After I had my daughter, Maia, I found it really challenging to meditate. It just felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things I wanted to do, like spending time on personal growth and spiritual practice.
Then, I remembered all these Tibetan Buddhist stories of teachers receiving dharma talks in their dreams, and I knew that the Tibetan traditions of dream yoga in particular has been practiced and cultivated over centuries. It can be a powerful tool for awakening.
My solution? To try dream yoga! (Leave it to me to not just sleep lol!).
We spend a third of our life sleeping, and in many cultures throughout the world, this part of our lives holds a state of consciousness that can help us with personal insight and spiritual growth. We dream for hours during our sleep too – at least 2 hours on average.
It’s a fertile place for practice … but hard to learn. I won’t dive into Tibetan dream yoga practices here, but let’s start this journey together by talking about dreamwork in general, and how we can use our dreams to help us on our path, starting tonight!
When we use dreams for Soul work, we operate on the premise that every dream is an opportunity to develop our relationship to soul – to who we are beneath our surface personalities and routine habits.
Dreams are one of the main ways our Soul speaks to and guides us. So we can approach them with gentleness, reverence, and an open mind, which is essential to powerful dreamwork.
Dreamwork can also interact in complex and synergistic ways with other pathways to the soul. This is why it’s only one of the many tools we play with on the Adventure Mastermind. For example, dreams can add energy to ceremony, or inform next steps to take after an altered states journey.
In general, there are 3 types of dreams. While not all of them necessarily offer a deep level of Soul guidance, they are fruitful places to explore.
One type of dream is the decompression dream: these are the ones that your brain generates to digest and work through what’s gone on during the previous day. These dreams are more surface, touching on superficial things.
An example of this might be seeing a picture of a vacation or adventure you took with an ex, so somehow they or that adventure popped up in your dream, or you were studying for an exam and dream about that topic.
Psyche dreams are generated by our … psyche (!) and tend to be charged with some kind of emotion. After a dream like this, you may feel anxious, angry, erotic, scared, or any other kind of emotion. Psyche dreams invite us to understand something or work a particular issue out.
An example of this is like when we wake up from a dream feeling pissed at our partner for something they did in our dream (but not IRL!).
The third dream type is a sacred dream. These are more rare and may only happen a few times in our whole life. These dreams can feel more real than our waking life, which is similar to how we may feel after a psychedelic or altered states experience. They’re said to be direct revelations from your soul.
There are tons of ways that we can approach dreamwork, but here, I want to cover just a few: seeing dreams objectively, subjectively, and archetypally.
Objective dreamwork takes an approach that relates to the “reality” of our waking life, like a more surface analysis.This mostly works best with decompression-type dreams.
When we’re doing “Soulcentric dreamwork,” as Bill Plotkin says, we don’t use this approach very much because it’s more superficial. We don’t get into the unknown and underworld and all those juicy depths.
Subjective dreamwork does the opposite. We take a u-turn and instead of analyzing our dreams for what they mean about external things in our everyday life, we reflect back on ourselves.
In this approach, everything in a dream is thought to represent a part of the ego or self instead of things from the dayworld: our sub-personalities, traumas, attitudes, wounds, and potentials…
This dreamwork gives us a chance to integrate all these different parts of psyches, which is what the Soul yearns for.
Archetypal also sees the contents of the dream as being part of the self, but it also brings in the collective unconscious. It brings in archetypal symbols and myths and patterns like the hero/heroine journey, birth, death, and archetypes of the huntress, healer, mother, father, etc.
The cool thing is that you get to choose which one of these approaches resonates with you the most depending on a given dream. And when it comes to archetypal dreamwork, you also can have more of a free-association approach with symbols.
How can we actually apply these approaches to our dreams every night?
// First, we can check out what type of dream we had and choose which approach we will use.
// I also recommend dedicating a journal to your dreamwork. Use it to record your dreams. Maybe find a way for you to verbally record your dreams when they happen and then write it down later, if you need to.
Journal in as much or as little detail as you want, but remember that details can be so helpful. (Check out the full episode of the podcast for some prompts to help you get started)
// Try to focus on what a symbol in a dream means to you before you try to look outside of yourself in a book for what it might mean. You can start with free association and just blurt out what arises when you think of the symbol. Be sure to not censor your thoughts and feelings. Let it flow!
Remember that your dreams have unique and highly personal meanings that only you can truly understand. For example, some may say that red symbolizes anger. But in some cultures, red can symbolize power, celebration, fertility, prosperity, and repelling evil. Those are going to potentially be very different interpretations of the color red.
So trust your associations with your dreams the most. Use YOUR intuition.
// I also want to remind you to have an attitude of non-judgement and curiosity. Resist the desire to filter things out, or judge or repress. The more open we are to whatever arises, the more we will understand the meaning of our dreams.
// Consider what the dream might mean if every symbol was a part of your psyche – showing up in a way to help make you aware of something that wants to be seen and known.
// Finally, remember that “the only way out is through.” When challenging dreams emerge, we can learn and heal so much by going toward the difficult moments.
Today, I want to invite you to set an intention to remember your dreams as you fall asleep. Committing to a dream journal will help you remember as well. Then play with this by taking one dream you remember and go through the process above, no matter how silly or what kind of dream it is. Use the subjective approach, and ask yourself, “If everyone and everything and every experience in the dream is a part of me, what am I to know or learn from this?”
Every dream is a gift for exploring our unconscious mind in an adventurous, compassionate way.
You will learn:
// How dreams can show us hidden truths about ourselves
// How dreams impact the decisions we make and the way we show up in the world
// The 3 types of dreams, and which ones can help offer our Soul guidance
// Different ways we can approach dreamwork
// Some tips and questions to help you get started and curious about your dreamwork
// Episode 145: Your Wild Mind – The West and Our Shadows
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.
// Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there!