"I don't remember my dreams", is a woe often expressed by folks who would like to open to the possibilities offered in working with dreams. It is also expressed by those who are already working with their dreams when they hit that inevitable "dry spell".
We all dream. Remembering our dreams takes presence, lightheartedness, and tenderness.
Plumbing the Deep Well: Basic Tips for Dream Recall:
1. Never judge yourself over a perceived lack of dreaming or your ability to recall dreams. The resulting frustration further hinders our ability to recall. It is important to hold your dream recall with tenderness. Laying in bed before falling asleep, express your desire to be in relationship with your dreams. Set an intention to remember your dreams. You may want to meditate on your current dreamwork practice/homework, recalling certain moments of current dreams you are working with. You can also try reading material that inspires you or material which contains teachings that are important to you. Recently, I began reading from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying...this has prompted the recall of many dreams.
2. How we wake up is critical. Avoid using an alarm clock, or find an alarm clock that awakens you gently. There are some out there that use the sound of ocean waves or rain. I use often the Zen Clock which has a progressive alarm. Waking up naturally to your own body's rhythm is best. Over time, if you choose, you can train yourself to wake up without an alarm.
3. Upon awakening, it is important to stay present with the dream. Repeat it in your mind several times if you can. The dream is quickly lost back down the deep well by a mind that jumps into the day ahead of the body. Even if you remember only a snippet of a dream, hold on to it in the way described above by repeating it several times in your mind. A snippet can be a scene or tableau, an image, character, or feeling (emotional or physical in the body).
4. Keep your dream journal near the bed. I use my iphone notepad. Whatever works for you. But write down everything you remember from the dream. Try not to interpret, judge, or shrug off the dream. All dreams carry meaning and snippets can often be quite powerful in their simplicity! No dream is a “bad” dream.
5. Keeping our dreams ever present is a practice. And, remember, we all have seeming “dry spells”. But my experience has shown me that what I think is a dry spell is a cluster of snippets, images and feelings which have moved my work forward in profound ways.
Some additional observations and insights into working with dream recall:
~ I have noticed that going to bed earlier and waking up earlier naturally improves my dream recall.
~ I have noticed that if I wake up during the night that I will often remember a dream upon awakening. If I don't take a moment to write it down, I may not remember it even if I think I will.
~ Sometimes, I will write a dream down, go back to sleep and then the next day when I read the dream, I can't recall it even though it is written down. It's ok...keep it in the mix, it has meaning...even the fact that it can't be recalled despite your notes is information.
~ Increased stress in my world-side life distracts me from my spiritual life. This affects my dream recall. Even when we think we are not dreaming, it's not true...we are! We simply are overly distracted by our world-side lives. Take some time to slow down, check in with your dreamwork practice/homework more frequently. Incorporate some mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga into your life to help slow the mind down and become more present in the moment.
~ I have a trick I sometimes use that works when a dream goes back down. I imagine a deep, dark well at the bottom of which are my lost dreams and I dive down in with the intention of finding the dream. I allow myself to swim and then sink. Sometimes this works. A visual re-entry point back into the subconscious can help.
Artwork: Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen