Dreamwork: Applying Critical Thinking to Get to the Heart of the Dream

Critical thinking involves stepping back and asking questions.

Image via Pinterest .

Critical thinking is an important tool in approaching dreamwork.  Critical thinking is not criticizing something, but rather stepping back from immediate assumptions, interpretations, conclusions and letting a situation be so that a variety of interesting things may happen, so that whole new ways of viewing and subsequent reflective thinking that involves asking questions may emerge.  This helps us avoid some common misleading approaches to working with dreams such as literally interpreting a dream or avoiding looking at a dream because it may be frightening or emotionally overwhelming.  That is not to say dreams can’t be literally true.  Sometimes, they are but in most cases dreams have many rich levels of meaning that are often in spiritual in content, making it hazardous to interpret literally—much like reading the Bible.

The act of stepping back prevents us from forcing a premature meaning on the dream.  It makes space for the dream to speak to us, often by drawing in, feeling and savoring any emotions that are associated with the dream.  We are then able to think about and leisurely reflect on the dream in a broader manner which includes more of the dream such as feelings, images and later reflection on this content.

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Dreams and Spirituality: The Usefulness of Dreamwork as a Spiritual Method

Recording dreams regularly will provide many insights not otherwise available to the waking mind.

Recording Dreams

Dreams have a lot to do with spirituality.  From ancient times, dreams were seen as the visual expression of the soul and the means through which divine beings communicated with humans.  Even today, Jungian psychologists note the great importance and help that dreams can provide in revealing the concerns of the soul.

Edgar Cayce, a great intuitive seer of the 2oth century and so-called Father of Holistic Medicine, considered dreams to be a true source of information above and beyond what our waking mind could comprehend.  He considered dreams to have different levels of meaning but all dreams had a spiritual meaning.  Therefore, it is important to see dreams as a spiritual expression of one’s deepest self.

Three Benefits of Dreamwork for Spiritual Growth

For these reasons, a personal program of spiritual development can greatly be enhanced by the ongoing practice of dreamwork, where a person makes an intention to remember, record, and reflect on their dreams in a conscientious manner in order to learn from them.  Among the many benefits that dreamwork can bring to spiritual growth are:

  1. You are giving your soul a voice—an often ignored cry in those who ignore their dreams. Since dreams convey the concerns of the soul, listening to and taking dreams seriously is the equivalent of taking the soul seriously!  Give that Inner Voice a platform for expression!
  2. Getting to know your soul’s voice and its special language and symbols as expressed in dreams is really an act of getting to know yourself better. By listening to the Inner Voice through dreams, the dreamer gets more deeply in touch with themselves.  True spirituality is all about deepening relationships, especially the one with yourself!
  3. Dreams are also vehicles for one’s higher power to speak. They are a great way to receive contact from a spiritual guide.  The Bible is full of stories of how God spoke to humans.  It can happen to you, too!  Ask for a dream from your spiritual guide to help in a time of crisis.  What a way to boost your spiritual development when you receive wisdom beyond the waking mind’s ability to comprehend.

The Challenge of Seeing the Many Aspects of Me

Look at each piece of the dream and see what it says about you. Fit it all together.

The Dream: All About You!

The German psychiatrist Fritz Perls is credited with developing the dreamwork practice of considering that everything in the dream is a part of oneself.  To be more specific, I tend to think every symbol, process and event in the dream is indicative of energies within the person and what is transpiring with those energies.  Either way, using this method to work with dreams can be challenging in that it asks the dreamer to “own” certain symbols, processes or events he or she would, in many cases, rather deny.

For example, if I dream I am in a room where an angry man is beating a weaker man, I may not want to admit that a part of me is capable of beating up another person, especially if I am a person who is uncomfortable showing any kind of anger.  Yet, this is what this dream method is asking us to do.  It can be heady stuff but the method will allow the dreamer to discover hidden aspects of him or herself and bring that to light, and perhaps even heal.  Using this method I may discover that I am capable of being angry enough to beat another person or I may find that a part of me is beating up on me!  This humbling realization is often what spiritual growth is all about.   We find that we are not perfect, and in that discovery develop compassion for not only other beings but ourselves also.  It’s as if each piece is part of whole and our job is too see how each piece fits into the whole, like doing a puzzle.

Next time you have a dream, write it down and consider that each symbol, process and event is part of you.  What energies are evoked?  What makes you feel uncomfortable?  What is the “saving grace” or helpful element in the dream?  The darkness and light within you will be there to discover, and the intelligent interacting of the two will be there for you to appreciate and give you wisdom.  It is a challenge that is well worth taking up in dreamwork as you take up the pieces and fit them together.

Dreamwork: Good for Self-Integration & Self-Transcendence

Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's dreams.

Go Within for Answers

John Welwood in his well-informed book Toward a Psychology of Awakening, notes that full human potential is realized when there is a combination of self-integration and self-transcendence.  Psychology has concerned itself with the former and spirituality with the latter. They are considered to be two entirely different areas of growth that are traditionally developed with different practice approaches.  For example, exposure therapy may be used in psychology to overcome fear and meditation is used in spiritual practice to move beyond the limitations of the waking mind.

On reading Welwood’s book, I am thinking that dreamwork may be a methodology which can be applied to both the integration of the self and the transcendence of self, even though these are two different areas for growth.  Dreamwork can be used to deal with psychological issues as well as spiritual ones, making it a particularly potent practice.  It’s not for nothing that Freud called dreams the Royal Road to the Unconscious.  Dreams can also access different energies and levels of consciousness both within each of us and also in the wider energy matrix that interconnects us all.

Dreamwork as a Methodology for Self-Integration

Dreamwork is well known for acquainting the dreamer with various hidden aspects of him or herself.  Just the mere dreamwork practice of considering all things in the dream to be representative of one’s own various energies allows the dreamer to notice and acknowledge things and behaviors previously unaware to the dreamer.  These newly discovered energies, once acknowledged, can be harnessed for a deeper understanding of life’s problems and offer more tools for living life.

Dreamwork as a Methodology for Self-Transcendence

A dream may be given or requested which can provide guidance or a solution, or offer a far greater vision that allows one to rise above the limitations of a binding mindset or a complicated situation.  The power of the dream provides new insights and even healing that change the game entirely.  A combination of both insight and healing totally changes one’s understanding of the body, psyche and spirit.   Also in dreamtime, one may encounter spiritual guides which lead a person on a journey of spiritual growth and deeper awareness.    One may actually develop a “working relationship” with these guides that can later reoccur during meditation or dreamtime.

The power of dreams is truly amazing but dreamwork is work requiring courage and consistency.  It is a practice that if done faithfully and diligently can help one to both self-integrate and self-transcend. Dreams can indeed answer many kinds of questions, spiritually and psychologically, to grow more fully human.

Dreamwork & Meditation: Experiential Practices to Access the True Self

Recording dreams regularly will provide many insights not otherwise available to the waking mind.

Recording Dreams: A Form of Dreamwork

In a Spiritual Book Club I am facilitating, the members selected a very profound and experienced-based book by John Welwood called Toward a Psychology of Awakening.  At the start, Welwood makes the point that his Christian upbringing (and it is my personal opinion, many of our Christian upbringings) did not provide experiential practice for realizing our true natures even though there was wonderful ritual and music.  As a result, Welwood, like me and many in my generation, turned to Asian religions and other sources for insight.  Even today, I personally believe this is the primary reason why serious seekers are not attracted to the mainline Christian religions: there is often too much emphasis on the organization, joining it, being a member, and contributing to it—when what people really want is an experience of the divine!

In studying Buddhism at the graduate level, I was fortunate to have mentors who were well versed not only in meditation but also in working with dreams.  For me, it was primarily through dreamwork that I first developed a spiritual methodology that gave me a deeply meaningful experiential access to the spiritual life and its healing.  Later, through meditation, I experienced the power of intuition and other states of consciousness that inform one of the wide and awesome nature of our true being.  With such experience, the scriptures, rituals and music had all the more meaning!  I could personally relate to the stories of salvation and God’s presence in our lives.  These no longer seemed like myths and fairy tales.  Religion was no longer about following the rules or joining a group but about living a rich experience-based life with fellow seekers.

I think that if Christianity is to thrive, it will have to incorporate experiential practices such as dreamwork and meditation into regular activities such as bible class and Sunday school.

Help Me Grow A Spiritual Life Program at St. Mary of Mo’ili’ili

Spiritual Life Program at St. Mary's, Honolulu

Grow Spiritual Seeds

If you like the blogs I have posted giving concrete and practical information on how dreams and intuition can be used to improve health and grow spiritually, please help me grow a Spiritual Life Program at St. Mary of Mo’ili’ili in Honolulu, Hawaii.  We are just now launching a fundraising campaign to support classes on spirituality, dreamwork, meditation and mindful exercise as well as to offer a guest speaker program and other activities-all of which serve to honor the body, mind and spirit, holistically.  Under the supervision of St. Mary’s rector, the Rev. Greg Johnson, I will manage the program and teach many of the classes as money becomes available. Perhaps there will be something of interest to you. Certainly your financial help will help us grow seeds planted by the late Rev. Nancy Conley at St. Mary’s.

To go to our GoFundMe page and find out more, please click on the link below:

https://www.gofundme.com/StMary-SpiritualLife

You may also fund the conventional way by making out a check to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, for Spiritual Life Program/Ministries on the memo line.  Checks can be mailed to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 2062 South King St., Honolulu, HI  96826.

Dreamwork Helps Build Authenticity

These days, there is much said about lying, fake news and hypocrisy both at the personal level and in organizations such as the media, government and churches.  It seems almost as if there is a national dialogue going on to determine who or what is true.  I hope this debate not only causes people to reflect on what constitutes the basis of truth, but also encourages them to look beneath the glitzy surface to the hard reality that forms the substance of truth.

Dreamwork:  Getting to Know One’s Own Driving Forces

One of the many benefits of dreamwork is that it gets us acquainted with the driving forces of our own behavior—forces which remain largely hidden, and thus unknown, to people who have done little self-reflection concerning what goes on beneath the surface of their daily thinking.  Dreamwork thus helps us know who we really are, with the amazing combinations of light and shadow that make up our individual souls.  When applied with a loving, open heart, it helps us own all these energies by recognizing, accepting and integrating what we thought was lost or what we thought was unlovable.  This coming together results in a brilliant transformation that speaks truth out of its own experience.   This kind of depth awareness becomes the basis of knowing and judging what is true and not true.

Self-Ignorance Leads to Fake Behavior

For people who have not undergone this transformation, truth is only true because somebody else said it was true or because society or the church says it is true.  As a result, many people constantly look to others to define the truth.  Peer pressure is an example.  Teens and others who often have little reflected life experience of their own to draw personal conclusions about what is true are subject to the power of others’ opinions and behaviors.  As a result, phony behavior flourishes, people ape their peers, lie to hide their shallowness or to please others, or blindly give lip service to the dictates of a church while compulsively acting out destructive actions.  In government, people with no spiritual depth or inner compass easily succumb to the compelling charms of dictators.  Given the current state of affairs, one has to imagine that this is what happened, big-time.

In our national and personal quest for truth, let us hope it brings us to a deeper part of ourselves, collectively and individually.  Dreamwork can help for those with the courage and imagination to go within.

Dreamwork: An Art of Interacting with and Learning from Inner Wisdom

The soul can be a guide if we let it.

Image via Pinterest.

Dreamwork is the practice of working with dreams to learn from and interact with them.  This can include keeping a dream journal of important dreams, reflections on the content and feeling of dreams, use of various methods to better understand them, and applying the information obtained from them to enrich our lives.  When done over a period of time, the practice can be life changing and transformative as one comes to see before one’s very eyes the insights and eventual healing taking place within the dreamer.

For a person new to dreamwork, some claims made by dream experts can seem unreal, such as asking for a dream that will help with a specific issue.  Most people don’t know that you can ask for a dream and expect to get a response which can be creative, insightful and healing.  For most people, inspiring dreams, like intuitive insights, are seen as flashes in the pan—a great fortune when you get them but not the type of thing you could ask for or intend.

One of the things that gives me great satisfaction as a dream minister and mentor is to have a person I am working with report that they asked for a dream and actually got an answer!  Usually they tell me this with awe, wonder and the joy of discovery in their voice.  It is so empowering to the dreamer, and that person can readily see the long-range value in a practice that could help them for a lifetime.

Where Do Dreams Come From?

 Through dreams, the body is a conduit of energy from many sources..

Dreams Come From Many Sources

Dreams can be so flighty and ephemeral and yet so profound and weighty.   It makes one wonder where they come from in the first place.  The answer is that they come from many places inside and outside the body.  According to the quote to the right, Edgar Cayce says they can come from the body, mind and the soul.  This is so because of the amazing nature of the body itself.  The body is a conduit of energy and intelligent information at three levels: physical body, mind and soul.  It can not only send messages about itself to us, such as when we feel pain in an arm, it can also send messages from what is happening in our environment such as when we read information on a billboard.  But more than this, the body can be a receptor and sender of information purely on the energy or spiritual plane—as in cases of intuitive understanding such as mental telepathy and remote viewing.  This is so because the body is connected to the wider energy field in which it lives and can pick up messages if the person’s intuitive receptors are open to this form of communication.

While sleeping, the ego’s strong filtering system of weeding out strange and frightening information is also dormant with its guard down, making the dreamer much more open to receive messages from body, mind and spirit.  For example, the soul can send its messages of value and purpose to the dreamer much more easily than when ego is saying, “I’m afraid to do that!”  The body, itself can send messages to the dreamer if it feels like it’s usual messages of pain are being ignored as when a warning dream of needing to see a doctor presents itself.   Or the mind may send messages of a solution to a problem that the dreamer’s waking mind just can’t grasp.  This is why dreamwork is so effective for keeping in tune with the needs of the body, mind and soul.

Projecting feelings on to others

Working with Dream Figures: Taking Back Our Projections on Other People

Projecting feelings on to others

Quote by Carl Jung. Image via Pinterest.

It is very common to dream about friends, family members and any other type of person we come into contact in the waking world.  Sometimes, these people can greatly affect us either in negative or positive ways such as generating within us feelings of extreme loathing, fear, passionate longing or intense admiration.

It is important to know that how these people affect us in waking life and what they mean to us are often projections of what those people mean to us in dream time—often an phenomenon that may or may not be true, and may not all reflect who those people really are.

Dreamwork Can Make Us Aware of Projections

One of the great advantages of working with dreams is to help make us conscious of the projections we place on other people.  If we are aware that what we think or how we view a person may be a projection that should be investigated, we are removing one more blind spot in our field of awareness and allowing another person’s true self to speak to us.

A Useful Dreamwork Method:  Viewing Everything in the Dream as Part of Myself

The dreamwork method of first viewing everything in the dream as part of me allows to me reflect on what each person in the dream means to me.  Seeing each person as representing a type of energy within myself allows me to ask questions why this person generates strong negative and positive feelings, especially when I see how this dream person interacts with other parts of myself in the dream.  I can begin to see a very lively drama that may have very little to do with what is going on outside and has a lot to say what is happening within me.  I then may be able to view the person outside in a different light, and with more objectivity.

Unfortunately, for those who do not do dreamwork or even remember their dreams, they can be subject to being driven by unrecognized energies operating in dream time.  In other words, it is like they are being programmed and don’t even know it.