Active Dreaming II
The Best Way to Understand a Dream
The best way to grasp the meaning of a dream, and to determine what action the dream requires, is to go back inside the dream and recover more of the story. We should never confuse a dream report – what we remember and can say about a dream – with the full experience of the dream itself.
Even a very copious and detailed dream report is missing much of what went on during the night, including deeper levels of dreaming in which the dream self may have traveled not only through different locations, but through different orders of reality.
Why would we want to go back inside a dream? Our motive might be simply to have more fun and adventure. We were with a dream lover in a tropical paradise, but were roused by the alarm clock or the kids jumping on the bed. We’d like to revisit that delicious scene, and enjoy it for longer.
We may want to talk more with a dream visitor. A deceased grandparent, or a friend on the other side of the world, or a famous writer of the past we admire turned up in a dream, as if they sat down in the living room or leaned over the bed, and we’d like to know why they came and what we need to share. By putting ourselves back inside the dream scene, we can initiate a conversation.
Maybe we’ve been running away from something in dreams, or trying to hide from it. This is an urgent reason for learning to re-enter a dream. When a fear or a challenge arises in dreams, we want to learn to confront it on its own ground. If we keep running away from something in our dreams, chances are that the underlying issue will pursue us in waking life.
What we are hiding from in dreams may be our own power. I learned this early in my time in North America, when I dreamed, repeatedly, that an enormous bear was in my space. I made it my intention to go back inside the most recent version of the dream, confront the bear, and understand why it was showing up in my house. I closed the blinds, turned off the phone, slouched back in an easy chair and used the edge of fear as power to take me back inside the dream scene.
I was there right away: the bear was in front of me, huge and wild, showing its claws. It took a real effort of will to brave up and approach it as it towered over me on its hind legs. When the bear wrapped its great arms around me, I feared it would crush my ribs. Instead, I found myself inside a warm and loving hug. Later the bear wanted me to look at my heart. I looked, and was amazed to see there was a thick cord between my heart and that of the bear, something like a thick umbilical, pumping life juice. I understood, in that moment, that the bear and I were joined at the heart.
Bear’s message, moving through my senses and slowly translating into human speech, was “Call on me, and I will show you what people need to be healed.” Since then, whenever I open a healing circle, we call in the Bear through song and dance.
You may find, as I do, that an aspect of your own power and healing is waiting for you behind a dream door, if you will reopen it. There are further reasons for learning the technique of dream reentry, which is explained in depth in several of my books, including Active Dreaming and The Three “Only” Things. I have become convinced, through long experience, that any image that belongs to us – even the most terrifying – can be worked with in the direction of healing and resolution. Our dreams, if we will use them, are factories of fresh and spontaneous images that the body believes because it belongs to us and comes hand-crafted from our personal dream producers.
Then, too, a dream may be an invitation to become whole by reclaiming aspects of ourselves that went missing when life became too cruel or too complex. Dreams show us parts of ourselves that go unrecognized by the daily mind, and may have been absent for years or decades through the conditions that shamans call soul-loss. When we learn to go back inside a certain kind of dream – the dream of the childhood place, for example, or of a childhood self – we are on our way to a soul reunion with a younger self that can bring fresh vitality, joy and imagination into our present lives.