When I think about my relationship with the dream world, I think about a busy summer bee and her daily journey from the hive, to the carpels of each flower, and back. At night, I descend into sleep with my day’s experiences, and like a field of balsams, the dream terrain overflows with a symbol-rich nectar for me to return with. And I’ve found that, like a bee, I need to put some work into transforming all of those unprocessed droplets of wisdom into a nourishing honey that can grace me with more ease, intuition, and sense of purpose in my daily life.
When I first began my personal dream journaling and interpretation practice, I wanted to immediately “decode” the strange, fantastical, or frightening scenarios I encountered during the night. But over time, I realized something: when I am dreaming, I am passing through a portal into another world, and in order to absorb as much “nectar” as I can, I must take the time to adopt a keen awareness about where the action takes place before I can piece together the rest of the puzzle.
Of course, there is no hard science to determining the relationship between the surroundings of our waking lives and those we encounter in dreams. The spaces I pass through every day (or those I’ve inhabited in the past) are almost never accurately represented in my dreams, and sometimes, the grounds are entirely new. For instance, I might find myself in some combination of my office and my parents’ house. Or, I might sense that I’m back in high school, but the school looks like a shopping mall. Or, I might be in some ethereal and ancient city upon which I’ve never laid my waking eyes.
While these fusions and fabrications of setting can be perplexing, I glean an amazing amount of insight by considering how the environments make me feel; what details stand out; and what connections these locations may have to my waking life. Mid-summer, in all of its fecund splendor, offers the perfect climate to sharpen an environmental awareness which we can carry into the dream world, and use to explore relationships between these realms of the sun and moon.
Here is a sample of a setting-focused summer dream ritual (based on my own). While this is a special way to get started in summertime, you can repeat steps 2 and 3 daily, throughout the year.
1. Pick a place outdoors which has a mystical magnetism for you, and carve out some time to explore its effects on your state. While it’s certainly beneficial to do this at any time of day, I think it’s kind of cool to make your journey at twilight or under full moonlight in the spirit of preparing for dream. You can walk leisurely, peek into hidden corners, sing or chant, or just sit and soak it in the whisperings of your surroundings. You may want to bring a small notebook with you to reflect on the following questions:
- What are the sights, sounds, sensations, and smells that make this place special?
- How do I feel here?
- How would I compare my state here to the way I feel at home, work, or significant places I’ve been in the past?
2. Before sleep, meditate on all of the spaces you inhabited throughout the day, and the emotions they invoked. Close your eyes and feel grateful to be in the home of your body, which will ground you throughout the night’s travels.
- Can I easily identify this setting? Did it look or feel like somewhere I’ve visited recently, or in the past, or was it entirely new?
- What are the associations I have with this place?
- What were the details (persons, objects, etc.) that struck me as significant, unusual, or out-of-place?
- What could the possible relationships be between all of the spaces I passed through in my dream?
I hope these ideas will help you to begin to harvest the healing fruits of your dreaming terrain. What are some of the most striking places you’ve visited in your dreams?