Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error! –
that a spring was breaking out in my heart…
So begins a remarkable poem by Antonio Machado, in which he speaks of the wonders of his nightly dreams, bringing water of a new life … and honey from… old failures. Machado speaks of this as a ‘marvelous error.’ If it is an error, how are we to understand marvelous? If marvelous, how is it an error? From a Natural Dreamwork perspective, the dreams themselves, as much as the dream content, are the water of new life, the bees making honey, the bright light bringing warmth and clarity. Our lives are greatly nourished by our dreams – even when the images are difficult, or seemingly mundane. If there is an error at all, it is only in the belief that one dream is going to do it, that one morning we are going to wake up finding ourselves suddenly transformed as it would seem from the surface of Machado’s poem.
There are still nights when I yearn for a BIG dream – the kind of dream that spurts up conspicuously, hands me a solution to a problem, knocks me sideways with awe or lifts the veil between this world and the Other. I’ve had my share of these dreams, and I am very grateful for them. I carry them with me always – precious jewels that they are. But most of the fruit of my dreams comes from loving attention to each dream, no matter how big or small. All dreams are valuable: aligning us more deeply with feeling, increasing our capacity for honest relationship, a flexible imagination and more secure connection to a ground of Divinity.
So often people tell me, “Dreams are so interesting, but I barely remember mine…”
As we talk some more, I often find that what is missing is not the dreams themselves but a misunderstanding of dreaming and how to prepare for our dreams’ arrival.We have to make space for them, give them time to settle in with us in the morning. We have to write them down.
It is very difficult to fully appreciate a dream rattling around in our psyche while rushing through breakfast, answering email or scrolling Facebook feeds. In writing down a dream, it takes on a fuller identity: like a folded textile from a distant weaver, it can’t be appreciated unless you spread it out.
When I enter a busy period, I sometimes neglect my dreams by not writing them down. I tell myself,” the dream is unclear, a throw-away, redundant.” There have been weeks when I have gone through my dreams like a box of chocolates, taking a nibble here and there, discarding most, in search of ‘the right one.’ Some days, I just can’t face the water pouring down my wall, the flies hovering in my kitchen – or even the baby left at my doorstep. I tell myself “I already know about this….” But not really.
Dreamwork is a practice, and we practice by welcoming and writing down) all that comes. We tap into the well, harvest the honey by our attention, and intention to feel what we feel as we contemplate each image.
Even when we are committed to a dream practice, there are still periods of dream drought for most of us. What then? There are many useful practices to help us recall our dreams. Many of these are well discussed in Kezia Vida’s Dream Blog. I would like to add three additional suggestions.
First: Read through your old dreams to allow them to come alive again.
Focus most on the images themselves, and what they evoke in you now (not what you thought or felt about them at the time). What you see, hear, feel and do in the dream is most important. You may find that you have a different response now than when you first dreamed the dream. That is the beauty of dream images – they are living presences that continually touch us, energetic entities that never expire. Dreams flock together: as you tend to one, more will ‘land.’
Second: Meditate daily. A short, gentle meditation practice – even 15 minutes – helps stimulate dream recall. When I sit comfortably with open attention, alive to the sensations, feelings, images and thoughts that move through me in waking life, I also increase my connection to my dreams.
Third: Write out waking experiences as if they were dreams: Slow down, pay attention to waking life encounters. Sink deeply into the feelings that are evoked in you as if that experience were a dream. It is a living dream. Record a snatch of conversation overheard while walking, a fight with your partner, a fox lounging in your back yard: It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is fully experienced. Each day is packed with encounters, so what we notice is meaningful. You could have chosen a 1000 other things to write about.
It doesn’t matter what you write about; but try to be brave. Make note particularly of experiences that rub against the parts of you that are rough or tender. Write these down in your dream journal as if they were dreams. If upon waking you have not captured any nocturnal images, write about a daytime event instead. Your dreams will find you. That’s a promise.
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Keren Vishny originally trained as a physician, and practiced Internal Medicine for 10 years before retraining as a psychotherapist and NaturalDreamwork practitioner and teacher. Her exploration of her own dream has led to the re-emergence of her poet, in hibernation since age 14. She is affiliated with the CG Jung Center in Evanston, as well as the Marion Woodman Foundation.