Susan is in her early 40s and teaches music at a local school. On this particular night, she's up in bed tossing and turning with intense stomach pain. The pain has been getting worse for about two months. On this night, it's unbearable.
Susan decides to engage in an age-old tradition in which people ask their dreams and soul for help with a pressing issue in their life. This can be for relationships, creativity, work, health, or anything relevant to your life. Research at Harvard has shown that medical issues generate a very high and clear response in dreams.
Susan had been in one of my dream groups and learned the five-step method to effectively consult a dream. On this night, with a grim look of pain on her face, she climbs out of her bed and takes out her dream journal. She lights a candle and says out loud, “Please, wise Mystery of the universe, help me.” Then she ponders the specific question that she wants to ask. She has learned that both the question and the dream tend to evaporate if she doesn’t write them down. “Dream, please show me what I am eating that is causing my stomach and body so much pain and inflammation,” she writes.
[Read: “7 Things You Should Know About Pain.”]
Engaging Dreams Through Ritual
Dreams respond well to engagement. It is as if the dream and soul like to be in a relationship with us. Rituals are a proven way to engage with dreams.
A ritual is any activity that is done with awareness, focus, and intent. Susan’s ritual is to make a little drawing of herself with the pain in her stomach. She uses a red pen to color the pain, then rips the page with the drawing out of her journal and puts it under her pillow. She meditates for a minute on her question while lying in bed, and then, exhausted, she finally falls asleep.
When she wakes up, Susan is grateful because she has had a dream. She writes in her dream journal.
“I’m sitting at a lunch table with a handful of people. There is a friend across from me and he has cabbage for a head and he was getting sick while we were at dinner. He was catching a fever and had beads of sweat dripping down his cabbage face. The dream goes on, and I’m telling my friend Sharon that I have little fermented hamburgers stuck in my gut. That they are blocking everything else. I go into a strange little restaurant in the middle of the mountains and I start to crack open two eggs. I decide not to eat the eggs and leave but realize I should still pay for them.”
She looks at the dream response and reads the answer to her question. What food causes her pain? The foods that show up in this dream are cabbage, fermented hamburgers, and eggs. Susan decides not to eat these foods and anything fermented for a while. She was surprised that within days she started feeling better, and within weeks all her inflammation and pain were gone.
Five-Step Process for Dream Incubation
In a nutshell, Susan’s example shows the five-step process of dream incubation, of asking your dreams for help.
- Recognize a problem that you can ask your dreams for help with.
- Develop a question.
- Engage in a ritual as Susan did in the example above (write down your question, and meditate on it before bed).
- Write down your dream as soon as you wake up.
- Follow up on the dream and make changes to address your problem.
Part of the success of this method lies in the heartfelt intention with which you approach asking the dream or soul for help. There is a benign force in the universe that wants to help. Almost every culture throughout history has noticed that and has developed ways to engage with this mystery to get support and guidance for their daily life. Eastern spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Chinese folk religions, all refer to this. African and Native American traditions have also developed rituals in which they ask the soul to help them in their dreams.
We are in good company when we engage in this method. When we create attentive rituals for each of these five steps, we increase the helpfulness and the clarity of the dream response.
Optimal Dream Q&A
Another part of the success of a helpful dream answer lies in developing a good question. Ask and you shall be given—ask better questions and you get better answers. Take your time to sense what you really want to know. A question that is relevant to your life and your life path seems to work best. Perhaps you can develop a generous question that is good for you and the world around you. Usually, you should ask one question at a time as that makes it easier to read the dream's response to it.
Here are some questions that you can experiment with:
- What is one type of food that you recommend I delete from my diet?
- What is one type of food that you suggest I add to my diet?
- What is one thing that I can do to love myself more deeply?
- How can I develop more self-esteem?
The dream loves to be engaged, and you can play, experiment, and try. The most important thing is that you develop and nurture your own relationship with your soul, and further develop the way you communicate with your soul. I wish you fun and fulfilling dream questions and answers!
Want more on dreams? Read: “Can Spiritual Sleep Help You Learn, Heal, and Reach Your Full Potential?”