[from Patrice Krause for Lent 2021]
Attentiveness to dreams can be a spiritual practice, or it can be an enhancement of other spiritual practices. You may find that a dream makes a comment on or suggests a direction for another spiritual practice or life issue.
Dreams can help us see where God is working in our lives and in the growth of our souls. A dream can illuminate one’s motivations, or nuances of a situation that you may not have considered when using your rational mind. Understanding the language of dreams takes practice, because dreams often speak to us in a language of symbolism.
Here’s one example of a dream and how to understand it: I once dreamed that I saw two clocks on a counter-top, having a shoving match with each other. After some thought, I realized that the clocks symbolized two different ways of looking at how to use time: pushing to get things done, or relaxing and going with the flow. These two ways of looking at time really were competing for prominence inside of me.
You can read about techniques for remembering dreams. Some of these include setting an intention to remember your dream, and keeping a pad of paper and pen nearby so you can scribble down notes about the dream when you wake up from it. You can ask a question before you go to bed, and ask for a dream to illuminate the issue. If you don’t remember a dream the first night, keep trying. I find that I have the best results if I look at what is really on my mind and ask for a dream to comment on that issue. Sometimes I will just feel that my mind is clear for receiving guidance on a particular issue, and that is when I am most likely to have a dream that speaks to that question.
There are books and articles that tell common symbols for dream images; for example, a car may represent your ego or your physical body. I find that this is often true, but not always. Each person may have a unique connection to something that appears in a dream. Look for what an element of the dream means for you in particular.
Jungian psychology would suggest that people in your dream are aspects of yourself. I find that this is also often true, but not always. Sometimes the dream may be connected to the actual person you dream about. I also believe that if I dream about people who have passed on, it is often a visitation from that person, but not always. That person in the dream might also symbolize something unique to your set of experiences and memories.
Suggestions for using attentiveness to dreams as a spiritual practice:
- Keep a pen and paper near your bed.
- At night, ask God for guidance through a dream about an issue that’s on your mind, or perhaps about how best to be open to God’s leading.
- If you don’t remember a dream the first night, try again.
- When you do remember a dream, it often helps to write it down the next day. Look at the elements of the dream as possible symbols. The act of writing it down may trigger further understanding.
- If you don’t understand the dream that comes to you, ask for guidance in other ways; perhaps from a book you are reading, a song that pops into your head, something wise you hear from a friend, or some sign from nature. Be patient and open to further understanding.
- Also be open to dreams that come without your prompting. Sometimes God may begin opening the doors of your awareness of something new through a dream.