How to Dream with Purpose
Dream incubation before sleep can give you wisdom to accomplish goals
Do your dreams seem like random bits of information just swirling around your mind? Are you surprised by what you experience when you’re dreaming? Your unconscious mind will often bring to your attention unexpected images, sounds, and feelings when you’re dreaming. But no matter how random or surprising your dreams may seem, every dream you experience can benefit your mind and spirit in some way.
If you approach your dreams intentionally by using them to accomplish specific purposes in your life — such as helping you make a decision, solve a problem, heal from something painful, find encouragement, or come up with a creative idea — you’ll connect your sleeping and waking lives. That will help you reach whatever goals you’re hoping to reach through your dreams.
The process of choosing what to dream about is called dream incubation.
The word “incubation” comes from the Greek word “incubatio”, which means to keep something in a favorable condition for it to develop. You can turn the goals that you’re holding in your mind can into dreams, through which you can explore how best to reach those goals. By preparing yourself to dream about issues or situations you hope to resolve in your life, you can discover the wisdom you need as you’re dreaming.
Here’s how to incubate dreams with specific purposes:
- Decide what you want to dream about, and why. What specific issue do you want to understand better and hopefully resolve as a result of dreaming about it? What questions do you have about a certain situation, about which a dream could help you find answers? Are you facing an important decision soon and want a dream to help you figure out what to do? Do you need healing or encouragement that you hope a dream will give you? Clarify what you’re hoping to accomplish. Choose just one purpose for each dream.
- Purify your body to clear your mind. The day before the night you plan to dream with a specific goal in mind, prepare yourself by abstaining from substances like alcohol and caffeine that can interfere with getting the good quality sleep you need to dream well. Free up your energy for dreaming by abstaining from activities that deplete your energy — such as work and sex — in your bedroom for the evening. The more you focus your body on concentrating on your dream, the better you’ll be able to focus your mind on it after you fall asleep, because the physical part of you is connected to the mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of you.
- Create a relaxing atmosphere in your bedroom. Remove items from your bedroom that can distract you from sleeping (such as a television, cell phone, or laptop computer) and add whatever will help you relax so you can sleep well (like candles, soft music, a white noise machine, or soft blankets).
- Pray or meditate about your dream’s purpose before falling asleep. Reflect on the specific issue or situation you hope to address in your mind while you’re sleeping. Focus your mind on it now — before you fall asleep and start dreaming. Ask God to help you dream about that subject. Speak your prayer out loud, which reinforces it in your mind. You may want to follow the ancient tradition of writing down your prayer on paper that you then place underneath your pillow before going to sleep. (After you awaken, the piece of paper will serve as a tangible reminder of your goal for the dream, which should help you remember and record it.) As you drift off to sleep, remind yourself of the purpose you hope to fulfill through a dream that night. Meditate on what you’d like to dream about, and imagine what the dream could be like. Then just relax and let go of your concerns, trusting that you’ll learn something from your dreams. Ease into sleep with an open mind and without any fear. Expect to experience dreams that will give you the wisdom you need.
Whitney Hopler works as Communications Coordinator at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being and has written for many media organizations, from About.com to the Washington Post. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.