Remembering and interpreting dreams is both beneficial and fun.
We usually disregard dreams as something the brain generates during sleep. As children, we are told dreams are just dreams, and we grow to forget how to dream well.
In truth, the lives of the awake and the dream state are interrelated, and there is much to learn from their interplay.
I’ve been consciously studying and working with my dreams since the young age of nine. They have been guiding me for most of my life, and I’d like to introduce you too to the wonders of the dreamscape.
There was one time period in my life when my dreams were telling me one thing, and I did the opposite. And everything broke.
The moral isn’t that dreams are always to be followed. Dreams might show you possibilities.
The moral is that dreams are for insight, for predictions, and for healing. Exploring the dreamscape to find out its rules, symbols, and meet dream entities who can help you is one of the most interesting activities I know of.
Therefore, I will scratch the surface of the deepest ocean of our minds to show you the basics of dreamwork and to have this article as a reference I can build upon.
I will give you a skeleton key to your intuition.
Sleep is a Necessary Bad
There’s so much to do during the day. We’re caffeine addicts, read all the articles about how to get by with as little sleep as possible to trick our mind and body to work as far as they can. Because twenty-four hours a day is just not enough.
Then, after weeks of neglect and caffeine binging, kratom drinking (or sometimes a short-lived romantic relationship with harder substances) we finally burn out and read something about how sleep is actually good for us, which should be a no-brainer, but here we are.
Yes, sleeping is good for you. Furthermore, the state of being asleep offers many possibilities which are sadly overlooked in Western society.
You actually have been living a double life ever since you were born. You have always been dreaming. Somewhere on the way of growing up, you probably lost interest in your other life, focusing exclusively on your waking moments, putting your dreams aside; something that just happens to happen every single night of your life.
“Dreams are just dreams.” – Anonymous liar
Modern psychologists were the first ones to pay attention to dreams as something of significance in a long time. As dreams became more and more popular in certain circles, it grew to be something esoteric: dream books appeared with a collection of dream symbols and their false meanings, people who supposedly can interpret your nightly visions charge money for their services, you get the idea.
But you neither have to be a psychologist nor a shaman to dream well.
Your sleep cycle has multiple stages. One of them is called Rapid Eye Movement sleep, REM for short, which is where science thinks dreams happen. Supposedly, we dream from three to six times a night.
Some people don’t remember their dreams. Most do, but their dreams often don’t make sense. Maybe you’re in this group, maybe not. Maybe you have a weird dream you tell your closest friends or significant other to laugh at it. Maybe you have repeating dreams, episodic dreams, nightmares even. Sometimes a dream might play out in your waking life.
The point I’m trying to make is you can improve your ability to retain your dreams. There are ways to invite them, to work with them, and to realise them.
There’s a game I like to play called dreamcatching. It is fun, and it will rapidly improve your retention. Play it long enough, and your dreams will start to make more and more sense as well. You’ll learn about your own symbols, the ways dreams and waking life are interconnected, and how and what to gain from dreams.
For example, I used to travel a lot by train during high school. In my dreams, I’d often miss a train or get on the wrong one. Sometimes I’d get on the right one and go to some interesting place. It always depends on context.
When I was in primary school, I didn’t really have friends. Most of my communication happened on the internet or in computer games. In my dreams, I’d often leave one scene and arrive in another by realising that the previous scene was, indeed, a computer screen.
There are returning characters and locales. My hometown looks different in my dreams than in waking life, but it’s consistent throughout those dreams.
There’s a blonde woman, who I named Seles, who visits me on important occasions, either to reprimand me or teach me something new. Interestingly enough, it seems I can’t find her on my own.
There’s this one guy who looks like me, except he’s wearing glasses. I call him the Gatekeeper. He usually sits in front of a computer, and he is responsible for regulating my dreams. He presses the play button, the switch button when exiting a dream and entering another one, he makes sure the characters appear as they should, sets the atmosphere for the locales. I can ask him to let me visit a dream, but I can’t ask him to change one.
Based on my experiences in the dreamscape, multiple versions and depths of lucid dreaming, and my journeys in this diverse multiverse, let me give you all the equipment you need.
The tools of the dreamcatcher are cheap and easy to get. Because dreams are kind of like stories, there are two things you need: a notebook and a pen.
I used to have a lot of nightmares as a child. Honestly, most of the time I didn’t want to have dreams, but precisely because they were nightmares, and they happened fairly consistently, curiosity got the better of me. Dreams can’t be just dreams.
In-between two nightmares, sometimes I had peculiar dreams. When my grandfather died, I visited him. I could say farewell. Sometimes, I would dream of my future. I was always grateful for those dreams, because they saved me from a lot of child-drama and bad grades.
I quickly discovered dream symbols, and I also discovered that books written on the subject were always incorrect. These books would tell how dreaming with trains mean a cause to make a journey or tornados a disappointment in your plans of quickly making a fortune, but these are both vague and, frankly, wrong.
To study dreams more closely, I had to be able to remember them and to recreate certain dreams for repeated experiments. That’s where I ran into the big problem. Sometimes, days would go by without dreaming. I would remember the rest of them only in vague details, with the usual missing-their-faces people, or even worse, I would recall them in the morning but they’d escape by the time I had the opportunity to figure them out.
I had to catch them.
1. A notebook dedicated solely to your dreams
I had my first dream journal when I was nine. It was a simple school notebook, empty because we bought too many, but I mostly neglected it.
Later in my life, when I started journalling, I used to write my dreams as the beginning of a new entry every day. That worked out well for the most part. If day-to-day journalling is your thing, I’m not against it. Your dream’s energy will be in your writing and you can set the tone for your day.
Nowadays, I have a completely dedicated journal, and it’s the best. I can just open it up and quickly turn the page to a dream I need, and finding connections between them is a breeze.
Two important things to keep in mind about your dream journal:
It is yours and yours only. No one has a right to read it without permission.
It should be a book you like. It can be as colourful or plain as you want, it can be blank, lined, squared, whatever you fancy. I used to find diaries (the ones with dated pages) very appealing during high school. Now, I just use a hardcover one with lined pages.
2. Inviting dreams
Well, Alkor, having a book for my dreams is all well and good, but I don’t even remember my dreams, so what now, you might ask.
If you have what I like to call a dream drought (and maybe you’ve been having it for decades, that’s no problem), you must unlock your front door and open your arms to whatever dreams might visit.
This is something I rarely have a problem with, because I never lost my ability to remember my dreams. But as I grew up, there were times when I couldn’t pay attention, so I developed a few very simple tricks to bring dreams back when they disappear for a few days or weeks.
Have an intention. When you go to bed you can put a note under your pillow, saying “I would like to remember my dream.” Seems foolish, but often it’s enough.
Think of your intention before you fall asleep.
Put your journal and your pen on your bedside table. Or next to your pillow. Most dreams fade away as soon as you release your attention from them. Having your tools ready helps you catch your elusive visions.
Write down what you are feeling and thinking when you wake up. If you still have no dream recall, you can reinforce your intention by writing down whatever residue remains from the dream.
Maybe dreams won’t come at once. Sometimes they’re shy and reserved. It can take a few days. But they will come.
You also invite dreams by working and playing with them. Read on to understand what I mean.
3. Recording your dreams
Waking up to an alarm is a necessary habit most of us have, otherwise we’d be late from wherever we need to be on a given day.
Dreams are elusive, and often a loud alarm is enough to make you forget whatever experiences you had during the night.
When you wake up, notice how you feel. The first word, image, or emotion that catches you often encapsulates the dream message. Write it down in your dream journal. Your memories might start to flow into your mind.
If you have the time, you can also lay yourself back in the position you slept to let the images come back.
This is my personal experience, but sometimes dreams like to reveal themselves not right after I wake up, but during the day when I see something important or I overhear certain words.
Now, on to the process of writing your dream down.
There are a few rules I developed over the years. Take from it what you will, but they are all useful, especially when used together.
Date your entries. It’s very useful to jot down not only the day, but the exact time of your waking. Some dreams come at particular times, and you might want to note that.
Always title your dreams. If nothing else, write down the first word or phrase that comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be genius. Here are some of my dream titles (translated to English):
Killer Accommodation (2019. December 10th)
Angel (2019. December 4th)
Mindfully (2016. March 5th)
The Tree-Lake Forest (2016. March 4th)
There are two reasons.
First, it gets your creativity flowing from the get-go. The creative in the process of dreamwork is paramount. It helps you unlock important messages (and teaches you to come up with better titles than me).
Second, later on, when you want to come back to a certain dream, you can easily find it by its title.
If you feel the dream fleeing, you can also jot down a few trigger words to have gates to the more elusive scenes.
Don’t censor your dreams. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in embarrassing or ridiculous scenes. That doesn’t mean you should censor them. Remember, the journal is yours and yours only. Maybe an important insight is hidden in the scene where women hang their tits out the window (yes, that happened).
Censor-free here also means to note seemingly trivial details. That red house in the background you noticed, the other path you could’ve taken but didn’t pay enough attention to in your dream, the smells, sounds, everything you remember.
Don’t interpret. When you’re in the writing process, don’t let your mind wander to what the dream might be about. It’s a recipe for forgetting important details.
You need the experience raw.
Listen to your feelings. Sometimes, a dream might seem banal or it might make no sense at all. Your feelings are a good indicator of its meaning or urgency.
If you have strong feelings about a dream, you should work with them.
Also, if you don’t remember the dream, you still might have a feeling about it. Write that down, and any thoughts that come with it. Even if it’s not your dream, it’s like an invitation for future ones. Essentially, you’re saying “I’m ready to receive.”
Lastly, you might have a dream which is completely unrelated to a thought that pops up after waking up.
I had a dream about a building with dark rooms. In one of the rooms there is a bed just for me, but it is untidy. I don’t really mind it, but for no reason I sleep in a different bed. After waking up, I went to the kitchen to brew some coffee and I just became angry. I couldn’t understand why. I wrote my angry thoughts down in the dream journal anyway.
Later that day, I realised my dream self is angry at me because I’m not tidy, even though I always tell everyone I am. I used to make my bed every morning, but nowadays I’m neglecting it. It’s also dark in my home, because some of the light bulbs went out.
These interrelations might not seem straightforward, but whenever you figure something like this out, you just feel this Aha! Now it all makes sense. When you understand your dream, you just know you do.
Always write in the present tense. Dreams are always happening. The energies of them don’t disappear when you wake up. You should always write in the present tense. It will change how you think about dreams.
4. Honouring your dreams
When I was a child, I used to dream about transforming into a phoenix. I would be able to fly and possess people not to control them, but to see the world through their eyes.
Years later, I received a phoenix-shaped necklace, not long after I practised with a Japanese sword, also called Phoenix.
The sword got stolen during a burglary, but I hid this trinket well.
I still dream about being a phoenix sometimes. I feel the fire in my body, the air between my feathers, and the soaring quality of freedom. On those days, I like to wear this symbol as a way to honour the dream and to bring its energy into my waking life.
Dreams require action. They aren’t separate stories to watch and then maybe think about, you are the central character of your dreams, even when you’re only a spectator (that happens sometimes).
Often, dreams are mysterious or hard to relate to, so it might be useful to get a second opinion, and sharing dreams is an action you can take. Writing it down is a first step, sharing it or putting a question about the dream to the world might be a second.
A dream can show you a possible future. Fulfilling its prophecy, or avoiding it when it’s undesirable is a most straightforward action plan.
When you meet an ally in a dream, like the phoenix in mine, you can create something in waking life representing said ally. Write a poem, paint, get it out in the world.
If you meet a deceased relative, like I did with my grandfather, it’s a good idea to light a candle in remembrance.
The point is to play with the dreams. Life, in essence, is playful, like music is. As dreams are a part of our lives, the same rule applies to them.
Whenever you receive a dream you consider important, it’s even more important to come up with an action plan to honour the dream.
There you have it, everything you need to know to begin working with your dreams.
Of course, there is much more to them than what I talked about in this guide. Interpreting them is a whole different game, and there are many things left unsaid.
Of course I’d like to write about all of those, but I’ll let you figure them out for now.