We all lead double lives. Our “real” life unfolds during our waking hours as we go about our daily business of working, learning, and playing, our ego-defenses safely in place. But at night our secret life begins, full of wonderful fantasies, magical symbols, and archetypal images. This mysterious world where our dreams are acted out can play an important part in our lives. According to the Talmud, a dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that is not read. If we learn to listen to our dreams, we embark on the journey of a lifetime: the journey back to wholeness.
Have you ever wondered what messages your dreams may have for you or why certain images and situations are played out sometimes over and over again while you sleep? Although we spend approximately a third of our lives sleeping and tend to dream several times a night, we rarely accord much importance to our dreams, frequently forgetting them as soon as we wake up. And yet our dreams can unlock the secrets to our unconscious and teach us valuable life lessons, if we learn to interpret their meanings.
In ancient times, many cultures accorded dreams an important place in their lives. They would share their dreams with their community, explore the symbolism therein, and even seek out life-changing dreams by spending the night in the wilderness or in sacred places in an attempt to connect with the spirit during their dreamtime.
In our modern society, however, we have forgotten the connection with other aspects of our being that our dreams can provide and tend to discount the messages they have to offer. But dreams can be an incredible gateway into our unconscious minds and can help us to deal with many of the problems that we encounter during the day, if we take the time to try to understand them.
Where else but in dreams can we fly over magical lands, go on endless journeys, be chased down hallways, fight epic battles, or walk naked in public? Our dreams present us with images and symbols that usually correspond to an inner state of being, as this is the language that our psyche speaks through. It is important to note, however, that our dreams should not be taken literally, but rather that they indicate on a symbolic level that which is happening within ourselves and issues that we are trying to work through.
Learning to understand the imagery presented through dreams is similar to the difficulties involved in learning a foreign language. It takes time and practice, and especially an openness and willingness to discover a new method of communication. Yet, just as the mind is enriched by the knowledge gained by a new language and culture, so too is the soul rewarded many times over by its contact with the numinous images within.
Some of the ways to start to work with your dreams include beginning to keep a dream journal and according your dreams more importance. Try placing a notebook and pen on your bed stand and consciously setting an intention for yourself to remember your dreams before you go to sleep. By doing so every evening, you will soon start to recall your dreams much more frequently. It is also important to write your dreams down immediately upon awakening, as we otherwise tend to quickly forget them if we become busy with other things first.
In order to begin to understand your dreams, it is important to look at each element in the dream and to make associations about it. For example, if you dream about being near the ocean, what does that make you think about? Do you have any particular memories about being by the sea? Do you love being in the water or, on the contrary, are you afraid of it? What is the state of the water? Is it calm or are the waves huge and about to engulf you?
By examining each element of your dream and starting to look at the associations or memories you have about each one, you will begin to learn to work with the imagery and discover the messages that your psyche is trying to communicate to you. Obtaining a good dictionary of symbols (not your typical dream symbolism dictionary) can also be useful, as well as working with a therapist who has experience with dream analysis.
Learning to understand your dreams can be fun and rewarding, as it can provide you with insight into your inner world. As we allow ourselves to be touched and moved by our psyches, we can discover aspects of ourselves that were previously unknown and/or rejected and open up to a whole new way of being in the world.
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