Start by keeping a dream journal. Record every dream you remember when you first wake up in the morning, before it fades, making note of any details that jump out at you. Pay particular attention to recurring dreams, including recurring dream locations, as those have particular significance for your psyche.
At the end of the day, before you go to sleep, write about what’s on your mind. This is just good sense in its own right—by getting the stresses of your day out of your head and onto the page, you make it more likely that you’ll have a restful sleep. But it will also enable you to see how the events of the day or days leading up to your dreams shaped those dreams.
Over time, you will notice patterns, and symbols that repeat will make their meanings clear to you.
If you’re interpreting someone else’s dream, listen carefully and patiently. Other people’s dreams are never as interesting as our own, but do your best. If you notice any particular symbols, make note of them. Feel free to ask questions about what might be going on in their life, so that you can interpret more clearly. When you do offer your interpretation, make clear that this isn’t an exact science, and this is only your take on it—dreams are very personal, and even if someone has asked you to interpret, they may not like what you have to say. Even so, give your honest opinion, and don’t try to make light of a negative dream.
• LUCID DREAMS
Technically, a lucid dream is defined as a dream in which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. But that’s not all we think of when we hear the words “lucid dreaming.” We think of controlling our dreams, and while of course that requires knowing that we are dreaming in the first place, let’s just for the sake of simplicity say that lucid dreaming equals controlling your dreams.
Why would you want to do that? Well, for starters, it’s really fun. You can do anything you want! You can fly, you can work magic, you can live an elaborate love story, you can save the world. But you can also help yourself. Lucid dreaming is obviously extremely helpful for people who suffer from nightmares, and it can be a powerful healing process, both emotionally and physically. We all know that when we’re sick, visualizing our bodies as healthy is an effective way to promote healing. If we take that to the next level by dreaming about ourselves as healthy, think how much more powerful that healing could be.
The first step toward lucid dreaming is becoming aware that you are dreaming while it is happening. Keeping a dream journal will help with this, as will simply paying attention to your dreams, granting them space in your waking mind. Work on remembering them. When you wake up from a dream, even if it is the middle of the night, take the time to write it down, or at the very least go over it in your mind from start to finish, working to recall as many details as you can, so you can write it down at a later time.
The best time to lucid dream is when you are just barely asleep—in the early morning hours, say, or during a nap. Your awareness is strong enough that you can realize you are sleeping, and with that awareness, you give yourself agency in the dream. Once you’ve improved your dream recall, try this method of lucid dreaming: If you wake up out of a dream in the early morning, pay attention to that dream as closely as you can, while still allowing your mind to stay in its relaxed state. Daydream the dream over again. And then, once you’ve found a way you wish to direct the dream, allow yourself to fall back asleep. It may be a very light sleep, but you will find yourself dreaming the daydream.
This method of slow, gentle initiation into lucid dreaming usually results in an effective lucid dream, but there are other methods. Sometimes, you realize you are dreaming mid-dream but have no ability to affect the dream. This can be quite frustrating, but that sense of helplessness will dissolve with time and practice—remember, just like in The Matrix, “there is no spoon.” You do have control, and you can do anything.