled with page after page of terrible nightmares. Someone tried to kill me, someone chased me, someone shot me point blank in the face and I died. Or I was the aggressor, on a shooting spree in a shopping mall, before that was a trendy thing for crazy people to do. Or there was a nuclear holocaust or an alien invasion and everyone was lost in the dark.

I somehow knew that these nightmares had some kind of message in them, but I had no tools for interpreting them. All I knew to do was diligently record every dream, so that’s what I did, like an illiterate person painstakingly copying letters line by line, messages for an unknown person who might find a way to decipher them in the future.

In college I learned a little about reading symbolism and understanding archetypes. I continued to journal my dreams, and used them as source material for surrealist poetry, which seemed kind of like cheating. But the dream images were more compelling than the ones that arose from my conscious mind.

In my twenties, I learned to dream lucidly. If a series of unbelievably improbable, terrifying events happened, I could recognize that I was having a nightmare. It didn’t necessarily end it, but I knew it wasn’t real. Then I discovered flying. I’m dreaming? Great, that means I can fly!

I was in my thirties when I took a class in past-life regression, which included basic training in hypnosis. I adapted self-hypnosis techniques to return to my dreams in a waking trance state, so that I could dialog with the aggressors in my nightmares. I’ve written about this technique previously.

Also at the past-life regression class, I met Henry Reed, a pioneer dreamwork researcher. One practice Henry uses is conscious dreaming for a person or problem. One way I use dreamwork is to ask for a dream about a question that is on my mind. I write it in my journal, think about the question as I fall asleep, and record what I remember when I wake up. This can be a tool to access information which the conscious mind doesn’t know exists.

When I look at all this history, I’m surprised to realize how constantly important dreaming has been for me, for as long as I can remember. Fortunately, I rarely have violent dreams anymore, and even the unhappy ones don’t have the nightmarish intensity they used to. My dreams are rich and varied. Where will my dreaming go next? I have no idea.

What about you? What do you dream, and what relationship do you have with your dreams?

 

Neptune Direct

Dear friend, at last you return.
Now I visit your dark Dreaming,
two eyes closed, the third open.

I find myself on fertile ground,
painting the laundromat yellow,
evading the wasps on the back porch.
And here is my grand old house,
which I’d forgotten I owned.
This time I’ll take the children to the attic
to explore and choose small treasures,
this time I’ll move in for good.
I’ve sent my dead mother to enjoy
a tea party with the ladies who teach
manners. At a music festival,
an old friend hands me an envelope,
something psychoactive.
Sandwiches of taco meat and
butterscotch pudding are served.
On one side, a girl with her pet beaver
on a leash, on my other side, a boy
recording sounds with his camera.

O Divine Neptune, I sink, a stone,
into your watery depths.
Never leave me again,
in that dreamless sleepless bleak
of your retrograde.

 

 

 

 

 

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