Ink and watercolour artwork in a dream diary. A small circular garden in the midst of green fields, surrounded by a rose-covered wooden trellis with rose covered marble arches to enter and exit. There are tree stumps to sit on set in a ring.

How to *Actually* Keep a Dream Diary

It’s not essential to remember your dreams. Even if the content slips away when you wake, you can still be satisfied that you’ve had a beautiful night of dreams, or just bask in the glow they leave with you.

However, if you want to work with your dreams, perhaps therapeutically for self-healing, or to have lucid dreams and OBE’s or to create art with the content, remembering something of them is necessary! And like anything in life, practice makes perfect.

A Dream Diary is a great way to remember and record your dreams. Basically it’s just a journal where you record your dreams in any form that suits you – handwritten/digitally/in picture form/whatever – there are no rules! But how do you build this into a busy schedule?

  • First of all, have think about what you want to use your dream diary for. Do you just want to use this technique to improve your memory of your dreams generally? Do you want a record of your dreams to look back over? Do you want to use your dream diary as a basis for developing your ability to have lucid dreams and OBE’s? Are you interested in your sleep patterns? Dream characters? Dream locations? Do you want to create artwork based on your dreams? This will determine the kind of dream diary you want to keep. For example, if you are interested in how your dreams intertwine with your waking life, keep a simultaneous dream diary and waking life diary, paying close attention to dating the entries correctly. If you want your dreams to inspire art, use a dream diary with plain paper, keep it visual when recording, and leave a space for additional sketches. If you’re interested in a data-based collection, try a spreadsheet where you enter relevant details that can be sorted and searched. Anything goes!
  • So now you’ve decided what kind of dream diary you want, how do you ensure you actually fill it in? If exciting dreams only turned up on high days and holidays where we can wake at our leisure, this would be easy, but how does the Dream Voyager getting up at 6am to run for the train or look after a family handles this? I’m the first to admit there is no one-fits-all solution for the busy dreamer, but this is how I manage keeping a dream diary while leading a hectic waking life:
    • Wake up five minutes earlier than you need to, and wake up gently. If even five minutes less sleep sounds unappealing, make it two minutes, but just give yourself that time to wake slowly instead of leaping out of bed. If you don’t pin your dreams in your mind as soon as you awake, they have a tendency to slip away. Ideally, you’d write or sketch your dreams in your dream diary as soon as you wake up, but it that’s not possible, at least fix the major details in your mind before you get up. Repeat them to yourself over and over, really see that dream scene in your mind. As you transfer the dream to your waking memory, it’s more likely to stick in your mind. Do try and take a few minutes to write/draw the dream within an hour or two of waking. Sometimes, I find more details spring back into my mind over the next few hours, so keep that dream diary handy to note down anything else that you remember. It only takes a second to scribble down a sentence or two, or do a quick sketch. If you need to carry the dream diary about like this, choose a nice little book you can slip in a pocket or bag, or tap notes into your mobile. You could even record your dream aloud on your mobile or a dictaphone rather than writing it down. This has never really worked for me (I find my dreamy voice a bit creepy and nonsensical when I play it back!) but if it works for you, go with it!
    • That extra five – or two – minutes will hopefully also allow you to wake gently rather than abruptly. Instead of a blaring alarm, use something gentler to rouse you in the morning. Something that starts soft and gets louder after five minutes or so is useful if you’re afraid or going back to sleep. I use a recording of Gregorian Chant that begins with five minutes of birdsong. When the chant kicks in, I know I have to get up, no matter how cozy I am! Film music like the Lord of the Rings or Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks also work well as they are designed to begin gently and build to a crescendo. I find a lot of Phil Thornton works really well too. It means you have a chance to recall the dream in a state between dreaming and awake rather than being jarred into wakefulness right away.
    • Try to put something in your dream diary every day, even if it seems unimportant. If you want to work with your dreams fully, you need to make this a part of your life. The more it becomes a habit the easier it will get. Experiment until you find a way this can work for you in the long term.
  • Take pleasure from your dream diary! Look back through it, recall dreams you particularly enjoyed. You could gold star any really special or memorable dreams. You could create a symbol to denote an erotic dream if you feel that writing about or drawing intimate scenes is not for you! I use a unique symbol to mark lucid dreams and out-of-body-experiences which is a useful way to quickly find them in my dream diary. Write down or sketch anything that feels valuable to you: sights, sounds, smells, landscapes, characters, feelings and sensations. You can create your own way of recording your dreams that holds all your secrets in a way that is meaningful only to you.
  • Personally I like to scribble things in a ‘rough’ dream diary and write them up into a beautiful book with a lovely ink pen and watercolour illustrations. I like the fact I can edit my dreams, make them more coherent and turn them into my personal dream fables to keep forever. But that’s just me! Keep your dream diary however you want. It’s YOURS, Dream Voyager!

Happy Dreaming!

Luna Selena X

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