Discovering Your Dream Medicine
“It’s time to live your dream.” Hawaiian elder and kahuna, Mr. Hale Makua
I consider myself an ordinary dreamer. By now you’ve heard the extraordinary dream biographies of other Dream Tribe members Amy, Katrina, Linda and Ryan, and I am honored to be a part of a team of such gifted dreamers.
However, even as an ordinary dreamer, for most of my life I have paid close attention to my dreams. I knew intuitively at a very young age (even though nobody in my waking life was teaching me to do so), that my dreams were important.
When I was about 8 years old I had a nightmare that still recall to this day. The dream lingered with me for days and sent me to the library checking out books about dream interpretation.
As I grew up, I would write down my dreams from time to time in my journals, even though I don’t remember sharing them with anyone in my waking life.
As a young adult, I had a few significant dreams that I now consider to have been ancestral visitations. The first was when I was in Taos, New Mexico.
That night in Taos, camping out under the stars, I dreamed of a Native American man with long dark hair who was looking at me with a serious gaze. He seemed to be conveying to me some important message.
This dream man had a profound effect on me. His gaze haunted me during the next few days and the emotional memory lingered for months. It was not until years later that I discovered that my great grandfather was a Navajo man from Taos. When I learned this, I knew in my bones that the man in the dream was my great grandfather.
It was profound for me to recognize that this ancestor of mine came to me in my dreams. I was surprised that a dream could span the boundaries of time to deliver a message to me. I grew up knowing that I was part Navajo, but knew little of the details of our family history.
At that time in my life, I had no context in which to more deeply understand the dream. Only twenty years later was I able to reflect back on this dream, write about it and process it more thoroughly.
Strange diagnostic dreams
In my twenties I became a dedicated student of herbal medicine and other healing arts. At some point, I started having strange, diagnostic premonitions about the health of people in my life.
One example was that I dreamed of a woman from my dance class in a hospital hooked up to a respirator. She was just a casual acquaintance, so I didn’t pay much attention to the dream. However, when she didn’t show up to class the next week, I found out that she had suffered a severe asthma attack and ended up in the hospital on a breathing machine- just like in my dream.
After receiving other diagnostic premonition dreams of random people in my life, I felt like there was something to understand or develop about my dreaming abilities. As a student of the healing arts, I believed there was some special connection between how I was dreaming and developing my craft as a healer.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find anyone in waking life who could give me guidance or support. I continued to pay attention to these dreams but didn’t know what to do about them.
Dreaming in the Indigenous Mind
In the fall of 2001, I was enrolled in the first class of master’s students in the Indigenous Mind Concentration at Naropa University Oakland.
On the first day of class, our professor Dr. Apela Colorado gave us our assignments. One of them was to keep a dream journal. For the first time in my life I kept a journal exclusively for dreams and developed the discipline of writing my dreams down every morning.
As an Indigenous Mind student, I finally received my first teachings and guidance on how to work with my dreams. My teachers and mentors were approaching dreamwork from a non-western, indigenous perspective. We were taught to listen to our dreams as messages from the Ancestors and the spiritual world.
Dr. Colorado also assigned some books on dreaming for us to read. The one that had the most impact on me was Healing Dreams by Marc Ian Barasch. In this book, Barasch first documented his own personal journey of how his dreams helped him to diagnose and heal from thyroid cancer.
In the rest of the book Barasch presented all the areas in which dreams could be healing, from diagnostic dreams of illness, to dreams in which the dreamer received direct healing, to dreams of ancestors and spirit guides.
As I read Barasch’s book, it was the first time I was able to make the connection between my path as a healer and my path as a dreamer. I devoured Healing Dreams, very hungry for answers to all the unanswered questions about my own healing dream life.
Falling in love with dream group
At the same time in my life, I started to participate in dream groups with other Naropa University students. Many of them had been students of dream guru Jeremy Taylor, and had experience facilitating dream groups.
I immediately fell in love with the dream group experience. I loved sharing dreams with other people and opening to the magic, mystery and guidance that came from group dream work. In dream group I also started observing the different dream styles and gifts of the individuals in the group.
In the Indigenous Mind Program, we also shared our dreams with one another. The sharing in these circles was more focused on the ancestral remembrance and healing work in which we were collectively engaged. We begin to notice patterns in the dream life of each student engaged in the process.
For example, many of us at some time dreamed of a lizard, which was the guardian spirit of the Indigenous Mind Program. Also, our own ancestors started showing up in our dreams. I had many dreams of the Polish land and of my Polish ancestors a long time before I ever walked in this lifetime on Polish soil.
Healing is the restoration of the balance of all the forces that impact human life- the physical, emotional, biophysical, psychic, spiritual, natural, and cosmic.
Charles Finch, MD, Author of the African Origin of Science & Mathematics
In her article “Introducing Dream Medicine,” dreamworker Tallulah Lyons defines dream medicine as “a practice of discovering insight from our dreams and then integrating the energies into the healing of mind, body and spirit using those healing dreams.”
I would like extend the definition of dream medicine to include the perspective of Indigenous Science, as so brilliantly stated in the above quote by Dr. Charles Finch.
Dream medicine is also the way in which the dreamer honors/listens to/works with their dreams to help restore health and balance to “all the factors that impact human life.” The healing begins with the dreamer, then ripples out to the dreamer’s family and community, then extends to all human beings, to all life forms, to the elements of the natural world, to Mother Earth and to the cosmos.
Each of us has our own dream medicine. Some of us, like Amy and Katrina, are big dreamers and travel to many dimensions in the dream state. In Linda’s dreams, she works as a psychopomp and takes care of the dead or recently departed. Ryan has the natural ability for lucid dreaming and has worked to uncover the mysteries of sleep paralysis.
Finding my own dream medicine
For me, even as an ordinary dreamer, over time I began to discover my own personal dream medicine. I began to incorporate dreamwork into my healing practice. I started encouraging my clients to incubate healing dreams for themselves as I realized that people’s dreams often hold the key to their healing.
I also started to take my own premonition and diagnostic dreams seriously. If I dreamed of a person in my life, I would make sure to contact them to see how they were doing.
As an herbalist, I discovered that the world of dreams and the world of plant medicine are intimately connected. I began to take note of my dreams of plants and all the ways that plant medicine affects the dream state.
All of my training in the Indigenous Mind Program gave me special insight into the ways in which our ancestors connect to us in our dreams. I began to facilitate Dreaming with the Ancestors dream groups as well as Mind-Body Healing dream groups.
Eventually, I began to recognize my own dream medicine. I hadn’t been aware of it at first, because it was different than I expected. Like I said in the beginning, I consider myself an ordinary dreamer.
Discovering your dream medicine
As westernized people who are recovering our indigenous minds, we are only starting to scratch the surface of the possibilities & healing gifts of the dream world.
Here’s a list of some suggestions to help you discover and develop your own dream medicine:
- Set your intention to discover your dream medicine.
As my friend, curandera Maria Miranda says “where intention goes, energy flows.”
- Pay attention to your dreams.
They are your friends, your guides, your teachers, your healers, your therapist, your spiritual counselors, and your own personal research project.
- Honor your dreams.
Dreams offer healing but you must listen and take action in the waking world to fully manifest their healing potential.
- Follow your heart.
As an herbalist, I am enthusiastic about plants, so naturally my own dream medicine would evolve around working with plants. You may be particularly drawn to animals, birds, stones, trees, art, or music. Pay attention to how these energies manifest in your dream life and how your dream life informs your relationship to them in the waking world.
- Don’t try too hard. Notice what comes easily to you.
Our dream medicine is part of our innate gifts. Often these gifts are so natural to us that we don’t even recognize them.
- Share dreams with others, but don’t compare yourself to other dreamers!
Just like each of us has different talents and gifts in waking life, each of us also has our own unique dream gifts. Sometimes our friends can help us to see our gifts.
In community dreamwork, I’ve noticed that each dreamer holds a different piece of the bigger dream picture and each piece is equally valid and important.
- Be patient and enjoy the process!
For many of us, our dream medicine evolves slowly over time. Like all other talents and skills, it takes time to recognize and develop.
For me, working with my dreams has been engaging, magical, creative, empowering, educational, healing, deeply insightful, and most of all, fun! I wish the same for you as you discover and develop your own dream medicine.
 Lyons, Tallulah, “Discovering Dream Medicine,” http://www.allthingshealing.com/healing-dream-medicine.php