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The dream process is quite amenable to suggestion and conscious influence. It is probably most helpful to think of this action as similar to the process of memory. In seeking information from memory we hold a question or idea and the resulting associated memories or information are largely spontaneous. The question held directs what information is taken from the enormous pool of memory.
Our conscious queries can influence the process of dreaming, as dreaming and memory are in some ways akin. Like memory, the dream process will respond to your conscious input, and as dreams have access to our full memory, your creative potential as well as learned skills, such response to concerns or queries are often of great value.
To make use of this, first consider the query as fully as possible. Look at it from as many viewpoints as you can, talk it over with others. Make note of the areas that are already clear, and what still remains to be clarified. Just before going to sleep, use imagery to put your question to your unconscious resources. Imagine standing before a circle of gentle light – a symbol of your total self – and asking it for the information sought. Then, as if you have asked a question of a wise friend, create a relaxed state as if listening for the considered reply. In most cases, dreams that follow will in some way be a response to what is sought, though not necessarily in the way imagined.
More help in incubating a dream
Many people say they can see their dreams are influenced by the events of the day. Considering that the brain has a complex computing function, few people go on from that observation to stimulate their dreams to solve problems or analyse situations. Especially since a wider range of memories and associations are available to us while we sleep.
People who use this call it ‘dream incubation’. While it does not work every time, the response gathered from reasonable perseverance is enormously rewarding. Also it is quite easy to do. If you want to see what your own internal monitoring system says about your health for instance, decide to ask this of your dream process.
To incubate a dream means to seek earnestly for a dream that responds to a special need or question. This way of approaching the best in yourself for help has been practised widely in many cultures. Some evidence suggests it was first used as a means of curing sterility, and was wide-spread enough to be used by Australian aborigines as well as Chinese and North Africans. It evolved into a much wider application, and in more recent history its various uses range from young women seeking to dream about their future husband, to Amerindian youths fasting in lonely vigil to receive a dream about their inmost character and destiny. Many such approaches, as those used in Ancient Greece in the healing temples of Aesculapius49, were felt to be sacred. Individuals were helped to take on a feeling of approaching the divine and humbly seeking help from the highest wisdom. The effectiveness of this is to be found in many historical records.
In today’s world we have no dream incubation temples, and our culture does not often encourage us to take a cleansing fast and vigil to incubate a dream. We may not have learned the humility and joy felt in approaching the sacred. But we can still as individuals recognise that the forces behind nature and our own existence are special and potent. The great cycles of birth and death, or mating and reproduction are to be seen everywhere, and spring from eternal powers. To approach the fount of these with reverence is not irrational. To seek deeper understanding of your own life situation, your health, or your relationship with the whole, can still bring wonderful blessings and change.
Further information about incubating dreams
To apply this the first step is to recognise that the unconscious processes of your own mind and body, of your transcendent self, are not like a machine into which you can drop a coin or press a button and out pops a can of coke. The unconscious can be helpfully likened to a person. It is intelligent, responsive, is moved by meaningful communication and relatedness. To gain the help of this potent power in yourself, you need its co-operation.
The second step is to remember your dreams and see if they are already dealing with the subject you want information on. It may be your unconscious has other things that need attention first. So think around the question you want answered. Recognise the feelings surrounding the question. A frivolous question that does not connect with the important issues of your life will not easily get the attention of your unconscious. The more important the question is either for your own welfare or work, the more likely it is your unconscious will explore the issue and present a response in a dream.
When you have a reasonable respect for what you are approaching, define your question. Write it carefully as a letter to your unconscious and place it under your pillow. Expect a reply as you would expect a response from a good friend. Your unconscious is your best and loving friend. It knows you intimately as no one else does. When you wake, pause and let any dream flow into awareness. Record it immediately in some way. Then explore it as suggested in the sections above in The Dream Interview and Be Your Own Dream Detective. If you do not get a response the first time try again.
This first step of making the decision is important. You need to create the feeling you experience when, having decided something, you are free to get on with other things as the decision is made. As you lie in bed prior to sleeping, remember the decision. For a few moments create an image or feeling of sending a memo to your central computing system to give you a health report via your dreams. Ask for details to be given on any preventative health measures that might be useful also. On waking in the morning, before even shifting your position, ask yourself what you have been dreaming. If they are not captured in this way, dreams are often flooded out of memory by the impressions of body movement, sound or vision.