How to interpret dreams

Someone once said that dreams are just the answers to questions we’ve not yet learned how to ask. This is why I believe that dream interpretation may be one way of identifying our unconscious fears and desires. Each and every night, we have direct free sessions with our very own personal psychotherapist. After all who understands our subconscious mind better than our subconscious mind!

We can interpret the meaning of our dreams to change our core beliefs, relationships, hopes and fears. The more importance we place on our dreams, the more we will remember them and the easier it will be to interpret the meaning of our dreams.

Why are Dreams so Weird?

When you dream, your unconscious mind begins to take over. The unconscious is almost like our inner child. Removing all forms of logic and with an inability to plan ahead it indulges in rather basic feelings and urges.

That’s why dreams are so weird.

Strange connections are spun by our unconscious mind, disregarding all forms of logic nothing within them seems to make any since. But if we can interpret these strange connections we can apply their resulting insights to everyday waking life…

To start dream interpretation you must first look for any dream symbols. Use a dream journal as explained in a previous post.

In your dream journal, underline or highlight anything think you think could be a dream symbol – for example; an elephant wearing a hat or a phone that runs away from you. These are illogical symbols but may carry a much deeper meaning within the unconscious mind.

How to Interpret Dream Symbols

The foundation of good dream interpretation is much like cracking a secrete code. You need to identify important symbols and then translate their true meaning.

Again like code breaking, keep an eye out for recurring symbols. Breaking a promise is a concept. Running away from something is a concept. These ideas and symbols are all based on experiences you have had previously throughout your life and all interactions with the world around you.

Every single life experience you have had has gone on to create a “rule” or “concept” understood by your unconscious mind. You programed everything within your unconscious mind.

Dreams are the perception of the world around you in a conseptual form and renderd by yuour uncouncious mind, its basically showing you how it sees the world around you. From fears to desires, it shows all, the problem however is that it never shows you as you would expect to see them! Let’s look at the common example of flying dreams.

What do Flying Dreams Mean?

Flying dreams usually represent your own personal feeling of power over yourself and/or a situation.

This is how your unconscious takes a concept (power), and shows it to you coded as a dream symbol. If you are soaring up high and are able to look down and enjoying all the scenery that’s below you then it is likely that you are in control of your life.

However, if you are struggling to keep up or are falling then your unconscious is telling you that you lack control or are feeling vulnerable in a situation. Trees, power lines, buildings or gravity are obstacles that are preventing you from flying within the dream. Do you see the concept showing through?

If you have recurring flying dreams like this, try to identify who or what is at the root of your fears. Ask yourself some simple questions; what are you afraid of? What are you struggling to control in life? Is someone or something making you feel vulnerable?

If you answer yes to any of the questions then take charge of the situation! You will soon start to soar high above the trees and other obstacles in your dreams…

Are Dream Dictionaries Worthwhile?

All dream symbols are different for each person, this is because we all see the world around us differently. As we grow up, our unconscious learned about friendship, love, loneliness and betrayal very differently to someone else. It wrote rules about every human emotion and how we should feel about life. These “rules” are what’s reflected in our dreams.

So when it comes to dream dictionaries please don’t rely heavily on them, because there it’s impossible for your mind to conform to the same “dream rules” written by the author.

However, dream dictionaries written by an author from your own country and of a similar age can provide some value. This is based on the fact that you may have grown up in the same culture, the same era, and after all we are all human. So it wouldn’t be a coincidence if we can make similar unconscious conclusions about life. A dream dictionary makes a good starting point for the translation.

Dream interpretation is not an essential lucid dreaming tool but the two concepts do tend to go hand-in-hand. Getting to know your own unconscious mind better is also a key element of lucid dreaming. By doing so it will help you master trickier aspects of dream control in the sometimes bizarre universe of your mind.

How to use meditation to help to lucid dream

You may question what does meditation have to do with having lucid dreams? Well, meditation results in greater mindfulness, this fits hand-in-hand with many of the other lucid dreaming practices.

I’ll give you an example; the act of meditation forms part of the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dream (MILD) and Wake Induced Lucid Dream (WILD) techniques. This is great for improving your in-dream skills such as visualisation (used for changing the world around you) and inducing stronger states of awareness (used for prolonging your lucid dreams).

This is backed by scientific studies and evidence. It has been proven that there are direct links between meditation and lucid dreaming. Both of these practices involve creating higher states of awareness (up to the gamma band/ 40 Hz) and help you to become more habitually focused, self aware and reflective. These improve your ability to remember dreams, visualization skills and your ability to automatically induce lucid dreams. Just practising a simple breathing meditation exercise every day will help you achieve profound relaxation and it will help to increase your chances of having lucid dreams.

Meditation can also improve many other aspects of your life, for example:

Relaxation and stress relief
Concentration and learning
Altered states of awareness
Encouraging abstract thought

The process of a focused meditation – for example, putting all of your mental energy into achieving one specific goal – can help you achieve personal and physical success in all areas of your life.

“Meditation is my soul’s soundless conversation with my inner pilot.”
Sri Chinmoy

What is Meditation?

People have been practicing meditation in one form or another for more than 5,000 years. It has been a strong component of almost every world religion. However that does not mean you have to be religious in order to meditate.

The science of meditating stems from psychophysiology – this is a branch of psychology that studies the effect of the mind on the body, think mind over matter. In order to meditate for the reason of helping you to lucid dream you have to develop two opposite skills:

Focus – a higher degree of mental concentration
Quiescence – a quiet stillness of the mind

As I’ve said before; you don’t have to convert to a religion, seclude yourself from modern life or even become a Buddhist Monk to be good at meditation. I will show you two simple routines that will help you to begin your meditation journey. The first is breathing this helps to calm the mind, the second is Guided Meditation which helps to focus the mind. Both can be very enjoyable experiences and you may often find yourself meditating just to escape the every day hustle and bustle of modern life.

You can perform these meditation exercises unaided, or with the help of brainwave entrainment. Check out these recommended brainwave entrainment audios for extra support.

Breathing Meditation – to Calm Your Mind

First things first, you need to find a nice quite place to settle down. You can sit cross legged like traditional Buddhist monks or you can sit in a chair. The key thing here is not how you sit as long as you keep your back straight, this stops your mind from becoming sleepy.

Once you’re sitting comfortably and straight, just allow your eyes to close naturally and then mentally focus on your breathing, without actually trying to control it. Breathe in and out through the nostrils and try to become aware of how the air feels as it enters and leaves your body.

At first, your mind will be running flat out with everyday passing thoughts and it may even feel as though you’re over thinking more than usual. This is normal and its because you are increasing your self awareness, you’re able to notice how many thoughts you really have. The tricky part now is to make sure you avoid the temptation of following your thoughts as they pop up. You need to stay focused on your breathing, focus on the air going in and out of your nose.

If you do start to realize that your mind has wandered, just refocus on your breathing to bring it back. After 10-15 minutes of focusing like this you should achieve a quiet state of mind. Your thoughts will be clear and lucid, like an ocean whose waves have gotten calmer and no longer rock passing ships. Once you are within that state of mind you can remain like that for as long as feels comfortable.

Try and practice this breathing meditation every day. You can do it either when you wake up or before you go to sleep, you can even do it during your lunch break. By doing it half way through the day I find that I gain the most from taking time out of busy periods. It’s also great at removing built up anxiety: slow, deep breaths helps combat your body’s adrenaline response when stress is present.

Guided Meditation – to Focus Your Mind

Again choose a quiet place to meditate and sit comfortably with your back straight. Focus on your breathing as before and allow your eyes to close naturally. You are now going to increase your self awareness and mentally detach yourself from your physical body.

I want you to imagine that you are walking through a beautiful and peaceful garden. It is natural grown over and wild with a never-ending path upon which you are following. You feel the clean air entering your lungs, and observe the tranquil environment around you.

The aim here is to use your visualization skills and imagination to increase your awareness of this landscape that’s built up within your mind while letting go of everyday thoughts and anxieties. Listen closely to the peaceful silence. You may start to hear birds singing or the soft pitter patter of raindrops. Remember this is about imagination and visualisation so the stronger the mental imagery, the better.

Feel the texture of the grass under your bare feet, is it dry, damp or warm? Take a moment to touch the flowers and feel the air breeze past you. Make every movement slow and deliberate. Take as long as you like to explore your tranquil garden.

It may help you focus if you continue walking at all times, this is so that the scenery is constantly changing and prevents over thoughts from entering your mind. Walk down a gentle slope in your garden and this will mirror the action of your consciousness going deeper.

On average it takes about 15 minutes to enter a deep trance-like state, with little awareness of your physical body. Once you have entered this state remain there as long as you want – there is no time limit on your meditation experience or your imagination.

Once you are done, gently rouse yourself from the trance by counting backwards from five to one, take deep breaths as you do. Before you open your eyes, just give yourself a few moments to acclimatize and gather your thoughts.

These self guided exercises are great for increasing self awareness and allowing your mind to focus without the normal every day distractions. You may change the scenery every time you practice the guided routine – you can make up your own inner worlds, but remember that they are there to promote calm relaxation and vivid mental imagery.

How to Use Reality Checks

Reality checking is by far the easiest and quickest lucid dreaming technique. It’s designed to increase your self awareness on a day to day basis and enter deep within your mind to affect your dreams.

Combine this with other lucid dream exercises and these simple reality checks can boost your lucid dreaming potential. They can also produce lucid dreams themselves by simply creating a mental habit.

The Melting Clock Reality Check

“Are You Dreaming?”

What Are Reality Checks?

The obvious way to begin lucid dreaming while asleep is to first spot the difference between a dream and real everyday life. Simple? The hard part is trying to distinguish one from the other.

When you dream you automatically accept the dream as real life and it’s only when you wake up that you realize that it wasn’t.

By introducing reality checks into your everyday routine you will soon begin to do them in your dreams. This reality check will snap your conscious mind to realizing: “Wow, I’m dreaming!”

So What Makes a Good Reality Check?

What makes a consistently reliable reality check and also works in the usually rather illogical world of dreams?

Well first; how do you know that you are awake right now? You may tell me that you are awake:

Because you can see
Because you can feel
Because you are aware
Because you… just ARE!
Unfortunately these all apply to the dream world too. That’s why seeing, feeling, awareness and knowledge of your existence do not help you to become aware within your dreams. Remember that when you dream you lack the clarity of thought, you cant draw the usual logical conclusion that you would do when you are awake.

To be able to realise that you’re dreaming, you need to kick start that “Eureka!” with a simple question and an impossible pre-determined action.
How to Do a Reality Check and Become Lucid

The reality check that I use is pushing the palm of my hand onto a hard surface and will them to pass straight through. I use desks, walls, my car door, anything that’s hard and impossible for my hand to go through, or become damaged from my actions.

In the really world its obvious to say that my hands never pass though the object. In a dream however, willing my hand to pass through an object causes it to happen around 9 out of 10 times!

And when it does happen that’s when I know I’m dreaming.

Once this realization kicks in my conscious brain fires up. The dream environment surges into focus and I have a real sense of who I am, where I am, and what I want to do next.

“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, flittering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly …suddenly I awoke… Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.”

~ Chuang-tzu

When I practice this technique during the day time, the action of trying to push my hand through an object is not enough on its own.

I also need to ask myself te question; “Am I dreaming?” and truly mean it.

I look around my environment every time I do a reality check, I think to myself “Is this real?”

Its at this point that I like to question the firmness of my surroundings.

For instance, I might look at my phone on my desk and wonder to myself; does that really exist or am I just imagining it? Will it disappear if I stop looking at it?

How about the air – What does it feel like? Warm, cold, dense, sparse? By asking these questions you build up your self awareness. By questioning your own feelings and perceptions at that exact time.

I usually perform my reality checks around a dozen times a day. I also leave notes for myself if I have time after a check. Also depending on the time a check can take anything from a few seconds to few minutes.

Where most people stumble with reality checks is that they don’t come to a well-informed decision each time. They just ask the question, feel a bit silly and forget about it. The task here is to really mean what you say, and ensure you reach a conclusion.

After a while you will find yourself asking this question in a dream.

Your mind will then be jogged into logical and critical thinking mode and you’ll hopefully come to the realisation that you’re dreaming. Lucidity awaits all who question.

Top 10 Reality Checks for Lucid Dreams

You can use my reality check if you like or try out these other reality tests:

Breathe – Can you hold your nose and mouth shut and breathe?
Jump – When you jump, do you float back down?
Read – Can you read a sentence twice without it changing?
Look – Is your vision clearer or blurrier than normal?
Hand – Can you push hand through a solid surface?
Time – Can you read a clock face or digital watch?
Fly – Can you will yourself to fly or hover above the ground?
Palms – Do the palms of your hands look normal close-up?
Mirrors – Does your reflection look normal in the mirror?
Math – Can you add up two numbers for a correct answer?
For beginners its god to perform two reality checks each time. This is just encase the first one doesn’t work for any reason or it may not fit well into your daily routine, you then at least have a fail-safe.

It is a wonderful feeling when you actually can push your hand through a solid object in a lucid dream. Your lucidity makes this feel real – and, naturally, very weird.

Why Build Self Awareness?

Your brain creates what’s called neural constructs based experiential learning: these are patterns of thinking based on your real life experiences and habits.

A good example is gavity. Your whole life you have experienced gravity, you don’t need to ask yourself any questions. You simply know that you can’t fly.

And so we stroll on through life without ever questioning this world around us. We know that the sky is blue, the grass is green and walls are too solid to pass through. We become so accustomed to the world that we preserver around us that we forget to question it. This applies in the dream world too.

However, if you do decide to start questioning your reality and the world around you, it increases your level of self awareness in the real world. It pulls your consciousness into the moment that you are experiencing. Eventually when this becomes second nature in everyday life, it will become second nature in your dreams too.

And this is your direct channel to entering a lucid dream.

Permanently improving your self awareness unfortunately doesn’t just happen overnight. But it’s easy to learn and master.

Remember to always pay attention to your surroundings. Study them in great detail. And most importantly, question all that you see.

Do your feet belong to you?

How would it look if you had 3 legs?

Can I imagine them melting into the floor?

Have fun with visualisations and tricks of the mind. You’re aiming to edit routine programming that has been imprinted in your mind for years!

Troubleshooting Reality Checks

As this is a very popular and easy to do lucid dreaming technique I do get a lot of questions about how to do them properly and why they don’t always work. Here are the most common questions and answers:

How can I remember to do more reality checks each day?

Set up triggers that will remind you to perform a reality check. Leave a note on your computer screen, phone, bathroom mirror, book, or write an L for lucid on the back of your hand.

You can also mentally set up trigger points that relate to your day to day routine. Do a reality check every time you walk up or down stairs, hear your digital watch beep, receive a text message, unlock a door, hang up the phone, and so on.

I’ve been doing reality checks all week but haven’t had any lucid dreams. What am I doing wrong?

First, makes sure you’re doing your checks mindfully, come to a reason-based conclusion every time, rather than just rushing through them to get it out of the way. Every check you do should hold real personal perspective.

Second, make sure you’re keeping a dream journal and recording at least one dream per night. You may well have performed a reality check in a dream but just didn’t remember it!

Third, combine reality checks with other lucid dreaming techniques, such as meditation and dream incubation. They work well in combination.

Fourth, be patient. You are programming a new habit into your daily life and it may take days or weeks for it to filter through to your dream life. Rest assured, like most of our daily habits, you will dream about it eventually.

I did a reality check in a dream but it didn’t work, I just kept on dreaming. Why did this happen?

The most likely explanation is that you’re not performing your waking reality checks with enough mindfulness. When you attempt the impossible action in real life make sure you’re really trying to do it and not feeling silly and going at it half heartedly. When you ask the question – “Am I dreaming?” – be sure to really think hard on that concept. Imagine what your dreams feels like, what you would do if you were actually dreaming right now, and then snap yourself back into reality to compare the feeling.

Occasionally a reality check fails through no fault of your own. You may simply be having a vivid dream that is all too normal to accept as a dream. It’s a weird mind space, and particularly common in false awakening (which is why you should do a reality check every time you wake up).

The best solution is to perform a second and different reality check as a fail-safe. If you still can’t validate your dream state, but have some basic level of dream control, then simply explore the dream until it gives itself away. Something irregular will eventually pop up if you keep pulling at the thread. Full lucidity will ensue.

How to Keep a dream journal

When asked what’s the first thing I need to do to start Lucid Dreaming, my answer is always the same: Keep a dream journal! A dream journal is by far the most important part of lucid dreaming. While you may think that this is a chore and you don’t have time in the mornings to do something a complex as this luckily it’s actually rather quick and easy, oh and it’s fun as well! A dream journal ultimately improves your awareness of your dream state, this makes it easier to recognise your dreams and ‘wake up’ within them.

On average a person will go through five sleep cycles every night. At the end of each and every cycle, there is a period of Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Again if we use avrages then most people will dream for around 100 minutes in total. The closer it is to the time you usually wake then the longer you spend in REM sleep.

This is why you are more likely to remember a particular dream as you wake up. This is when you should turn off the alarm, jump out of bed and write in your dream journal! Of course while trying not to wake up anyone else around you who may still be deep within the realm of sleep.

Finding a Lucid Anchor

If like many you struggle to remember anything about your dreams you can use what’s called a ‘lucid anchor’. Anchoring in this way comes from the brilliantly named offshoot of psychology called Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). To anchor yourself just get into bed and right before you go to sleep choose an object that you can see clearly. I usually use what’s directly opposite me, for instance it could be a TV, a curtain or an ornament ect. Keep this object in mind as you drift off to sleep, this is going to be your anchor.

Say for example your anchor is a picture of a loved one hung on the wall. Look at this picture when you go to sleep, wake up during the night and first thing in the morning. Every time you look at it think to yourself; “I will remember my dreams”.

This phrase acts as a trigger for your unconscious mind to relate to. It reminds you to focus on your dreams and plants a unconscious intention: to associate that particular picture with remembering dreams.

How To Keep a Dream Journal

Keeping a dream journal may sound pretty simple, and it actually is! But there are a few things to note when starting one:

1 – Find an empty book and dedicate it to recording your dreams. Always keep it within arm’s reach ready for when you wake up. Dreams fade from memory rather quickly so you need to write them down as soon as you wake up!

If you do get up, walk around and start talking to other people about non related things, it will cause the motor neurons to become active in your brain. This is what wipes out your memory of the dream. So be ready to start writing down your dream first thing.

2 – Write down the date of your dream. Then proceed to write down everything you can remember. When writing about your dream always use the present tense (eg “I am running along a beach and see the sun shining”). Putting it like this helps you to remember your dreams because it puts you right back in the moment.

3 – Identify your dreams themes. Take a moment and go back through your journal. Look at all locations, characters, sensations, sounds, objects and emotions of your dreams. Using a highlighter, highlight key themes that may help with interpreting your dreams (eg, “I am running because I need to get somewhere before another person”).

You may want to analyse the themes and fully interpret your dream, there are many free resources online to do this. It’s not important however at this stage so you can ignore it and continue to write down all the memorable details in your dream journal.

Anything that you can associate with established neural patterns however is important (eg, you feel worried about the tide). This may be a dream symbol or concept that represents an issue in your day to day life.

4 – Something that I always like to stress, especially to people who worry about this kind of thing, is don’t worry about spelling, punctuation and grammar. As long as you can read it and make sense from it then you are fine.

5 – Add some sketches of any major images from your dream. Again, you won’t be loosing points if your sketch looks more preschool than Academy of Classical Design. It doesn’t matter if you’re not an artist, just as long as you know what it is you drew. Sketching is just another way to help you better visualise your dream later on.

6 – When you’ve finished writing and sketching, note down any major life issues that you are struggling with at this moment. For example, you may be suffering with an overbearing employer. As time goes on you will be able to link your unconscious dream symbols with your real life issues.

7 – Give the dream an appropriate title. No flashy Hollywood names, just something to remember it by. If you do became lucid at any point in your dream, write an “L” for lucid in a circle by the title. Try and identify the exact moment in your dream where you became lucid and put a star by it. Try and see if you can remember what caused you to become lucid (unless it was just a WILD moment).