Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why do some people struggle with dreaming?

The big question these days on our Facebook site Medicine Wheel and Indigenous dreaming is: “Why do some people have a difficulty to dream?” There’s more than one answer to that question depending on the perspective we take. It would be incredibly easy to say that all those people who don’t have the dreamer role on their personal Medicine Wheel would find dreaming a challenge. The fact of the matter is this answer is actually accurate but does it explain how dreaming works and why one would find dreaming difficult without the dreamer role? Where most people understand the Medicine Wheel as an esoteric concept there are some who abide by this ancient science still today.

It’s rare that you’ll find me talking about the brain when it comes to dreaming. From a sacred circle perspective there’s more than one physiological element that plays in the process of dreaming and each one plays a distinct role. It’s no different than working with our personal roles on our sacred circle (firekeeper, visionary, peacekeeper, warrior, nomad, dreamer, initiator and healer). For example without the stable rhythm of the heart it would difficult to keep our consciousness steady in the dreaming. How many times have I said that unless one works through their emotional body it will be difficult to complete a whole dream? Stress, strong emotional reactions and fear can make dreaming a challenge. Our lungs and how we breath also contributes to a better dream state. None of this means you can’t dream if you have chronic illness attached to any of these organs. It simply suggests that it may imply difficulty.

Coming back to the brain…

The way we think, react and act; the way we access, address and behave; and the way we perceive the World around us contributes to the way we make our brain work. I’m sure most of you have heard about spontaneous healing. Some believe that with strong positive thinking we can bring the body to cure a cancer or any other disease. Yet, despite the belief a small percentage of people have been able to make this happen. Why? In some cases positive thinking comes naturally but for others it means incredible changes in lifestyle and attitude. Ironically perhaps our ancestors were dead on when they said: “Attitudes and gratitude make a huge difference towards wellness, wholeness and growth; but most of all it has a strong effect on how we develop our supernatural (for lack of a better word) abilities.” Indigenous dreaming would fall into the supernatural category. Where everyone can dream not everyone can lucidly dream regularly and intentionally direct their dreaming to accomplish particular feats. For example a traditional dreamer can dream along with others; journey into the space of others; have access to predictions and prophecies; and manifest particular events…

It takes more than intention and thoughts to be able to journey to the dream space of others. It takes a good mastery of personal energy. It means understanding your vital space and being able to project your spirit (so to speak) beyond your body. In other words it’s one thing to dream, which for most people means being capable to experience scenarios with vivid characters and landscape while we sleep; but it’s a whole other thing to be able to make it happen regularly and to have a certain control (so to speak) over what occurs. One comes naturally and the other takes discipline and work, which for me means a process of development towards a supernatural ability. It’s become more and more difficult these days to find good teachers to initiate you into indigenous dreaming. Yet – they exist and you don’t have to travel to South America to find them like many seem to think…

Psychoanalysts believe that dreaming starts with unconsciousness where we find repressed desires, which are looking to be manifested. It then moves towards the ego, which wishes to sleep. There is where our daily residue basically moves around our suppress desires, which are dormant in our unconsciousness and threaten to disrupt our sleep. The next step is dreaming until we wake up. Scientifically the same process is explained with the help of physiological elements. For example just as we lie down to sleep our neurones are excited and search for some kind of outlet. Don’t forget our body has been active all day and is slowing down. Our motor sensorial neurones are moving into a sleep pattern and find a way to express themselves. Soon these neurones are connecting with our logical thought process and creating images, feelings and scenarios until we wake up. Both theories are valid within their own right but from my perspective they don’t explain all of the strange experiences I’ve had during the course of my life. I needed to find other answers.

Science told us for almost a century that dreaming occurs during the REM sleep stage; but recently it was discovered that it was possible to dream even outside REM sleep. Scientists are now exploring the idea that dreaming is necessary during the course of our waking reality and most probably occurs between every inhale and exhale. This is a theory indigenous people have explored and proven during the course of millenniums.

Do we need to be asleep to dream?
It all depends on how you define sleeping.

You do need to move from an agitated state of mind to silence and stillness to be able to dream. Sleeping implies the same process but on a larger scale. According to Indigenous Dreaming you can access up to 24 different levels of dreaming and thus, by moving through different states of silence and stillness. Death could be seen as the ultimate state of sleeping and dreaming.

So why would some people have a difficult time dreaming?
• Are you someone who’s anxious, nervous and constantly needing control over your World?
• Are you someone who has chronic illness related to the heart, lungs and nervous system?
• Do you take medication for any kind of condition?
• Are you someone who has strong emotional reactions to experiences and people?
• Do you struggle with breathing?
• And finally – were you ever taught by your parents or a teacher how to fall asleep and how to dream?

It may sound strange to hear that dreaming and sleeping can be taught. The fact of the matter is we teach our children how to walk, how to talk, and how to eat but we often forget that even though sleeping may come naturally it can quickly derail if we don’t teach our children how to maintain good sleeping and dreaming habits. When my children were young I made sure to give them a routine. They napped every morning around 11:00 and went to bed at night around 19:00. I never disrupted this schedule because I wanted them to be strong dreamers and they are… Still today they make sure to calm down after supper and make sure to be ready for sleep. My son, the musician, now explains the process through music concepts. To be able to remember our dreams we have to be able to move our body slowly down a scale of energy.

Dreaming is also a collective activity. In other words, if you are near strong dreamers your dreaming will improve. If you start a dreaming circle you’ll trigger your inner dreamer and you’ll have no choice but to learn to discipline it. Our babies slept their nights within 2 weeks of being home. My dreamer energy was an important factor. Whenever I came into contact with babies I always had the knack to make them sleep. People took advantage of me. ☺ It certainly wasn’t coincidence. Even when given lectures on dreaming I tend to influence my audience to sleep. I often tell my students to not fight the sleepiness and allow the dreaming to arise. People are often impressed with how much dreaming they can access just by being in my presence. The stronger the dreamer the stronger the influence. Some individuals will enjoy the process of dreaming while others will fight against it because they find it uncomfortable. This could be another reason why some people don’t dream.

Trees, dogs, birds, reptiles etc… we all dream.

Take a moment to watch how the World around you sleeps and dreams. You may want to mimic them. You’ll find ways to dream just by watching and by allowing your perspectives to shift. I found that changing my attitudes and my life style was the best way to improve my dreams. Try it but make sure to do it one step at a time. It’s the only way to get consistency.

I hope this blog answered many of your questions.
Don’t be shy to leave me feedback. Thank you.

P.S. I’m leaving for Golden in a week or so for a workshop. I plan to be away for a good 10 days. I won’t be writing a blog during that period --- BUT I plan to write another entry in the next few days. Keep an eye out for it….


Michelle said...

I found that limiting my caffine intake helped me dream more, I think I was too wound up on coffee from my day to day it took a few months but I have noticed a huge difference. I do need a kick of caffine once in awhile but nothing like before. I also am setting intentions before I sleep asking the dreaming to reveal things to me so far I journal when I remember to write the dream down other times it does not make it to paper but I remember the dream. I think looking at my sleep time is the next step setting the routine to get a good nights rest in would also help.

Lisa F. Tardiff said...


Yes diet makes a difference too.
I didn't talk about it...
Thanks for mentioning it.


Emily said...

I was thinking the same.. caffeine, alcohol, medication all affect dreaming.
Going to bed hungry or thirsty also influences the dreaming.
Its amazing actually how much preparation we need to do for sleep and dreaming.
Making sure we have eaten well, fully hydrated, relaxed, not taking work to bed, or the stresses of the day..
The environment in which we sleep and dream also is important, not too hot, not too cold. I find light important..I like to be in a room with windows, access to natural light and air.
I find that being conscious of going to sleep to dream is important. I know times that I literally fall into bed, so tired that I dont even remember falling asleep has an affect on what I dream and what I remember.
So having a dreaming intention definately helps.
Not being overly tired.. (this can be difficult for some).
The time of day or night has an influence..

Great topic!
I know I want to take better care of my Dreamer so I have made some changes to my own lifestyle. It all comes down to what is most important to you.

Bootie said...

I got messed up with my medication recently... missed a few doses. It really affected my Dreaming. I had a hard time remembering Dreams or setting Intention. Now that I'm back on my medication schedule my Dreaming has returned to "normal." My medicine controls an imbalance and without it I have a hard time Dreaming.

Rose said...

I love dreaming. Sometimes my brain tells me stories, thrillers, adventures, sci-fi. Other times my dreams come with that punch of meaning. I know in many ways I lack discipline... i tried to get better with my dreaming. I kept a journal (not that I could read much that was in it the next day!) and the number of dreams I was remembering each night increased dramatically. I got stuck though...

I was feeling more and more tired. And sometimes my dreams scared me a little. Not that they were inherently scary but that they felt daunting. I still dream and I still get the occasional special dream but I feel I need to learn more about how to be a dreamer, I just don't know how to learn by myself. Or maybe this is not the time.

Lili said...

Hi Lisa,
As i read your blog this week one statement felt like it jumped out at me...Death could be seen as the ultimate state of sleeping and dreaming.
I need to sit with this more and understand this more but this sentence leapt off the page for me.
I recall my dreams more or less every night.
Before sleeping i lay and breathe in though my nose and out through my mouth i visualise me breathing out all the crap i may have accumulated in the day.
I used to regularly go through the days events and see what brought up reaction in my day before sleeping. I felt that if i released it all before sleep theni would sleep and dream better. I definitely had a lot of experiences during that time, i think perhaps i should return to that discipline.

Lately, i fall asleep feeling and listening to my heartbeat reminding myself that am a living human being and that i have stories within me and around me that may arise with in my sleep state. I dont really create an intention before sleep except to recall my dreams. As i write this now i realsie that is what i need to do more to become more disciplined.
I also purchase books i really want to write my dreams in. I keep rough paper next to my bed for the scruffy writing and transfer them the next day to keep special in my journal.

Lisa F. Tardiff said...


You don't have to learn to be a Dreamer -- alone.
If you'd like I would love to help....
I've been a traditional dreamer for over 15 years.
I've dreamt lucidly my whole life 46 years....
Dreaming is what WE DO!!
You are more than welcomed to join us on Facebook or on AIMOO -- if you want to commit to this journey more on a one to one.

You can also get in touch with me at wapeyit@hotmail.com
It's always one step at a time until you finally get the hang of it. It's like riding a bike.

Talk to you later.