Dream Gates

Dream Gates

The Istikhara app and everyday dream incubation

hypnos.jpgIf you are a Muslim in need of quick guidance on a decision, you can now order an app for your cell phone that gives you the Istikhara prayer. As described here yesterday, Istikhara is a method of praying for a “true dream” of guidance. 

Dream incubation has been a preferred way of seeking life direction in most human cultures as far back as we can trace. If you believe that, in seeking dream guidance, you are approaching a sacred source, then you will probably use some form of prayer or ritual as you seek help from that power. 
In the Greek Magical Papyri (XVIIIb) we read this invocation:
Sender of true oracles
while I sleep send me your unerring skill
to read what is and and will be
If we have a big request, it is important to ask nicely. Aelius Aristides, an ancient Greek orator who walked very close to his god – Asklepios, the patron of dream healing – used to phrase his requests as follows: “Lord, I ask for the guidance (or health, or resources) my body requires to serve the purposes of the soul.” A human who asks that way might hope to engage the support of a power behind the scenes.
The journey to a special place – the shrine of a saint, the tomb of an ancestor, a sacred mountain, an ancient tree – has often been part of a full-dress dream incubation. 
But in our hurried everyday lives, we can make all of this simple. Are you in need of life direction or a solution to a problem? Are you willing to turn to a source beyond the obvious ones? Then approach the night as a place of possible encounter with a power that can answer your questions and help to heal your life. If you are a person of faith, you may start by praying for guidance of healing.
You may find it helpful to do something to make your sleeping area more of a sacred place; for example, by foregoing sugar and alcohol for a few hours before sleep, by lighting a candle, and/or by using a special fragrance or placing a little mugwort sachet under your pillow.
Now you want to set your intention for the night. Make it as simple and clear as possible, and avoid composing a laundry-list of needs and wishes. You can make your request large and spacious:
I ask for guidance on my life path
I open myself to my creative source
I ask for healing
Or you can make it quite specific:
I would like guidance on my job interview.
I ask for healing for my friend in hospital.
I would like to see what will happen during my trip.
I want to prep for the exam.
Should I date the guy I met yesterday?
You will want to be ready to catch whatever your dreams give you whenever you wake. This may involve lingering in the half-dream state after you surface from deeper sleep; this in-between state is one in which important messages often come through.
If you remember only a small piece from a dream, but your feelings are strong and your sense of direction is clear, you are in luck. Sometimes it is easier to read a plain answer from a short, uncomplicated dream vignette than from a rambling epic, and the energy that comes with a dream is often more important than the specific information it contains.
If you can’t initially see any connection between the dream your record and the intention that preceded it, be patient and learn to use some detective skills. It’s possible that your dream producers decided to give you something they think you should see rather than what you asked for. All the same, it is always worth playing the game of trying to find a link between the dream and the intention.
For example, I once sought dream guidance on a personal health issue. In my dream, I was racing a car at high speed up through one of those multi-tiered indoor parking lots, slowing to a stop at a fancy penthouse restaurant where a famous publisher was waiting to host me for lunch. I woke feeling marvelous. The dream might seem to have little or no obvious connection with my intention, but I could see a health advisory in my wild ride up through the vertical parking lot, and an Rx in my meeting with the publisher, since for me creative writing that results in publication has always been healing.
You don’t want to ask for big messages, let alone big favors, every night. That becomes wearisome to everyone engaged, and can end by trivializing and cheapening the process. On the other had, I see no objection to putting a simple request like the following one to the dream oracle fairly frequently:
Show me what I need to see 

If you try that, be ready for some shocks! Our dream producers see our needs and issues from a different angle than we do.
  • Wanda Burch

    I often find that when I place a dream intention, the first dreams I receive have little or nothing to do with that intention, even when I turn them every which way. But several nights later, the absolute perfect dream arrives, so I think I am sometimes set on dream delay. However, when I really need an emergency dream, it comes. A few years ago, I was waiting for surgery on a mole on the bottom of my foot, already warned that the recovery would be painful because of the location. There was concern about the mole. I went to sleep for several nights saying aloud “I don’t want to do this; I want this to go away.” I dreamed on about the third night that someone scraped away the mole and healed the skin. I awoke took my shower, turned my foot up; and there was no mole. It was simply gone. I must admit I didn’t believe it. I walked in and stuck my foot in my husband’s lap because I thought maybe I simply couldn’t get it turned far enough to see. He agreed that there was no longer a mole – just soft pink skin. I drove to the doctor’s office to cancel the surgery and to show them. The receptionist cancelled the surgery but wasn’t interested in interrupting the doctor for me to show her. Oh, well…her loss!
    I have also just read Satrapi’s books, Persepolis. In the second one, Marjane must pass a special exam in order to go to University. The exam might be on anything and chances of passing are slim, so she asks God for a dream. God appears in her dream and tells her the name of the philosopher and the specific book that will be presented for her individual essay. She calls her mother and asks her mother to also say prayers before bed for her. She walks into the exam room and the examiner presents her the name of the philosopher and the book; they are each the ones from her dream. She beams – and she aces the exam with the highest marks given!

  • Robert Moss

    Wanda – That’s a terrific experience of healing (by request) on the nigh shift. You will inspire others to give this a go.
    I am very interested in the streamlined example of istikhara in “Persepolis”. I did not stick with the book long enough to get to that part and will need to look again. I used to do well in school exams by previewing the questions in dreams, though I did NOT make God part of the deal. I’ve run into an interesting range of people who did this too, some by dreams and some by waking intuition.

  • Wanda Burch

    The example is in “Persepolis 2,” the continuing story of Marjane in Vienna, where her parents have sent her for safety. The good friends who have agreed to take care of her quickly pawn her off without the parents realizing the full extent of her living conditions. She experiments with relationships and drugs with no parental guidance, eventually falling back on her culture and in-grained traditions learned as a child to get her through. On several important occasions, she calls on “God,” following her parents’ belief that God is in us and close to us and is willing to respond immediately to a serious request. In her words in Book2, she needs a “miracle to pass” the exam and to be admitted into the French baccalaureate she seeks. “God” appears in her dream that night, in answer to her call for a miracle, and says, “Hey, Marji, the subject on the Bac will be Montesquieu’s ‘Slavery of the Negroes.” The next morning she called her mother and asked for additional help: Mom “called God, who in turn sent his message to the examiner. Each time I asked my mother to pray for me, my wihs was granted.” The next morning the examiner asked if she liked the 18th century in general and Montesquieu in particular. “Yes.” She said. “Then you have 30 minutes to prepare ‘Slavery of the Negroes.” Needless to say, Marjane received her miracle – first in a dream, secondly with her mom’s intervention with “God.”

  • Azima Lila Forest

    Well, here we are with the sunchronicities again – love it! The upside of being downed with a virus the last week has been lots of reading – I read “The Secret History of Dreaming” in one day. It prompted me to want to write to you, Robert, about the Isktihhara of Muhammad. And voila’! Here’s the text of the Istighara as used by Muhammad:
    “O Allah! I ask guidance from your Knowledge,
    And power from Your Might,
    And I ask for Your Majestic Grace;
    You are capable and I am not;
    You know and I do not;
    You are the Knower of the Unseen.
    O Allah! If You that this matter is good
    For my religion, my livelihood, and for me
    in the immediate future or later on,
    May it happen and facilitate it for me,
    And then bless it to me;
    And if You know that this matter is harmful to me
    For my religion, my livelihood, and for me
    In the immediate future or later on,
    Then keep it away from me
    And let me be away from it,
    And ordain the good for me;
    And make me content with it.”
    Tradition is that he said this very often, day and night.
    My version of this is considerable shorter:
    Bring me my Highest Good! And learning something here
    From the Prophet (PBUH), I add “And let me be content with it!”

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