the forgotten language

practising dream yoga to recall the wisdom within

photograph courtesy of yasodhara ashram

Dreams are sometimes thought of as the forgotten language of the unconscious. How can we remember the meaning of this language? In our waking state, we use words that we are most familiar with or words that best express ourselves. In our unconscious, this is even more the case. To learn the language, we have to study it.

The Eastern teachings consider the mind the sixth sense because the mind has one main function—to interpret events, emotions and perceptions. How does the mind interpret? It collects experiences in the memory, stores them for use at other times as points of reference. What is going on in your mind while you sleep? What is the interior life of your dreams?

In recalling dreams, we are seeing with the mind’s eye, and that power can become very strong. Recalling dreams requires an effortless intensity—tension doesn’t help. Being relaxed and sincerely wanting to know can help you recall the dream. If the dream was very involved, you may remember just the end of it.

A simple way to start to investigate the dreaming mind is to write down your dream as soon as you wake up, and sign it, which implies that you’ve recorded it as accurately as you can. Start by writing whatever you can recall and more may come. Even if you remember only fragments, write them down. They can contain incredible insights.

Then write what you were most busy with the previous day—your conscious concerns. In a second paragraph, write a very quick initial interpretation of the dream. After this, select the main symbols, or “key words,” from the dream and begin to write your associations. If a word has many different meanings to you, put them all down. Then, holding all this material lightly in your mind, try to find what the dream could mean.

As you work with your dreams, more meaning will emerge and you will become clearer about the one-third of your life spent sleeping, which is normally not within your awareness.

You can take it a step further, too. At the end of each week, write down each dream from memory without looking at them. This is a technique to train yourself to recall—a valuable tool for developing awareness, not just in the realm of dreams but in daily life. We want to be able to recall incidents as correctly as possible. As you become more courageous, you will be able to recall dreams that show you an undesirable picture of yourself. And if you can accept this picture, you can work with what the dreams are pointing out and make substantial changes to yourself. Suddenly, you may be able to recall events from your very early life.

Nothing is more fascinating than exploring what is within ourselves. Observe the balance of your senses in dreams. Do you dream only in visual images? In black and white or colour? Can you hear somebody speak to you in a dream? Can you smell, taste or touch something? If you can bring all of your five senses in, you will sharpen your sense perceptions in daily life, which is how we perceive the world.

Working with dreams can lead us to the wisdom within—whether we call it the inner being, the guru within, the kingdom of God, the Absolute, nirvana, eternity. I call it “my Divine Committee,” and it has done a terrific job of giving me direction and leading me to where I needed to go.

In the beginning, we are spiritual babies, and like babies, our walk is not very steady. We toddle around, we fall, we have to get up and try again. But eventually, we need to grow up and mature, so that those divine forces can work through us. We often say we are only a channel for something, but let’s be a channel that is well scrubbed! That is what the spiritual work does. If we open an unused water tap, little bits of rust and dirt and silt will come pouring out. Dreams are a marvelous way of telling us what kind of dirt is in the channel, how to recognize and remove it. As you collect and study your dreams, you will learn to trust this additional guidance from within yourself.

The language of dreams arises from our individual unconscious. Other people can only interpret our dream as if it were theirs. Learning our own forgotten language, we start to become actively involved in our unconscious life.

Finding out how the mind functions is easier through dreams than through all our conscious efforts, where the mind is the instrument that investigates itself. But in dreams we are not consciously manipulating the mind and the messages can come through more clearly. When we dream, the part that competes with intuition is silenced; therefore, dreams can guide us in furthering our own course of evolution.

If you look at your dreams in a year, you may be surprised at what you have already known. Dreams can keep us going and keep us nourished. Our inherent self-interest can be used in a most beneficial way—to get to know ourselves.

See also Realities of a Dreaming Mind (timeless books, 2004) for a complete method of working with Dream Yoga.

A pioneer in bringing yoga to the West, Swami Sivananda Radha is the author of 10 classic books on yoga, including Kundalini Yoga for the West and Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language. Her teachings focus on developing awareness and quality in life.

  read more of swami radha's past columns

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