Among his other talents, Nathan specializes in teaching dream journaling, which is an area of journaling I’ve dabbled in but never stuck with for very long — partly because I could have used some guidance around how to get the most out of writing about and interpreting my dreams.
If you have an interest in Dream Journaling or if, like me, you’ve had trouble keeping up a dream journal, you’ll appreciate what Nathan has to say. So without further ado …
Q: Nathan, you’ve been teaching and promoting the benefits of journaling for many years. What originally spurred your interest in dream journaling and interpretation in particular?
It’s a funny story. I once had a journal-writing student who could not think of anything to write about. I offered many thought-provoking and self-reflective prompts, but he never had anything more than a few words. So, I told him to start writing down his dreams, because they would certainly be point to things that really mattered to him. I shared a technique for translating the images from his
Q: Does dream journaling offer benefits over other types of journaling?
For many people, dream journaling is a unique onramp into the world of self-understanding and self-care. For one thing, a person needs to get good sleep in order to dream, so even on face value, it is a practice in mindfulness. Dream journaling also helps people untangle complex emotions and make sense of difficult situations that they might have otherwise spent hours writing in analytical circles over.
Q: What about people who don’t remember their dreams?
Studies show that we all dream multiple times, every single night. The majority of people can’t remember most (or any) of their dreams within the first few minutes of waking up, because our bodies create memory through our five senses, which are shut down during the night. I teach several techniques for improving dream recall. The most effective one is to have a pen (open and ready) and a journal (open and ready) waiting by your bed, in arm’s reach, and writing down ANYTHING you can remember before getting out of bed.
Q: Regarding dream images and symbols, there are a lot of “dream dictionaries” available, but dreaming is such an intimately personal thing. How can one image symbolize the same thing for everyone?
Dream dictionaries contain some interesting philosophical material, but they can’t capture the nuances of personal experience. There are some symbols that entire generations or cultures may relate to, such as a superhero or chicken soup. But dream dictionaries are useless for the method of dream interpretation that I teach, because each person creates unique associations and feelings, and attaches their own layers of meaning on every object or experience.
Q: Doesn’t it take a lot of time to interpret dreams, figuring out what the images and emotions mean?
Not at all. It may take a few nights to remember some dream fragments, but all of my students, by the end of the course, find it natural to recall dreams, and to decipher their meaning, just by asking themselves few simple questions. For example, offering each object in the dream a voice with which to express “what do I want?”
Q: Why do you think some people are prone to nightmares, even when their daily lives are fairly peaceful?
I believe nightmares are just our mind’s expression of the aspects of ourselves that we tend to hide (or “keep in the dark”). In working with people, I have found nightmares are usually centered around an unacknowledged emotion, such as fear, shame, guilt, or desire. Once my students use the dream interpretation technique with nightmares, they often report that the nightmares really weren’t so scary after all.
Q: What is lucid dreaming?
A simple definition of lucid dreaming is when you’re having a dream, and you’re aware that it is a dream. Most of the time while we are dreaming, our minds just accept everything that’s happening as reality, even when the most unlikely or impossible things occur.
Q: Why would someone want to develop the ability to have lucid dreams?
First of all, it’s fun! Imagine being in a dreamland, where everything and anything is possible, and you are certain that no harm can happen to you. All of our advanced technology in gaming, 3D movies, or holographic images could not do better than our own imaginations for inventing a realistic world to play in. But even apart from the entertainment value, people who have lucid dreams often report having a deeper sense of confidence, find they can solve problems more creatively, and even understand their life’s purpose better. Some cultures, such as Tibetan Buddhist Monks, teach lucid dreaming as a spiritual practice.
Q: Can understanding our dreams help to guide our real-life decisions? If so, how?
Absolutely! We dream about the things we most care about. Our minds do not rest at night the way our bodies do. While our cells and tissues are being replenished, our minds continue to process emotions, replay our experiences, and create new avenues for action. The expression “let me sleep on it” when we are making a big decision actually has a lot of merit. And, if you are able to tap into the voices and rhythms of your subconscious mind, you can “hear” the chatter. Usually, it’s very supportive and affirming of what you want, and who you are.
Q: You teach a class on dream journaling. What are the benefits of taking a class over just doing it on your own?
There are plenty of resources on dream journaling, for sure. It’s hard to know which are hocus-pocus, and which ones actually have value. Being in a class, guided by an expert, and sharing with others can help you ease into the practice gracefully and save yourself a lot of time. It also offers a great deal of support and encouragement. My students say that their favorite part of class is the “Dream Circle” we create at the end of each session, to share what we’ve learned from our dreams that week. For more information, you can find me at www.DreamJournaling.net.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about dream journaling?
I encourage everyone to try it. It’s absolutely the most powerful way to “listen” to your subconscious mind at work. Everyone from Napoleon Hill, Brian Tracy, Deepak Choprah, to Oprah — the true masters of self-empowerment and personal growth — they all tell us that tapping into the messages of our subconscious minds is a key to harmony and success. What better way to tap into your subconscious, than by befriending your nighttime dreams?
Nathan Ohren is passionate about helping you tap into your most precious gifts, to enjoy life fully, while making the world better. He authored The Journal-Writer’s Guide to Staying Started and co-authored The Soul of Success with Jack Canfield. Throughout his career, Nathan has a maintained a unique balance between the success-driven world of business leadership, and the emotional elements of nurturing personal relationships, practicing mindfulness, and pursuing life’s purpose.
After earning a business degree from Cal State Northridge, Nathan traveled the world as a crew member of Princess Cruises. Currently, he holds a successful thirteen-year career with a worldwide software company, while producing a weekly podcast about living with passion, clarity, and purpose.