Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Does Dream Incubation Have To Be Hard Work?

guardian cowIf your project is dream incubation,
You must limit crude sense-stimulation.
Be calm and serene,
Conscientious and clean,
And refrain from excess celebration.

(I was going to end the limerick with an exclamation point, but that might have been “excess celebration.” )


“Dream incubation” is the process of cultivating a “good” dream by preparing oneself in various ways before sleep. The desired dreams may be spiritual “dreams of power,” predictive dreams, healing dreams, or dreams that will give responses to particular problems or questions. In any case, ancient rituals from many cultures generally involved purification (washing, fasting, etc.), prayers, offerings, visualizations, sleeping in a sacred place (such as a temple or grove), and other practices. A very serious business.

I’ve found many of these practices useful in inviting dreams—as an expression of my openness to receive whatever the dreams may bring. However, I think it’s important not to be too rigid about these things. If I try too hard, and take myself too seriously, I just chase the dreams away. (A little “celebration” never hurts dreaming, but an uptight attitude does!)

In fact, some of my pre-sleep, dream-inviting practices are silly (in a good way). One involves a salt shaker shaped like a cow—the “Guardian Cow”—who sits calmly on the bedside table, to watch over our sleep. As a teenager, I worked on a farm, and I vividly recall the power and dignity of one particular cow, who kicked right through a barn door to reach her crying calf. After wrecking the barn, she was found in the pen with her heifer, peacefully nursing. I used to love telling this story (and still do, apparently). Some years ago, in honor of the fiercely protective cow, my partner found us this salt shaker in a Wisconsin gift shop during a visit to her home town: a cow with a benign yet intense expression. She (the cow salt shaker, I mean, not my partner) has been our “guardian” ever since. Each night, we both kiss the Guardian Cow on the nose, and wish each other “sweet dreams.”

The lighter side of dream incubation is good practice. Never forget that dreams have a sense of humor.



  1. Laurie

    I love reading your blog posts and the Guardian Cow brought some lightheartedness to my morning! Thank you dear Kirsten.

    • kirstenbackstrom

      Thank you, too, Laurie. May the Guardian Cow watch over your sleep and your dreams.

  2. kirstenbackstrom

    Thank you, Jean! I’m glad it’s been motivational for you–I know that just writing and thinking about dreams has been motivation for me to remember more. Having regular contact with our dream-life is really nourishing to the spirit, isn’t it?

  3. Jean

    Loving your posts, Kirsten. You are motivating me to start remembering my dreams again, a practice I have been missing lately.

© 2024 Compass Dreamwork

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑