9 Ways to Work with Waking Dreams as Intuitive Dream Medicine

Waking dreams are just as important as sleeping dreams when creating a dream practice.

Looking for synchronicities, dreamlike circumstances, and other signs while awake adds another dimension to dreamwork that hones your intuitive skills.

Here’s an example that happened to me this weekend.

Before going on a hike, I stepped into a Porta Potty. On the floor was a very small, purple feather. Since it was a Porta Potty, I wasn’t eager to pick the feather up, but I wondered if there was any way the feather came from a hummingbird (it was about the size of my index finger from the tip to the first joint).

I quickly dismissed this idea: I didn’t know of any local hummingbirds, let alone other local birds, with purple feathers. It looked natural; not like something someone would have in a boa. But I decided it couldn’t be a hummingbird feather.

Later that day, while sitting on a friend’s porch, a hummingbird came and hovered about a foot away from me.

Two nights later, I had this dream:

I am in the backyard of my childhood home. I see a hummingbird flying. Then I see someone holding a small purple feather (like the one I saw in the Porta Potty). I make the connection: I did see a hummingbird feather in there! Later in the dream I am given a hummingbird feather.

When I awoke from the dream, I felt certain that hummingbird medicine is coming into my life, especially because I was gifted a hummingbird feather in the dream.

My story shows how the waking life circumstances combined with dream work to give me more detailed and rich information about the energy coming into my life right now.

So what is a waking dream?

It is a combination of unusual circumstances, synchronicities, coincidences, overheard conversations, encounters with people or animals, messages on billboards or license plates, and things you read in books or magazines or your friend’s Facebook post that stand out.

When three or more of these things combine, that is something to really pay attention to. It’s a rule Carl Jung created when he first coined the term synchronicity to describe the occurrence of meaningful , but seemingly unrelated, events.

Another way waking dreams happen is to see a vision while you’re awake. This can happen in hypnagogia (the state you’re in as you fall asleep), hypnapompia (the state you’re in as you wake up), or in a shamanic trance.

You can also have spontaneous visions that occur without being in an altered state. This is what happened to Amy when she met Blue Elk in the woods, a waking dream she mentioned in last week’s post.

A waking dream can also be an unusual occurrence.

Once, after a powerful dream featuring a cat-hawk chimera, I took a walk in the woods at dusk and saw a screech owl. Although I often hike at dusk, it was the first time I’d seen a wild owl. The owl let me walk within two feet of it and we stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. Then it flew off silently into the darkening woods.

I came home and looked up owls in Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak. I nearly dropped the book when I read that owls are often called “cats with wings.” The screech owl was a waking-life representation of my dream animal.

How can you create a waking dream practice?

    1) Start by asking a question you’d like answered. Much like incubating a dream, think about information you’d like to get, and ask to receive guidance. You can imagine asking your inner wisdom, your Higher Self, Spirit, the Universe, your power animal … whatever feels right.
    2) Let go of the idea that there is a barrier between waking and sleeping. In truth, waking life events bleed into the dream and vice versa. Allow this flow to happen. This will prompt the waking dream.
    3) Look for a pattern or things in threes, like the hummingbird example above.
    4) Watch for the messages that are all around you. Pay close attention to signs and billboards you see, things you’re reading, what catches your attention when you’re out in the world.
    5) Leave the house. Although you can still have waking dreams when you’re cooped up inside, there is the potential for a lot more to happen when you engage with the world.
    6) Take time for quiet centering or meditation as much as possible. This helps you get into the flow.
    7) Relax and be patient. It may take a while for your question to be answered. Don’t force anything; just allow the information to come in its own time.
    8) Once a waking dream comes, look at it like it is a dream. See what information you can glean. Do any dreamwork technique you like to decipher the message.
    9) Take action on what the dream is telling you to do.

Working with waking dreams is exciting because it opens up so many more possibilities! It is not only your sleeping dreams that are sending you guidance; the world around you is also giving you information.

This practice can help you feel less isolated and alone because it helps you open to the idea that everything is truly connected.

It is also a great way to develop your intuition. The more you work with waking dreams (and sleeping dreams) the sharper your intuitive skills will become.

After a few experiences with the waking dream, I have a feeling you’ll be hooked.

Have you had an interesting or life-changing waking dream experience? Share it with us!

About the Author:

Katrina's work involves illuminating the soul and reconnecting with nature through her artistry with a camera, talent with words, expertise in dreamwork, compassionate teaching style, and ability as a clairvoyant. Visit her here: KatrinaDreamer.com

How to get awesome dream incubation results

If you ever need to make a difficult choice, ask your dreams to help you. 

The process is called “dream incubation” and it can help you find answers, life direction, heal illnesses or find creative solutions.

I discovered this accidentally years ago when my grandfather  gave me a thousand dollars to buy a pottery wheel, but I didn’t know which one to buy. 

There were two types of pottery wheels. One was white and aesthetically pleasing, but made of plastic. The other was sturdy, sporting a steel frame, but ugly with a mustard yellow coating.

Beauty and design meant a lot to me.

So did quality.

I had to choose between aesthetics and durability, and as silly as my choice seemed, I was at a total loss about what to do.

That night I had a dream:

I am presented with several potter’s wheels and I need to choose one. I choose the steel frame option because it will last a lifetime.

I woke up with clarity, no doubt in my mind that I’d buy the steel frame model.

Dream incubation can help you make tough decisions

If you’re not familiar with the concept, dream incubation is the process of asking a question and then dreaming a solution.

Many dreamers use a simple, three step dream incubation process:

  1. they ask a question prior to going to bed
  2. dream
  3. then process the imagery (rinse and repeat for a few days)

Some add a fourth step which is to create a dream charm in order to help deepen the experience.

This three or four step process works well, too.

In fact, according to Harvard dream researcher Dr. Barrett, about 50% of those who follow this technique will incubate dreams related to their question. 70% of those people will dream a solution.

What I’ve discovered over the past couple months, though, is that there is a way to increase the response rate.

The trick is to fully immerse yourself into whatever it is you want to know more about.

It’s a holistic process that encompasses more than sleeping and dreams.  Instead, it includes:

  • crafting a clear intention in the form of a question you want answered
  • actively immersing yourself in the topic of interest through research, writing or any other activity
  • being hyper aware, noticing how and when the theme of your intention appears in waking life
  • cultivating sleeping dreams around that intention (following the above outline)
  • recording dreams for weeks (even months) and noticing themes

Do this and your whole life may shift.

You may suddenly see things you didn’t see before.

Related blog posts, videos, and articles may appear as if by magic.

You might overhear conversations about your topic.

Or “hear” answers in your head while day dreaming.

And of course, you’re likely to have sleeping dreams about your theme, too.

This is certainly my experience, and anecdotal as it may be, I am not alone in having it.

Numerous famous inventions were created in part by people who were deeply immersed in a topic, only to dream imagery that led to the solution.

Elias Howe, Dreamer & Engineer

For example, Elias Howe had a dream that helped him develop a functioning sewing machine needle.

In the dream, Howe is being held captive by African cannibals. As he tries to escape from a boiling cauldron, the natives poke spears at him to keep him in place.

When Howe woke from his nightmare he recalled an odd addition to the spears: they all had holes on their tips. As he came fully awake, Howe realized this was the solution to his sewing needle problem.

But the question researchers like to ask is, “Was Howe’s famous dream an actual solution to his problem, or did his waking mind fill in the blanks?”

In other words, was Howe only inspired by the dream scene or did the dream provide a definitive solution?”

What I’d like to suggest is that it doesn’t matter.

Howe invented the perfect sewing machine needle, and whether or not his dream came to him as the perfect solution or just inspirational imagery, he got the solution anyway, clearly inspired by the dream.

To illustrate further, I’ll use myself as an example.

Before we started discussing what whale dreams mean, I hadn’t had a whale dream in years.

Shortly after we started talking about whales, though, I had two whale dreams, both were quite profound.

The first dream came the night I asked the question, “What message is trying to come through our whale dreams?”

I dreamed that my cat had a whale rib cage stuck in his mouth.

But the dreams continued even though I stopped asking the question.

I was unintentionally incubating dreams.

This is what I did:

I wrote one blog post about my whale dream.

I discussed whale dreams with friends, even sharing my “whale dream envy” because I’d never dreamed about swimming with whales or making deep eye contact with dolphins like other people had.

I edited nearly a dozen whale related posts written by the other Dream Team members.

I read and replied to over a hundred whale related dreams and comments shared by DreamTribe members.

I researched other websites, looking for information and insight into whales and whale dreams.

And as a result, I had dream after dream that appeared to be a response to the original question “what is the whales’ message.”

(I even had a dream about playing with a dolphin, making beautiful and meaningful eye-contact and then seeing an ocean full of humpback whales. I no longer have whale/dolphin dream envy!)

But one dream, which feels integrally related, didn’t have a single whale in it.

Instead, it was about pollution, specifically about how automobile gasoline is killing the water.

Considering all of this, and reflecting on other Big dreamers like Elias Howe, it seems clear that total immersion in a topic will elicit helpful dreams.

We only need to pay attention and be open to the possibility that our dreams are guiding us.

Here are some more hints about dream incubation:

  1. After you create an intention, record your dreams for weeks, even months.
  2. Pick one question or intention to contemplate and focus on it for awhile.  Immerse yourself in the theme.
  3. Your dreams may not reflect literal imagery related to your question. Instead, they may be metaphoric. Don’t look for the obvious, literal answer. Use your dreams like divination tools.
  4. When you want to dream solutions to problems the last thing you want is to get cryptic dream messages! I’ve had success incubating straight forward, more literal dreams by saying, “My intention is to dream about ______. Please send a dream I can easily understand!”
  5. Invite a friend to incubate dreams on your behalf, or do the same for a friend and share the results. Two people dreaming about one topic will double your results!

P.S. Have you had success incubating dreams? Share your tricks and experiences below.

P.P.S. I still have the pottery wheel nearly 20 years later. It’s survived several moves, including one big one half way across the country.

About the Author:

Amy Brucker helps people heal their ancestral wounds so they can free their purpose, passion, and inner power. She offers a one-on-one, private healing/mentoring program Healing the Ancestral Wound. See link "Work with Me" on main menu for details.

Dreaming of the Apocalypse: The Ape Man Cometh

We dream for the survival of our species.
– Montague Ullman, Pioneer in Dream Research

For many years, I have had apocalyptic dreams: terrifying visions of flood, fire, war and destruction on a global scale. In the past, I often held these dreams with deep reverence but shaky uncertainty as to ‘what to do with them.’ When explored, however, apocalyptic dreams often reveal insights into how we can solve problems in our communities and personal lives.

If you’ve ever had an apocalyptic dream, you may have experienced it as a Big Dream in that it had heightened visual, emotional and numinous qualities, but also a possible collective warning, setting the dream apart from other dreams.

Here’s a dream of mine that is particularly haunting:

One for One

It was the end of days. We were asking: What is there to be done? The answer came from an Ape Man and his actions were so simple. You take something from the earth and then you give it back – One for One. I see him demonstrating this by planting seeds wherever he went, pouring water into the soil. This is how we will save the earth.

But it is too late and war has begun. I find myself near the Poles: the only last place to survive. Nuclear war has hit home and there is desperation by those who have been poisoned. Green skinned, wraithlike beings wandering for scraps and shelter from the poisonous skies. I am among them but I am not visibly poisoned though I wonder how much toxic air I have breathed in. People are angry that I have gone outside the shelter. I come back inside and wonder about the Ape Man, the concept of One for One, and how simple it could all be.

Apocalyptic dreams such as this are often disturbing, leaving the dreamer with a thick residue of confusion, fear and hopelessness. The sense of doom and despair can be isolating and foster questions like, is this a precognitive dream? If so, should I warn people? Will they think I’m crazy? And finally, why would I have such a dream?

The beauty of dream exploration, though, is that it can help illuminate a confusing or scary dream, turning fear into hope, and despair into renewed life direction.

Global Revelations from My Apocalyptic Dream

Upon waking from my dream, I immediately thought of the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and felt an urge to read it again. Luckily, I found it wedged between two books and spent a quiet afternoon absorbed in this gripping novel about the Philosopher King in a gorilla body named Ishmael.

In the story, Ishmael uses the Socratic Method to telepathically teach his pupil about our human story of the Takers (so-called ‘civilized’ world or those of the Agricultural or Neolithic Revolution) and the Leavers (everyone else or indigenous peoples). Ishmael believes the “Takers” narrative will be our undoing.

He explains:

The life affirming Leavers’ story is: ‘the gods made man for the world, the same way they made salmon and sparrows for the world.

But the premise of the Takers’ story is more destructive: ‘The world belongs to man…” In the last 10,000 years, we humans have been breaking the laws of nature, deeming ourselves as gods or gods ‘chosen ones’ by deciding who lives or dies. We’ve done this by taking the land and killing anything or anyone who gets in our way, not only with impunity but as our right to do.

Waking Life Dream Integration

After my dream I had a series of synchronistic events including random people asking me if I read Ishmael! These themes were also popping up everywhere in the news and I became engaged in spirited conversations with people about it, sparking new alliances and revolutionary ideas.

What struck me the most about this apocalyptic dream was that it was not necessarily a prediction of how the world would end but rather a wake-up call about how the “taker story” concept needs to die.

By receiving this insight and then taking action from my own dream, I was able to understand my dream in a whole new way. I knew that our collective story matters and that dreams woven into our personal and cultural narratives can be used as a moral compass in which to live and assure our survival.

From Perishing to Prospering

Throughout history, apocalyptic dreams have helped communities recognize imminent danger so they were able to thrive instead of perish.

One striking example of this is written in anthropologist and explorer, Knud Rasmussen’s book, Across Arctic America. He speaks of an Inuit medicine man who saved his tribe from starvation by dreaming of a land of abundance to the far north. Those who believed were saved, those who didn’t, perished.

Another example is the famous precognitive dreams of World War I by Carl G. Jung that were so terrifying he thought he was having a psychotic breakdown. “I realized that a frightful catastrophe was in progress. I saw mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands. Then the whole sea turned to blood.”

Although these visions alarmed him, from them came the most creative, prolific and ground-breaking concepts that have literally changed the world: Jungian Psychology.

How to Explore Apocalyptic Dreams

If you’ve had an apocalyptic dream, the first thing to do is take care of yourself. Scientific studies have shown that when we dream the brain utilizes the exact same processes and systems as in the waking state.

In other words, what we experience in a dream is very real. You can imagine dreaming of the ‘end of days’ can be quite stressful so be sure to self sooth like taking a bath or hike. That way you can be in a better state to sit with the dream and receive whatever messages or insights it may hold for you. And then act on those insights.

Here are some ways we can use the dream as a catalyst for change and evolution:

  • Share the Dream Gather some friends and form a dream group to share dreams. This could be any group that has a pressing social/spiritual/environmental issue that needs to be addressed (i.e. women’s issues, racism, education) and in any organization or facility like schools, hospitals, companies, etc… NOTE: Dreams are sacred and sharing dreams takes an innate sensitivity. Protocols for dream sharing can be found at the International Association for the Study of Dreams website. (http://www.asdreams.org/idxaboutus.htm)
  • Dream Activism It isn’t surprising that many inventions, scientific discoveries, composition both musically and literally have been discovered creatively in dreams. So why not move the dream into solving current issues in a holistic way? By grounding the dream we are creating community by bridging social and environmental activism with spirituality. Like author and dream activist, Jean Campbell’s The World Dreams Peace Bridge projects (http://www.worlddreamspeacebridge.org/aidforchildren.htm).


Although it’s tempting to want to get over these apocalyptic dreams, a healthier way is to become bigger than they are by recognizing that their underlying message may be pointing us toward our most creative selves, if we only have the courage to take that leap.

About the Author:

Linda believes dreams can transform individuals & bring communities together. Her research, art & therapeutic work run the gamut from spiritual alchemy to ancestral knowledge to altered states of consciousness. SF Dream Research Examiner SF Examiner and Empact Institute

Honoring Animal Dreams in Waking Life

Dreams are not just relegated to the night. They live with us during waking life too. Sometimes a dream I hadn’t remembered when I woke up in the morning will pop into my mind while I’m staring out the window in reverie or driving to work. Sometimes someone will say something that triggers a memory of a dream. Other times a piece of music will bring the dream back. It’s like the dream is dropping hints, saying, “Don’t forget me.”

I like to play with this relationship and let my dreams know I am listening. One way to do this is to intentionally bring the energy of the dream into the physical world. There are many ways to go about this, the most obvious being sharing a dream with a trusted friend. But I like to take it even further and add creativity to the mix.

I have been known to draw my dreams and act them out in dream theatre. I am also a huge fan of creating dream collages. I particularly like collage because putting the elements together into one piece often brings clarity to the dream and heightens its energy. It also works well for me because it removes my Perfectionist and my Inner Critic from the equation: they can’t tell me the nose is too big on my dream tiger or chide me for messing up the perspective on my dream bridge. Plus, it gives me chills to see the dream in vivid, colorful detail right in front of me.

I find that the best magazines for dream collage are National Geographic, Audubon, Outdoor Photographer and Smithsonian…basically any magazine with stunning images will work. But of course, anything you have on hand can work too.

This is a collage (above) I created a few years ago that combined elements of several dreams. Owl became my totem animal after she appeared repeatedly in dreams and waking life, and I wanted to create a piece to honor her that would adorn my altar. Included in the collage are a great gray and a snowy owl. Both are native to my ancestral lands of Norway and Sweden and I included images of those lands in the collage as well. There is a lot of ancestral energy in these recurring dreams and looking at this piece reminds me of this.

I’ve also created three-dimensional art pieces from dreams. My favorites are my snowy owl cloak and nest. I found a pattern online and fired up the sewing machine. I am by no means a seamstress, but I managed to sew the hood onto the main cloak piece. Then I spent hours sewing picture jasper beads onto the back to mimic the brown spots found on juvenile snowy owls. The final flourish was a button and a ribbon clasp.

The idea for the nest came during a shamanic drumming journey during which I reconnected with snowy owl. She gave me this object during the journey and I wanted to honor the gift by creating a physical version. I gathered twigs and branches from local trees and tied them together with natural materials. I stuffed the nest with moss and lichen and included objects specific to dreams I had around that time as well as objects I saw within the nest during the journey.

When I donned the cape and held the nest in my arms, I felt transformed. I was imbued with the energy of Owl: her grace, wisdom, stealth, and cunning. This is what it means to bring the dream into waking life.

Working with art in this way creates a space for your dreams in waking life. It sends a clear message that you honor and respect your dreams and that you are willing to listen to their messages. And it lets your dreams know you haven’t forgotten them.

About the Author:

Katrina's work involves illuminating the soul and reconnecting with nature through her artistry with a camera, talent with words, expertise in dreamwork, compassionate teaching style, and ability as a clairvoyant. Visit her here: KatrinaDreamer.com

Turtle Power: honoring a dream with action

Over the holidays, I read an introductory book on dreams by Bobbie Ann Pimm, titled Notes from a dreamer on dreaming. Pimm’s book may be meant for beginners, but even seasoned dreamers will get something out of this personal and practical book. What strikes me the most of Pimm’s book is her simple three-step advice for recording and interpreting dreams.

The first step, of course, is writing the dream down in the first place. The sooner the better.  Pimm cites dream researcher Robert Van de Castle’s advice for also giving the dream a title, as if the dream is a story. In fact, writing the dream down as if it has a beginning, a middle, and a resolution can help structure the narrative and bring insights (as long as you make sure you’re not washing over the memory of the dream with wishful thinking).

The second step is playing with the dream’s meaning. Dream interpretation is never done, but really is a snapshot of a process. Pimm offers several practical methods of working with dream imagery, such as freewriting, doing word associations, and retelling the dream to friends to see what comes out of your mouth.

But it’s really the third step of Pimm’s process that caught my attention: ACTION. This last step is about asking the question: How can I honor this dream in waking life? Pimm calls this the “action plan” and in her own personal dream journal, she always jots down the possible ways she can correct for an action or use the dream as inspiration for discovering new information about someone or something in waking life.

Truth is, many dreamers are not always action-oriented, myself included. It’s easy to get wrapped up in deep symbolic parallels and live within a cloud of potentiality and possibility. But many of us forget that potential energy can be focused into kinetic realities.

Here’s an example of an action plan. In early November 2010, I dreamed:

I’m walking down a sidewalk and I see a box turtle in its shell. “Look!” I tell my friends and I stop to look closer. I feel resistance from them to stop walking but I do anyway. The turtle is beautiful. I see its green head and bright intelligent eyes and as I look it comes out of its shell and I notice how vividly green it is. Suddenly, the turtle starts moving towards me briskly. I’m surprised and a little frightened and I wake up with a start.

This was a beautiful dream, but because I woke up from it, it’s technically a nightmare… maybe the cutest nightmare ever. But what was so scary about this turtle?  I played with the symbols of turtles, and could go on at length here about associations with slowness, introversion, self-sufficiency, living between two worlds, etc, as well as possible cross-cultural interpretations that link turtles to wisdom, the Earth’s life force and sacrifice.

There’s also some day residue, as in mid-October I carried a snapping turtle across a country highway to prevent it from certain death. That turtle was gnarly, covered in moss and dirt, and came close to biting me as its neck craned back when I shuttled it across the road. But in all my musings, I didn’t think about an action plan, or how to honor this dream in waking life.

But using Pimm’s action plan, I can easily come up with few actions that seem to honor the spirit of dream:

  • To let myself stop in reverie at beauty as it comes across my path, even if that means interrupting a social scene or other “inconvenience.”
  • To seek contact with non-human others in my daily life, and build a relationship with them.
  • To appreciate the “slowness” of my own nature and allow for the time it takes for beauty and vividness to emerge in everyday life.
  • To be ready for–and less startled by—unexpected contacts when I open myself to relationship with all beings, human and non-human.

What’s interesting to me about this process is that the action plan came naturally and really cut through all the confusion and multiplicity from thinking about the dream symbolically. Instead of wondering, which of the turtle’s attributes applies to my life, I was able to quickly apply many aspects of the dream to areas in my life that are already on my mind.

Action: I recommend it.  I’m thankful for Bobbie Ann Pimm’s reminder that a dream not honored in life is a dream not yet understood. And my own turtle nature also reminds me that it’s okay if deeper understanding takes a while.

About the Author:

Ryan's recent dream research focuses on lucid dreaming, sacred sites, the anthropology of dreaming, and sleep paralysis. DreamStudies.org