M1. Dreamwork often focuses on dreams you have already had, and lucid dreaming focuses on your current dream while it is progressing. Now I want to mention dream incubation where you focus on a dream you want to have.
It’s an ancient practice used by the Greeks at their Temple of Asclepius at Epidaurus over two thousand years ago. Here pilgrims would attend to ask the god that they could be healed of some sickness.
After various cleansing rituals, they would spend the night in the holiest part of the temple and pray that they would experience a dream that would be later interpreted by the priests to enable a cure to be given. That praying for a special dream would now be called dream incubation.
It’s also possible to experience unconscious dream incubation. This happens often when we are children and we wish for something very passionately. The idea is picked up by the unconscious mind and it is triggered to happen in our dreams.
It also happens in a negative way with thinking over and over about our worries and worldly concerns, we unconsciously incubate the beginnings of our nightmares.
There are many people now who believe that dreams reflect aspects of our waking concerns. So it’s a small step further to believe that anything we do in waking life reflects the dreams we have had. This is summarized nicely in a quote from the influential American Poet, Carl Sandburg when he said,
“Nothing happens unless first we dream”
How to Incubate a Dream
- Motivation: If you have a problem that you need to solve or a situation you need to resolve, then the best thing to do is “sleep on it”. People have been solving life’s problems in their dreams forever. So first get in your head something that is really important to you to solve.
- Intention: The thing you want to dream about needs to be a “must” for you. If you need to take any time to think about what you want to do in your dream then don’t bother with dream incubation – mere curiosity is not enough.
- Imagination: Clarify what you want to achieve by writing it down on a piece of paper and putting it under your pillow; or finding an appropriate object to put on your bedside table; or put a picture next to you on what you want to dream of; or if you are an artist stuck for an idea then put a blank canvas next to your bed! But whatever you do, fix the idea in your imagination.
- Ritual: Make a ritual ceremony out of going to bed and going to sleep. Incorporate a meditation on your intention or a mantra to say as you go to sleep, or a deliberate process for going to bed and going to sleep on this night that makes it memorable and special.
- Recall: When you wake up in the morning, follow the dream recall rules to make sure you don’t forget the details of your dreams. Don’t just jump up when the alarm goes off.
- Record: Write down what you remember of your dreams before they fade from your memory.
- Ritual Action: Make sure you acknowledge your dream incubation process by conducting a small ritual ceremony that requires actions and not just thoughts. For example, light a candle and give thanks to your Committee of Sleep.
In her book, The Committee of Sleep by Deirdre Barrett who was a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, she says,
“Dreaming is, above all, a time when the unheard parts of ourselves are allowed to speak…and we would do well to listen.”
Dream incubation is indeed a powerful procedure to achieve tangible results and benefits from your dreams.