Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Review: Dreams and Guided Imagery

Dreams and Guided Imagery: Gifts for Transforming Illness and Crisis by Tallulah Lyons. Balboa Press. Paperback. 269 pages. $18.99.

Tallulah Lyons BookI recently heard Tallulah Lyons speak about her work (and that of Wendy Pannier and her other colleagues) as “crafting a new language” that would help make dreamwork more accepted in the world of mainstream medicine. Such a language is essential because the exploration of dream imagery, in dream-sharing groups and individual meditative practices, can play a significant role in the healing process, particularly for cancer patients.

Yet, to gain credibility with the mainstream, the effectiveness of dreamwork needs to be supported by evidence (in the form of research statistics), placed in the context of established healing modalities, and described in a language that makes sense. Lyons is not only a gifted dreamwork facilitator, but also a writer, teacher, and guide who can articulate the value of this work, so others may appreciate it.

While dreamworkers and researchers are collaborating to provide clinical evidence that will substantiate the effectiveness of dreamwork, the work itself is already changing lives and bringing healing to many patients in a variety of clinical and private settings. Dreams and Guided Imagery beautifully conveys the significance of this work in the kind of language that would be accessible and inspiring to patients and clinicians alike. Lyons offers practical wisdom through approaches and insights that make sense.

There’s a matter-of-fact compassion, a gentle respect for human vulnerability, throughout this book that adds depth to the ideas that are being suggested. For example, as Lyons recommends methods of remembering dreams, she adds, “When you are exhausted, do not expect to remember dreams, but be grateful for deep sleep.” And when she addresses delicate issues around projection and trying to “fix” or “help” others in dream groups, she writes,

“It is your own negative thought patterns, your own limiting perspectives, and your own conflicting emotions that you are seeking to transform and expand, not the problems of others. All you can change is your own way of responding to your life. That is not to say that other things will not transform as you change. Dreams help you to identify what needs your attention”

In addition to giving good, basic instruction on how dreams and guided imagery may impact the healing process, Lyons conveys the living energy of a dream-sharing group by allowing us to experience such a group personally. Drawing upon her years of experience leading dream groups with cancer patients, she introduces us to six people (based on actual dream group participants, but with details changed to preserve privacy) who are coping with cancer and meeting together to explore their dreams. As each of these people shares a dream, we learn about ways of approaching different types of imagery and energies related to illness and healing, and witness the kinds of group dynamics that can emerge in response to these images so that all participants join in the healing that the dream offers.

Dreams and Guided Imagery also includes useful meditation and visualization practices that readers can try on their own. In my past spiritual care work with cancer patients, elders with serious health challenges, and people facing their own deaths or the loss of loved ones, I wish I’d had this book on hand to recommend, and to use as a reference. Dreams regularly came up for many of these people in their search for meaning and healing, and I believe we all would have benefited from the guidance that Lyons offers so generously.

I hope that this review will encourage some of you to read and share the book with others—especially with those who are coping with health concerns, or working in health care settings. And I know I will bring creative insights from Dreams and Guided Imagery to future dream groups myself. The work that Lyons and Pannier and their colleagues are doing—“crafting a new language”—could make a big difference in how dreamwork is recognized, in the medical community and beyond.

[click on the picture for more about Tallulah Lyons, Dreams and Guided Imagery, and “The Healing Power of Dreams”]


  1. Tallulah

    Thank you so very much for the beautiful review of Dreams and Guided Imagery. It is
    heart -warming to know that the movement to bring the healing gifts of dreams into the field of integrative medicine continues to grow. Thank you for linking others to our website.

    • kirstenbackstrom

      You are most welcome, Tallulah! And many thanks to you for the gift of your work.

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