Our fascination with dreams is as old as human identity. Dreams represent a world existing on another level of consciousness, common to all, yet still completely individual. Dreams reflect one’s most personal thoughts and feelings, often so private, they are hardly known even to the dreamer.
The study of dreams crosses many disciplines: psychology, neurology, sleep science, symbology. Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams brought the study of dreams into the world of mainstream scientific examination. Carl Jung followed with another perspective on dreams and symbols, reinforcing the acceptance of the concept that our dream state is a meaningful reflection of our waking psyche. While scientists and psychologists have somewhat recently come to this understanding of the dream connection between the conscious and the unconscious mind, psychics have always considered dreams to be a means of communication between metaphysical worlds, linking the past to the future, the known to the unknown, or the real to the unreal.
The soul in sleep gives proof of its divine nature; for when free and disengaged from the body, it has a foresight of things to come.
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
Sleep is as essential to our health as food and water. Lack of sleep can cause serious physical and mental problems, and severe sleep deprivation can even lead to death. The scientific study of sleep has made great advances with the use of new technologies that can record and measure brain activity. Brain waves change dramatically while we sleep, revealing much about the physical nature of this state.
The body at rest restores its energy and prepares for the next day’s activities. This rest and rejuvenation is also working on the brain, providing the mental strength we need to cope with stress, handle emotions, and use our mental capacities fully.
Normal sleep cycles through five distinct stages several times through the night. These stages are marked by the levels of sleep from drowsiness to light sleep to deep sleep. Sleep stages fall into two main categories of Rapid Eye Movement, REM, and Non Rapid Eye Movement, or NREM. Scientists distinguish these stages by the presence of muscle activity beneath the eyelid, like looking quickly back and forth.
Dreaming occurs during stages of REM sleep in cycles that may last from ten minutes to more than an hour, coming several times through the night and lasting longer at each successive occurrence. Polysomnograms, used to measure brain activity while sleeping, will produce wave patterns during intense dreaming that are at levels similar to those produced when the subject is awake. While we dream, our bodies may be at rest, but our minds are active in another state of consiousness.
We will only dream during certain REM stages of our sleep cycle, which is also a deep sleep. We usually awaken when the cycle has been completed according to our normal pattern, which is why we sleep best when we follow a bedtime routine and get a full night’s rest. As we wake, our mental awareness of the dream has diminished, or, as is most common, the dreams of our REM state have been completely forgotten.
All I Have to Do is Dream
Our dreams are meaningful in many ways. Dreams reveal our most secret fears and desires. In the freedom of our dream world, we can explore solutions to problems, release our creativity, let ideas and sensations run unfettered by social restraint or the laws of the physical world. Dreams can allow us to be open to the metaphysical world, communicating beyond the boundaries of space and time.
Everyone remembers some dreams, but we experience far more dreams in sleep than we remember. It is difficult to fully understand the power and presence of this phenomenon when we have such a limited view through the few dreams we occasionally recall. To know the real meanings that our dreams convey, we must find ways to remember more.
The easiest way to remember dreams is to keep a journal by your bed. Anytime you waken from a dream, capture as much as you can immediately. Practice writing what you can remember in quick notes, just words or impressions. Don’t worry about spelling or making full sentences. Try to keep your lighting low, don’t force yourself to become fully awake so you’ll be able to return to sleep.
Make it a nighttime ritual to remind yourself to remember your dreams. As you lie in your bed, close your eyes and prepare yourself to fall asleep, think calmly to yourself, “I will remember my dreams tonight.” Don’t worry or build anxiety over it, just make it a part of your sleep routine. You subconscious mind will hear the message.
In the morning, develop a habit of lying still and quietly as you waken. Relax and think about your night. Let the dreams softly return to your conscious mind. Again, use your journal to capture your dreams as completely as you can.
It may take some time to become accustomed to remembering your dreams, so be patient with yourself. Your journal will eventually fill with dream stories. Take some time each week to review your notes. Try to express your experience more fully, reflecting on how the dream make s you feel. Capture the sense of what the dream means to you.
Dreams can evoke an immediate, emotional response, such as happiness, uneasiness or anxiety. Recognize these feelings and record them. Think about the dream in the context of your life. What are your life circumstances at the time? How are you feeling about your personal relationships, your work, and your family?
Your dream journal can be a powerful tool to learn the message of your dreams. Once you have developed the routine of remembering your dreams, you can begin the exciting journey towards understanding the rich life that exists beyond your sleeping self.
All that we see or seem, Is but a dream within a dream.
– Edgar Allen Poe