In Western culture, there is a deep bias that
dreams "just happen" to us; that they are an automatic product of our
sleeping psyches. With such an attitude, there is little recognition of the
skills and arts related to dreaming.
But even if we simply want to recognize that we dream, we must invoke the skills
of memory and cognition. To record the dream on paper and to report it to
someone else involves the arts of writing and story-telling. Some folks have
poor memory of dreams; some record just the bare bones, the nouns and verbs.
Descriptive adjectives and adverbs that paint emotions, feelings and color into
the black-and-white outline go missing. It makes for a very boring dream report!
I really enjoy listening to and reading dreams where the dreamer spent some time
and effort to narrate the details and draw out any story elements. Most
definitely, it is an art and skill to be a good dream reporter.
Almost anyone with the slightest interest in dreams will begin to utilize
more than one skill or art. There is a growing number of "3 R"
triathlon dreamers: those who Recall and Record their dreams and then Relate
their dreams to other people in a dream group.
Then there are the embellishers. They interpret dreams, using a potpourri of
techniques from free association to definition dialogue. They use the literal
arts of dance or drawing, ceramics or singing to express the dream. Some even
modify behavior via cognitive, visualization and artistic therapies. But all
this activity occurs after the dreaming is done. After we wake with the dream
product. The dream is used as a launching pad for waking arts and skills.
But there are also those unsung heroes who are not satisfied with the
approach that makes dreamwork and dreamplay an after-thought. Some motivating
factor urges them on, to venture into the unknown. It's they who have caught the
sense that dreaming is a wondrous opportunity to be explorers of the greatest
frontier of all: inner space. As they stretch their wings in preparation for
flight, these dreamers discover that they are gathering a repertoire of
pre-dreaming arts and skills. They are becoming decathlon dreamers. The more I
come into contact with these dreamers, the more impressed I am with their
patience and tenacity.
It is a fiction that it takes an extraordinary person to achieve an
extraordinary dream, unless you define "extraordinary" as a solitary
event that spontaneously happens to a one-shot wonder. I'm not talking about
those folks who have one or two amazing dreams that they treat like rare
hot-house plants for the rest of their lives. I'm speaking of those dreamers who
have tasted enough delightful dreams to develop a hunger for those same dreams
when they experience a drought. Who miss their wonderful dreams as they would an
To the casual observer, it may seem that such dreams are fortunate gifts of
unexpected grace. Wild flowers in the field of dreams. But as I watch these
super dreamers in action, as I hear what they do before they dream, I discover
that they nurture, fertilize and prepare the ground for the emergence of their
lovely blossoms. What a healthy endeavor: to tend the garden of the mind.
Before dreams begin there are host of incubation activities that result in
better dream recall, a special type of dream or a change in content. Dreams will
indeed perk up when we water them with attention before we go to sleep. We can
process day residue, set aside problems, encapsulate troublesome emotions to
clear the ground of toxins and support the emergence of creative dreams. We can
use self-suggestion, stimulate ourselves with imagery, rehearse dream dramas,
set goals before we go to sleep to provide the building blocks for dream
construction and growth.
Dreams can be cultivated. What that takes is interest, enthusiasm and
practice, practice, practice. Decathlon dreamers interact with dreams in much
the way that an athlete prepares for a sports events, in the way an artist sets
up her easel, in the way that an environmentalist cares for the ground of our
Before we sleep.