Epoch Health Podcast

Exploring Dreams: Your Inner Virtual Reality

BY Conan Milner TIMEAugust 25, 2022 PRINT

Hello, my name is Conan Milner and this is Words of Wellness, a show where we discuss health from mind to body to spirit.

Today we’ll be talking about dreams.

Dreams are like virtual reality, but you don’t need special goggles or software. You simply go to sleep and enter another dimension where you can fly, visit people who have passed on, or perform other acts that defy the logic and physical constraints of the waking world.

But do dreams really serve any purpose, or are these just hollow visions with no practical connection to the real world?

Modern theories from the world of neuroscience suggest that dreams are just meaningless hallucinations; nothing more than electrical brain impulses that produce a jumbled collage of thoughts and memories while we sleep.

Our ancient ancestors however, believed dreams were something more. People in the distant past considered these nightly visions to be a conduit for crucial messages. Such traditions saw dreams as a source of insight and guidance as told through the language of symbols and metaphor.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung helped to rekindle the importance of dreams in the modern age. Jung famously mined the dream world for answers that might elude his patients in their waking lives. He also tapped into the symbolic communication method with which dreams are set to speak.

Artists and filmmakers are often inspired by dreams and even try to recreate the visions they see. But this symbolic language of the dream world can be difficult to decipher. As you try to puzzle out what particular dream might mean the next morning. Consider, however, that this is where a dream’s power really lies.

Jung wrote that dreams reveal the pure unvarnished truth of ourselves that exists “outside the control of the will.”

My guest today follows in the Jungian tradition, Machiel Klerk, is a licensed mental health therapist who uses dreams as a transformative tool with a process called dream incubation. Klerk invites us to realize that our dreams are far more meaningful than electrical brain activity. He says that dreams can offer us an understanding that is in our best interest to interpret. His new book,”Dream Guidance,” describes how to actively use our dreams as a source of insight, and how to read the messages our subconscious wants to share.

Machiel, thanks for talking to me today. I wonder if we can start off by discussing how you came to focus on dreams and see them in a therapeutic way?

Machiel Klerk: “Conan, it’s great to be here with you.  I’ll start with the notion of how I came to get connected to dreams.

In my early 20s, I was so stuck in my life. I had a lack of purpose, lack of meaning, and a sense of depression. I hadn’t dealt well with the loss of my father at the age of 10. And unresolved grief had been building up. I didn’t know what to do with my life. And then, by chance, I stumbled upon the works of Carl Jung, who gave me a clue on how to read dreams and understand dreams.

I started writing down my own dreams. And I saw that dreams are kind of psychological X-rays that display where we are and dynamics that we act out. It gives you great insight into the destructive patterns that we live out, but also the direction that the psyche actually wants to grow in. And so, by reconnecting to dreams, my own life became much, much more purposeful. And so ever since I’ve been studying dreams.

Conan Milner: I want to talk to you about what you think dreams actually are. You just presented the idea of psychological X-rays. But what purpose do they serve, and how do they relate to our waking lives?

Machiel Klerk: Well, even the latest neuroscience has shifted slightly from saying it’s meaningless, to saying that it is chaos, but that there is an underlying pattern in the chaos. So it is no longer completely random. It follows patterns. And a couple of insights that come from it is that dreams seem to have to do with memory formation.

The things we do during the day are stored at night and a memory is created. It also has shown that dreams help with learning. And they’ve done all kinds of tests. It started out with mice they let run through a maze. They noticed that at night, the brain pattern [of mice] would show up in exactly the same way as when they were learning how to run through the maze in the correct way. They could even see where the mouse was in the maze, based on the brain pattern.

The next day, they did better at their task. That’s suggesting that if you practice a skill, at night you start dreaming about it. Your mind starts learning it further and integrating the skill, and the next day, you’re better at that skill.

So for all the students that are listening, it’s better to sleep at night after learning before you do a test. Don’t try to cram it down in one or two or three hours where your dreaming will be very short.

These are some of the practical reflections neuroscience has to offer. And I think there are many ways to go about this, but dreams seem to display emotional activities that we are challenged by throughout the day. They come back in at night. It’s like the psyche itself wants to become itself, just like a rose seed wants to become a rose, and the acorn wants to become an oak, the human psyche or soul wants to become itself.

The flow of the imagination in dreams points towards the direction that our life moves into. In our day to day life, you will fantasize, which is daydreaming–a form of dreaming during the day where you will think about the things that you desire. You fantasize about the guy or girl that really interests you. The soccer player fantasizes about soccer. The violinist fantasizes about playing the violin. Something in us fantasizes and dreams about what we are about to become.

You see that also in dreaming, that it pre-configures the direction we’re heading in. And that is very helpful, because then we can align ourselves with the direction that our own soul wants to move in, and then become more in tune with who we really are.

In dreams you can encounter deceased loved ones, or characters that seem to possess a significant amount of insight and knowledge, that can give directions. Dreams can tell you what happens in another continent, or show what is maybe about to happen in the next couple of days. Dreams have a variety of possibilities.

I have even more to say about your metaphor of the virtual reality

Conan Milner: Go ahead. I would like to hear what you think of that. When I was writing the intro, virtual reality was the first thing that popped in my mind as a metaphor to describe what dreams were. I thought it fit, but I’d like to hear your interpretation.

Machiel Klerk: Oh, I love it. I think it’s perfect. Because virtual reality is a world that you find yourself in. And that is such a crucial understanding about what a dream is. So in the virtual reality, you are somewhere, you engage in that reality. Think about the dream you had last night, or one that was particularly vivid. Remember that dream, and then notice where you are in the dream. And just notice whether it’s a light or dark area, and whether you’re inside or outside, whether there is a car or another person. Notice how you respond to that person. If you follow that, you know, from your own experience, that in the dream, you are in a world. And in this world, actually your mind is kind of active, you’re somewhat aware, you’re just not aware that you’re in this dream world, but you’re aware that, hey, there’s the crocodile, or there’s the car, and you’re having an interaction. And those are features of what a dream is.

In the Western tradition, for a long time, dreams have often been seen as a kind of a letter from a mystery source to you that needs to be deciphered. But that letter metaphor is two dimensional, where your virtual reality metaphor does far more justice to what a dream really is. To dream is an experience in a world that you take for real when you’re in it. At night, you’re actually in a world that you take for real. Then you wake up and you’re again in a world that you take for real.A lot of people think the dream world is not important. But then you go to bed again, and you’re again in that world that you take for real. So we’re constantly living in worlds that we take for real, and where we have these interactions.

Actually, there are multiple worlds coexisting, because when you’re in the dream, your body is just laying in bed, in this dense reality or the waking world. When you’re in this dream world, the waking world doesn’t disappear. It’s like a stream of consciousness that coexists with this reality, and is full of creative intelligence, and states of consciousness that are really helpful. The intelligence knows what can happen tomorrow, or somebody somewhere far away knows about you. So it becomes about how I can integrate the waking world with the dream world, and then you get in a flow state. And that is where one of the real practices behind dreaming is. You get a connection with the world of dreams and its intelligence, and let it flow into the [waking]world. So you find some guidance, and then you get more in a state of flow and purpose.

Conan Milner: The more that we talk about this, the more real and substantial the dream world becomes for me. But I can’t help but think that the culture we live in typically discounts the value of dreams. I think about the phrase, “it’s just a dream,” which means “don’t worry about it. It’s not real, it doesn’t really mean anything.” So why do you think we discount the importance of this other nightly experience that we have?

Machiel Klerk: Yeah, it is, it is very common to our Western psychology. I’ve traveled the world and I’ve met people from indigenous cultures, and they take the dream world as very, very important. They come together in the morning, and look at what their dream says. They try to have this relationship with the dream. You see it in many spiritual or religious traditions where there is the notion that the divine can communicate and continues to communicate with individuals in dreams. So they pay attention that way.

I think around the end of the Middle Ages, in Western culture, there became a split where we started to develop a very strong thinking to take this [waking] reality as real. What you can observe directly in scientific experiments  and can repeat in tests become real. In English “real” comes from realis, which is a Latin word, which means the things of the world. Things are real. And in Dutch, where I come from, you have “werkelijkheid,” which is something like real, but literally means that which works.

But a lot of things work, like intuition or feelings or following your gut. But that is not scientifically able to make it repeatable. So we all know we have a gut feeling. Some don’t know we have intuition, but intuitions are one type of phenomena. And therefore they fall outside of the classic scientific worldview that has become so dominant and unbelievably successful.

We can go to the moon, we have TVs, we can communicate this way right now, and there are great breakthroughs in medical science. So science brought us very far, but to focus on only repeatable things started to discount the world of imagination, intuitions, fantasies, feelings, and nighttime dreams. And that has been relegated to the margins. But that tendency really started at the end of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance in the western psyche, and has become dominant. But I do think that in general, people want to get in back touch with the deeper layers of one’s own being. So I’m hopeful that it will come back to life.

Conan Milner: Even though our culture doesn’t support it, we are hungry for these types of things. Because I feel that this makes us human. And just to focus on the repeatable, and the phenomena that we can measure, it’s sort of a boring, one-dimensional existence.

Machiel Klerk: Yeah, very much. So there is something in us that is unique, that wants to express itself. And that unique expression wants to become itself. That’s what we’re really hungry for. And once you get in touch with that, life becomes also more interesting and colorful, and a kind of magical adventure. It’s the virtual reality that we have at night, and we also live in metaphorically during the day. It’s always a unique reality. Every moment is unique. That moment has never been there before. And so it requires a unique engagement from all of us to be present to that, and figure out how to engage with it. And science can bring us somewhere, but not all the way.

Conan Milner: Yes, it’s not the be all and end all, for sure. So when I think about the dreams that I’ve had, I make two categories. One is kind of like a jumble of memories. Maybe it’s a song I heard that day or something I saw on TV, and it’s mixed up with other things, and it’s really hard to follow and kind of vague. And then there’s another kind of dream that just demands my attention. It demands that I look at it more closely. I feel like I actually experienced this kind of dream. Is this separation just in my imagination, or are there different categories of dreams that we experience?

Machiel Klerk: Yeah, I think you’re right, I experience much the same.

Carl Jung once visited the Indians of North America. And they made the distinction between the little dream and the big dream. The big dream would come way more infrequent. But the big dream would be a very impressive dream, whether it would be a nightmare or something that a person needs to do, or meeting an ancestor, or some intensity in the dream would make it a big dream.

I think that if you look at neuroscience, it does look like the brain digests the day experiences and reconfigures them. Some dreams are more meaningful than others.

There is one way to work with dreams that I could offer. Instead of asking the question–what does this mean?–because then you get quickly stuck. You need to know all the symbols and your personal mind is making up all the symbols. Instead, you could also ask: what is happening? By asking what is happening, you start looking more at the experience. And then you tease out the feelings and, and maybe the storyline. And then you can wonder: does this sound familiar to me? Do I notice this in my life? Is this something I do. or don’t do? And then you get a different way of being, even with the smaller dreams

Conan Milner: That makes sense, because, in our waking lives, we’re just looking at the experience rather than what it means. Meaning might cross our mind, but it speaks to the notion that the dream world is an experience just like the waking world.

Machiel Klerk: Yes, and if you take that even a step further, and this is especially the case in Tibetan Buddhism and in certain Eastern traditions, where you start looking at the virtual reality of dreams, and start figuring out how this virtual reality is created. What causes this virtual reality? What are the laws in this virtual reality? And then you start noticing, especially in lucid dreaming, where you can, for example, step through a wall. Or you can fly. Then you can notice that, Hey, I can step through the wall because I expect that I can step through the wall. But the moment that I am in the dream, I think: Is this really a dream? Then you try to step through the wall, but you bounce off the wall, and you cannot step through it. And so expectation co- creates reality, or creates the virtual reality. And there’s a couple of others of these psychological reality creating principles that create that virtual reality. And once you know how they function, you will start seeing that this world is more or less created in the same way. It is much slower because it’s denser. But the creating principle is very similar. So you can start learning to live in alignment with these realities with these principles that create reality. And life becomes easier because you’re more in tune with how life operates.

Conan Milner: I think that we’re familiar with the rules of waking reality, but not so much in the dream world. That’s why I feel like lucid dreaming has always been so elusive to me. Because in a dream, I have a hard time realizing it’s a dream, even if I’m doing fantastic things.

Machiel Klerk: Yeah. For many of us, by far the majority of our dreams are not lucid dreams. And it speaks to the reality of the virtual reality of dream–the dream created in a flash of a second in a world that we take for real. When we dream of an alligator, we see it and we run. And in a very few dreams, there’s something you can train to a certain extent. It’s where you question things. An alligator, that is weird. Oh, this is a dream. And once you know that you’re in the dream, you can start experimenting.

Some people experience this spontaneously. It is a somewhat learnable skill by really practicing throughout the day and asking yourself if this is a dream and how do I know this is a dream or not? You have to test. Maybe you push against the wall or the table, or try to push your finger through your hand. If you can’t do that, you’re in this dense reality. Otherwise, you’ll realize you’re in dream reality. And then you can do your experiment. You can ask: What happens if I touch the alligator? Then you can really start exploring. How does this reality get created through beliefs, expectations, and intent to focus and some mystery factor. And once I know how that reality works, I also know how the daily reality is being locked in.

Conan Milner:  Testing the boundaries of reality. Well, I think this differs pretty sharply from how most of us dream, which is kind of a passive way. We just go to sleep, and then it happens. But I want to talk about this process that you described in your book of dream incubation. Because this seems like a more active way of dreaming, where you’re more engaged in the process. I wonder if you can talk about what dream incubation is? How do you do it? And where does the idea come from?

Machiel Klerk: Yeah, it’s a very old method in which you ask your dream a question before you go to sleep in order to get a helpful response to any problem that you have in your life. Actually, it started with me when I was not able to quickly and easily lucid dream where you can do all these experiments. So I thought, what if I asked the dream questions and then see what happens. I started noticing that you can ask the dream questions and receive remarkable answers.

This is a technique that comes from all kinds of spiritual and shamanic traditions, and in the old Greek healing traditions, where people had figured out that there is some helpful intelligence in the depths of our soul or in the universe, that is on standby. If you turn towards it, it can provide this help and be even more effective. So you can ask your dream anything that is emotionally relevant to you, whether you want to be more loving to yourself, you want to improve your diet, you want to increase your finances, you want to find a loved one. Whatever it is that is relevant to your life path. Your own soul wants to help and it can help in many ways. But dream incubation is a way that anyone could test tonight. We can go over the steps in more detail. But you can ask your dream a question and it will help.

Conan Milner: Give me an example and discuss the steps because I want to give people a feeling for what’s involved in the process.

Machiel Klerk: Recently, I had a man who had been divorced for a year and felt like he could get back into dating.  He had been on a couple of dates, but noticed it didn’t really flow well. And so he came to me and said that he wanted to find a loving partner. He said, “Can I ask the dream that?” I said, “Of course, this is a great question. A great intent. You bet. Let’s work on it.”

So he reflected a little bit on it. And that is step one: noticing that you have a question that you want to ask. And actually we have many questions alive in us, some of which we don’t even dare ask. Those are usually the best questions. Notice in yourself what question is alive. Sometimes there’s a question like, “Would it be good for me to leave this job? Am I still in the right relationship?” Those are excellent questions.

Step two is to create and formulate a good question. And so this man was reflecting on it. And he said, “Well, actually, I really want to figure out what is my biggest obstacle in dating? I think if I overcome my obstacle, I will be able to be with a partner.” There was something in him that knew there was an obstacle. So he wrote down, “What is my biggest obstacle in my dating life?

You want to have a simple question. With simple I mean, one question at a time, and open ended. Think of something that is supportive to you. And then step three is to create a ritual. And with a ritual, I really mean a way of inviting the world of dreams to come into your life. Whether it is the soul, or if they don’t believe in anything, they can just say the brain, that will work too. Whatever their name is for the mystery that is larger than ourselves. It’s something you really would love to be able to express and have in your life.

So this man wanted to become a more loving person, where he could give love to others and be of support to others, and help even the colleagues he worked with. There was a real intention. So he made a drawing of a heart with a big question mark on it. And he wrote a little bit more, and he spent some time on it. And that’s very essential, because you need a great question and to create a good ritual. There’s this wise inner companion that functions better if we approach it with respect, with interest. So he did that.

Step four is go to bed, meditate a little bit on it,  and sleep. The next morning, he wrote down his dream, which is essential–write down the dream upon waking, because they have a tendency to evaporate. In the dream, he was driving a car. And in front of him was another car, and to the right he sees a mountain lion, and he’s in a tunnel. When he gets closer, he sees it’s a tiger. It’s beautiful. But he’s very afraid of it. So he immediately stops the car and backs out of the tunnel.

That was his dream. So he asked, “What is happening?,” not “What does this mean?” Because the meaning would then get stripped And a lot of us don’t have an extensive understanding of symbols You could look it up, and get confusing answers. But everyone can ask the question, “What is happening?”

What he saw in the dream was that he was driving in a tunnel. He saw something really beautiful, but really scary, so he backs out. And he said, “Oh, I can see where I am in my dating life. When I get really scared, my impulse is to back out. When I get too vulnerable, or the person is really impressive to me, I get fearful and instead of sustaining the fear, I leave. That is what my biggest obstacle is.” So then he could work further on that issue.

So that is it in a nutshell, the process of dream incubation. Identify your question, formulate a great question, engage in a ritual, sleep and dream. Step five is to write down the dream and then work on it. Even if you don’t get it right away, work on it because the answer will come in some form throughout the day to you.

Conan Milner: One of the statements in your book that pertains to this and what I thought was really insightful was, “The best answers are contained within ourselves.” But I think that when people hear about this technique, they might think, “Oh, boy, I can ask my dreams for anything.” However, one of the things you caution is not to use this as a kind of “wish fulfilling genie.” Talk a bit more about what kinds of questions we should ask in our dreams. The process reminds me of prayer a little bit– sustained and meditative. It’s not something we do just on a whim. These are questions that are deep within our hearts,

Machiel Klerk: Beautiful, I concur. It’s like prayer, where you also approach the phenomenon you address with respect. You engage in it, and you share something that is really meaningful to yourself. The same ways of engagement are applicable to dream incubation as well.

They did a study on dream incubation, and it was even published in Scientific American. What they noticed is that the people who asked a question that was emotionally relevant to them would get helpful responses. If people would ask a question that was too conceptual, not personally relevant, they would barely get any understandable dream answers.

What I’ve noticed with myself and the people I’ve worked with is that people who ask questions that are relevant to their life path and the growth of their soul, they get really good answers. But if you ask a question like, “What did my neighbor have for dinner last night?” That will not give you anything.

There is a wise inner counselor who is on standby and wants to help. So ask anything that is relevant to your life, anything that you’ve already put some work into.

Don’t go to the dream and say, “I don’t know what’s going on between me and my partner. I’m so stuck in this marriage. I want to leave, but I can’t get out. What can I do to get out?” Or “How do I find a partner?” Or, “How can I grow my business so it can touch the people that would benefit from it?” Because dreams are really a kind of coach. It doesn’t want to facilitate a dependency. So think about it.

Conan Milner: It seems to me that you have to have some humility with this process. It’s not just putting a coin in the dream slot, and your prize comes out. You play an active role in manifesting what the answer is.

Machiel Klerk: Yes. Very true. That genie in Aladdin will just fulfill any wish. You can ask whatever you want, if you want a Ferrari, a great house, or whatever. That’s not what it’s about.

You came into the world with talents to deliver to your community, and with wounds that require healing, and anything that has to do with helping you heal what your wounds or help you deliver your gift to a community is what will be supported. And with healing wounds or delivering gifts to the community, includes that you have a healthy body, that you have a loving relationship with yourself, that you have a connection to something larger, that you have a sense of purpose, that you are creative. Also that you have fun in life. There is this unbelievable intelligence that is willing to help you through dreams, and it’s available for anyone.

I’ve noticed that people who have never written down a dream doubt whether they have dreams. But when they did this process with a heartfelt intention, they got great answers. So it is really available to anyone you don’t need any pre knowledge, any study of dreams, You just need humility, desire, and be willing to experiment. You don’t even have to believe this. You can just say, “Hey, I was listening to this person today, and he said that this is possible. I doubt it to be honest, but, gosh, I could use some help. So please show me what’s going on here.”

If a dream comes, follow up on it. People can just start experimenting and engage with this creative mystery.

Conan Milner: I want to talk about interpretation. Because this it’s part, of how we engage in the dream. It’s not just a vision we have, it’s about how we read it.

You mentioned before that we should look for experience rather than meaning. But, you know, it’s hard not not to want to take some meaning from it. It’s a subjective process, of course, it’s not at all an exact science. I don’t think it can be.

In your book, you say that when it comes to interpretation or symbols in dreams, that you don’t apply a one size fits all approach. I’ve always been annoyed by sources that dictate a this-always-means-that type of interpretation for dream symbols. Because how could they know? So how should we go about interpreting our dreams?

Machiel Klerk: Well, if we go back to the virtual reality metaphor and say the dream in this world takes on the form and shape of your thoughts and emotions. So if I’m talking with you and I think.”Gosh, I’m rambling on. I’m not explaining this well.” Then, in a dream, a door might open up and my previous boss would come in, and I would see him shake his head. In dream interpretation, we would ask: “What do you associate with this previous boss?” I would say,  “Oh, he’s very critical.” So in the dream, this critical nature comes into my virtual reality as the form and shape of my previous boss because that is closest to this critical aspect that my mind can contrast this emotion with.

In your case, this critic might be your neighbor, or a teacher from high school. In someone else’s  case, it’s going to be someone else. So you can see that there’s a high level of individual dream symbol creating that is in your mind and cannot be standardized. To his wife, my previous boss might mean a loving, generous husband. And he might very well be. The relationship and interpretation would be different.

There’s one thing that we know, our own mind creates these dream symbols based partly on our own emotions and thoughts. So one way we can pull off the skin of the dream character is by asking, “What do I associate this person to be.” They may be critical, strong, or whatever.

In my travels, I’ve seen that some cultures look at things differently.  Like the snake in the Greek tradition is a healing symbol. I still see that in the caduceus of the doctor. But other traditions say, “Oh no, the snake is the devil. And so we should stay away from snakes.” So symbols can mean something different in different cultures due to context. So there’s not one, one, meaning attached to certain symbols.

We can look at fairy tales, mythologies, and movies, and see a wise old man playing more or less the same role. It’s what you would call an archetypal character, meaning that most old wise men are interpreted the same way. But not always, because the old wise man in your dream might be upset with you, so you will have a different relationship.

Again, there are some general symbols that we all share, that have a certain meaning. But even then, like the sense of home, there’s a lot of individual subjective emotions that come with it. So my sense of home might not be your sense of home.

Once you understand how that virtual reality is created, through your thoughts and emotions, you can understand a little bit better how the association works.

For dream characters, you can learn a bit about them by reading fairy tales and mythologies. But we always have to look at, what is it in your dream? What is this snake in your dream doing? Is it hissing? Does it look friendly? Is it dangerous? Is it sleeping? That is your virtual reality And you will always have to have to see how it is manifesting in your particular dream.

Conan Milner: So symbols are deeply personal, and context dependent. That makes the dreamer an essential ingredient. You can’t just hand this over to a dream expert and expect him to get the right answer.  You have to go through the work of parsing it out.

Machiel: Yeah, yeah. It’s called dream work for a reason. You have to put in some work. Because it is your relationship to your soul. And you’re responsible for your own interpretation. Your soul will communicate with you in a unique way.

Conan Milner: Does everyone dream?

Machiel Klerk: Yeah. There are some very few exceptions where people have a brain injury and their brain is not functioning optimally. But we actually all dream about two hours each night, and they estimate we have from four to seven dreams through these cycles each night.

The reason that we don’t remember our dreams is that our short term memory goes offline. Your mind creates this virtual reality, where you’re having two hours of experiences. But you don’t remember what you did in those two hours. I51:05

Conan Milner: The reason I ask is because I’ve had stretches of time in my life where I don’t seem to be dreaming or my dream recall is really poor. I will hear other people talk about their very detailed dream life, but it’s just not the same for me. Some mornings I wake up. I know I saw or did things of a spectacular nature. But the details are so vague and blurry that by the time I get to the bathroom, it is gone. Do you have any advice for improving dream recall?

Machiel Klerk: Yeah, it will go through those phases. I have that too. Sometimes it’s stronger than other times.

What improves dream recall is interest. I would love to have a dream. Well tell the dream. We haven’t been in touch much recently. But I would love for you to come by tonight. I’m very curious about what’s going to happen. So you might have a notebook and pen, which are the two most important ingredients for dream recall. Because when they come, I will write them down immediately in the morning. Even if you wake up and it just slipped away, but I still feel like there was some tension in my gut, or I have this very weird feeling of unease, I just write down the feelings in  my body. And then you put the first little symbols to the dream that you’re interested in.

If you turn towards the dream, you’ll get more dreams and better dreams. And that is really the key to dream recall. If you do that, within days, you will have more dreams in your life. Most of us don’t remember all their dreams every night.. But when people write down their dreams, they also feel that they get more intuition during the day, and that their mind is more attuned to synchronistic events where these interesting coincidences happen on a person’s path. They are more open to it. So we get more in the flow of life that will carry us in that direction? That is good for us. It is where we need to be.

Conan Milner: It seems to me that the whole process in our relationship with dreams has to be cultivated, even though this is something that automatically happens. Just like our waking life, the richness of our dream life has everything to do with how much effort we put in.

Machiel Klerk: Yeah, indigenous cultures noticed this as well. One tribe of Indians were dependent upon their dream life or where to hunt and where to stay the night. And they just noticed if they acknowledged the dream, whether it was a piece of art, or just followed up on the dream, they would get better dreams and more dreams.

And for us, we may not understand the dream but just say, “Thank you dream, I’m so happy I got this dream.” And maybe can do something as a little response to it. Maybe I’ll make a quick drawing. Just the fact that you think the dream, the inner compassionate counselor or guide knows that you’re listening. And the relationship just gets better.

Conan Milner: You just acknowledge that the whole dreaming process is something valid, and it gives you something back. Well, that’s great. I’m looking forward to my dreams tonight now more than ever.

That’s all the questions I had. Michael. Is there any message you want to leave people with?

Machiel Klerk: I just want to encourage people to practice and to play and to experiment. The crucial aspect is to ask a great question and do ritual. But don’t get tripped up in wanting to be perfect. Don’t worry, don’t worry about being perfect. Just try it. Find your own way to your relationship. And if it doesn’t completely work, change it a little bit. But approach it with some respect. And write down the dream. Very often the answer comes from an area that you hadn’t expected it because you’ve already been thinking about it. So maybe initially it doesn’t make sense. But just tell the dream to some other people and see what they say. Read it later in the day again, and then you will start often seeing that, Oh, okay, hey, this makes sense. Oh, I hadn’t thought about it. Whoa, it works. And once you know it works, you have a tool that you can either apply once in a while for a question that is really irrelevant to your heart, or on a more regular basis, if you desire. So experiment, test and build your own relationship. That’s what I want to encourage people to do.

Conan Milner: Sounds good. Well, thanks for lending your expertise to this often misunderstood but fascinating topic that I think we all share a fascination with. If we can engage with this process of dreaming more, it seems we can get more out of it.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Epoch Health welcomes professional discussion and friendly debate. To submit an opinion piece, please follow these guidelines and submit through our form here.

Conan Milner
Conan Milner is a health reporter for the Epoch Times. He graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and is a member of the American Herbalist Guild.
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