"The stuff that dreams are made of...."
"What dreams may come..."
"I'm dreaming of you..."
Many of our popular culture's songs and literature are centered on our dreams and what they mean to us. For centuries we have believed that our dreams are important; they can be portents of events to come or visits from deceased loved ones.
So how do you interpret your own dreams? Some people want another person to help them interpret their dreams, like a close friend or relative. Some people want a book to tell them what their dreams mean, and there are plenty of good books available. If you decide to use a book, which books can you trust? Many of them have completely different interpretations of the same symbolism, so how do you tell which one is right for you?
Start out by writing down your dreams in a journal. This is very important, since most of us tend to forget our dreams quickly. This also sends the message to your subconscious mind that you want to remember your dreams; that this is important to you. The more often you write down your dreams, the more you will train yourself to remember. Write down only the key elements, not every little detail. Write what you feel is odd or important. How did the dream make you feel? What emotions were primarily present? Often times how we feel in the dream has a large part in the interpretation. A dream that leaves you feeling happy would be interpreted differently from one that leaves you frightened, even if the imagery were similar.
Once you have your dream journal in hand, spend some time at the bookstore looking through the different dream books. You already have a basic idea of what your dream might mean, even if you aren't consciously aware of it yet. Pick one dream to start with, and look up the key elements in the books. Read what the books say this means and see if you agree with it. Remember, these are YOUR dreams, and YOUR feelings and interpretations should take precedence over another's opinions. What you are looking to find here is the one or two books that most often feel "right" in their interpretations of your key dream elements. These would be the right books for you to consult. You'll know when you read their descriptions if they are way off base or close to the mark. You'll be surprised at how different some interpretations can be!
This is because we are products of the cultures we live in, and our dream symbolism has to be interpreted through those cultures. So if you can find a dream book that is especially for your ethnic background, that might be even more helpful. Many elements of dreams are a part of our waking life that our subconscious has interpreted a certain way, and is sending these images back to us as a message. So therefore it is hard to find just one interpretation for any given symbol, as these can differ from person to person. What a dream book does is take the most common interpretations and list them. The rest is up to you.
Keeping a dream journal can also help you to chart your progress if you are doing astral projection exercises, lucid dreaming, or other sleep exercises. In addition, you will gain more control over your dreams by paying more attention to them in your waking moments. One thing to be sure of when writing down your dreams is that you leave a couple of blank pages between them. This way you will have room to write your own interpretations and impressions, then the books' interpretations, and then finally, any thoughts or happenings that occur later on in time that seem to be related back to this dream.
One very powerful aspect of learning to work with your dreams is learning to identify when you are in the dream state while you are still dreaming. This is called Lucid Dreaming. This state allows you to exert control over the dream itself - you can change the outcome and have it end the way you want. This is especially helpful with recurring nightmares. To be able to go into the dream, stop the fear, and control the actions usually ends the cycle. People who have had nightmares from previous terrifying experiences for years have reported being free from these dreams after learning to take control while in the dream state and changing the outcome. If you have suffered from interrupted sleep due to recurring nightmares you can imagine how useful and empowering a tool this would be for you.
Keeping a dream journal is the first step to learning to use this method. By using the dream journal you can identify for yourself some "triggers" that happen in the dream. Usually there will be a period of light and innocuous dreaming and then suddenly something will change, some new aspect will happen, and the nightmare cycle will begin. Learning to identify when the nightmare cycle begins will help you to remember it when it happens while you are dreaming. This "remembering" while you are asleep, will help your consciousness awaken while you are still in the dream state, and take control of the dream.
You can also re-enter the dream if you awaken in the middle of it and realize at that time that you were dreaming. Immediately clear your mind of other thoughts, get comfortable, and try to recapture the dream images, with the full knowledge that you are dreaming and that you are in control of how this dream turns out. This will usually happen when you are first trying to control your dreams while asleep. When you are successful with this method, then you will be more able to realize you are dreaming and take control without awakening first.
Lucid Dreaming is the first step to having control over out of body experiences or astral traveling, which can happen naturally during the dream state. This is when your "consciousness" seems to leave your body and take trips all on its own - either strictly on the astral plane, or on the physical plane. Many people who report this happening say that they "see" their body still lying in bed asleep, even while they realize that they are consciously aware of drifting completely free of their body. Young children most often tell stories of "flying" in their dreams, and can have the most amazing experiences, until some adult steps in with a different version of reality.
People who have had what is called "near death experiences" where they have almost died, or been pronounced clinically dead and then revived, also report having experienced this phenomenon. Psychics, who "send" their consciousness out of their body to "see" happenings at some other location or time, are also able to do this. If you have ever dreamed that you went to see someone, and they actually talked to you later and stated that they thought they had seen or spoken with you, then you have already done this spontaneously. While this is common enough for probably 1 in 7 people to have had this occur once in their lives, it is not common for people to be able to do it at will. That takes practice, and dedication, but it can be accomplished if you so desire.
The way to start astral traveling is again, by starting with a dream journal. This will document your dreams or your astral travels (as it can be difficult to tell the difference at first) and can be used as a reference for later verification. Once you are able to have lucid dreams, in other words be in control of the dream while still in the dream state, then you can use the dream to travel on the astral plane. If you are doing this with a group, or a friend, pick someone to "visit with" and have them try to visit or dream about you on the same night. It is easier to accomplish this in the beginning, when the "receiver" is aware of your trying to make contact with them. Compare your results, and don't give up if it takes a few weeks or even months to make contact. Not everyone is going to be able to do this easily, but I do think that everyone can learn how to do it if they spend the time and energy.
Many people have asked me how to tell the difference between a dream that "means something" or might be prophetic, and one that is just an ordinary dream. This is not clear across the board, but there are some helpful clues that you can use. One clue that you are having an important dream is its vividness and detail. If you remember things so clearly that you wake up surprised that you were dreaming and not living it, this is usually an important dream. Probably prophetic and one that you should write down while it is still fresh in your mind. Always date your dream entries so that you will know exactly when the dream occurs. This is especially helpful in verifying dreams that do "tell the future", and you can see if a pattern develops in how long they take to happen on the physical plane.
If a dream seems disjointed, has a lot of impossible elements, or otherwise is difficult to pin down details, this is most likely a dream that is unimportant. In the processing and sorting out of our daily lives, our brains use dreams as a way of dealing with situations or things that we need to sort through. Often times we can tell where a dream of this nature originates - especially if the plot of your dream closely matches the plot of the movie you were watching before you fell asleep! Such dreams are more easily recognized as just "flotsam" floating around in the mind while we sleep, and do not need to be written down or remembered.
Another type of dream is a sort of "wishful thinking" dream. These are ones in which we win the lottery, get the promotion, or beat up the neighborhood bully instead of letting him chase us home. These dreams represent what we want, or would have wanted, to have happen in our lives. These are not prophetic dreams, and can be told apart from those types because they are exactly what we make them to be. There are no unexpected elements in them, we are happy and in control of the whole thing, and we usually come away from such dreams quite satisfied with the outcomes. This should be a clue that these are wishful thinking dreams, and while fun and healthy to experience, do not portend future events.
Unexpected elements in a dream would be the appearance of a person, place, or thing, that you would not have normally have thought of, occurring in your dream. For example, one unexpected element would be if you dreamed of a relative who has passed away, especially one who has not passed recently. My Aunt Josephine passed away over 30 years ago, so when I dream of her, I know that this is a visit or a message from her, and I pay attention to it. By the same reasoning, if you have a someone who is close to you who is dying or has recently died, and you dream of them, take the opportunity to say good-bye. Listen to whatever messages they give you, even if it is only a feeling, pay attention to it.
Other unexpected elements would be dreaming about meeting someone you have never met but in the dream or upon awakening, they seem familiar. Notice if you then do meet them, this was a portent of that meeting. This could be a past life connection for you. Other unexpected elements could be an action that is not normal, such as being bitten by a snake, dreaming that a building falls on top of you, or dreaming that you drove off a bridge into a river - just to give you some examples. Anything that happens in a dream that could happen but is unexpected, or seems unusually vivid, those are the elements that you want to pay attention to and interpret.
To interpret your dreams yourself, ask yourself some key questions:
Now take the key elements of the dream and list them. Don't write out every little detail, just the ones that stick in your mind as important or unusual. This may take practice also, but you will know which is which after doing this for a while. Start by seeing what these symbols represent to you first, before you consult a book. For example, dreaming of roses may be interpreted as love, but if your Grandmother always grew roses and you associate these flowers closely with her, then that is the correct symbolism for you. Not every symbol may be that clear for you, and that is when a dream journal can come in handy.
If you've already found the correct dream interpretation book for you, then start looking up the symbols that you dreamt of and jot down in your dream journal what they mean. It's not necessary to copy complete sentences, just jot down the ideas associated with each element. Often there are more than one association, but don't let that confuse you. As you continue looking them up, it will soon become clear that there is a recurring theme for the dream, and you will start to see that different symbols are meaning the same thing. At this point, you will have a pretty good idea of what your dream is pertaining to, and if it is a good omen, or a warning.
How much attention you should pay to your dreams will be up to you. Through recording them and interpreting them, you will find that you get more and more proficient at telling what is important in them. You will also start to see patterns emerging between your dreams and your life, some things will come to pass, while others you may avoid because you "had a feeling about that dream". This is not an exact science by any means, but you will experience flashes of "deja vu" and know that you have dreamed about something before it happened. That is the time to go back into the dream journal and look it up. See when you dreamed it, what the symbolism was, and what you decided it meant. Record in there also how you feel about it now, and how it may or may not have meant what you thought it would mean. Note how the dream reflected the actual facts that have happened.
By following these directions, you will gain a proficiency in interpreting your own dreams, and knowing when you are seeing something that will come to pass. You will gain control over your dream states, and be able to stop nightmares and no longer have interrupted sleep. This has many health benefits, for both the body and mind. You may become a master at astral traveling, or projecting your consciousness out of your body at will. There are no limits here except the ones we set on ourselves.