(excerpted from the audio cassette Dream Incubation: Asking for the Dreams You Want)
Dream incubation is a time-honored technique dating as far back as recorded history. Simply put: it means to ask your dreams to address a certain question in your life. Learning how to ask your dreams for guidance on important life questions could be one of the most important things you ever learn. Although the technique seems to work like magic sometimes, it is not a game, and I suggest you proceed to try it with sincere interest rather than for entertainment. My clients have used incubated dreams to help clarify conflicting feelings, point out pit-falls in business, highlight tendencies that held them back, and even enhance creative productivity.
Bridge to The Subconscious
This technique works best for people who have a regular practice of remembering and recording dreams, because the basics of intrapsychic communication are already in place. However many newcomers to dreams are astounded at how easy the technique is, and how well it works. You will be speaking with a highly functioning portion of your psyche that is already engaged in sifting through the most pressing challenges and questions of your current situation. It is perfectly natural that this area of consciousness would provide useful information and perspectives when given the opportunity to do so. Be sure the thing you wish to focus on is truly important to you. This technique is most effective when there is a strong emotional or personal connection with what you are asking about.
Here is the basic step-by-step procedure for Incubating a dream:
- Get Clear On the Topic: Prior to sleep go over in your mind the basic components of the issue. Don't try to solve it: instead identify the place in the road where you have gotten stuck. "I want to finish graduate school, but I can't afford childcare." "I want to take this new job, but I'm scared." Some people make notes about their process, others say a prayer, meditate, or simply go over the situation mentally. Make it a light process to delineate your position.
- Synthesize a Question: Devise a single sentence asking a question about your target topic. Open-ended questions seem to work better than yes-or-no questions. Here are some good examples:
- What is likely to happen if I take this job?
- What can I do to help my partner be more loving?
- What am I overlooking in my relationship with my son?
- What is the lesson in this experience?
- Why can't I seem to forgive?
Avoid questions you might ask the 8-Ball. They are inappropriate, and generate rather confusing dreams that leave you back where you started. Here are some examples of what not to ask:
- Should I marry John?
- Do I trust Al?
- Will I get this job?
- Is my relationship good?
- Repeat the question: Repeat the question over and over in your mind while waiting to go to sleep. I often match the question with my breathing pattern, rather like a mantra, thinking half the question on the inhalation and half on the exhalation. Some people love this relaxing sensation, others find it annoying and complex. Just relax and repeat the question gently as you drift asleep.
- Record the dream: You may spontaneously awaken when an incubated dream ends. I believe this is a natural response to your request for the information: you are being given an opportunity to remember the dream and transfer its content into your long term memory. The method I recommend to most people is the tag approach. Have a pad or pencil beside the bed so that you can make a note about the dream. Just use a word or even a sentence that sums up the dream for you. "My affair with Cary Grant" or "Scrubbing the Titanic." Then roll over and go back to sleep. When you awaken in the morning, the tag you stuck on the dream will act as an anchor or memory trigger for the entire dream, and then you will need to record it more fully.
Occasionally some people find that the tag approach doesn't work for them and they need to write down the entire dream when they awaken. If you keep a journal, be sure to jot down the question you asked next to the dream you had in response. If you remember several dreams from that night, you must assume they all potentially contain information about your question. Research as well as the anecdotal experience of dreamworkers indicates that separate dreams on a single night usually address the same theme or life context from different perspectives.
After you have captured the result of your incubation by recording the dream, you are ready to absorb the insight that has come to the surface. The dreams which are a product of your incubation question are likely to be quite obvious in their meaning. You may not need to do much digging into their imagery in order to understand what is being presented. However, I recommend you carefully examine your written record, even after a few days time to make sure you agree with your original assessment. In other cases, you will feel the importance of the dream, it will seem heavy with meaning for you, but you may need to unravel some clues about the dream's imagery. This then is the next step in the process:
- Reflect on the Dream: Allow some time to elapse between recording the dream and attempting to understand it fully. One excellent approach is to record the dream in the morning and wait until evening to examine it's meaning. Sit down and sort through the imagery of the dream; examining the action, feelings and imagery. Although many incubated dreams have very obvious meaning, some may take longer to decipher. Share your dream with friends and let them reflect the metaphors they notice. Above all trust your own take on it. When you understand a dream you will get a tingle, a click, or a gut feeling.