Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Dream Seeds

solar system with cabbageIn the morning, while I exercise, I listen to something enlightening (recently, radio programs about shamanism), and I watch the animated public television show, Dinosaur Train. Really, Dinosaur Train is a treat! Leaving the sound off is best, since the soundtrack combines too-cute kids’ voices with educational themes. But it’s a terrific show. The colors are so rich and intense, the characters so spunky, the premise so bizarre (dinosaurs traveling to various prehistoric times and places via choo choo train?), and the background settings—rainforest, savannah, oceans, cliffs, caves—so intriguing… I would love to live in that world!

Why am I going on about a children’s TV program? For me, watching Dinosaur Train is one of the ways I stimulate my senses (including my sense of humor), and sow the seeds of my dream imagination. In dreams, experiencing the world of Dinosaur Train would not be impossible. Our dream-making capacity can certainly be as colorful, creative, playful and inspiring as even the most inventive modern animation. And the more we pay attention, keeping our senses open and our minds alert to enjoy the world around us (animated or natural), the more our dreams will be stimulated to use all of these faculties as well.

It’s clear to me that the more open and sensitive I am to the experiences available in waking life, the more likely I am to dream vividly, and to remember those dreams in fascinating detail. Many of the toys and games and movies and books designed for children are perfect for this, because their intention is to stimulate and expand the developing faculties of flexible minds. And, incidentally, they’re also entertaining—a characteristic of good dreaming that is often under-estimated!

To keep my mind lively, and scatter dream seeds on the fertile soil of my imagination, I try to engage with new learning experiences that are sense stimulating (sensational!) and surprising. I read and listen to books set in places I’ve never been, by people with perspectives entirely different from my own. Not only great literature, but also stuff that’s just entertaining and out-of-the-ordinary. The mysteries of Colin Cotterill—set in 1970’s Laos or modern Thailand, and full of humor, adventure, and wisdom—are terrific. I’m a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, who writes screwball comedy-fantasy that somehow manages to tackle big ethical and spiritual questions while remaining consistently clever and falling-down funny. I watch the gorgeous animated films of Hayao Miyazaki again and again.

Many of my favorite things are kid stuff. Holly and I read children’s picture books out loud to one of our cats at bedtime, admiring the artwork and making funny voices that Fern (the cat) appreciates. Take a look at Judy Schachner’s Skippyjon Jones books, about a Siamese cat who aspires to be a Chihuahua! They’re as wild and silly and bizarre as any dream—though not so great for getting sleepy.

I could go on, but these are just a few of the lighter-hearted dream seeds I appreciate. The thing is, just because you’re a serious, well-informed adult doesn’t mean that it’s shameful to check out things that kids would enjoy, or to experience the world with the spontaneity and intensity of a child. In fact, you’d be foolish to miss the chance. Some modern video “game” worlds, for example, are mind-boggling—and a mind that boggles is a good mind for dreaming.

Have you ridden on a merry-go-round lately? How about touching a slug to see what it feels like? Or eating ice cream really slowly, letting each bite slide around on your tongue and melt down your throat? Or swinging on a swing (not as much fun anymore, since they don’t make swings like they used to), or looking into a room in a mirror and wondering what’s around the corner where you can’t see? Have you checked out Dinosaur Train yet?

What are you doing to cultivate the seeds of your dreaming? Let me know! I’d love to try your suggestions myself…



  1. Lisa Rigge

    Once I wrote a note in a spiral shape – that generated an interesting dream!

    • kirstenbackstrom

      What a wonderful image! A spiralling note as a catalyst for a spiralling dream… Thank you, Lisa.

  2. jcowles2001

    Great post, Kirsten. Stay as curious and joyfully engaged as you are! Hugs, Jenna

    • kirstenbackstrom

      Thanks, Jenna! Your facebook posts help with the joyful engagement… You’re inspiring!

  3. Marjorie

    The grandkids help to keep us in this place of wonder and fun and give us an excuse to read kids’ books. 🙂

    • kirstenbackstrom

      Thank you, Marjorie! I’m sure you don’t really need an excuse to read kids’ books—it’s just extra wondrous to share them with grandkids…

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