A mindful approach to dreamwork

In classical meditation we sit and observe the contents of our minds. Without judgment, we notice when thoughts arise, but we don’t engage with them. With a curious and calm attitude, we simMindful Sleep Stone Pileply watch the thoughts as they pass by.

When we dream we have the opportunity to observe the mind, too. In fact, each morning when we recall a dream, it’s as if we’ve been handed an EKG printout–albeit a colorful and creative one. The movement and imagery of a dream can be seen as a report from our subconscious to our conscious mind. Viewing the dream as a representation of the movements of our thoughts and the quality of our mental activity, we can see whether our psyche is spiking with fear, or rolling with contentment. We can observe whether the mind is calm and focused, or just plain jittery. Is our psycho-emotional landscape spacious or cluttered? Are we joyful or full of dreary thoughts?

We can even observe how our meditation practice affects our dreams. And with practice we can learn to meditate within the dreams; we can get lucidly aware during the dream, and observe the dream as it is unfolding.

Dreamwork offers a slightly different way to engage mindfully with our dreams. In dreamwork, (talking or writing about the dream, for example, to discover its meaning), we press the pause button and examine the dream and its  contents. Here we move from meditation (simply observing the dream) to contemplation (resting with each thought/image in order to consider its purpose and meaning). In dreamwork we get curious about each dream, each image and object within it, and we ask questions:

  • Why this dream or this dream image now?
  • What associations do I have with this image?
  • What does it represent to me?

We then use the information we glean to help us determine what needs attention by day.

Importantly, the dreaming mind is ever-changing. One night’s fretful dreaming need not define us, any more than a passing rain cloud colors an entire day. We are wise to pay attention to our dreams, observe them, and accept the invitation to learn from them about the workings of our minds. As long as we maintain the same loving, curious, nonjudgmental attention that we cultivate on the meditation cushion, this will be a productive and constructive practice.

Copyright 2018 Tzivia Gover

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Mindful Sleep Quote Kelly Sullivan Walden