Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Dreaming in Bali, Part 2

Fountain where bad dreams are washed away at Tirta Empul temple

Dream teacher Jane Carleton, who spent two years living and teaching Active Dreaming workshops in Bali, has contributed a second installment of her narrative of sharing dreams with Balinese.


Guest blog by Jane Carleton

Gathering Flowers of Sleep, and Throwing Out Bad Dreams with the Rice Water

Balinese people want to know a bit about you, in even the briefest of encounters.

“What is your work?” I was often asked. To which I responded, “Saya guru mimpi. I am a dream teacher.” A raised eyebrow, questions about dreaming would  follow, and soon a dream would be shared. I felt honored, as the Niskala, the invisible world, is not often openly discussed, and dreams are known to live in this realm. Through dreaming, the invisible world weaves together with the Sekala, the tangible world.

I was told that some dreams are bungan pules, “flowers of sleep”.  Lovely!  Yet I was also told that bungan pules are not the important dreams, but rather nightly entertainments, to be enjoyed rather than searched for life messages.


There’s a contrarian logic in the way some Balinese look at the meaning of dreams. Carrying or caring for a dead body in a dream, for example, is considered, or be good. Some unpleasant things that happen in dreams are held to portend a positive future event, like a dream of  walking through rice fields and falling in smelly mud.

Several people told me a dream of a snake attacking means someone desires you, is in love with you. A dream of a certain lizard, a lulud, is good luck.  If it is a gold or silver lizard it is very important.

Su, a bird-watcher who leads marvelous nature hikes, told me that if a woman dreams of eggs. it means she will get pregnant. The number of eggs indicates how many babies she will have. Broken eggs mean no pregnancy.


Then again, there are “bad” dreams that are almost universally regarded as bad, and may require a ritual for turning aside possible harm that may come from them. You might turn your pillow over and slap the back of your head three times to try to shake off the bad energy of a dream.  You might take the water used for cooking rice and throw it over the roof of the kitchen, hoping the “bad” dream will go with it. One dreamer told me if he has a bad dream he tells his wife the dream the first thing in the morning so it will move the bad energy.  If it’s a good dream he keeps it to himself so the good energy stays.

For turning aside the evil of a really bad dream, you might go to a temple. Tirta Empul is a special temple with a sacred spring that has a row of cleansing fountains pouring water into a healing pool. Each fountain purifies something different for the pilgrim bathing there.  One of the fountains is specifically for cleansing difficult dreams.  It is important to go there as soon as you can after a bad dream.


Balinese dream researcher Sugi Lanús is inspired by the circumstances of the birth of a temple in his small village. There is a certain tamarind tree in the village and about a generation ago, three people had the same dream in the course of a short period of time.  They saw an old holy man praying under the tree, and he was without shelter. The community shared their dreams and decided to build a temple at the spot indicated in the dream. This was a huge community project requiring financial resources, great effort, and time. Village members who have left to work in the city have shared that dreams of this temple give them a greater sense of connection with their beloved home and with each other.   Sugi told me he met a man who dreamed of a temple that needed care.  He looked for this temple, found it, and is now renovating it. This is Active Dreaming Balinese style!


Big Tree Farms is a thriving business in Bali, growing delicious organic foods produced by a network of over 9,000 farmers in various locales in Indonesia. The farm began when an American couple, Ben and Blair Ripple, traveling in Asia, stopped to live for a while in Bali.  Their Balinese host had a dream in which his deceased father told him to allow them to farm his land. He listened to his dream, and thanks to that dream, I was able to sample the most delicious chocolate you can imagine at their beautiful bamboo chocolate factory.

A community leader who is a regional representative in the Indonesian parliament told me he comes from a lineage of  “rain movers”.

Good dream recorded on a palm leaf in Bali


He was wearing shamanic talismans: a shark’s tooth around his neck, a gold medal and a mirror on his chest. He asked me if I would teach him how to travel better in the dream worlds so he could keep an eye on his competitors.  Another community leader asked me if dreams could teach him how to have more “charisma” and therefore more power.  Practical questions, but I declined.

What can Balinese dreamers learn from us?  That unpacking a dream with a dreamer to explore multiple layers of meaning, including personal psychology and symbology, will help the dreamer come to meaning and transformation. This works only if the cultural context of the dreamer is held sacred. A friend shared a recurring dream that worried him. It included a visitation from a loved one who was seeking forgiveness. We talked of how forgiveness will allow this spirit to move forward on her journey beyond. And we spoke of how forgiving her will also allow him to move forward in his own life.  A few months later, I was invited to his wedding; the dream had been resolved.


What can we learn from Balinese dreamers? That “dreams require action”, as Robert Moss says. Dreaming is magic, we travel, we gain information about the world around us, we have important communication with departed loved ones, and we can effect beneficial changes in waking life when we honor important dreams.  In this way we honor the sacred in everyday life.

Photos by Jane Carleton, who may be reached through her website.

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