The Art of Dreaming: Part One

The Art of Dreaming: Part One

Dreaming your dreams can help you deal with the complexity of life by giving you dream symbols that reveal who you are and how you feel, as well as information about your anxiety towards relationships, career, money, health, security, or any other important facet of your life. Somewhere in each dream are clues and, an answer. Oftentimes, a particular symbol will reveal a solution to a particular problem, invoke healing, or give you an important message.

The subconscious mind stores an enormous amount of information about you and releases that information to your conscious mind in your dreams, but only when you are ready to receive it. If not, then the hidden parts of yourself or ‘shadow’ will not be revealed (Note: the shadow can also represent your hidden talents, gifts, abilities, and desires, as well as fears, wounds, or traumas that you may still carry). Only when you are ready to face the shadow residing in your subconscious mind will the information be released. I call this important process dreamwork.

Dreamwork is the practice of collecting information about your life through dreams. Your dreams can provide highly accurate and individualized spiritual guidance. Dreams open the door to the different aspects of your self that may need healing. And there are some amazing things that you can do in your dreams, like lucid dreaming, for instance, but that is a more advanced level of dreamwork.

The first hurdle of dreamwork is learning how to remember your dreams (dream recall). We all dream but not everyone can remember the dreams they had the night before. Often, it is due to how we awaken from our nightly adventures in the dreamtime reality that determines how much we can remember. With a little practice, and setting your intention the night before, your dream recall will increase substantially.

After getting into the groove of recalling most of your dreams, the next important step is in understanding what the heck they mean. To do this, you will need to learn how to decode your dream symbols. Sounds difficult, right? It’s much easier than you think.

Once you begin to grasp the meaning of your dream symbols, it will get much easier, and before you know it, you’ll become an ace dream detective able to unlock the secret code of your dream messages!



Recalling your dreams takes practice, but like anything else, the more you do it, the better you will get. It usually takes me a few days to start remembering my dreams once I set my intention to remember them nightly. The most important ingredient to enhancing your dream recall is having the desire to do so. Hanging a dream catcher above your bed can also help.

So, how exactly do you go about catching an elusive dream?

1)   State your intention. Reaffirm your intention to remember your dreams right before you settle in for sleep. Repeat it a few times out loud or mentally to invoke your desire to remember.

2)   Be prepared. Have a dream journal or voice recorder on your nightstand. Sometimes, people use their phones as a voice recorder, but I don’t recommend keeping a cell phone (EMF) turned on unless it is in airplane mode.

3)   Wake up slowly. Give yourself time to lie in bed, and let your dreams come back to you. If you jump right out of bed or start thinking about your to-do list right away, the dream imagery may disappear before you have a chance to recall it.

4)   Record your dreams immediately. Write down as much as you can before the dream slips away. Sometimes, the act of writing it down will spark a memory to provide you with more detail. I often find that later in the day something will cause me to recall a fragment of the dream. Telling your dream to someone else can help you to remember more dream material.



Keeping your dreams in a journal is my preferred way to get started. The written word holds many more clues as to what your dream is telling you than just verbally retelling the dream. And without a record of your dreams, you will tend to forget about them. Also, it’s a great way to build your own lexicon of dream symbols, which will be invaluable later on. The act of writing tends to bring out your intuitive awareness, which is an essential quality needed in dream work. Later, when you are analyzing the dream, you can use wordplay. For example, I had a dream where I was bitten by a bug on my right hand after doing a dream incubation about my career (see the technique for in blog post, The Art of Dreaming: Part Two). After doing a dream analysis, I discovered that my right hand was also my “write” hand, and the answer was that I should write books, and I’m now a published author.

1)   Choose your favorite journal. I like to use a lined journal, but I’ve also used an artist’s hardbound sketchbook, which allowed me to draw images, and I totally loved doing it. Choose what works best for you.

2)   Date and title your dreams. It’s important to title the dream because each dream is a story, and the title you give it can lead to more clues as to what your dream is about.

3)   Write in the first person. This gives the dream intimacy and connection to the dreamer.

4)   What are you feeling? It’s important to note how you were feeling inside the dream. Were you angry, sad, scared, happy, or anxious? Feelings are one of the biggest clues for decoding dreams!



The dreams we remember are usually the most important ones. Vivid dreams (the ones that have a lot of emotion in them) often reveal clues to the conflicts we are facing in our lives, either internal or external or both. But your dreams can also reveal your goals in life, as well as your hidden desires. Your dream symbols are like confusing puzzles in a mystery, and you, as the detective, piece together the clues to discover the scene of the crime..

Your dreams can provide you with guidance and also divulge where you are headed in life, or they can give you a warning of any trouble up ahead so that you can adjust your course of action. By understanding your dream symbols, you can discover the nature of the conflict and heal it by releasing the energy that was tied up in your subconscious mind and provide a possible solution.

When the dream has been recorded in your journal, the next step is to decode your dream. How do you know that you’ve discovered the message from your dream? When you experience the aha moment. Something clicks and you just know in your gut that it’s right. Below are my favorite techniques that I like to use to analyze any dream. Pick any one of them to get started and discover the fun of interpreting your dreams!

1)   Identify the main “theme.” This is where the title that you gave your dream can give you a clue to its possible theme. Another way to do this is to take away the details of the dream and look at it as a whole. Themes help you to find the big picture and are usually the main action in the dream story.

2)   Next, match the theme to a specific area in your life. What is happening in your life right now? Is there an element in your life that is important and could be damaged or hurt in any way? Are you seeking answers?

3)   What are the strongest emotions in the dream? What images stand out to you?

4)   Are there people in the dream that you reject or fight against? When they are of the same gender, they likely represent your own rejected part of yourself—the shadow. Any conflict in the dream can point to an internal conflict that you might not be aware of yet—the part of you that you are wrestling with and in a sense rejecting. The dream actors who represent your own hidden shadow have come to the surface of your conscious mind to show you the movie of what is going on in your subconscious mind.

5)   Go over the sequence of events in the dream. Where in your life have such behaviors or situations happened before?

6)   Analyze the obvious. If your dream contained a monster, did you watch a horror movie before you went to bed? If you dreamed of eating, you could have gone to bed hungry. You can recognize each of these causes easily, and these dreams need little analysis.

7)   Use word association to get your intuitive mind flowing. For example, let’s say you dreamed of a tiger driving a car across a bridge. For tiger, you could use words: stripes, orange, power, terror, teeth, and claws. For the car: machine, tires, steering wheel, gas, control, movement, and independence. For the bridge: road, steel, tolls, suspension, height, span, link, connection, overpass, change, and transition. Now that you have your words, let’s look at an example of what they could mean. Time to sink your teeth and claws into something that makes you feel more in control of your life and cross the bridge of change to a place of independence. Have fun creating word association combinations and see what you can come up with. Remember to pay attention to your current state of affairs and your feelings and emotions.

8)   Employ the what part of me technique. Use any object or person in your dream and switch roles. For example, I had a dream of my mother cooking at the stove in my childhood home. What part of me is like my mother? The nurturing part? The critical part? Then what part of me criticizes or nurtures? You could also ask, what part of me is like the stove? What child-like part of me is cooking up ideas? What part of my life needs transforming? Kitchens are places that represent a transformation in some part of your life. If you had a dream about a rabbit, what part of you is attracting abundance, or fear? The Rabbit is a symbol of abundance or fear.

9)   Notice your first impressions. Your first intuitive answer may be your best one yet. Always trust your gut!

10) Use a dream dictionary to look up symbols.

Read Part Two


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Shelley Shayner

Also known as the Artistic Mystic, Shelley is a published author, an award-winning artist, and an intuitive. She has written and illustrated children’s books, adult non-fiction books, and journals. She has a B.A. in Illustration and there is always a painting in progress on her easel; her favorite subject matter is animals, nature, or some kind of fantasy. Shelley is also a spiritual advisor, a Reiki master, and a dream expert. She teaches workshops on Spirit Animals, Dreams, and Art.

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