Dream inquiry: Developing Your Dream Question

I have heard it said that more important than knowing what the answer is to an issue is knowing what the question is.This is the place from which to begin any dream inquiry.

Dreams can be engaged in and played with to invite an on-going dialogue with the inner self to address significant themes in your life and come to a deeper understanding of specific issues.

There are 3 pieces to formulating a good dream inquiry question:

  • Develop a question that will shine a light on what your issue is.
  • And in the same request ask what is the medicine for resolving this obstacle in your life?
  • Be resolute in wanting to know the answer.

For example you could ask,  "What is the primary stumbling block to establishing financial flow in my life AND what is the medicine to resolving that issue?” (Without asking for the medicine you might dream all night of the ways in which you are stumbling but without any resolution offered!)

Or by way of another example

“What core belief or beliefs do I hold that keep me from experiencing joy in my life and what is the medicine for releasing them?”

Now it is not always necessary to know all the things we need to ask. I know someone who simply says each night to her higher self, “You know what I need to know, so please send it”.

i stood to face her

i stood to face her

But sometimes there are specific questions regarding life events. In all situations it is best to stay away from how questions. Our highest self does not like to tell us what to do.

However we can ask something like-

“What do I need to know about such and such issue…?”

Or, “What am I blind to in this situation and what is the medicine for seeing it clearly? “

In this way we can receive all the nuances of information we might need to come to an understanding of its turn-around. We can ask for resolution to the same issue over the course of a week or a month or a year.

If, for example you are trying to find healing for an illness to complement the guidance you are receiving from your doctor, you will need to adopt an unwavering and diligent approach— do not give up if your inquiry takes you longer than you would like. Keep at it.

Or perhaps you are applying for a new job and you are unsure if this is a good fit for you. Or perhaps you are going into a new situation- a public talk or a new city and you want to know if there is anything you need to be aware of before you go.

A few years ago I was asked to come to Minneapolis by a client to give a public talk on the nature of healing, where afterwards I would be doing hands-on healing work with folks. This was my first public talk in a brand new city with folks I did not know. So I asked in a dream question, to show me anything that I was blind to in this situation and the medicine to navigate through it. I received a dreams, it came a few weeks before the trip.

In the dream I am meeting a group of people on a bridge. I was coming from one direction and they were coming from another. I was riding a very big bike, bigger than what I was used to. It was difficult to pedal because the bridge curved upward in the center. When I got to the crest of the hill of the bridge and I met the people I turned around and they followed me down in the direction they were heading. As soon as I turned, the pedaling eased and the ride smoothed out. I noticed leaving the bridge there were folks in boats in the water underneath the bridge following the current of the river. They were laughing and really enjoying themselves. Because they were in the flow of the river current they were not having to effort at all so they could relax and enjoy the ride, directing the boat in a luxurious fashion. End of dream.

 The dream showed that I was in a new role – riding a bigger bike than I was used to and I was preparing myself by working hard on the talk and getting hung up in the details of making the talk happen in my head ahead of time – the uphill pedaling experience. But when I got to the middle of the bridge and met the people where they were coming from,  and I turned my bike around on the crest of the hill – the place of the most efforting – they followed me and it was downhill from there. Seeing the people under the bridge in the water was a reminder that being in one's essence and delight would provide the momentum for movement and everything could flow from that. When we are in alignment with our higher self, life is easier and more relaxing. Then steering happens out of the relaxed state instead of the tight controlled state.

In fact the public talk went like that. The night before I gave the talk I woke up in the middle of the night laughing. I was laughing because there was some epiphany forming in my heart and I saw that everything in life was about healing…there was virtually nothing that was not designed from the beginning to bring you into wholeness. And that it was from that point of view I could inspire folks to relate. The next evening at the talk this epiphany and its laughter was still bubbling. Once I met the people where they were, I put my notes aside and the talk flowed out from the ethers. There was a lot of joy in the room, folks felt comfortable and when it was over I had prepared the week for the work I would do, by weaving into it the freedom of this innocence.

I have found that the most effective way to enhance the effectiveness of our dream inquiry is by the sincere resolve to work with the dream material that comes to us. And if what comes is not clear to give thanks and ask for clarification.

There are other reasons to engage in dream inquiry or make a request to the dream realm—

fire rock_
fire rock_

Sometimes we are stuck. Stuck in a dark place, or stuck in feeling badly about ourselves or stuck in our habits that keep us cycling through the same material over and over so we begin to feel as if our inner work is not progressing and our lives are standing still. We are looking for the light of day and our own minds are too bogged down to allow it to come through. Basically we need to bring about a change of heart, be lifted into a higher vibration, feel again a sense of promise and joy. I have always found the dream realm’s response to this state is profound and beyond any expectation, when we ask, because too often it is then we are in a real state of humility. In response sometimes you receive a dream that is pure medicine that contradicts every possible harshness you might experience in your life.

Here is one dream that came in response to such a time in my own life:

I dream I am standing outside of my window on the ground in my nightclothes watching a group of Beings coming toward me on horseback. As they get closer I see that they are Angels, royal in their bearing and they are full of light. They are dressed in the finest raiment of pure gold, sitting very tall on their horses, carrying banners. And there are clusters of stars hovering above them as they ride. I know they have come for me and I am ecstatic. Every worry or small way I have ever seen my life goes completely out the window. I am in the trance of anticipation of their company, and what they are bringing. When I wake up I am in wonder and complete awe.

Awe is a very transformative state to live in. Its very vibration makes everything ordinary in life shine with a different light. Just being in the experience of awe has a completely healing effect on the system. This dream had an archetypal quality to it because it brought beings of another realm, a celestial realm to visit me. When I woke the feeling from what I had witnessed and been visited by had changed me.

(I included the experience of this transformation in a poem I wrote later called: I Was a Soldier. It is recorded on my website in the Poetry section.)

Another dream came when I felt inundated by my own conditioned responses to everything, and weary.

In the dream I was a witness, not a participant in the dream, to groups of people interacting. Everyone in the dream was acting from their own truth and creativity as a human being. No one was acting out of guilt or pretense or image making or obligation. There were feelings and emotions in the dream but no discordant drama. In effect it was watching people live their lives in a state of freedom and true kindness toward one another and the harmony that would grow out of that amazing possibility.

The dream needed no interpretation – I received the understanding of what I was working towards and that all of my effort, no matter how long it took, was worth it.

Coming next will be a section on How to take notes from a dream, the key questions to ask yourself in working with the dream material and ways to anchor the message in your life.

Please feel free during this series on dreams to write in with your questions and send in a dream if you are struggling with something and if you think a dream you have had is pointing to something you can’t get a handle on. If the dream is  resonant with what is being offered I am happy to anonymously work with it in this series.

Dreams and How You Remember them

Have you ever wondered what is actually happening when you dream? Physicists who have studied this, whose findings are not dissimilar from indigenous peoples define a dream as a tableau of images and story ‘created’ when the light of a person’s consciousness touches or collides with the unseen realm, a person’s higher self. Dreams tend to be holographic by nature; meaning you can often distill the essence of the dream though its parts.

How can You Remember Your Dreams?

Many people think that they don’t in fact dream because their dreams slip away when they wake up. There are ways to change this.

When I was in my early 20’s I was taking a literature class at Johns Hopkins University taught by Dr. Ralph Harper, called Dreams and Reality. We studied a major work by Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Sigmund Freud and Thomas Mann. During the class I sat in discussion with another student and I told her I never remembered my dreams and had given up on it. She was one of those rare individuals who had grown up in a family that discussed their nightly dreams at the breakfast table. She gave me the following tips that have never failed me and started me off on my dream journeying and has never let up. I pass them along to you.

The 3 most important tips on how to unlock the door to your dreams:

As with everything in creation the most important thing for remembering your dreams starts with setting your INTENTION.

  • Hold the intention before you go to sleep that you would like to remember your dream(s) clearly enough to be able to write them down.
  • Put a notebook and pen next to your bed to write down your dreams. Some people use recording devices that they have set up for the same purpose, such as on an iPhone or similar device.
  • Ahead of time hold gratitude in your heart for what you are about to receive and make the commitment to work with the substance of the dream to the best of your ability.

The 3 biggest obstacles to remembering your dreams:

  • Self-censorship: when a dream comes and you label it ‘stupid’ or you see it as ‘unflattering’ or ‘unimportant’, or the information in the dream feels disturbing, and so you decide to discount it. In fact these are the dreams with the most potential to change our lives.
  • Moving away from the dream state too quickly. Instead, when you wake up in the morning from your dream allow yourself to lie there a few moments before you become fully awake—savor the dream and before your feet hit the floor begin writing your dream down. Do not attempt to interpret your dream. As much as you can write the dream as you experienced it–all the feelings that were present, your sense of the others in your dream. The place.
  • Thinking the dream is too small. Sometimes all we receive is a snippet, like a scene in a play. However dreams are holographic in nature so even the fragments can contain the whole and can in fact be very powerful.

If you lose your dream, you can pay attention during the day if anything triggers a memory of it or the feeling of it. If it does you can try and capture the fragment or the feeling or the image and ask that another one be given to you.

In this way you begin to develop a correspondence with your inner dreamer and a connection is made that says that you want to know what is being transmitted.

The more you do this the clearer your dreams will become and the easier you will find it to hold onto dreams.


Do not rush to interpret your dream! Do not buy dream dictionaries and apply the stock definition to an image you might receive. Allow your dream image to fully affect you. Allow your own intelligence to work with the images and characters without labeling them. When we label anything it shrinks and loses its original potency. Images are full of power–consider their potent effect in advertising! After you have had a chance to really soak up the image and hear your own impressions then a little skate on the internet can inspire further understanding.

Are all dreams the same?

in close range
in close range

There are many kinds of dreams that come to us; here are the most common:

  • There are what I would call ordinary dreams that show you, by way of a story, the dynamics of how your lives are playing out or being lived on some level.
  • There are repetitive dreams. A repetitive dream is one that comes to try to work something out. These can happen over a lifetime or over a few months. They come to offer some essential knowledge that the higher self deems important and necessary and they keep coming back until the knowledge is understood and integrated. Many times you do not know what these dreams are trying to tell you initially. For example, the most common repetitive dream is when you dream an assailing character in the dream is chasing you. Over a series of months or years your response to being chased will change and when you finally turn around and face the character or change your fear response to it, the dreams will naturally cease. This usually means an important challenge has been met. If you can see it in this way your own fear response can change to one of meeting rather than avoiding.
  • There are dreams of foretelling. Because dreams emerge from the timeless realm the incidents that occur in them can seem to be of a future time but in actuality where they come from all events live side-by-side, without past or future. But in real time you will experience them as prophetic.
  • There are archetypal dreams in which strong symbols or symbolic characters appear to teach something or to announce the way into a new part of our lives. These dreams can come to tell of a unique gift that has not yet been acknowledged or a way your gifts would like to be used in the world.
  • There are small dreams that appear just as snippets or vignettes. Sometimes these dreams can have a strong image or carry a voice like an announcer that will simply proclaim something, or you will see the writing of something in your mind. Images are very powerful and when you allow them to drop all the way in, they can bring you into a relationship not possible with words. It is said that it is important to pay attention to the dreams in which your name is called or ones where you see your name written down.
  • Similarly, there are ancient teachers who appear in dreams to teach or remind you of something you may need to know for this particular time in your lives. There can appear political figures or religious figures, sports heroes, actors and actresses…
  • There are warning dreams – often folks experience them as These dreams come to draw your attention to something happening in your life, usually an old pattern that has been wreaking havoc or perhaps an illness or other forms of disharmony.
  • Childhood dreams. We will cover this topic in a separate post but there is a certain quality to childhood dreams that make them especially important and tender to gently work with. Because children do not have sophisticated censoring devices they tend to experience their dreams very vividly, especially if the dream contains something that frightens them. There are many people who were plagued by frightening experiences in their childhood dreams who could not share them effectively with their parents and so misunderstood what was being given.
  • Lucid dreaming. We will cover this topic as well in a separate post. It is a type of dreaming, also called Active Imagination, where you go back into a dream-like trance state in order to work with the character or events that have appeared in a dream, in order to work creatively on the conscious level.
room with a view
room with a view

When looking at dreams and their characters with fresh eyes we can see the potentials that are trying to emerge in our lives, the fears and the beliefs that we are carrying and what kinds of changes might encourage a shift into a larger, more unfettered way being. We will look at dreams individually and ask questions that will unravel the dream.

Using the dream as correspondence between ourselves and our inner most self provides a vehicle for a deeply creative and resourceful life.  An unscripted and unconditioned life waiting to be discovered.

New Blog Series: The Importance of Dreams and How to Work With Them, Introduction

Entering a dream is like stepping down into the cave of the psyche where the contents are unknown to us.        

cave entrance
cave entrance

Before the work of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, modern western culture in general did not pay close attention to dreams other then to note their usual or unusual appearance. By contrast indigenous cultures dating back to the beginning of recorded history considered dreams an important part of their everyday communication with the cosmos and depended on them to understand the things they needed to pay close attention to — the location of good hunting grounds or personal guidance or community issues. Dreams were understood to be direct messages from their true self, their over soul. In cooperation with their shaman or healer they would work with their dreams to understand them and to make changes that would affect their outward reality.


It was their belief that we are always dreaming, even during the day time, and that our nighttime dreams actually create the dream of our daytime but that both realities are fluid and can thus be affected and changed by interacting with and understanding our dreams. The dream was thus highly regarded and individuals from these cultures were expected to report their dreams to safeguard the well being of their community. Their link to the timeless realms kept them in close contact with the fluidity of life, and the ever-changing act of creation through the imagination.

Dreams bring playfulness and an inexpressible joy into out lives. There is humor and combinations of characters that show up to surprise and delight us. How many times are you in a dream and somehow you get from one place to another without effort. It is as if the dream world is constantly presenting possibility where our mind has learned obstacle, encouraging us to take the leaps our soul so wants to make, to contradict the sense of limitation and doom we carry around.

man with egg
man with egg

Even though it happens all the time that the intentions of a group or a strong individual will bring into being something that was not possible in the past, we have made a certain category for that type of thing but are careful not to assign any meaning to it for ourselves and what we are capable of. We tell ourselves that dreams are for nighttime and are not ‘for real’. In his Book, "In Search of Character and Calling", Jungian psychologist and author James Hillman suggests the possibility that our souls are always constructing scenery and challenges in our lives so that the acorn of our true identity and calling can come to fruition.

But modern culture has difficulty thinking this way. Thus, our culture is viewed by these ancient cultures as “The People of Time”.

We have projected our individual ability to imagine on ‘special’ individuals or institutions like television, the film industry, or ‘famous people’. It is no wonder that our children are chained to these programs out of hunger for their own imagination.

In "Awakening to the Spirit World, the Shamanic Path of Direct revelation",    Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman write:

“Perhaps the greatest enemy or obstacle to a man or woman of knowledge is the belief that one can be victimized by outside circumstances or trapped by fate.”

They call us into active participation with reality in order to see our lives not as hard solid masses of unchangeable facts but as the territory of explorers whose mission is to uncover the true nature of our reality and to play with it, through our dreams and personal visions. And so, dreams have continued to come to us. It is the use of dreams we have let go of. And it is the use and the understanding of how to work with dreams I would like to talk about.

broad daylight
broad daylight

The wonderful thing about a dream is that it is unrestrained; it is not polite or conscious of social status or constrained by the rules of the culture. It comes to us often unbidden and it is often filled with characters completely unlike ourselves.

Martin Prechtel, in "Secrets of the Talking Jaguar",  writes:

“Dreams are a direct, incorruptible expression of the mysterious nature of life and are considered to be free of human connivance.”

A dream provides an unfiltered hologram of the dynamics playing out in our lives, the fears and the beliefs that we are carrying as well as the potentials in our lives that have not yet come to fruition. And often the most difficult part of reflecting on a dream is getting over our bias for our own dream character to see what information the dream and the shadow characters are presenting to us!

In working with a dream we usually see that the dream is divided into scenes or stages:

  • The first stage usually presents the characters and a situation being introduced.
  • The second stage offers us an example of how a habitual dynamic is playing out and the emotions associated.
  • The third stage often offers us a surprise, an indication that some long held belief is being violated
  • The fourth stage often shows us the medicine or resolution to the habit in the dream. Many times the medicine is being offered through a shadow dream character that our dream character has not been able to see with appreciation or has labeled "bad."

This is the part of dream work that is the most interesting. We are shown our own shadow characters that we usually build a case against but who are actually trying to show us an aspect of ourselves that has been driven underground. For example, we might have a character in our dream that we label "lazy" or "good for nothing", while our own character is "hard working and stressed out". We might have a fear of being labeled ourselves as lazy and are over compensating by driving ourselves harshly. Or there might be a childhood wound of having been labeled lazy when really we were young, wide-eyed and open to our inner nature. When we are kids our families because of their own stresses and wounding often ignore our most sensitive qualities. And sometimes we adopt the opposite tendencies to deflect attention from a place of vulnerability.

To see a potential in a dream we need to be able to be tremendously honest with ourselves and work to find some quality in the other (shadow) characters that we can appreciate in some way.  We may ask ourselves "What do all of the other characters in the dream have in common unlike me?" Perhaps there will be a woman in the dream that we have labelled 'pushy'.  However when we look carefully at her we can see that she is not shy about the way she presents herself, something that in real life we have difficulty with.

Often the characters that play in our dreams trigger strong biases for or against and this too often prevents us initially from seeing another quality in them the dream is trying to bring us.

Dreams offer a vehicle to a deeply creative and resourceful existence; an unscripted and unconditioned life waiting to be discovered. When we work with the material of dreams we can invoke our deepest, innermost selves and through this conversation provoke change at the core level of our lives.

Because our dreams are completely unique to us as individuals they can suggest an entirely personal resolution to one’s inner and outer dilemmas. Dreams evolve with us.  They change as we change.

As this series develops we will be addressing specific dreams, take them apart and look at all the pieces and see how one can learn from them. I will ask readers to write in with their own dreams so we can have a live interaction to the dream material.

Stay tuned for part two — "How to remember your dreams", and more...