The squirrel cookie from my dream. Yes, there are dozens of squirrel cookie photos on the internet.
I spent the past week at the Haden Institute’s Summer Dream Conference. In addition to the many workshop and talks I attended, I was assigned to one of 27 Dream Groups–Dream Group XXVI. Our group consisted of nine people. And because of confidentiality issues, that’s all I can say about that.
I was the only person in the group who had never been in a Dream Group previous to the conference so this was a new experience for me. Being an extreme introvert, I had serious doubts the first day as to whether I would be able to fully participate in the group.
When working with my own dreams, it usually takes me several days to process the dream and it often takes a lot of journaling as well. How was I going to be able to respond to the dreams of others on what was, for me, essentially ‘on the fly’?
Honestly, I started out slowly but by the final day, the day I presented my own dream entitled “Something Squirrelly”, I was able to respond and ask questions. I can now highly recommend Dream Groups and the work that can be accomplished within them. The truth is that very few of us are self aware enough to see all the different levels of meaning in a dream. Entrusting other people with your dreams provides insights you might never have imagined.
Guidelines for Dream Groups from the Haden Institute
1. All participants should have had some previous exposure to dreams whether it is extensive reading or a period of recording their own dreams or an introductory course or conference or individual meetings with someone on dreams.
2. No one should be coerced to come to the group. Everyone should feel good and comfortable and safe being there. If your psyche is telling you now is not the time, wait. If you are seeing a therapist, consult with them about being in the group.
3. It is best to have someone in leadership of the group who is versed in dream work and group process. If not, use a rotating convener who sees that the group sticks to is rules for its own safety.
4. Every gathering of the group should begin with silence, the ringing of a bell, the lighting of a candle, the Jesus Prayer or some other sort of ritual that will help the group center itself and invoke God’s spirit. Every gathering should end with participants in a circle holding hands sharing a prayer, a song or something else that will gather all you’ve done together in that session and remind people of God’s grace and that they are accepted regardless of where they are on their journey.
5. Once the group is centered, they can spend 20 minutes or so checking in with each other. It is important to share something of your life and any relevant feelings or information. This will help the trust and connections between your life and dreams.
6. Then the leader or someone previously appointed gives a 15-minute presentation on the wisdom of the dream or related material. This can come from ancient or modern sources. It could be something from Jungian psychology or mythology or scripture or a book or other source. This could be followed by a short period of reaction or discussion. This, along with opening prayer, calls forth the Self. This in and of itself not only brings in wisdom, but also promotes health, healing and safety within the group.
7. The group needs to decide in its first meeting how it will go about choosing the dream(s) that will be shared during the meeting. Because the process of sharing dreams can take half an hour to an hour, rarely will more than two people be able to share dreams within Dream Group time. Options include volunteering, choosing by the title of the dream (voting with eyes closed and the leader counting hands), a rotation can be set up or you can choose another method. It is important that every one in the group be able to share a dream before repeating the process so that one person doesn’t make their dreams a priority.
8. Once you have chosen a method, the leader asks for the person to share their dream using the following procedure:
- The person shares the dream with any pertinent information but NOT their interpretation.
- The group asks questions of clarification but NOT interpretation.
- The leader asks the dream presenter to give the dream to the group.
- The group will now talk with each other and not look at the dreamer so that the dreamer will not have to respond to everything. If the dreamer prefers to sit outside the circle or with their back to the group (in order that they can still listen) this is a viable option. The group will now project onto the dream using the words: “If it were my dream . . .” or “In my dream . . .” It is important to the process that the group adheres to these two rules.
- After sufficient discussion, give the dream back to the dreamer for any comments. Thank him or her for sharing and tell the dreamer that it is important to track their dreams for the next few days, because future dreams will repeat what the dreamer did not catch. The reason for saying this is two-fold: 1) it is absolutely true and 2) it reminds the group that they don’t have to milk every “aha” out of every dream. Dreamwork is a continuing process.
- Remind the group members that they were projecting onto the dream. So, have them recall what they said and let them see if they can make any connections with the energies and issues inside them. Even if no one speaks up, the question is in their heads and they will be making connections during the day. This also takes the spotlight off the dreamer and back onto the group.
9. Bring the meeting to a conclusion with a closing prayer circle or other spiritual ritual.