You think you'd like to remember your dreams more clearly. You sense they might have something valuable to tell you—something that could help you in your spiritual growth. Your friend Bernice keeps recounting wild dreams she's had about painting trees different colors or having sex in Bermuda with five of her male neighbors. You wonder why she has such colorful dreams when all you can remember is an occasional image of buying orange juice at the store, or arguing with your mother.
How can you go about improving your dream recall? Here are five tips to get you started.
- SET A CLEAR INTENTION. With dream recall, as with everything else in life, the trick to getting results is to focus your mind on what you want. Before you go to sleep, tell yourself something like, "I am remembering all my subtle, crazy, and magnificent dreams now" or "I am now welcoming my dreams into my fiercely loving heart."
- SET OUT TOOLS. Give your intention to remember your dreams some physical support. Plan to record your dreams in one form or another in the morning, using either a notebook in which to write them down, a sketchbook in which to draw them, or a tape recorder with which to describe them out loud. Choose whichever recording device seems the most fun to you and put it by your bed.
- KEEP A CLEAR MIND WHEN YOU AWAKEN. For many of us, the experience of waking up is like entering an early morning rush hour in our brains. As soon as our eyes fly open, we start thinking about something a lover, husband, or wife said to us the day before. We begin mulling over what's on tap for the day—how we're going to fit a trip to the drugstore in with all the other things we have to do. In other words, we immediately start reviewing something that happened yesterday or worrying about something that's going to happen today. We go back and forth, back and forth, thinking about the past and the future. One thought bumps into another and pretty soon our minds are jam-packed.
Our dreams can't compete with our early morning thought traffic. The single biggest reason most of us forget our dreams is that we instantly focus our attention on one or more aspects of our physical, human experience as soon as we awaken and we don't leave any room for our dreams to come in.
If we'd like to recall our dreams, we need to commit ourselves to giving them space in our minds as soon as we awaken. Making space for our dreams is like making space for ourselves, our real selves, the part of us that's behind everything we choose to do in our lives. When we pause and listen to our dreams carefully, with no distractions, it's as if we're listening deeply to ourselves.
To do this, we need to awaken in a gentle way, just letting ourselves be and breathe, while we remember our dream experiences. We release the temptation to jump right into thoughts and plans for the day and instead just pay attention to the dreams that float softly in our awareness.
- GO OVER YOUR DREAMS. Let your mind replay any dreams you can remember while you keep your body in one position. Then turn over into any other positions in which you may have been sleeping and see if you can recall additional images. Don't ignore anything—note even the faintest image or feeling that comes through.
- RECORD YOUR DREAMS. Record whatever little wisps of dream images you can recall. Often you may not think you've remembered much, but once you sketch, write down, or talk about one memory, suddenly you recall a whole string of images that you didn't remember at first!
If you are writing your dreams down, be aware that you can do this in more than one way. You can describe each event in detail in the order in which you remember it occurring, jot down quick notes on it, or portray the dream in a more free form way. For instance, if you dreamed that you were trying to escape something unknown by running up a grassy hill and you had to dodge all these snakes underfoot, you might write, "I was running up a hill, trying to escape something below. I can't remember what it was. There were all these yellow and black snakes in the grass and I was really afraid of stepping on them, but somehow I didn't. I felt really relieved and free when I made it to the top." This is probably the best way to record a dream if you'd like to explore its meaning later. However, a second choice, if you are short on time, would be to write something like, "Escaping … hill … snakes … afraid …safe." A third choice, if you have an intuitive sense of what's going on in the dream and you'd like to write in a more fluid style would be to record something like, "Running through the fields to freedom as fear slithers through the grass … I'm listening to the yearnings of my heart."
No matter which way you choose to write, always be sure to record the feelings you were having in each dream if you wish to explore your dreams later.
If you are sketching the dream, you can do it in one of two ways—either draw images that directly represent the dream (in this case you might want to draw a picture of you running up a hill, dodging snakes in the grass)—or just sketch the feelings that the dream brought up in you. Again, the more detailed way is probably the best choice if you want to examine later what messages this dream carries for you and your life.
All these tips for recalling your dreams may take some practice before they come to you easily—particularly the one about keeping a clear mind when you awaken. Just remember that establishing a relationship with your dreams is like starting a new friendship with someone who's a bit shy. When you first spend time with a new friend, you want to give them your complete attention and encourage them to expound on any little thing they start to tell you. Once you do that, your new friend will start to warm up and reveal more and more to you.
Dreams are the same way. Listen to them and cherish any little messages they send your way. If you wish to explore the spiritual guidance they are offering, try using some heart-centered tools like those in my book, Your Dreams: Spiritual Messages in Pajamas. In a very short time, your friendship with your dreams will deepen and you will remember them more clearly.