What are Dreams?
A Dream, nightmare or vision refers to the kinds of mental images that form during sleep. Dream is the general term for any such succession of images. A nightmare is a dream that brings fear or anxiety. A vision is usually associated with mental images that occur while away (day dreaming) or during meditation.
Dreams come in many forms, shapes and sizes. They can be precognitive and deliver messages of future events. They can be messages from the higher conscious mind to solve problems. They can share spiritual knowledge and wisdom from the super-consciousness (your higher Divine mind) to your conscious mind. They can add clarity to an event, or help prepare the conscious mind for spiritual work such as review current karmic events or spiritual lessons that apply to your present.
When we dream, we are in an altered state of awareness. It’s one of the best times for our higher self, our spirit guides and unseen teachers to reach out and make contact with our sometimes “thick” brains for communication. The hard part is knowing how to interpret a dream. When do you know if it was just a dream of past or current events and when is it something more? To understand the phases of dreams, we should first understand the phases of sleep and the types of dreams that occur during each phase.
Phases Of Sleep
When we lay down for sleep we migrate through 5 phases of awareness or sleep. These phases progress in a cycle from Alpha (being awake) to Epsilon (rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep). After REM the cycle starts over again, in reverse. We spend almost 50 percent of our total sleep time in Gamma sleep, about 20 percent in REM sleep, and 30 percent in the other phases of sleep. Babies however spend most of their sleep time in REM.
William C. Dement, Eugene Aserinsky, Nathaniel Kleitman and graduate students at the University of Chicago discovered and documented REM sleep in the 1950s. The discovery was published Sept 4, 1953. Criteria for REM sleep include not only rapid eye movements, but also a rapid, low voltage EEG and, in mammals at least, low muscle tone. Most of the memorable dreams we have occur in this stage of sleep, so the study says.
The following is a brief description of these phases of sleep from the scientific perspective.
1. Alpha – the waking state.
When we’re awake our brain is active and firing a variety of electromagnetic pulses through the areas of our brain. This brain activity resonates in the 8 to 13 hertz (Hz) range. These are the alpha waves of the brain.
2. Theta – Light sleep state (Stage N1):
With a frequency in the 4 to 7 Hz range. A person moves from alpha waves to theta waves of the brain as they begin to fall into deep relaxation. This stage is sometimes referred to as somnolence, or “drowsy sleep”. This usually occurs when we first lay down and begin to drift in and out of sleep. During this time we can be awakened easily to light and sound. Our eyes move very slowly and muscle activity slows. People may wake up during Theta sleep remembering small fragments of dreams or disassociated images. In this state we can also control the direction or flow of a dream, taking it to where we want or would like it to go.
This is also the state our consciousness can enter during light to medium meditation states.
3. Gamma – Sleeping state: (Stage N2)
With a frequency of 12 to 16 Hz, it is characterized by “sleep spindles” and “K-complexes.” During this stage, muscular activity is measured by electromyography (EMG). The EMG activity of our physical muscles decreases indicating complete relaxation. Our conscious awareness of the external environment disappears and it’s harder to be awakened by external light and sound.
This stage occupies 45 to 55% of total sleep. In this phase our eye movements stop and our brain waves become slower, with occasional bursts of rapid waves called sleep spindles. Which are indicated by the increase in electromagnetic waves.
In this state our dreams relate to activities of our physical day and may be influenced by visual, auditory or emotional stimulants. For instance, a tv show you watched before bed might work its way into your dreams. Music from a video game may replay over and over behind the images in your dreams.
4. Delta – Deep Sleep: (Stage N3)
With a frequency of 0.5 to 4 Hz, this state produces Delta waves of the brain. This is considered part of deep or slow-wave sleep (SWS) and appears to function primarily as a transition into stage N4. This is the stage in which night terrors, bed wetting, sleepwalking and sleep-talking occur.
Here the brain becomes extremely slow. During this phase of sleep the brain waves called delta waves begin to appear, interspersed with smaller and faster waves. It is very difficult to wake someone up during this phase. Up to this point there is no eye movement or muscle activity. If you awaken during the Gamma or Delta phase you often feel groggy and confused for a few moments.
In this state our dreams are related to our day past. It’s the first connection between our physical activities and the spiritual karma or lessons we brought into this life experience.
5. Epsilon – REM Sleep (Stage N4)
Epsilon sleep is just a deeper progression of Delta sleep and continues to produce Delta waves within the brain. We slowly progress through delta sleep to reach the deepest state of sleep, REM sleep. When we move into REM sleep, our breathing becomes more rapid, irregular, and shallow, our eyes jerk rapidly in various directions, and our limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure rises. When people awaken during REM sleep, they often describe what scientists refer to as “bizarre and illogical tales”. Some also describe a feeling of being paralyzed.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) – REM sleep begins with signals from an area at the base of the brain called the pons. These signals travel to a brain region called the thalamus, which relays them to the cerebral cortex – the outer layer of the brain that is responsible for learning, thinking, and organizing information. The pons also sends signals that shut off neurons in the spinal cord, causing temporary paralysis of the limb muscles. If something interferes with this paralysis, people will begin to physically “act out” their dreams – a rare, dangerous problem called REM sleep behavior disorder. A person dreaming about a ball game, for example, may run headlong into furniture or blindly strike someone sleeping nearby while trying to catch a ball in the dream.
From the metaphysical perspective REM sleep is the time when our soul body moves out of our physical body and travels on the ethereal plane. At this time we review the spiritual contacts we have with other souls. We share information and understanding concerning karma owed and paid. We apply spiritual knowledge gained through experience that can be applied to the spiritual lessons we chose to work on in this embodiment. And we can travel anywhere on the ethereal that our soul desires to take.
This is similar to Astral Projection. But it’s important to note that Astral Projection is willed travel that we can consciously make happen. But it does not tap into the review of lessons or karma. Where as a REM Out of Body Experience is un-willed travel. It occurs at the direction of our Divine spirit on a higher conscious level. From a metaphysical perspective, one of the reasons our physical body experiences dream paralysis at this time is because we are not a ‘whole being’. Our soul or soul body (while still connected to our physical body through the attachment of infamous silver cord), is not “in” our physical body.
If we wake up during this time before our soul body completely merges back into our physical body, the paralysis isn’t the only phenomenon that can occur. Many people report seeing shadowy figures, spirits or ghosts at the foot of their bed or somewhere around them. Now if you think about it for a moment, this makes sense. When your soul is connected to the ethereal, we can ‘see’ more clearly the unseen energy around us. As our soul moves back into the physical body where our physical consciousness takes over, we lose that ability as our physical eyes regains control of sight. But in between these two levels, when you see spirits as you’re waking up, you feel paralyzed and cannot speak, your soul body has not fully released its connection to the ethereal. It’s sort of half in and half out of the physical body. In this state, your consciousness is awake enough to be aware of the physical, but your super consciousness is still able to see on the ethereal realm as well. It is a unique moment where both worlds are present to your consciousness to observe.
According to the Journal of Medicine, “The first REM sleep period usually occurs about 70 to 90 minutes after we fall asleep. A complete sleep cycle takes 90 to 110 minutes on average. The first sleep cycles each night contain relatively short REM periods and long periods of deep sleep. As the night progresses, REM sleep periods increase in length while deep sleep decreases. By morning, people spend nearly all their sleep time in stages 2, 3, and REM.”
From the metaphysical perspective, the most important ranges of sleep are the first stages of Delta where we review the past day or week from a karmic / spiritual perspective. Epsilon as we travel on the ethereal. And then the last stages of Delta after REM when we move toward waking up from sleep. In this last stage of Delta we replay the exercise of reviewing karma and spiritual lessons. But instead of looking at the day past, we look at the day and week to come. We try to bring the spiritual knowledge from our super-consciousness into our conscious to solve challenges, help with making the best choices for our spiritual mission and lessons ahead. The trick sometimes is remember the dreams that can help us with the past and the future and deciphering their messages.
The Importance of Dreams
Many sleep study programs have documented the effects of depriving ‘dream time’ from an individual. Allowing a person to sleep, but waking them as they enter REM sleep can have disastrous effects on test subjects. After a 48 hour period, a deprived subject will begin to show signs of deterioration in their reflects and responses. Continuing this pattern after 3 or 4 days, causes the test subject to begin the levels of dreaming seen in Delta and Epsilon, by jumping over the stages of Theta and Gamma sleep. Extending the pattern deprivation from those deeper levels of sleep for longer periods, causes the test subject to begin hallucinating while awake.
From a metaphysical perspective, these occurrences are an indication of the subconscious and super-conscious minds trying to play “catch up” with the important messages delivered by these dream phases. When an individual is not allowed to enter REM, the subconscious mind tries to find other ways to deliver the dream message. That could come through visualizations through catatonic moments while awake or intense deep day dreaming.
Types of Dreams
From the metaphysical perspective, you have varying types of dreams during these phases of sleep as described above. But let’s look at some of these in a little more detail.
Before you reach REM sleep, your visions or light dreams are a review of your day just past. What you did, what choices you made and how they have impacted your spiritual lessons, knowledge and relationships. REM sleep is astral travel time, what we know as Out of Body Experiences (OBE). Where you can communicate with your guides and other souls you interact with during your life, especially at this time in your life. And the dreams after REM are a review of your day to come.
Now the timing, reviewing the day past and the day to come are just small measurements. You can review several days past, or even longer depending on the events that occurred months ago and how they may be affecting your lessons and karma today. And the same is true for the future choices and experiences.
Remember everything you do creates an energy pattern. Decisions you made 3 weeks ago created a pattern that could still be manifesting today. Things you do today can set into motion events 5 weeks from today. In dream you can feel and see those patterns from a superconscious perspective and see the probable outcome of that energy you’ve already put into motion. These dreams can be messages that you’re on the right track, or warnings that you may have to make changes to alter the path and improve the situation.
During REM sleep when you’re traveling on the ethereal plane, you may review past lives and situations you went through in the past that are affecting you today. Reviewing decisions, lessons and patterns to help you make new choices today. These are the most important dreams you’ll have during the night.
Everyone has the ability to remember the images from this travel time, but some have a hard time pulling those visual images back into their alpha state of awareness. If you take an interest in remembering and working with your dreams, you’re likely trigger that desire in your conscious mind allowing it to be opened to receiving the images and retaining them.
First off, you have to take the dream in the context of your day. What’s happening in your life at the time of the dream. The symbology of the dream will be a means for helping you to understand what lessons your dealing with or how you should proceed with a current situation.
Next, you need to determine what images hold what meaning. All those Dream Interpretation books on your book shelf contain the interpretation of symbols as they relate to the person who wrote the book. Which means that they have no significant meaning for you. Think of it this way…Someone else’s idea of what a snake means will have little meaning to you, unless you share the same experiences and perceptions of a snake. You are the one who is seeing and experiencing the symbols in the dream, so it’s your feeling or experience with those symbolic image that hold the real meaning for you.
Here’s an example:
You and I dream about walking down a path and a snake crosses in front of us. I associate snakes with healing. I’m not afraid of them and if I know it’s not poisonous I’m likely to get near it and talk to it. For me the dream might mean I’m on a path of healing, or a healing will be needed on this path ahead. It represents compassion and care for myself or someone who will cross my path ahead.
As a child you had a bad experience with snakes and you’re frightened by them. It’s likely that in your dream when you see the snake you have a feeling of trepidation or concern. So for you the same dream could mean, be cautious on this path, or taking this path could be dangerous for you.
In addition, the color of the snake might be important and the type of path could have meaning. If it was a green snake, to me that means healing. If it was red that might mean to me that there’s matter of emotional love that maybe affected. Was the path a dirt road, a small path in the woods, in a desert, or was it a paved road.
All these little details give meaning to the entire dream. And how you feel about the images as you interact with them give meaning to the overall message as well. If you love wolves and have a dream where a pack is running toward you, your emotional feeling of fear of attack vs. a feeling of your brothers coming to great you will significantly alter the symbolic meaning of this event.
The best thing to do is begin your own dream dictionary. For me the easiest place to keep this is in a word processing file on my computer. It makes it easier to insert new images alphabetically and keep it organized in a way that has meaning to me. For instance, I have a section for animals, another for people, one for colors, another for mechanical/electrical things, and one for everything else.
People often say to me “I had a dream about you last night” and I’m not sure if I should be flattered or worried. When you dream of other people, you are dreaming of a reflection of yourself, a mirror of you within that person. In other words, the person is reflecting the characteristics you would use to describe the person within yourself.
For instance: you dream of your best friend Judy. Pick 3 things that describe Judy: She’s caring, overly cautious and always into something. In the dream Judy was afraid to move forward and jump out of a burning plane. So the symbolic message might go something like this. “Currently in your life, there is a great deal of trial and tribulation. Things feel like they’re coming down around you and although you care about these situations, you’re being overly cautious in how your dealing with them. You need to focus on one thing at a time in order to move forward through these issues.”
Another example: you have a dream about your Uncle Robert who you would describe as strong, independent and reliable. In the dream he’s coming to help you fix your car. In your life you are having issues at work getting a project done. The dream could be telling you that you need to buckle down and be a reliable resource, you need to buckle down (show some strength of character) and work on your assignments without being told exactly what to do (show your independence).
~ Precognitive Dreams
Not everyone has a precognitive dreams. In my experiences people who are already connected to sixth sense, rarely if ever have precognitive dreams. This could simply be because the messages can be delivered from spirit in other methods, such as meditation or through a divination tool. People who don’t believe they have a sixth sense or don’t trust it may receive these messages while their stubborn conscious mind is asleep and out of the way, ie..through dreams.
Precognitive dreams are just that and you can’t mistake them for symbolic dreams. They are a little more overwhelming and hold a different energy pattern or feeling to them than symbolic dreams. When you wake up, you just know that the experience you’ve had will take place. The key is, what are you going to do with the information. People can laugh at you if you tell them to watch out for red cars because you “saw” them have an accident. So let them laugh. What they do with the information is not your choice and your mission to tell them was complete. From there on, the responsibility is theirs.
Some people have dreams of disasters and don’t know who to tell, for fear of being labeled crazy. If they happen often, then call a reporter. Tell them you know they won’t believe you, but you just feel as if you have to tell someone. If you continually tell the same reporter over and over again, sooner or later they’re going to start believing and perhaps there is a way they can help.
~ Lucid Dreams
Lucid dreaming is a method of becoming semi-conscious during your dreams. Where you can take conscious control of your dreams and direct them to your desired outcome. This kind of practice is especially helpful for discovering the underlying issues in a night mare; or a recurring dream. This is a whole other topic deserving of its own post. So for now, I’ll leave lucid dream till later.
~ Falling Dreams
Everyone has had a dream where they’re falling and suddenly your physical body jumps and wakes you up. From a metaphysical perspective these are interrupted REM sleep dreams. Typically the interruption comes from a sound or light in the physical world that requires your attention. Or it could be an experience on the ethereal that has frightened you so much that you want to run home!
As explained above, our soul body moves out of our physical body and travels on the ethereal realm during REM sleep. If we’re interrupted or become afraid the soul body can return to the physical world so quickly as to give your superconscious and subconscious the feeling of falling. As the soul body merges back into the physical body it can be like a sudden slap that causes your physical body to jump. Often the only thing you can remember about these dreams is the sensation of falling.
Creating a Dream Log
The best thing to do when you have dreams is to write them down. The sooner the better. The longer you wait to record a dream, the more chances you have of forgetting some of the finer points and details. You can then use this log as a review when a situation in your life has concluded. This will help you understand how your subconscious mind tries to communicate to your conscious mind. Through this understanding, you interpretations will become easier.
There are a few things you want to record:
- The date
- The day of the week
- The time you are recording the dream
- The weather
- The temperature (you may not know till the morning when you can check the news)
- The current system (ie: clear, rainy, snowing, windy etc.)
- The temperature (you may not know till the morning when you can check the news)
It may sound odd, but each one of these elements can impact the type of dreams you have. For instance if you’re cold you’re more likely to have nightmares. If you have issues with allergies, you might have bad dreams on clear dry spring nights vs. rainy nights. Everyone has their own patterns and you can discover what yours are by recording the conditions of the night.
But a dream log can also help you document what was going on in your life at the time of the dream. Writing this down later in the day when you have time allows you to see connections that you may not have noticed before. You may also find yourself writing descriptions of people or events through an ‘automatic’ feeling and you’re not sure where that came from. Don’t change it! Allow your consciousness to express itself in a manner that provides the best insight to the event.
The next thing to do is look at your dream and try to decipher the message. Write down the items in your dream that you think are symbolic in a list. Next to each item, write 3 words describing that symbol to you.
For instance, in the earlier example of Uncle Robert who came to help you fix your car, a black camaro (which isn’t your car) on a sunny day. You might write the following as the symbolic image and what you think they represent to you.
- Uncle Robert: strong, independent and reliable.
- Car: motion, travel and independence
- What type of car: speed, style, being cool
- What color was the car: wicked, cold, elegant
- It was a sunny day: warm, bright, happy
Now you can look at what you were doing in the dream, using the representations you wrote in your list and begin to decipher the message behind your dream. It’s hard for some people to be objective at first and that’s ok. It will take practice for you to trust your own instincts and perspectives to see the messages in your dreams. But don’t give up.
Another thing a log can help with is that it allows you to share your dream with someone you trust, who may be able to see the message more clearly than you. What ever you choose to do, write down what you think the dream means. In a few days you can go back and read what you wrote, compare it to your week and see how it applies. It’s your dream, and you’re the only one who can really decide what it means and how it to relates to you.
Hope this provides some insights behind your dreams and their interpretations. Sweet dreams!
On Monday night (April 16, 2012), Paul Cagle, Sushi, S.E. Burns and I sat at our round table for The Ænigma Project and held a discussion about Dreams and Dream Interpretation. If you missed the show you can still listen to this episode on the show’s broadcast Archives on Tenacity Radio – 2012-04-16-Dreams and Dreaming
Word Origin: dream
mid-13c. in the sense “sequence of sensations passing through a sleeping person’s mind” (also as a verb), probably related to O.N. draumr, Dan. drøm, Swed. drom, O.S. drom, Du. droom, O.H.G. troum, Ger. traum “dream,” perhaps from W.Gmc. *draugmas “deception, illusion, phantasm” (cf. O.S. bidriogan, O.H.G. triogan, Ger. trügen “to deceive, delude,” O.N. draugr “ghost, apparition”). Possible cognates outside Gmc. are Skt. druh- “seek to harm, injure,” Avestan druz- “lie, deceive.” But O.E. dream meant only “joy, mirth,” also “music.” Words for “sleeping vision” in O.E. were mæting and swefn (from PIE *swep-no-; cf. Gk. hypnos).
Much study has failed to prove that O.E. dream “noisy merriment” is the root of the modern word for “sleeping vision,” despite being identical in spelling. Either the meaning of the word changed dramatically or “vision” was an unrecorded secondary O.E. meaning of dream, or there are two separate words here. “It seems as if the presence of dream ‘joy, mirth, music,’ had caused dream ‘dream’ to be avoided, at least in literature, and swefn, lit. ‘sleep,’ to be substituted” [OED]. Dream in the sense of “ideal or aspiration” is from 1931, from earlier sense of “something of dream-like beauty or charm” (1888). Related: Dreamed; dreaming.
The hertz (symbol Hz) is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. The word “hertz” is named for Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, who was the first to conclusively prove the existence of electromagnetic waves.
© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Spring’s Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.