Several years ago, on my mother’s birthday, after she had been dead for over twenty years, I woke up with a vision that my mother beckoned me to follow her to my meditation altar space. She told me about how she had been in a healing center where she had recovered from a lot of the trauma she had experienced in life. She wanted me to know that she was in a good place, and that she loved me and my sister and brother very much.
It was a healing message from some other kind of realm.
I’ve always been fascinated with these direct messages beyond of our thinking selves. Over the years, the more I’ve learned about dreams and tuned into my own, the more my dreams have become a source of intuition and helped me understand and navigate my life in incredibly powerful, authentic ways.
Today, I want to share an exercise to help you explore your dreams, inspired by Jungian psychoanalyst Robert Johnson.
Here’s what I want you to do:
Take a dream or a recurring memory, childhood memory or a memory with a strong charge. Write out the dream or memory in as much detail as you can remember. If the dream or memory is sparse and you’ve got less than five elements, then fill it out with your imagination. Make up sounds, visuals, scenery, taste. Be spontaneous and non-judgmental about what you write.
Take a second piece of paper and divide the sheet into three columns:
Column 1: Main Elements
Column 2: Free associative ideas/concepts
Column 3: Reconstruction of dream/memory
In column one, write out the main elements from the dream/memory: the people, the scenery, the actions, objects, colors, etc.
In column two, free associate and write down what each element brings to mind (stick to the elements of the dream/memory—don’t do stream of consciousness off the free associative thoughts). Underline the words/concepts that resonate the most for you emotionally, within your body or that you feel a strong reaction to either positively or negatively.
In column three, reconstruct the dream/memory using only the free-associative words (don’t worry if the narrative aspect has been lost and the response is more nonlinear).
Finish the whole process with a ritual. Ritual is a great way to anchor your intentions.
If you think of dreams as the way that your unconscious mind communicates to you in special symbolic code while you sleep, ritual is one way you can consciously communicate back to your unconscious while you’re awake.
By creating a ritual of release, you can send a powerful message to your subconscious to throw light and clear out any unresolved issues. At this point you don’t need to consciously do anything, your unconscious will take care of it.
You can make up your own ritual and it can be simple or complex. One suggested ritual would be to take the words from column three and rewrite them into a mind map on paper. Group similar ideas and connect them together in a nonlinear fashion. (For more information on how to mind map check out this article.)
Then place a candle on your mind map and light it, and sit with your work for five minutes.
I’m excited to see what you find! And if you’re interested in learning more about how to tap into your dreams, Robert Johnson’s book “Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth” is an incredible resource.