You have them every night, whether or not you realise it. But what are dreams – and can they help enrich your life?
You’re eating dinner with Lady GaGa who’s giving you some singing tips. Then your mother walks in and suddenly you’re in a classroom preparing to sit an exam. Yes, most dreams can seem nonsense – so what’s the point of them? Scientists are divided. Theories range from emotional regulation (your mind sorting through the day’s events) to memory consolidation (your brain discarding what’s less important and banking the relevant stuff). But some sleep and dream experts believe becoming more connected to your dream world can help you live a more fulfilled life. ‘Dreaming is an exploration of your consciousness, and you can explore all the wonderful mysteries it encounters as you dream,’ says Tree Carr, dream guide and author of Dreams: How to connect with your dreams to enrich your life (Aster, £10.99) “You also have the opportunity to carry these dreams through to your waking life to produce a positive effect on your life and the lives of others.’
Live Your Dream Life Photo Gallery
Through history, people have looked to dreams tor guidance and decision-making. ‘Dreams have led to inventions and scientific discoveries as well as the creation of emotional works of music,’ says Carr. For example, did you know some of the best-known pop songs including (I can’t get no) satisfaction by The Rolling Stones and Yesterday by The Beatles originated from dreams? However, the rush of modern-day life and distractions of technology means, these days, we tend be less connected to our dream life and place less importance on our dreams. ‘People are becoming disconnected from aspects of their inner worlds,’ says Carr. ‘Their reflective consciousness has been superseded by the noisy components of modern, consumerist culture.’
We all have different relationships with our dreams. While some people regularly have vivid dreams – that friend who loves to overshare the lengthy details – others only remember a dream once in a blue moon. Think you don’t dream? According to sleep scientists, we all dream every night, it’s just that you only tend to remember dreams if you wake up from one. You may not even realise you’ve woken, but it’s enough to log the dream so you’re more likely to recall it the next day.
‘Every single one of us experiences dreaming whether or not we remember our dreams,’ says Carr. ‘You begin dreaming at infancy and will continue until the day you die. You’ll spend about one-third of your life asleep and dreaming. This equates to approximately 25 years of engaging in your dreamworlds. Imagine exploring 25 years of an unknown aspect of yourself. A lot can get done!’
The power of dreaming
Want to dream more? It’s possible not only to teach yourself how to remember your dreams, but to work with them and even direct them, say dream experts. ‘Through a combination of intent, mindfulness, reflection, record-keeping and lifestyle changes, you can connect more deeply to your consciousness as you sleep,’ says Carr. ‘You have the ability to have an enriching dream life filled with adventure, creativity, magic, possibility, love, insight, guidance and transcendence.’
The most advanced form of conscious dreaming is called lucid dreaming, where the dreamer is effectively ‘awake’ in their dreams. ‘A lucid dream is one in which you become aware that you’re dreaming,’ says Dylan Tuccillo, co author of A Field Guide To Lucid Dreamin (Workman, $12.95). It’s not just an intense dream – in a lucid dream, you know you’r dreaming and can remember your daily life while you’re in it. Research from Franktur University’s neurological clinic and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry shows that brain physiology actually changes once a dreamer becomes lucid, with greater activity in parts of the brain associated w self-assessment and self-perception – in other words, although you’re asleep, you’re also aware. There are different stages of lucidity – from realising you’re in a lucid dream to being able to control it.
‘YOU’LL BE ABLE TO TAP INTO INCREDIBLE AMOUNTS OF KNOWLEDGE’
This isn’t just an enjoyable process, some experts believe there could be tangible benefits. ‘By becoming consciously aware in dreams, you’ll be able to tap into incredible amounts of knowledge and inspiration,’ says Tuccillo You can also solve problems in your dreams – for example, rehearse a difficult conversation you need to have and see where your subconscious guides you with it. Or you might get deep self-awareness and emotional healing, working on issues such as addictions and phobias, as thinking and behaving a different way in a dream may help you lay down new neurological pathways.
Be a dreamer
While it takes much practice to become a lucid dreamer, anyone can learn to observe their dreams and watch them untold into meaning. ‘By engaging in a committed, conscious dreaming practice, you can train your mind to become more aware in a dream state, to be more fully engaged in your dreams and to decode their cryptic messages, using them tor inspiration, emotional healing and problem-solving,’ says Carr. ‘You’ll find this new connectedness brings a greater richness, magic, creativity and purpose into your waking lite.’
Want to become a conscious dreamer? You need to train both your waking and dreaming mind. Here are some tips to try.
An important aspect of a conscious dreaming practice is your daily mindset. Do you go through lite without noticing the world around you? ‘Become more present and conscious of your thoughts and behaviours and you’ll be more able to carry them into your dreaming time,’ says Carr. Start becoming more self-aware and contemplative. At times when you’re alone – for instance, when you’re commuting – challenge yourself to really observe your surroundings, as you would a film, says Carr. Then challenge yourself to study an object (an ornament tor example) in detail. Really analyse it, and begin to question it. What is it tor, how did it get there? Let your mind move in and out of questioning and observing mode. ‘This zone is similar to the exploratory states we have as children, and is great practice for exploring your dreams,’ she says.
Focus your intent
To become more conscious of the dreams you have, simply setting the intention to recall them can help you do this.
Carr suggests repeating affirmations as you lie down to sleep. ‘Try saying “I will remember my dreams tonight”. Repeat until you feel drowsy. As you slip into the state between awakeness and sleep, you can try visualising your intent. For instance, visualise a door opening and let the scene untold.’
Keep a dream journal
Keep a notebook by your bed so, as soon as you wake from a dream, you can record the details. Let it flow onto the pages. You’ll soon notice you start becoming more conscious in your dreams.
‘Re-reading and reflecting on old dreams can help you stay connected to them and trigger new ones,’ says Tree. ‘If a dream inspired you, you can set your intent to re-enter that dream to see how it evolves.’
Dream journaling can also help you recall and make sense of your dreams. ‘A dream journal is like the writings of your unconscious world and your soul. It can bring into your lite a new richness of personal reflection, creativity, sense of wholeness and inner connection,’ says Carr. Leave space in your journal to follow-up and reflect on the dream, how it made you feel and what it meant to you. ‘Aspects of your dreams can also serve as markers to point you towards an aspect of your life that may need extra I attention,’she says.
Spot recurring motifs
‘You’ll notice you uften dream about very si’iüiar things – for exa Tipte, your sister, your pet, the ocean,’ says Tuccillo. ‘These recurring elemo’- .s are called dream signs and they’re a powerful stepping stone to lucid dreams.’ Once you’ve found some dream signs occurring in you; icuinai you can use them to step nta £. dream – it’s a little signaller.
You can also use small gestures in your dream to check you’re dreaming while aware – for example, look at your outstretched hand twice in quick succession without it changing in some way and you’ll know you’re in a lucid dream state.
Do dreams give you messages?
Some people swear they get important signs from their subconscious when they dream. A tew common themes include:
Being chased According to dream interpreters, this usually means you’re avoiding some important issues that you don’t want to face. Falling, This is said to mean you’re feeling out of control or tearing failure. That’s not necessarily a negative thing – it may just mean you need to relinquish your idea of a certain outcome. flying]Most of us have had the uplifting experience of a dream in which we’re soaring high in the sky. Usually, it’s thought to mean you’re feeling tree and unrestricted.
What’s probably most important is to think about how you feel in the dream – that might give a more accurate interpretation. For example, if you feel scared when you’re tailing, is some uncontrolled aspect of your lite making you nervous?
Use your dreams
So you’re in a dream -what now? Try rehearsing new mental habits, such as getting up early and running every other day, or being more assertive at work. Or you could ask what to do with your lite next – your subconscious often knows the answers to questions that puzzle you. Or just have fun – do something you enjoy and wake up the next morning feeling inspired!
Dreams: How to connect with your dreams to enrich your life by Tree Carr (Aster, £10.99) is out now
WORDS: Mary Comber, Charlotte Haigh. PHOTOGRAPHY: IStock
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