People have been searching for the meaning of dreams since the beginning of time. On an instinctual level, we know that dreams have significance and that they show up for a reason. Now more than ever, there is a longing for connection to the natural world and its inhabitants, a yearning for personal, collective, ecological and global healing. Something inside is calling, but for what? Dream Tending, developed by Dr. Stephen Aizenstat, Ph.D., is a way of answering that call and participating in life more fully through the portal of dreams.
What Is Dream Tending?
Dream Tending is an experiential method of working with dreams that looks at dream images as living images. By engaging them in this way, you are drawn deeper into the dreamwork as the intelligence of the dream image itself is revealed. Dream Tending is about interaction versus dream interpretation. Relationships are developed with the dream images themselves. Using association, amplification and animation, the images are brought to life, becoming wisdom bodies, with insights and perspectives of their own to share.
There are four essential ideas that make up Dream Tending:
1. The Dreaming Psyche Is Multidimensional
Dreams are experienced on multiple levels at the same time simultaneously. They take into consideration your conscious and unconscious awareness, human and cultural beliefs and the way in which you are affected by the world around you.
2. Dreams Are Alive
The heartbeat of Dream Tending is that dreams are alive. In the dreamscape, they have a life of their own, they have their own sensibility, and they have knowledge and unique characteristics. In his book Dream Tending, Dr. Aizenstat writes, “Connecting to the living images of dreams opened me to a life abundant with possibility. These living images, dismissed as irrelevant in our society, became teachers and guides shaping my life.”
Consider an example from childhood: through cartoons, Walt Disney gave life to animals and inanimate objects, providing them voice and feelings from their distinctive viewpoint. Working with dream images as being alive activates the qualities of empathy and compassion, allowing you to imagine who they are and what life is like for them. This shift opens opportunities for hearing and seeing the world from an entirely different vantage point.
3. Everything Dreams
Imagine the notion that the entire world is dreaming, not only the humans and animals, but the trees, rocks, mountains, oceans and even the buildings. Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi once wrote, “Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. Suddenly I awaked, and there I was, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.” Asking “Who is having this dream?” opens up the possibility that the “who” that visits may originate in the creatures and things of the world.
4. Dreams Happen Now
Dreams are often referred to as having taken place in the past, sometime in the night. Dream Tending views dreams as happening right now, in the immediacy of this present moment, whether the dream was last night or five years ago. As images are brought to life, they are brought into the here and now.
How to Practice Dream Tending on Your Own
If you want to begin learning how to tend your own dreams, start by choosing an image that has captured your attention or curiosity. Notice what it is about this specific image that stays with you, observe it and write a detailed description of the dream figure. See if you have any associations to the image, be it thoughts, memories or feelings. Use amplification to look for any universal themes or cultural expressions that connect to the dream image. Now, animate the image, bring it to life in the here and now. View it as if it were a visitor, notice its movements and what it is doing. Watch to see if it has any interaction with you and allow your imagination to interact with the image.
Now that you are engaged with the image, begin a mental dialog with it. Ask questions or inquire how it might handle a particular situation. Keep notes on your experience and see if anything about the experience surprised or affected you.
Helen Keller wrote, “In dreams we catch glimpses of a life larger than our own.” By tending your dreams, you have the opportunity to open creative, emotional and professional potential. Are you curious to see what you might find?
By Bambi Corso
Bambi Corso is certified in Dream Tending and a practicing Law of Attraction Certified Coach. She shares her passion for dreamwork by doing local presentations and online trainings.
- Dream Tending: Awakening to the Healing Power of Dreams by Steven Aizenstat, Ph.D.
Dr. Stephen Aizenstat
Stephen Aizenstat, Ph.D., is the Founder of Dream Tending, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and The Academy of Imaginal Arts and Sciences. He is a world renowned Professor of Depth Psychology, an imagination specialist and innovator. He has served as an organizational consultant to major companies, institutions, Hollywood films, and has lectured extensively in the U.S., Asia and Europe.
He is affiliated with the Earth Charter International project through the United Nations where he has spoken. Professor Aizenstat is the Chancellor Emeritus and Founding President of Pacifica Graduate Institute. He has collaborated with many notable masters in the field including Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Marion Woodman and Robert Johnson.