How to Keep a Dream Journal

I have been studying my dreams since I was a little girl.  Dreamwork has been something that is very interesting to me.  A very sure way to help you in your dreamwork is to keep a dream journal.  Recording, reading, and analyzing your dreams can aid in the advancement of dreamwork.  The beauty of becoming conscious in your dreams is that once you are lucid, you can begin to work with fears, addictions, problems, etc. within your subconscious.  This then can overflow into your waking life.  So, I wanted to share here how to keep a dream journal.  Though there are numerous sites to aid in keeping an organized dream journal, such as dreamjournal.net, I highly advise to use a paper journal, then entering it into a web-based one.  Memory is deepened by writing; they say that the brain is more cognitive when not only are your hands processing the thought, but your eyes and ultimately your mind are then also assisting in this process.

Key Components of a Dream Journal:

-a book, notebook, or journal that is small enough to fit on a bedside table, on the floor, or under your pillow.  It could even have a dream or sleeping theme to it like my Hello Kitty dream journal.

-a book light.  Even if you have a night stand light, I highly recommend a book light.  The reasoning behind this is because a bright light can not only interfere with recollection, it can also hinder your ability to go back to sleep.

- a pen, of course, to record (duh haha).  Make sure that you have a good working pen.  It really stinks sometimes if you are trying to write down details of a dream and your pen won't work, causing you to loose important information.

The Entry:

-first thing in a journal entry is write the date.  I usually use a format like 2/2 pm (which would be last night) or 2/3 am (which would be this morning).  If you are unsure whether you dreamt a dream last night or this morning, it doesn't really matter.  This is just the way that I have always kept my entries.  You can always begin writing and then come back to this step.  It's up to you.

- next begin to tell the dream as far at the beginning as possible.  You don't need to write in sentences like a story, sometimes it will come to you like a stream of consciousness.  If it doesn't make sense, that is fine.  After writing the entry, we can go back and try to make sense of it all.  Be sure to include ALL details, no matter how minuscule or unimportant they may seem; these can be the ones that really mean something.  Also, if something seems odd in your dream, like you are eating dinner and you are sitting at the left side of the table and then, in the next sequence, you are sitting on the opposite side, write it.

-describe your feelings.  Begin with your feelings inside the dream.  Were you scared, aroused, confused?  Try to best describe them.  Then, write your feelings when you woke up.  Many times these feelings are different, even opposite.  If you have no remembrance of strong feelings, make a note.

-go back, re-read the entry, and make as much sense out of it as possible.  Sometimes when you go back and read an entry (even in the future!!) you will recall something else.  I have even had flashbacks of a dream later in the day that I didn't remember upon waking.  Record that if at all possible.  It doesn't hurt to have some journal to record things in your life everyday, in this you can record any dream recalls you may have during the day.  The mini sketch books that you can get work wonderful for this.

-organize or re-record your entries.  If desired, you can also go past this point and then record in a large three ring binder or in an online journal.  That way it will look neater and you can even sometimes find specific dreams, if you organize them in that way.  I know when I record my dreams sometimes, it can be very illegible.  Re-recording can not only help this, but also building up recollection by yet again writing the thoughts.

Ways to increase Lucidity:

Lucid dreaming is realizing within a dream that you are actually dreaming.  This is also called dream waking.  Practicing lucid dreaming can sometimes become frustrating, as it can be hard to achieve lucidity, especially if you are overwhelmed, stressed, or depressed.  Here are some ways that will help you recognize and achieve lucidity (this is taken from an entry on lucid dreaming I wrote on hoop city).

-be conscious of everything around you in your everyday life:  look at things more closely; remember the placement of furniture, items, pictures
-flip light switches on-off a few times (light switches usually do not work in dreams)
-study your hands (this is a big one- a lot of times your hands look monstrous.  I remember the first time I trained myself to look at my hands in a dream- crazy!!)
-repeat to yourself a lucid dreaming mantra before bed.  A few are "I will be conscious in my dreamstate," "I ask to be aware within my dreams," "please allow me to recognize my lucidity tonight," etc.
-the best times for lucid dreaming are a) times when you are usually awake but continue to sleep and b) right after briefly waking up.
-take the time to research dreams if this is something you are interested in.

On a side note, these are only suggestions.  In no way is this entry supposed to be taken in literal sense.  This is just my way of journaling.  Please take from this what appeals to you.  If you have other suggestions or ways of recording dreams, comment!!  I would love to hear about it. 

Here, I leave you with some interesting words in the book from Ram Dass I am reading (and, wow, does he touch on a lot of subjects that are occurring in my life right now).

Another way to understand the space you approach through meditation is to consider dreams.  Perhaps you never experience awakening from a dream within a dream.  But when you awaken every morning, you awaken from a dream into what?  Reality?  Or perhaps another dream?  The word "dream" suggests unreality.  A more sophisticated way of saying it is that you awaken from one relative reality into another.

We grow up with one plane of existence we call real.  We identify totally with that reality of absolute , and we discount experiences that are inconsistent with it as being dreams, hallucinations, insanity, or fantasy.  What Einstein demonstrated in physics is equally true of  all other aspects of the cosmos: all reality is relative.  Each reality is is true only within given limits.  It is only one possible version of the way things are.  There are always multiple versions of reality.  To awaken from any single reality is to recognize its relative nature.  Meditation is a device to do just that. - Ram Dass Journey of Awakening

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