Keeping a dream diary

I’ve already earlier discussed the benefits of symbolism as mentioned keeping a dream diary as one of the keystones to getting started with magick. This week I’m finally going to discuss matters from more than a theoretical standpoint. I’m however still going to start with some basic theory for you, dear reader, to understand the underlying mechanics of dreams and their interpretations.

Dreams could be described as “noise” made by our mind. We know today that dreaming is very important for the brain to recover from the work of the day. This noise takes many forms ranging from supernatural nightmares to mundane rewindings of the events of the day. Often our hopes and fears reflect themselves into our dream world. In short: it’s a gateway to the psyche unlike any other, except perhaps the one of psychedelic drugs.

The exercise I’m going to describe can help a beginner to gain a better understanding of his or her inner symbolic language. I’m also going to describe some practices related to controlling your dreams that rely on recording ones dreams. The purpose is to learn how to remember dreams well enough to be able to return the dreams vivid into one’s mind to be used for meditative work.

Exercise 1: Start keeping a diary
Buy a book that fits well in your bedroom close to your bed. For the next month upon your waking let the diary direct your mind back to the dreams you just might have had. You might not remember any at all or just small fragments from here and there. Write immediately down all you can remember. You can return to fill in the gaps during the day if you suddenly remember something more.

Do not try to interpret or explain your dreams. Simply write them down just as you experienced them. Remember to include any feelings or sensations you have. When you’re done, close the book and do not reread it over the next days.

Expected results:
You will start remembering more of what you dream every night. Writing them down in the morning will make them stick to the waking memory and you might find yourself remembering some dreams for a long time after seeing them. In my own case the content of my dreams also changed over time, as if my mind tried to get through messages I would usually have missed. If you keep a diary regularly for 6-12 months you should also learn to pay attention to the differences within dreams. With some training you may even naturally start to filter significant details from redundant ones while still sleeping.

Exercise 2: Recognize mental symbols
This exercise doesn’t fit any set time scale, but is a continuous study. When writing down your dreams, pay attention to recurring themes and people. Refrain from the temptation to look into dream interpretation guidebooks. If you don’t understand the meaning of a symbol right away, don’t get stressed about it. You can attempt to influence your dreaming by recalling symbols during the day until right before going to sleep. Write down your findings and thoughts to avoid forgetting them. Go back and revise your ideas as many times as needed. The importance of the exercise is in learning to pay attention to your inner language and accustom your mind to become consistent in its symbolic language.

Expected results:
You will learn the basics of mental symbolism and their use. As with exercise 1, you’ll get used to paying attention to and memorizing details in your dreams. With time your dreams will start seeming less confusing. Working with dream logic will make it easier to work with other mental constructs used within magick and will give you a basis for developing your own magical symbolism.

Exercise 3: Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreams are dreams where the sleeper is aware that he or she is dreaming. In this context lucid dreaming refers to the practice of changing the content of one’s dreams by will. The control can vary from being able to remove or add small details into the narrative or feeing oneself from it entirely. The skill generally requires a lot of work and may not be interesting for everyone. However for those who do, there are a plenty of good guides on how to learn the trick. Lucid dreaming can be of special interest to magicians who want to explore mental (and so-called astral) worlds in depth.

Expected results:
Dreams are often thought of as something out of our control. Simply being aware of the possibility of lucid dreaming can take a person far, since he or she learns not to simply give in to unpleasant dreams. When your power over your mind increases you might find yourself instinctively controlling your dreams with magical means, such as banishing. It’s nice to understand where the skill comes from and how to develop it further if the subject interests you.

Further reading
A very extensive article on what dreams are and how our understanding of them have developed over time.
General information on lucid dreaming, including scientific studies and history.
An excellent step-by-step guide to lucid dreaming.