Mary AnnBlog, Creativity Leave a Comment

Every night I look forward to going to bed, not to sleep, but to dream.  

Dreaming is the uncensored version of me, without boundaries, borders, and rules. It’s the good me, the naughty me, the wild me, and the fearful me. My dreams are all parts of me, every person I have ever met, and every experience I have had in my life.

mary ann burrows
How to Use Your Dreams to Ignite Your Creativity

Over time, I’ve learned that when I pay attention to my dreams, my life works better. I have met many people and had events happen in my dreams that didn’t make sense at the time until they showed up for real, later on in my life. I have a relationship with my dreams and trust what they have to say to me. They help me to understand my life situations and solve problems. I also consider my dreams to be my ultimate creative partner. We work together to bring new ideas and images into my life, my relationships, my artwork, and my writing.

Over the past twenty-five years as an artist, I have developed a method for harnessing and using my dreams to bring them into my creativity.  I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with you, in hopes that you will also see the power of your dreams and learn to travel to the same galaxy that I do every night and hopefully feel this same connection.

My Dreaming Ritual

My life is full of rituals.  Rituals are what keep me grounded, present and moving forward.  I have day-time rituals, creating rituals, and dreaming rituals.

Every night I stay up quite late and spend the last hour of my evening doing something creative.  I usually write. Sometimes I listen to music and dance.  When it’s time, I head upstairs and draw myself a hot bath, even during the summer.  Water has a way with me. Water connects me, grounds me, and soothes me. I find that on the days that I don’t lay in water before I fall asleep, that I am less connected and dreamless.  After I bathe, I lay in my bed and set an intention for my dreams.  Setting an intention is important. It helps guide my dreams in the direction that I need them to go. An intention can be asking to see something specific, to solve a problem I am working on or to be given some knowledge or clue about something important that I need help with going forward in my life. It can also be as simple as saying, “Show me what I need to know.”

Next, I plug myself into INSIGHT TIMER . I use my EarPods and somehow, someway after the meditation is finished and I’m in a pretty deep sleep state, I manage to pop them out of my ears and into their case in the dark.   I listen to a variety of meditations throughout the day on this wonderful app but when I fall asleep, I always listen to the same one. It’s called ‘Beats for Sleep’, by Shelby Gilyard.  I have listened to this one meditation for the past 431 days straight.  Listening to meditations at night helps me drift off quickly into dreamland and takes me into my mind and out of this realm, very quickly.  The minute my head hits the pillow and I hear Shelby’s voice, I smile.

The meditation helps shift my mind to bring intense presence into my awareness. Rather than think about what might happen tomorrow, or what happened today, I focus on what is happening, now. When I am focusing on the moment it feels like I am at the movies and watching life on a big screen. I shift from being the doer and the thinker to being the watcher. I silently watch what is right there, right at that moment, which is now inside of my mind. As I lay behind the walls of my eyelids, my vision becomes dark. I am present and can see myself slowly begin to shift down into a deep state of pure presence, allowing all of my thoughts to melt away one by one as my mind expands outward into something that lays beyond myself.

Drifting off to sleep I continue to watch myself travel float further into the empty abyss of my own mind, descending into a space that I know is within myself and yet, it feels so vast, as though I am traveling outward through a million and one stars. 

I feel good here, I can trust that this place is safe as it’s been with me my whole life, and I know that I will see whatever I am supposed to see in my dreams.  I feel open, expansive, flowing, and floating into nothingness. Each night I can always feel the moment that my mind stops the compulsion to judge, and accepts what is, slipping from one world into the next. This is where I feel free and weightless, and jump off the ledge and fly into my dreams.

As the watcher, not the thinker, I feel like I am heading into a place beyond everything, a place that is very familiar because I have been there many times, and yet every single night I am still as curious as a five-year-old child, because this is also a place that is different, in motion, and constantly changing. This place offers me new insights into life. Everything is here, my being, love, my fears, challenges, all of my feelings, and my wonderful imagination. Every experience that I have ever had lives here along with every single person that I have met, that I have loved, been attracted to, disliked, been hurt by, helped, feared, and admired, along with the unknown things that I am about to experience and haven’t yet, and all the people that I have yet to meet in my life. I feel everything and everyone else inside of my own formless and timeless dream space.

When I wake up during the night, I lay in silence and slowly go back into my dreaming mind just to remember what I was dreaming and to pull my dreams forward so that I can thoughtfully write down everything.  I often force myself to wake up whenever I hear myself saying, “Write this down, this is important,” because I often forget parts of the dream in the morning, if I don’t wake up and write it down.

Do Your Most Important Creative Work As Soon As You Get Up

When I wake up in the morning, I do my creative work first thing before I do anything else so that my mind is still half asleep.  This is the state where the magic happens because I am still un-thinking. My thinking, over-analyzing mind hasn’t taken over fully. This is the most creative place that we can be in.  If you are committed to your creativity I suggest that good practice is to work for 15-20 minutes or more in this mindless, highly creative state before you even enjoy our first cup of coffee or tea.

Why I don’t write Morning Pages – Personally, although I think they are great for some people, I don’t practice the Artist’s Way, ‘morning pages’ first thing. I feel they are valuable and help to get things moving through your mind, however, for me, this is a highly creative period of my day, and I want to use this time to work on my creative project, whatever that may be at the time. (right now it is writing a book.) Coming out of the dream state is precious and I want this imaginative highly creative energy to go towards my creative project.

(If you have a crazy morning routine and think this is impossible, consider getting up 1/2 hour earlier to get this time in- you won’t regret it.)

14 Tips For Successful Dream Harnessing
  1. Spend 15-20 minutes before going to bed getting your mind ready to dream. I suggest that you work on your creativity. If you aren’t working on a project listening to music is good too. (PLEASE Stay off the computer – electronics aren’t good for our dreaming mind late at night). remember…If you do work on your creative project just before going to dream, your mind will continue to work on it while you sleep.
  2. Set an intention before you go to bed. Ask your mind to dream about your creative project, to solve a problem or to show you something new. I often say, “Surprise me.”  
  3. Fall asleep with curiosity and wonder in your mind, not worry and fear.
  4. Dream without expectations, without desires. Let it all go.
  5. Release the need to control the outcome. Let it happen. 
  6. Surrender when you close your eyes to what is inside your mind, do not think, watch. 
  7. If you wake up, rather than embrace anxiety about fear of not sleeping, lay there and think back into your dreaming mind about what you were dreaming about and get up and write it down. In the morning read what you wrote, use these things as stepping stones to your creativity. 
  8. Write everything down. Dreams communicate in images and metaphors. The message isn’t usually direct. everything connects to something in some way.
  9. Write down your dreams even if they don’t make sense – this trains your mind to notice your own consciousness. Not all dreams are meaningful but by writing them down, we teach ourselves to remember our dreams. We can always refer back to them later and discern which dreams we want to use for our creativity and which ones we don’t. When you are in your dreams and sleeping, don’t analyze them, or try to make sense of them, simply engage with them and ask them questions, if you want to know why someone is there – ask them. be curious.
  10. View your dreams with curiosity and wonder. Your dreams leave bread crumbs for your imagination to pick up.
  11. Keep a dream diary on your nightstand Buy a pen that lights up when you write in the night like this one..LIGHT UP PEN
  12. Create first thing in the morning, when you are still in a dreamy way, stay half dreaming as long as you can. In the wake-dream state of your mind. Your mind will pull in things from your dreams. 
  13. Use your dream information to create with. Think about your dream and ask yourself what the meaning is behind the dream. What was your dream saying to you? Without over-thinking write down what your knowing mind feels that this dream may have been about. For example, if you dreamt about being stuck in an elevator with a huge pink elephant, what could that mean in your life? How could this pertain to your creative work? How could you use this dream in your work. Are you feeling stuck? Squeezed out? Why pink? Could you bring some elements of this dream into your work? An elephant perhaps? A box? Maybe you need to think outside the box more. Ask all of the questions that come to your mind, and your knowingness will know the answer.
  14. Accept what comes through without judgement. I have had people show up in real life years after they have appeared in my dreams…trust the process. Trust your inner knowing.

YES – Anyone can do this. Give it a try.

I hope that this helps you find your Sweet Dreams. If so, I hope to see you there.  :)

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