In a busy life, it can seem like we have no time for ourselves. We all seem to have such full lives, every waking moment is taken up by work, looking after the children, cleaning the house, studying, exercising or sports, trying to find time to spend with friends and family. Squeezing anything else in can feel like an impossible task.
The great thing about dreams is that no matter how full and busy our lives are, we still need to sleep, and we we will always dream. Dreaming is as essential to our health and well being as exercise, it is like oxygen for the soul. Still, many of us think that all we need to do to live a happy, healthy life, is to sleep and let dreams take care of themselves. And if we have never experienced anything different, it is easy to believe that is true.
But if we ignore our dreams we ignore a part of ourselves. Just as we need to find space in our waking lives every now and then to keep in touch with our mother, or play with our children, so too must we find the time to listen to what is going on in our own minds. Dreams allow us to learn lessons from our mistakes, so we are not doomed to repeat them. Dreams allow us to to see what is really going on in a certain situation, so we can make the best decisions. Dreams offer us peace, wisdom and solace, so that we may heal and recover from past hurts. If we ignore our dreams, we ignore ourselves.
Dreams that are ignored may become like a child that is neglected. Such a sad child is likely to be naughty and misbehave to get attention, any attention at all, even if it is being told off. At least by being punished someone is paying attention. Our dreams may act in a similar way. If we don’t pay attention when they are gentle and mild, our dreams may become more insistent, turning into bad dreams, recurring dreams or even nightmares. If we ignore them completely for too long, they may even go underground, manifesting as illness or anxiety.
To only focus on our waking lives, and not pay attention to what happens when we sleep is to live a disjointed life. If we make no space for dreams in our waking life, it is like living only half a life, ignoring what happens when we close our eyes. It does not take much to start listening to our dreams. It really starts with simply paying attention, deciding that our dreams are worth listening to. By taking a moment when we wake to remember our dreams, and finding some space later in the day to contemplate them, to consider what we dreamed and what it might mean, we build a bridge between our conscious and subconscious minds. This means we are not stranded on an island of wakefulness, and can start to access the wisdom of our dreaming mind.
Even if writing and recording dreams seems to take up too much time, we all have times in our day when can spare a few minutes thought to ourselves. It might be in the shower, on the train, waiting to pick the kids up from school, or those few minutes alone over that cup of tea or coffee. We have the choice what we want to think of, how we wish to use our time, where we want our minds to go. Even those few moments of reflection, of thinking, “what does this mean and what can I learn from this?” can be profoundly helpful.
We all owe it to ourselves to spend a little time in taking care of ourselves. And even beyond that, when we take care or ourselves, we find resolution from conflict, the confidence to make the right decision and the wisdom to act thoughtfully. This kind of behaviour is not just good for ourselves, but everyone who we come into contact with. A pretty grand result for just taking the time to listen to our dreams…