Dreams. They can delight us, scare us, amuse us and confuse us. They can also be the prima materia for self-inquiry, for peeking into our subconscious mind and more clearly understanding our hidden desires, fears, longings and emotions.
That is, if we can remember them.
Many of us wake up to what seems like the plot of a surreal and dynamic movie only to find that what at once was graphically etched into our mind seems to have quickly vanished into the thin air of awakening.
If that sounds like an apt description of what occurs upon your arising, here are four strategies to help you recall your dreams and the riches that they can offer.
Keep a Dream Journal
Keeping a dream journal is not only a mainstay of dreamwork, but one that has a quite long and revered history: traditionally known as night-books, they were written about by philosophers as early as the 4th century. The daily routine of writing down a dream each morning may help to stir our memory; after all, when we awaken we will be doing so with the intention of recording our dream.
Use whatever journal format most inspires you. It can be a beautiful handcrafted book, a spiral notebook, a sketchpad, or scraps of paper clipped together. And while you may feel inclined to use your tablet or phone, consider one of the analog options first; doing so can help continue your overnight screen time respite, which can keep the mind in a more flowing, natural state. That said, if typing in your tablet or uploading your night visions to a dream app are motivating ways to keep your dreamwork ritual in motion, then honor your needs as to how to keep your personal practice active.
Allowing yourself the freedom as to how you recount your dreams can also be beneficial. For example, if only hazy visions remain, instead of forcing yourself to compose full sentences, write out isolated words or strings of phrases. And if you can't verbally express what you remember, draw shapes or doodle—anything to capture some images, symbols or shards of storyline.
Some people find keeping a dream journal to be a challenge because they can't write as fast as their minds can recall their nighttime journeys. If this sounds familiar, consider recounting and recording your dreams instead.
Most smart phones have the capacity to create voice memos, which can work well if you don't have a stand-alone recording device. When you arise with a dream in your mind, simple turn on the recorder, and talk into it. You can then listen to your dream anytime when you want to reflect upon it; you may also choose to then transcribe it into a journal. Of course, if you share your bed with another person, you may need to adjust this ritual—by stealing away to the bathroom or some other private place—if you don't want your bed partner to hear your dream details.
Practice Dream Incubation
Being intentional has so many benefits as it helps us to be present, focusing our concentration and our will. Intentionality not only helps us to define and meet our daytime goals but can also be used to enhance dreamwork.
Before going to sleep, plant a seed in your mind as to what you would like your dream to be about, what insights you would like it to reflect to you and/or what questions you would like it to answer. This practice, known as dream incubation, is quite powerful for not only guiding our mind to intentionally explore its subconscious terrain but also for helping us to bring back images of the dream. As part of this, make sure to also tell yourself that you would like to remember your dreams, even pre-emptively thanking yourself for remembering them upon waking.
Find a Dream Partner
Being accountable to another person is a motivating factor when it comes to committing to a self-care routine, whether it be exercise, meditation, a diet …or a dreamwork practice. Knowing that you will regularly share your dreams with a relied-up friend or colleague can be a key factor to help remember them, since this ritual encourages accountability let alone has you committing to a medium in which to capture and recount your dreams.
Choose a dream partner that you trust, someone you would be comfortable sharing the intimate visions of your psyche. Commit to the practice at first for a couple of weeks; this way you can be certain that it will provide you with constancy while also giving you the opportunity to readily re-evaluate how it is working. You'll also want to decide the frequency with which you will want to communicate with your dream accountability partner; for example, is daily communication best or would waiting to compile several days' worth of dreams work better? Finally, discuss the best way to communicate your dreams, discerning whether email, phone, video chat, or messenger would work best for the two of you.
Hopefully these four ideas provided you with some strategies on how to recall your dreams. Remember though not to pressure yourself. Success isn't measured by how much you recall. Even if you remember one image, you'll have a jewel with which to work, to turn over again and again, being open to the insight, awareness and wisdom that it offers you.
If you want to gain even more tools for working with your dreams, learning practices to not only recall them but allow for them to deeply reveal the gems of their insights, while also gaining self-care strategies to enhance sleep, please join Sherene Vismaya and I for Dream Life: 40 Days of Astro-Dreamwork Alchemy, beginning May 24. See here for details and registration information. And if you have any questions, don't hesitate to write me.