Better Humans Podcast
The Magic—and Science—of Intentional Dreaming, with David Paul Kirkpatrick 🎧
As a young boy, David Paul Kirkpatrick learned firsthand about the power of intention and mindset. He’s been exploring it ever since.
“So for me, that was kind of like it’s right out of Jiminy Cricket…’when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are.’ Wow! And so that really affected me. And I just continued to apply this, what I call ‘intentional dreaming’ into my life.”
David Paul Kirkpatrick brings stories into the world. An incredible storyteller and filmmaker, he was also production chief at Walt Disney Pictures and President of Paramount Pictures. He brought over 200 pictures to the big screen in his 17 years at Paramount.
In his article, How to Master Intentional Dreaming for a Satisfying Life, David shares his process for setting nighttime intentions to harness the combined power of the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious—all in service of doing good work in the world.
I know what you’re saying: “This is like that nonsense in ‘The Secret.’” Well, yes and no. David’s advice isn’t promising to make you rich, help you “manifest” a new car, or give you the power to shape the universe to your will. But it is based on the reality of how our mindset and intentions shape our own success (and that’s the kernel of truth “The Secret” leveraged its pseudoscience franchise upon).
Enjoy this conversation between one of my favorite Better Humans authors and our host, Matt East.
Selected Highlights from the Interview
Matt: How would you describe intentional dreaming? What is this?
David: Well, I think the easiest way to sort of wrap it up is that it’s shaping an aspiration in your imagination, before you sleep, and then integrating it into the reservoirs of your unconscious before you dream.
So in other words, it’s really about fixing in your mind the way you would like the world to be and leaving that as kind of the last thing that you think about before you go to sleep. And that’s where all the great stuff happens.
You know, I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, Matt, but I started to intentionally dream because I kind of fixated on my hero, Walt Disney, who showed up on Sunday nights and hosted his “Wonderful World of Disney.” I was just captivated by the power of what he was able to provide for children all over the world, which was incredible stories that came to life in visual form. At night, I’d lay in bed and I’d think about working with Walt Disney.
Matt: You really dreamed to collaborate with Walt Disney, like that was something you threw out into the universe?
David: Yes. And I think you can call it the universe. I think you can call it the cosmos—we’ll get into a little bit about what Einstein talked about, “spooky action at a distance” and what Carl Jung talked about in terms of synchronicity, but I don’t think we’re there yet—I think what was happening is that my dreamscape was sort of getting out.
I speak all the time about intentional dreaming because I really do believe that there is something deep there that’s amazing…
Consciousness has three layers. There’s the conscious, there’s the unconscious, and there’s the subconscious.
The conscious mind is our operating system. It directs us, it focuses us, it has our daily to-do list at the forefront of all our awareness. Right beneath that is the second level of consciousness: the subconscious mind. Everyone’s always talking about the subconscious mind, psychologists and psychiatrists, etc. It contains our most recent memories and our feelings and habits.
Then we get to the unconscious mind. And that’s where the treasure trove is, you know? I’m sure you’ve had an experience where you cry when someone tells a story and you don’t know where that those tears are coming from—that could be coming from the unconscious. That’s where our oldest memories reside, and the unconscious is in the basement of knowing.
In broad terms, Matt, through intentional dreaming we’re looking to integrate all levels of consciousness while we are at rest.
And so I kind of look at it as, if you pour some pulpy fiber fruit juice, and after a minute you turn around and, it’s all fallen into the sediment. What kind of happens with intentional dreaming is that you’re putting a spoon in there and stirring it all up.
So what’s body calm? Well, you know, where there’s a lot of noise in our world. I always talk about body calm as being a moving away from the noise, making yourself at peace, turning off all that blue light: your laptop and your phone and your iPad and everything else. Just trying to be at peace with yourself. And I don’t mean just in terms of your mind, but also in terms of your body, to just kind of slow it down.
Matt: The sixth step is, “when compelled by an intuitive affection, act upon it.” What does this mean?
David: Well, you know when you well up in tears, when somebody is telling a story, as we’ve talked about earlier, and you just don’t know where it’s coming from? If you’ve done intentional dreaming enough on a particular aspiration, something is just going to spring out of you at some point in some seemingly random moment where you’re going to get a very warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s almost like oxytocin is being released in your body. That was, in this case, that notion of intuitive affection.
Again, it’s not about oneself, but it’s about somebody else—generally an affection for an idea, a person, an experience that you somehow are then going to act on. And if you don’t, you’re keeping yourself from a tremendous opportunity. You’re not closing the link between your dreamscape and this thing that comes out of your dreamscape, which is, “I’m going to act on it.”