You've had those dreams, right, that you just know are important? But you have no idea what they mean? In my experience, every dream is significant. But at first glance, I usually have no idea what a dream means either.
Stepping into dreamwork is like stepping blindfolded into a space filled with sounds, scents, and textures. Disorienting, mysterious, and endlessly interesting. We need curiosity and patience to get around. I adore the phrase used by writer and dreamworker Toko-pa Turner: "courting the dream." Rather than wanting to "get" something from our dreams, she invites us to explore what the dream wants, in hopes of cultivating a deep relationship.
Some dreams want to show us how we can physically heal. The dreams don't usually say so directly, but over my years of working dreams with acupuncture patients, I've learned this to be true.
Was that important dream you had telling you something about your health and healing? If you feel that it was, then it was. If you're not sure, I'd like to offer you these five cues I've come to recognize as invitations to explore a dream for its health insights.
Before I share the list, though, I must say one thing.
Only the dreamer knows the true meaning of his or her dream. The dreamer doesn't know it consciously at first, though, so questions and reflections from others are helpful. If what someone else says about your dream falls flat for you, let it go.
On the other hand, if you're struck by a sense of resonance, an “Ah-ha! That's it!” feeling, a change in the sensations in your body, or maybe even a fierce, "No way, that can't be," reaction – then whatever they said is worth exploring.
Now, here are the five cues. Whenever I've received one of these invitations from a dream to explore it in the context of physical health, I've always been glad I said "yes."
1. Characters you associate with illness, healing, or medicine.
Dreams are often peopled with characters from our lives: those we are most intimate with, those we barely know, those we haven't seen or thought of in years. As you describe what you associate with a dream character, if you hear yourself talking about their illness, their healing, their injury, their work in the medical field, or other things related to health - then you might consider your own.
One dream image that comes right to mind when I think of the word "flesh" is a yellow zucchini flower being pulled out of the flesh of someone's leg. Whenever a dream has a vivid depiction of the flesh like that, I open up questions about the physical body. The dream might show the dreamer's flesh, or the flesh of another character, or animal flesh, or maybe meat.
In Chinese medicine, we look at the body as a landscape. Two dream images come back to me for this one: a dream of two pools side by side, one hot and one cold; and a place where three rivers meet. Distinct landscapes like those often mirror a place in the body - especially when we look at the map of acupuncture channels and points. Whenever a dream involves physical engagement with the dream landscape, such as digging into the earth, I am inclined think about the body.
4. Houses & Vehicles:
Houses are the spaces in which we live, and vehicles are the vessels in (or on) which we move. Imagine a dream of opening up the walls of a house to replace all the pipes, or driving in a car that you suddenly realize has bald tires. Imagine how these might relate to the inner and outer workings of your physical body.
5. Embodied sensation:
This is one of the most important ways to recognize a dream's relevance to the body, AND one of the best ways to work with that dream in a healing way. When you re-experience a dream or reflect on it, take note of where you feel sensations in your body. Does a part of you that has pain or other symptoms “light up” as you explore the dream? Insight into healing that issue may be carried in the dream.
If you have already worked with your own dreams for some time, may these five invitations give you something to enrich your practice. If working with your dreams is new to you, I encourage you to start writing down your dreams and engaging in conversation with them.
With dreamwork, the insights we can help each other toward are usually quite different from what we can find working alone. I cherish my time with my own dream group, which meets regularly every winter, when the garden and tourist seasons are done and we all turn a bit more inward. If you want to dive deep, consider forming a dream group of your own, or reaching out to someone experienced in working with dreams one-on-one.