True shamans are dreamers. They are typically called to their vocation in dreams, and dreaming strong – traveling in lucid dreams to help souls find their way, to diagnose and treat illness, and to scout out the future – is the core of their practice. Anyone who dreams, as the Kawahiv, an Amazonian dreaming people say, is “a little bit shaman”, so we stand on the brink of claiming this power when we remember our dreams and start to develop the practice of working with dreams and traveling with intention into the dreamspace.
Once we are catching dreams, we need to develop a way of sharing them with others that is mutually empowering and brings energy and juice from the dream world into everyday life. I have developed a simple method for dream sharing that makes it fun and safe to share dreams with just about anyone, anytime, at the breakfast table or at the workplace or even in the line at the grocery store checkout.
I call this Lightning Dreamwork, because it is meant to be fast as a lightning bolt, and to focus and harness energy. The method is not meant to preempt many other things we may want to do with a dream. Some dreams require tending over time, or remaining alert to how waking events may slowly catch up with a dream and reveal its meaning. Some call for a conscious journey back inside the space of the dream, or performance, or creative expression, or sustained research and inquiry.
What Lightning Dreamwork provides is a way of dream sharing that can reach temporary closure in just five or ten minutes, exploding any alibi that we don’t have time for this. This approach also offers clear guard rails that insure that we will not intrude on each other’s privacy and will never presume to tell another person what his or her dreams mean. Dreams belong to the dreamer, and even if we are gifted therapists or infallible psychics, it is never permissible to take another person’s power away by telling them what their dreams or their lives mean.
Once you have mastered and internalized the four steps of the Lightning Dreamwork process, you are ready to play dream guide and dream ambassador, opening a space of power and healing and fabulous adventure for others.
Here are the four essential steps:
1. Get the dreamer to tell the dream as a story, as simply and clearly as possible. Encourage the dreamer to leave out the background (no autobiography) and avoid any attempts at interpretation, and to tell, rather than read, the dream report. In this way, we encourage each other to reclaim our gifts as storytellers. This is hugely important life training. Once we have learned to tell our dreams well in this way, we are primed to tell whatever stories we may need to communicate with others.
2. Ask a few essential questions. The first question to ask, of any dream, is what did you feel, immediately on waking? First feelings are instant guides to whether the dream is negative or positive, and often to whether it needs to be viewed literally or symbolically, or as an experience in a separate reality. We also want to do a reality check, asking what the dreamer recognizes from the dream in the rest of her life – including from other dreams, since dreams often run in series. We need to ask whether anything in the dream could manifest in some way in the future, since our dreams are forever rehearsing us for future events.
3. We can now say to the dreamer, “If this were my dream, I would think about such-and-such.” In offering feedback according to this protocol, we can say just about anything we like. Notice that as we do this, we are owning our projections: that we are speaking from our own experience and point of view, not purporting to be experts. We may be a thousand miles removed from the dreamer’s own felt sense of the dream, but this can be helpful in assisting the dreamer to home in on what the dream means for her.
4. Last, we guide the dreamer to come up with an action plan: a way of honoring the dream, applying its guidance, and harnessing its energy. The action plan may range from researching an odd phrase or location featured in the dream, to eating (or giving up) a cretain food, to creative expression, to dream reentry, which means revisiting the dream, in a conscious journey, to solve a mystery or move beyond a fear or enjoy more of the adventure.
I explain the Lightning Dreamwork process in depth in my books The Three “Only” Things and Active Dreaming. It gives us a way to practice dreamwork as everyday therapy and everyday church that brings juice to any day and grows deep friendships. I believe it is a vital tool for rebirthing a dreaming society, in our time, in our world.
I took the photo of the breakfast buffet at Mosswood Hollow, a magical retreat center in the foothills of the Cascades in Washington State where I lead many workshops and trainings and where we always start the day by sharing dreams over breakfast. For details of my programs here, please visit the events calendar at www.mossdreams.com.