What’s it like to keep a long-term dream journal? These days I’m doing everything I can to help in developing and promoting the new app Elsewhere, an excellent resource for dream journaling. Also, my new book The Scribes of Sleep is about the history of dream journals. Thus, I’m thinking a lot about how to describe the value of keeping a dream journal to people who might be unfamiliar with the practice. How can you begin to understand the wild wonder and serendipitous magic of dream journaling if you have never tried it?
As I learned primarily from George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their 1980 book Metaphors We Live By, the power of metaphors is their capacity to use what we know to help us understand what we do not know. Here, I’m thinking that keeping a dream journal is metaphorically like being a Bald Eagle. (It could be any high-flying bird, but this is the one I saw earlier this afternoon.) We know several things about eagles that can also be accurately said of dream journaling.
When you track your dreams over time in a journal, you are able to rise above the occurrence of single dreams to see the flow of your dreaming in its entirety. From this altitude the whole of your oneiric terrain becomes visible. You can recognize large-scale patterns, shapes, and features that are simply impossible to perceive from the ground level.
As a dream-journaling eagle, you can easily move back and forth across the verdant territory of your dreaming self, soaring in whatever direction you please, circling over some places, swooping down for a closer look in others. Your perception in incredibly sharp: you notice subtle movements, hidden connections, and curious forms of life. Your consciousness expands to encompass everything you can see–the sky, the land, and the farthest horizons.
Beyond the specific insights that are possible from the eagle’s view, the summum bonum of dreaming journaling is the emergence of a more dynamic spiritual awareness and presence in the world. Perched on the top branch of the tallest tree in the forest, you can gaze over the bounteous vitality of your own personal realm of dreaming and reflect on the contours of your life from a uniquely wide-ranging perspective.
And who knows, maybe you’ll meet someone else who’s perched up there…