What Your Dreams Require Of You

I am of the opinion that most humans require more than food, water, and sleep to survive and thrive. We also need witnessing, listening, loving touch, time for quiet, and time for movement.

Dreams need witnessing, too, in order to survive and thrive.

For the past five mornings. I’ve decided not to write down my dreams. It started on Thursday, three mornings before my bi-weekly meeting with my dream teacher. I told myself I already had more than enough dreams I wanted to work with him, so I didn’t need to make the effort to write down more. On Friday, I was anxious about a medical appointment I had later in the day. I told myself I should sleep in and relax, that there was no need to get up and write down my dreams. By Saturday, I was convinced the many dreams I had the night before were boring, unimportant, or too confusing to get down in words.

And then there was yesterday, Sunday, my son’s 16th birthday. I did consider writing down some of the vivid dreams I’d had the night before–I even lay in silence thinking about them for a while. But, then instead of writing them down, I got caught up in a mini emotional release over the loss of his childhood and the passage of time. As a result, I forfeited the early morning hours to working through some grief.

No dreams of mine have been journaled since last Wednesday.

I am not sharing all this with you as self-criticism. In fact, I bet many of you devoted dream journalers reading this can relate.

There have been periods, even during this time of rich inner work, when I choose sleep or rest over dream journaling in the morning. When I was a full-time employee at someone else’s company, I would begrudgingly sacrifice my morning dream practice for Zoom meetings. (My company headquarters were in a different time zone.) And, when I had younger children, my early mornings weren’t even mine. They belonged to a baby crying out to be nursed, a little boy seeking comfort from a nightmare, or lunches, backpacks, and bus-stop runs.

Sometimes, other activities take priority over dreams.

That said, there are consequences to these dream breaks. We start to forget again. I say “again” because I believe forgetting is actually our fundamental disposition (which is strengthened, I believe, by the busy-ness, overstimulation, and distractions of modern life.)

To remember is not necessarily our nature. To remember requires dedication, determination, and repetition.

We forget the details of dreams. But worse, in my opinion, we forget the worthiness and utility of the dream when we stop journaling them. Soon, we even may begin to devalue the dream, believing it is not important enough to write down and reflect upon. Before you know it, we hardly remember a fragment of a dream, let alone the heightened senses we have cultivated through practice or the deeply emotional encounters we get to have when we are in a regular practice of journaling and working our dreams.

This is happening to me right now, this week.

I noticed it this morning: how I’ve started to believe my dreams–the ones of the past few mornings–aren’t “meaningful” or “worth writing down.”

I know the direction this footpath follows. If I continue down it, I’ll forget where it was I came from, where it was I lived for a time: in the lush and magical forest of the living dream.

It’s ok if I do. As with all types of nourishment beyond the basics– healthy diets, regular exercise, social interactions with friends–we expand and contract in our commitment to regular practice.

For instance, I’ve been on a strict elimination diet the last few months, limiting many foods, including dairy and sugar, as well as spices and sauces, to try to get a handle on some inflammation-related symptoms. This weekend, though, I tried reintroducing teriyaki sauce and ice cream. They were delicious. But the stomachache the next day reminded me how I feel better without them. I think I may keep them off the menu for a while longer.

This same expansion / contraction cycle goes for dreams. Sometimes I just want to forget the dreams. Sometimes I don’t have it in me to remember.

But, overall, I feel better when I remember my dreams; when I write them down, engage with them, share them, and give myself the opportunity to work them.

If you are new to dream exploration, consider this: There are times for jogging and times for yoga. There are times for sleep and times for partying with friends. There are times for gaining weight on purpose and times for losing it by accident. There are times for calling out sick from work and times for pushing ourselves to the office even when we feel like crap. There are times for withdrawing from friends and times to call them even though you have nothing interesting to say. There are times for faith and times for doubt. There are times for parts of ourselves to die and times for new parts to be reborn. 

Dreams require our witnessing in order to survive and thrive. When we actively remember them, even on days we doubt their value or their reality, they are given the opportunity to surprise us. My dreams have surprised me with realization, acknowledgement, validation, support, joy, laughter, healing… and the much sought-after love, forgiveness, and redemption.

Yours, when you remember them and engage with them, may, too.

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