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DREAMS Foundation

Harvesting Dreamland - Dream Incubation

A Dream Research Experiment for Training in Self-Discovery

Dream Incubation Experiment: Instructions

Dream Incubation Experiment: Feedback Form

Part I: Dream Incubation for Healing, Creativity, Fun, and Guidance

Welcome to the first of a series of lessons and home experiments being offered on the fascinating implications and applications of dreams. Each lesson will offer techniques that facilitate awareness of and interaction with your dreams that can be practically applied. This article describes dream incubation and suggests some enticing goals. Future topics will cover dream interpretation techniques, dream skills as a springboard for creativity, precognitive and mutual dreams, nightmares and how to benefit from them, as well as an exploration of the intriguing realm of lucid (conscious) dreaming. Your responses will become part of our ongoing research and may be published at a later date (anonymously, of course) in upcoming articles and research reports. We cordially invite you to join what should be a fascinating voyage of self-discovery.

Why Dreams Deserve Our Attention

Since every person on Earth dreams every night, it seems logical to assume that something extremely important must be going on during the third of our lives we sleep and dream. But, in our industrialized, objective culture, we often seem to be missing this point. Although dream knowledge and techniques exist, they are not taught in schools and are seldom seriously discussed in our homes and places of work, though in some native cultures, the opposite is true. Since dreams represent a connection with our own deeper nature, cultivating them may provide answers to many of our personal, cultural, and planetary challenges.

Throughout recorded history, dreams have been employed for guidance and healing. In the dream temples of ancient Greece, the ill of body or mind would perform a sacred ritual and sleep in a specialized healing temple. The Greek god Asklepios would often appear in a visionary dream, perform a symbolic operation, and the seeker would awaken healed or having received guidance. Among many Native American tribes, young adults would travel alone into the wilderness as a rite of passage, where they would fast and pray. After being blessed by a dream filled with guidance or revelations, they would return to their tribe to share their revelations and enact the guidance.

Although it is perhaps a forgotten art in our culture, dream incubation is a natural process and neither esoteric nor difficult. It often operates automatically to some degree as we fall asleep with a problem in mind, as these examples show:

"After learning about dream incubation, I suggested to myself to have a healing dream, since I'd been feeling drained of energy for some time and had a bad cold coming on, which is unusual for me. I dreamt that the pores of my legs opened and ugly leeches oozed out. I awoke feeling much better. I never did find out exactly what it represented, but it sure worked." (M.S., Palo Alto, CA)

"I'm a triathlete. After an important, upsetting race where I biked and ran well below my capability, I decided to incubate a dream about it. After a week of focusing, I remembered this dream: 'I'm with my coach discussing how I was so tight and cramped during the race. He suggests regular sports massages for the racing season to avoid lactic acid build-up in my muscles, among other reasons, and says he knows a guy who could do it.' When I awoke and phoned my coach, he confirmed the dream and connected me with his massage therapist. A few weeks later I won my first major race, becoming the New England Long Course Champion. Two weeks after that, I qualified for the World Championships in Hawaii." (R.C., Montreal, QC)

The best incubation results are achieved by combining a balance of curiosity, playfulness, and respect, since the knowledge gained also generally brings us a responsibility for action that should be made in conjunction with, but not at the expense of, our best waking judgment. Dreams are not a free ticket away from the challenges of life, and sometimes they demand a lot from us, pointing us in directions we might otherwise never consider. If we occasionally look to them for insight, honestly contemplate their messages, yet avoid completely relying on them to make decisions for us, then dreams can support our waking lives as the useful tool they are meant to be.

Using Dreams for Physical & Professional Skill Rehearsal

Young children, especially babies, spend more time in REM sleep than do adults. In these stages of intense physical and mental development, various researchers believe we're actually practicing while we dream how to talk, walk, and perform other physical and mental skills, suggesting that this may be one of the innate functions of dreaming.

Innovators in the sports and business world have been among the first to utilize the creative freedom and safety of the dream state to improve skill and performance. German psychologist and lucid dream researcher Paul Tholey used dream work in his training of the German Olympic ski jumping team. He had the skiers learn lucid dreaming so that they could creatively experiment with new aerial maneuvers without risk of injury.

Resolving Nightmares

Fear of nightmares or misguided beliefs about dreams and the unconscious can block dream recall. This can usually be overcome by discovering the useful nature of dreams and by recognizing that many nightmares represent opportunities for personal healing through much-needed emotional release. Such nightmares can help resolve psychological imbalances, providing a natural therapy for the psyche.

Lucid dreaming, a phenomenon in which the dreamer becomes conscious while dreaming, is being researched by doctors at Montreal's Sacre-Coeur Hospital Dream and Nightmare Laboratory to help people overcome nightmare-induced anxiety, as the following example shows:

"After many recurring nightmares where I'm pursued by some terrifying figure, I learned of lucid dreaming and had the following dream: 'I'm in a frantic car chase with the pursuer right behind me. Swerving into a lot, I bolt out of the car and run with him hot on my heels. Suddenly, the scene seems familiar and I realize that I'm dreaming, though the parking lot and trees still seem more real than ever. Drawing upon every ounce of courage that I have, I swirl to face my pursuer, repeating to myself that it's only a dream. Still afraid, I scream at him, 'You can't hurt me!' He stops, looking surprised. For the first time I see his beautiful, loving eyes. 'Hurt You?' he says. 'I don't want to hurt you. I've been running after you all this time to tell you that I love you!' With that, he holds out his hands, and as I touch them, he dissolves into me. I awake filled with energy, feeling great for days.' Not only did the nightmare never return, but more importantly, I'm now better at standing my ground and expressing my feelings when appropriately needed, whereas before I would usually avoid or run from such situations." (M.R., San Jose, CA)

Dreaming for Fun, Adventure, and Wish Fulfillment

Dreams provide what Star Trek fans might call a nightly holodeck experience or what hi-tech buffs might see as the ultimate virtual reality. In lucid dreams especially, where the world avails itself to the intent of the dreamer, adventure and intrigue are almost guaranteed, because the usual laws of physics and of society no longer apply, and the apparent blocks set by age, sex, race, or religion simply fall away.

In dreams, we can fly, breathe underwater, be the hero of our own adventure, find romance, and perform feats free from embarrassment, peer pressure, and even physical handicaps. The boundaries of imagination are the only limits:

"I suddenly realize I'm dreaming from the surprise and excitement of recognizing that I've become a salmon swimming upstream! Leaping high into the air, I climb a series of chutes. Then I flip up onto the shore and the flipping sensation feels so odd that I soon awaken." (W.D., Palo Alto, CA)

Personal Growth and Illumination

Perhaps it's most important that dreams provide us with a direct link to the unconscious, allowing a much larger perspective than our physical senses. They provide an ideal means for honing intuition, for bringing about profound feelings and states of being, for self-exploration, and ultimately, for discovering our own true nature. We can even follow in the footsteps of Tibetan monks who master dream skills as a stepping stone on the path to enlightenment, as the following experience suggests:

"Falling asleep, I remember wondering what truly 'knowing myself' would be like. Dreaming, I become aware of this incredible, indescribably powerful 'Love Light.' The thought comes that there is no power in the universe like it -- it's absolutely non-judgmental, and dwarfs every worry or desire I've ever had. It is peace and simplicity and well-being. It includes sexuality but encompasses far more. Basking in what feels like 'an ocean of grace', I begin to realize that I'm not looking at it, but rather that I AM it, recognizing myself." (C.W., Palo Alto, CA)

Dream Incubation Experiment: Instructions

Dream Incubation Experiment: Feedback Form


Learn more about an excellent new non-violent computer biofeedback software game that incorporates stunning,
dream-like 3D graphics, inspiring music, and state-of-the-art physiological biosensors to teach you how to focus your
awareness, boost your energy, and quiet your mind:

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