When we sleep we enter a meditative-like state referred to as REM Sleep. This refers to Rapid Eye Movement Sleep where the mind goes into as deep a sleep as the body. In this REM state, your brain consolidates and processes the information you’ve learned during the day, forms neural connections that strengthen memory, and replenishes its supply of neurotransmitters. This includes feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine that can and will boost your mood and experience the following day. Interestingly, REM stages are longer in the morning. I know that for me, I often feel like I’ve had my deepest periods of sleep between 6 am and 8 am (or later if my husband is good enough to get up with our daughter!).
It is also during this more intense stage of early morning REM sleep that our dreams are often at their most vivid and most remembered. It is rare that I will remember a dream from the ‘middle of the night’, but I’ll almost always remember those early morning dreams.
Our dreams are meant to connect us with our unconscious and illuminate those areas within our psyches that are unaware. Dreams can deal with deep-seated fears, old, repressed memories, wounds, untapped potential, people, relationships; just about anything you can imagine. But one thing you can be sure of is that your dreams tell you about you. Dreams work in symbols, meaning that their messages won’t be obvious. Rather they will point to something or use a series of symbols that can trigger some kind of awareness. A reoccurring dream is your unconscious REALLY trying to get your attention.
I had a series of reoccurring dreams a few years ago. I kept dreaming about gorillas. In the dreams, the gorillas always took on the same traits. They were huge and very intense in energy, but never hurt me. In fact, they always seemed to be trying to tell me something. I would hear them coming and get scared and hide behind a tree. The gorilla would come barreling towards me and when it got to me it would just stare at me with big, intense eyes.
The way that I interpreted these gorilla dreams were to tap into how I felt during the dream. This actually led to more lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is being aware of yourself, while you’re dreaming. So you might be walking down a street in a parade in your dream and be completely aware that you are actually dreaming this at the time. This is a very cool experience because it allows you to ‘watch’ yourself within this dream state with a certain degree of awareness.
Back to my gorillas. As I became aware of these gorilla dreams and wanted a way of interpreting them (they were reoccurring for a reason) I actually started lucid dreaming about them. Because I was observing myself dreaming about these gorillas, I was able to watch and feel out my reactions and feelings during these dreams. This allowed me to interpret it. There was a common thread to all of my gorilla dreams: Don’t fear your primal side. This was literally my unconscious tapping me on the shoulder, trying to get my attention.
Spirit finds all kinds of ways to move you back towards awareness. Dreams are just one of those ways. Don’t take them too seriously – in fact, don’t take anything too seriously – but be willing to listen to them. Be willing to interpret their symbols. Sigmund Freud wrote extensively about dreams and their ability to merge our unconscious and conscious selves.
This article was prompted by a dream that I had 2 nights ago. I dreamt of a leopard. I was in an apartment, at night, with some people I knew. This leopard was there and walking amongst us. We were all on edge because, well, there was a leopard in the room! He had very intense and strong energy but didn’t attack anyone. Every once in a while, we would hear this low growl come from him, but his presence was completely benign. Although we were all hyper-aware of this wild animal in my dream and certainly aware of his fierce strength, there was a knowing that he wouldn’t attack us. It felt, in the dream, like he was there to show us something.
To help me interpret this dream, I went to one of my favorite sources on the symbolism of animals. Ted Andrews’, Animal Speak is an amazing guide for people who find that animals show up in their lives a lot. This may be in the form of dreams, or actual sightings or encounters. Do you find you often see hawks when you drive? Have you come across snakes time and time again? Do you have a pesky rodent who keeps coming to visit you at your house?
According to Ted Andrews, when a leopard shows up in your life, you usually have heightened intuitive abilities. Leopards have a strong hunting instinct and intuition and this appears very early in the cubs. Leopards negotiate their environment in silence and will only reveal themselves to their prey for a few seconds at the instant of attack. Andrews goes on to say that, “If a leopard has revealed itself, look for a time to clear out the haunts and demons within the mind. The strength and vitality to do so will be there – vibrant and plentiful. Great leaps in overcoming them will occur.”
This was no small message for me.
Try to pay attention to your dreams. It’s a great practice to write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. Often, if you wait too long, you’ll have forgotten your dream by the end of the day. They are an exceptional resource for our healing and awakening. They are custom-made just for you. Remember that dreams speak to us in symbols. So don’t expect your dream to lay out a banquet of awareness, all neat and tidy. It just doesn’t tend to happen that way. But we all love a good mystery, don’t we? Dreams can be a great way of solving those mysterious places within yourself that you don’t yet understand. They can also give you great clues as to how you can wake up. I’ve had dreams direct me to do something and I’ve done them and it’s changed my life.
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