Asking dreams for guidance is not a new idea. Many ancient traditions viewed the dreamworld as sacred. Dreams and their inhabitants have been revered for their medicinal powers and guiding abilities, as the dreamworld contains knowledge that is applicable for healing and for accessing our own inner guidance. Indigenous cultures throughout Africa and on other continents believe that the dreamworld can be consulted for guidance and wisdom concerning all matters of life. All spiritual traditions believe that dreamers can ask questions about their relationships, vocation, spiritual queries, creative projects, and all matters related to physical and psychological healing. And sometimes, we need a little help boosting our level of enjoyment and fun in our daily lives; the dreamworld can help with that as well. Dream incubation is a simple concept—in its most basic application, it’s learning how to ask your dream a question before you go to sleep in order to elicit a useful response in your dream.
There are well-documented traditions of dream incubation practices. Three thousand years ago in China, warrior kings used dream incubation for political concerns and to garner information about upcoming battles. Around 1500 A.D., dream incubation had become a generally practiced phenomena in Chinese culture. Then, it was common for people to ask questions like, “What do the ancestors want of me?” Or, “Will I pass my exam?” And, “What will the future bring for my family and community?” Furthermore, we see evidence from hunter-gatherer societies ranging from Scandinavian fisherman to Indigenous Americans where they asked their dreams for information on the best hunting spots and best sleeping and camping areas. They even sought information regarding who they should marry. The list goes on and on, and evidence of dream incubation is prevalent in almost every spiritual path. The Hindu text Chandogya Upanishad describes their dream incubation tradition. In Buddhism, it’s found in the third yoga from Naropa. Islam’s dream technique is called “Istakhara.” And over the course of several conversations with African shamans, I was able to speak with them about how they sought information from the dreamworld. Dream incubation was, and had been, an integral part of their culture as long as they could remember. “Naturally, the Great Spirit knows everything and wants to help us in our lives,” they assured me. There is even evidence of dream incubation happening in ancient Greece. Asclepius (the God of healing) is found at the center of their dream incubation rituals, which remained in
practice for over a thousand years. A person would visit the Asclepeion temple, often suffering from a physical ill- ness or a psychological problem, and then go through a series of rituals in preparation for one night in the holiest part of the temple. The individual would sleep on a couch and then have a healing dream. These dreams were then used by their doctor to provide a diagnosis, treatment plan, and healing path. At its core, Western medicine was born out of dreamwork.
In our contemporary culture, Freud and Jung are credited with recognizing the importance of our dreams for accessing healing information to aid in our psychological development. After a therapeutic session, Jung would often say, “Now let’s see what your dream has to say about this.” He’d consult the dreamworld about the ongoing therapeutic development of the patient.
We humans have always sought answers to our most urgent questions in life. I hope to show you that the best answers are contained within ourselves, and that all you need to do in order to retrieve them is learn and implement a dream incubation practice.
In his book DREAM GUIDANCE Connecting to The Soul Through Dream Incubation (Hay House 2022), Machiel Klerk guides readers on achieving personal and professional goals by tapping into their inner wisdom through dreams.
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Excerpted with permission from Dream Guidance: Connecting to the Soul Through Dream Incubation by Machiel Klerk (Hay House, Inc.), available wherever books are sold.