When you need guidance on how to make life choices, what do you do? Do you turn to family and friends? Your rational, thinking mind?
While those methods can be useful, they don’t always help us move beyond what we already know. Next time you want to plumb the depth of an issue, or find information from a new angle, you might try this easy to use approach to problem solving. It’s called dream incubation.
Dream incubation is the practice of setting an intention to receive life guidance from a sleeping dream. The practice works so well that you can ask a question about your health or life circumstances and often receive valuable and practical information overnight.
I’m not sure when the practice started, but people have been incubating dreams for at least 2500 years. In ancient Greece, for instance, a person in need of healing advice would visit an Asclepieion, or healing temple, and ask for healing guidance from their dreams. The visitor would sleep on the temple floor and upon waking would report their dreams to a priest who would interpret the dream and prescribe treatment based on the interpretation.
I don’t know if there are any active Asclepieion temples anymore, but you don’t need one to incubate a dream. If you ever need insight about a life problem, I suggest trying the following:
1. Think about your problem, challenge or situation.
2. Decide what you want to know about the scenario. Formulate a statement around what you want to know and make sure it cannot be answered with yes or no. For instance, “My intention is to dream about what is causing me to feel tired and sluggish.” Or, “Tonight I want to dream about how to best share my work with the world.”
3. Write your statement on a sheet of paper and put it on a nightstand next to your bed or under your pillow.
4. Hold the intention in your mind as you fall asleep.
5. When you wake up, either in the middle of the night or in the morning, record all dream images and contemplate how the dream might be an answer to your question or intention.
Sometimes the answers come quickly. For instance, Sara, a dreamer in the new DreamTribe community, had never incubated a dream in her entire life and she was excited to try it out. So, before going to bed she asked her dreams to tell her, “What is making me crabby and mildly depressed (low energy).” She dreamed that she accidentally bought moldy bread.
Not having any idea what that might mean, she decided to post her dream on the DreamTribe’s forum. She did not mention that she’d intended to incubate a dream about what was making her feel low energy.
When I read the dream I saw the bread as a metaphor for how the dreamer was nurturing herself. Since the bread was moldy, I felt that the dreamer may need to find a new way to practice self-care. Another dreamworker felt similarly and we discussed how Sara might make changes to her self-care practice.
But then dreamworker Atava Garcia Swiecicki popped onto the dream forum. She is a health care practitioner who uses dreams to help understand illness, and she saw a literal health message in Sara’s dream.
Atava mentioned that people who are allergic to bread due to the gluten or a naturally occurring mold in the bread can feel tired and lethargic. Eliminating or cutting back on bread can help the person feel more energy.
Sara resonated with both “interpretations.” In one night, she had two valuable pieces of information that helped explained why she was feeling crabby and mildly depressed, and practical advice on how to make changes that could help her feel more balanced and healthy.
Dream incubation is valuable, insightful, and highly personal. When you look to your own dreams for guidance, and then process them on your own or get help from experienced dreamworkers, you can start to make decisions that are based on your deepest needs and your internal healing system.
Next time you have a challenge or dilemma, and you want clarity about how to move forward, look to your dreams for their valuable wisdom and advice. If you get a response, but you don’t understand what your dreams are trying to tell you, ask a dreamworker to help you explore the possible meaning. And remember, dreams can be literal and symbolic at the same time, so be sure to reflect on the possible meaning from both perspectives.
P.S. If you want help exploring the information you get in your dreams, click here.