Dream Power

So, I was walking down my driveway, when I saw the biggest Crow I ever remember, sitting in a tree, cawing to me. As I looked up, I started floating towards the Crow. I was elated; I couldn't believe this was really happening; I could actually feel myself floating in air. I sat in the tree next to the Crow, and suddenly realized - "oh," I said, " this is just a dream." the Crow cocked her head, and replied, "you know better than that,." "Yes!" I thought. I sat smiling next to my feathered friend, full of contentment. When I awoke, the contentment, and sense of empowerment were still present, and I felt inspired to take some personal creative risks in my work.

Dreaming can be a powerful and enriching part of our lives. Dreams can help us feel more rested, bring us clarity, and help us find our own sense of inner wisdom. Dreams impact us even if we do not remember, or understand, them. They shift our energy; tease us with pieces of information; offer us clues to what might make our lives more fulfilling.

In my work as a psychotherapist and workshop leader, I focus a great deal on dreams, and the importance of them in our lives. The Huichol Indian tribe in Mexico perceives that "nothing happens in this reality, unless we dream it first." In their culture, as in many others, the concept that it is "just a dream" is incomprehensible.

We tend to define, and experience, dreaming in a very limited way. The Australian Aboriginal "Dreamtime," for example, includes our connection with nature, and insights we may have while we are "in relationship" with nature. Many of us can remember a time when we have been walking in the woods, or sitting on a rock by the ocean, and suddenly the solution to a problem is clear, or insight forms, and we KNOW what we want to do next.

Western culture's emphasis on left brain functioning makes us "left-brain heavy." We often need practice to open ourselves to right brain activity which includes dreaming. Spending time in nature, meditating, dancing, singing, listening to music, engaging in art, writing, fantasizing, reading novels, reading and writing poetry, all help us open channels to new ways of thinking and perceiving the world around us. As we intentionally engage in these activities, we may remember our dreams more, and allow them to take a more supportive, even directive role in our lives.

Throughout history, there have been examples of people using their dreams effectively. Einstein found the last element to his theory of relativity in a dream. Pasteur dreamed the "secret" to pasteurization. Less dramatic "answers" are discovered in dreams all the time. Recently, a client of mine was about to take a job. After dreaming that the job was not a good choice for her, she decided to wait before accepting the position. Shortly thereafter another job opened up, which was much more to her liking.

If we are not accustomed to working with our dreams, we may need training in remembering our dreams, and interpreting them in ways that will be helpful to us. In the beginning, our dreams may be a mish mash of our day's activities. They may seem unpleasant, confusing, or disjointed. As we practice, and engage in some of the right brain exercises that expand our perception, our dreams will become richer, have deeper meaning, and provide more insights for us to use in our daily lives.

In my workshops and in my psychotherapy practice, one of the things I do is encourage people to work with their dreams. The first step is to help them remember their dreams. The following is a list of suggestions that have been successful for many people.

  • Before going to sleep, engage in something relaxing - listen to music, do some meditative movement; read a pleasant book.
  • As you are going to sleep, state your intent to remember a dream.
  • Keep a pen and paper by your bed. Write anything that you remember as soon as you awake. If you can't remember the whole dream, write any images, pieces of the dream you do remember.
  • If at all possible, at least one morning a week, allow yourself to awake naturally, without an alarm.
  • First thing in the morning, spend time recalling, and reflecting on, your dream.
  • Share your dream with someone else.
  • Work, and play, with your dreams - keep a dream journal; write a poem about your dream; draw a picture depicting your dream; finish your dream in a creative way.
Our culture rarely supports our right brain activities. Traditionally there has been a bias against these activities as though they are not significant. This has impacted negatively on all of us, but particularly on women. To be a "woman of substance", seen as formidable, taken seriously, regarded as a professional, women have often had to negate or hide their right brain experience with dreams and intuition, as well as some of their artistic endeavors. Women who emphasize the importance of intuitive knowledge and creative expression, have been feared, discounted, and overlooked in many professions.

There are hopeful signs that our culture is changing. At a time when our society seems so focused on technological knowledge, we also see movement toward recognizing the value of right brain knowledge, including dreaming and intuitive wisdom. Recently, two of my business colleagues and I were asked by a women's organization to present a series of seminars that emphasize the importance of intuitive wisdom and dreaming in creating a successful business. We were excited to work with a group of women and men from our community, who embraced the concept of integrating their rational and intuitive skills in planning and promoting their businesses. In the world of counseling and psychotherapy, there is a broader focus on physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. New scientific evidence supports the modern application of what used to be thought of as "primitive" rituals, i.e. drumming, dancing, and chanting. Furthermore, creative work with the positive effects of sound, movement, and spending time in nature, are being regarded as viable and valuable treatment approaches in healthcare. This month I am attending a national psychotherapy conference in Washington DC. Several years ago, the conference's emphasis was on "family systems approaches in cognitive therapy." The name for this year's conference is "stepping into the moment," and offers a number of programs integrating mind / body therapies.

So, I enter the Dreamtime - maybe by walking in the woods, or fantasizing about being on a beach in the warm sun, or by flying with my Crow friend during my sleep, or by enjoying the company of a group of women I love. And then I "dance" or "sing" or "write" or "paint" those dreams alive! Sweet dreams!!

Claire Von Karls is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working with individuals, couples, and groups for over 25 years. She also presents workshops focusing on Practical Dreamwork, personal empowerment, intuitive wisdom, and ancient methods of healing.

In 2002, Claire founded the Riverside Counseling Center in Littleton, NH, fulfilling her own dream of establishing a center that emphasizes wellness, prevention, and personal growth.

Claire empowers people to achieve their life goals, and fulfill their dreams. Her work moves beyond helping people deal effectively with everyday problems of living, to helping them find the tools and resources they need to create the life they want. Recognizing and relying on personal inner wisdom, and forming a sense of emotional and spiritual balance, are essential tools in this process. In her workshops, Claire guides participants through a number of transformative experiences, helping them discover ways to bring satisfaction and harmony into their lives.

For more information about workshops and services provided at the Riverside Counseling Center, please contact Claire Von Karls at (603) 823-5566, or by email, cvonkarls1@gmail.com.

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