143 Transcript 143: Allowing Dreams to Guide Your Life (with Tzivia Gover)

Click here to download the PDF version of the transcript.

J: Hey, everyone, I'm with Tzivia Gover today and she's the author of the ‘The Mindful Way to a Good Night's Sleep’ and ‘Joy in Every Moment’. She's a writer, educator, and certified dream therapist and the director of the Institute of Dream Studies. Gover has led numerous workshops and panels about dreams, mindfulness, and writing, and she holds an MFA in writing from Colombia. She's an active member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams nS the founder of 350 Dreamers, an international network of people who dream together for global healing. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts and can be found online at tziviagover.com. Welcome to the show, Tzivia, I can't wait for you to analyze one of my dreams (Laughs); so welcome.

T: I’m so happy to be here and I love to talk about dreams so I can't wait either.

J: Well let's start off with a quote and then we'll learn about how you got into dream work. I mean, there's so much that I don't know that I can't wait to ask you.

T: Yeah, so I want to share a quote that I just love and it comes from Rainer Maria Rilke who's a poet (was a poet), “You darkness of whom I am born, I love you more than the flame that limits the world to the circle it illuminates.”

J: Hmm.

T: And I love that mode because it brings you into darkness and nighttime in a way that's infused with beauty and love. And unfortunately, for most of us, sleep is the last thing on our list, in fact, it doesn't even make it to our list. You know, we think of it as this blank void at the end of the day but it's a third of our lives. And when we turn toward it and embrace the mystery of sleep and dreams and understand the potential of sleep and dreams to heal and help us, then we've just got this great resource that supports and sustains us. So that quote, for me, just reminds me again and again to fall in love with sleep and dreams and darkness, even when they seemed scary.

J: Hmm. Well, so last week on last week's show, I spoke with a guest who was talking a lot about unlocking information from mindfulness and meditation, and I kind of feel like there's some overlap between that kind of thinking and then dreams. So tell us some of the things you've learned through dreams, I guess, to give us an overview.

T: Sure. Just first of all, what you said is so true, you know, when you practice mindfulness and meditation, the whole point in fact is to study consciousness, to study how the mind works, and to be able to reflect rather than react and become an active participant in your own thinking, which is what creates your world; the world that you live in. And sleep and dreams offer us an extension of that and dreams actually… I think of sleep and dreaming as part of my mindfulness practice.

J: Ooh.

T: It's part of being conscious of seeing intentions and choosing what I pay attention to. So for me, it's a whole cycle of consciousness day and night and that's why my books called ‘The Mindful Way to a Good Night’s Sleep’. I practice sleep and dreams as part of my mindfulness practice.

J: So what does that look like? You know, many of us wake up and meditate or try to be mindful all day, what would be the first step for trying to bring this into our sleep?

T: I'll tell you, one of the most productive and simplest steps I can offer is to move that meditation, either move it to sometime between after dinner and before bed or, you know, split up the meditation. So if you're doing 20 minutes, you know, you could do 10 in the morning and 10 in the evening. But getting into that meditative mindset before bed is a great first step, and then if you want to get really advanced, you meditate as you're falling asleep, you make that… we talked about falling asleep, but really you should descend step-by-step into sleep and it's possible. So really advanced meditators try to become conscious of that moment that you make the transition from awake to asleep, and that's a powerful meditation. It takes a lot of practice, but why not try?

J: Ooh, that's interesting.

T: It's a great way to fall asleep, yeah.

J: And what's happening in with your brainwaves, the difference between being awake and asleep, you know, all these levels of consciousness? I know there's several kinds of brainwaves but just to bring in some science.

T: Exactly, sure. So we're cycling through different brainwave patterns all day long and all night long. So people might be familiar with the fact that when we’re asleep, we start out in light sleep and then we go into a deeper sleep then REM, which is where most (but not all, but most) of the narrative dreams that were familiar with, the vivid narrative dreams take place. You know, and then we keep going through and then we come to a point where we're close to being awake, and then we keep going through that cycle all night long and those dream periods lengthen, which is why when we cut off sleep, we lose a lot of our dreams when we have to wake up with an alarm or we don't get our full 8 hours. But that's also happening all day long, not those exact same cycles, but our mind is cycling through different states of consciousness about every 90 minutes awake and asleep.

J: Really.

T: So, again, I love to sort of tie these things together, yeah, so it's not like sleep is off in some corner of our consciousness, you know, literally and figuratively, but integrated into, you know, a cycle we’re going through all day and all night.

J: So what would you say or is the main purpose, the primary function of dreams?

T: Well…

J: Night dreams I should say? (Laughs)

T: Absolutely, yeah, nighttime dreaming; which is what I'm most interested in and adore. So scientists can't really tell us exactly what the function of dreaming is. There are some objective things they can agree on which is that dreaming helps with memory consolidation and learning, but for me and my practice and my studies, it goes so far beyond that. Dreams can help us with problem-solving, dreams can help us get new perspectives, dreams can help us fall back in love with life because they make life more magical and give us such a rich field of possibility. So those are some of the functions I see that dreaming gives us and that I experience with myself and my clients and students.

J: You mentioned that problem-solving piece and I'm not really sure where I was introduced to the idea, but often when I've spent enough time on trying to solve something or decide something, I will commit that to my subconscious mind or whatever I think is happening there, I'll ask the question and say, “Hey, dream self, can you please solve this problem?” and I love it because I do wake up with really kind of a decision made. Have you had experience with that or your clients?

T: Oh yes, absolutely, again and again. So, you know, there’s that expression, “Let me sleep on it.”

J: Oh yeah.

T: And there's a good reason for that. So you were interested in some of the brain science of this, as am I, when we're dreaming, the part of our mind that handles random associations is online, you know, certain parts of our brain chemistry slow down and some amp up. And those random associations amp up when we're sleeping and dreaming and that's one of the reasons that dreams can help us with problem-solving because we'll get in the same rut over and over when we think about it during the day with our waking mind, just keep turning it over and over and we don't like get anywhere. But our dreaming mind, you know, pops in anything, there's sort of no censoring so that everything is on the table. And so we are more likely to come up with a fresh new solution to the problem if we turn it over (as you've recommended) to the dreaming mind.

J: Hmm, I love that. So I know a lot of people look at dreaming as a way to maybe receive a message from God or a higher power, what are your thoughts on that kind of inspiration?

T: Oh, I love it. In fact, you know, when I was thinking about what quote I wanted to start with, it was a toss-up between the one that I shared and this one from the Talmud which says, “An uninterpreted dream is like an unread letter.” And when you read that in context, what it's really saying is an uninterpreted dream is like an unread letter from God.

J: Oh yeah.

T: And… yeah. So it's interesting, I never know how to talk to people about dreams because everybody has a different relationship to God, higher power, and some people because of what they've experienced with institutionalized religion, they'll just turn off if I mention God.

J: Right, right.

T: But I think that, you know… yeah, psychology is sort of a secular language of religion, in my opinion, because when we talk about where dreams come from psychologically, we say the collective unconscious.

J: Mm-hmm.

T: And I think once we get into the realm of the collective unconscious and all those deep levels of the subconscious, we're really connecting with something much greater than ourselves and you could call that God too.

J: Mm-hmm.

T: So I do think that dreams help us with our spiritual growth for sure, I do think that they come from what we would call a spiritual part of ourselves, but even that word turn some people off. I like to talk about the divine, that's something that people are more open to hearing about, but I have found for sure that dreams help with emotional growth, physical healing, and spiritual evolution.

J: Mm-hmm, ooh, I love that. Well, in that bio I read about you, it says you and 350 other dreamers are dreaming together for global healing, can you speak more to that?

T: Yeah. So one of the things that's interesting about dreams, for a while, our culture, you know, we got so quote-unquote ‘rational and left brained’ that we sort of left dreaming behind. And then Freud and Jung came along and helped us get back in touch with dreams, but for the most part, people thought of them as a personal helping tool or personal journey. But in fact, dreams have this big collective part of themselves, they speak to and from the collective. So I'm somebody who has always cared deeply about the environment and wanted to think of what I could contribute to healing the planet since I believed so strongly that dreams help us with healing. So my goal was to get 350 people together to dream together for global healing, people from around the world. I far surpassed that goal or we have far surpassed that goal as a dreaming community, we now have over 1000 people. We meet on Facebook (where else?) for the collective project of dreaming together and we simply set an intention together on a given night, we do it about 4 times a year, we set our intention to dedicate our dreams to global healing. And then in the morning, we come back together and we talk about what we dreamed and what message that gives us about maybe what our role is in global heal in the face of climate change. We had one dreamer from Paris who, after 153 dream night, decided to surrender her car because she didn't want to keep adding more carbon to the atmosphere. But often, it's much smaller steps or epiphanies, you know, people just recommit to doing their part to help heal the planet. And, you know, sometimes they get great divine inspiration and sometimes it's simply knowing that they're joining with this community of hundreds and over 1000 dreamers and it makes them feel better that they're all these people who care. So it helps on all these different levels.

J: Is that community open for other enrollees or is it… you know, if someone listening is interested?

T: Yeah, just go on Facebook look for 350, the number 3-5-0 Dreamers. Ask… you know, you have to ask to be admitted, that's simply so I make sure you're not a bot so there's… you know, you could just answer any of the questions or say you heard me on Jen Riday’s show and I'll welcome you right in.

J: Ooh, that's so fun.

T: Yeah, the more the merrier.

J: Yeah. So, Tzivia, let's talk more about your dream work with your clients. What kind of work are you doing to help people uncover the power of their dreams?

T: My most effective tool that I have is listening when I work with people and their dreams. So I listen to people tell me their dream and I ask questions so I can help them listen to their dream. And what ends up happening is they find that their subconscious, their divine mind, is speaking to them and offering them always finding the healing message in the dream, even in nightmares.

J: Ooh.

T: So I think one of the most important thing people learn is that all dreams come in the service of help and healing, help, health, and healing, even our nightmares, even the scary dreams. And that's so important for people to understand because usually, the reason people shut down and shut off their dreaming mind and turn away from dreams is that they've had a scary dream in the past and that might even consciously or subconsciously be keeping them from getting a good night's sleep. They avoid because they don't want either scary or uncomfortable or incomprehensible dreams, it just makes them uneasy.

J: Oh, that's so interesting.

T: Yeah, isn’t it? So what I'm able to help people realize that dreaming is a healthy byproduct of sleep, and that beyond that, it's really our superpower, you know, our hidden superpower. I love to just reintroduce them to their dreams and so they can sleep better, dream better and wake up, you know, to a much better world.

J: What about people who say they don't dream, what do you say for them?

T: Yeah, well, they do, everybody dreams, everybody dreams several times a night so they're not remembering their dreams. And again, some people don't want to remember them and I try to encourage them, as I just said to you, to look at them maybe a new way. And if they want to remember them, I give them some real simple advice that's extremely effective which is simply to give your dreaming mind the message that you care and you want to remember your dreams. And one of the ways we do that is by putting pen and paper, preferably a notebook next to the bed and set the intention, “Tonight, I'll remember my dreams,” and then in the morning, to write something in that notebook, you know, to think for a moment before jumping out of bed, “Do I remember anything?” And even if you don't remember anything, write that in the notebook, “Well, I thought about it for a minute but I don't remember anything.”

J: Ah.

T: Even if you remember a teeny thing, you know, “Oh, I don't remember the dream, but I think it was a nice dream,” you know, even to write that. And if you do that every day for a week or 2, 9 times out of 10, that's going to reconnect you with your dreams.

J: Oh, that's great. I once kept a dream journal, and I don't think this was the right way but I would wake up in the night and wake myself up and write everything down and I start to fall asleep again and I became so exhausted. So it's probably enough to just do it in the morning, is that what you're saying?

T: Yes. And what I would say to people who wake up in the middle of the night and remember a dream, you know, jot down just a word or an image. So even if you just remember there was a coffee pot in the dream, just write down ‘coffee pot’ and that might jog your memory in the morning. So you don't have to wake all the way up, you don't have to write everything down…

J: Right.

T: … but that will jog your memory, yeah.

J: Yeah, I did do that and it was so funny to read in the morning because some of the things I had no memory of and it was so random, so it's really funny process, yeah.

T: Yeah, it's the funny process. And I love that it makes you smile and laugh because that alone is a great result.

J: Yeah, yeah. Well, I am a believer that it helps me to solve problems, no doubt about it. And then I know I have friends who have even bigger beliefs about dreams like, you know, that, like you said, that that message through the collective unconscious. And so I do have a recurring dream that I would like to tell you about, how would that be Tzivia?

T: Oh, I would love to hear your dream, absolutely.

J: Okay, I'm going to just give a hint that it's about tornadoes, but first, we're going to have a really quick word from our sponsor and then come back and I'll have you interpret my recurring dream about tornadoes.

T: Wonderful.

J: Alright, so welcome back, and Tzivia, this is my recurring dream that I have had since I was, I'm sure, 5. I remember the first time I had it, I had to wake up my mom and have her come sit with me. But essentially, I have various versions of this dream where tornadoes are coming, I sometimes see one or sometimes multiple, and the whole dream is about me getting all my loved ones safely to the basement. And then inevitably, there's someone missing or we need to grab something or gosh, that other person… you know, the whole dream is just non-stop me trying to get everyone to the basement and we are never hit by the tornado, and what does it mean? Because I have it, I'm sure once a week, I have for my whole life (Laughs); it's so strange.

T: Wow, yeah. So thank you for sharing that dream, thank you. And one thing to point out is this is a recurring dream, a dream that comes back again and again. And what I find with these dreams is, once we figure out what the dream wants you to pay attention to, the dream will either change, so maybe you'll… you know, you'll have a different experience of the tornado or maybe it will go away because it doesn't need to come back anymore. Dreams are really trying to talk to us, and when we are able to listen, they will transform and we will change too. So the first thing to think about when you have a dream is, what do tornadoes (in this case what is the central image of the dream) what does it mean to you when you…? Let's say you were describing tornadoes to someone from Mars, what would you say they are?

J: Hmm, spinning vortexes of energy and darkness and destruction. Wow, that came right to my tongue (Laughs). Was that enough? Should I keep going?

T: Yeah, of energy and destruction; darkness too did you say?

J: Mm-hmm.

T: Yeah. And how do you feel when you see these tornadoes in the dream?

J: Fear, and my mind immediately goes to loved ones, my kids in particular, and I suppose when I was younger, I went to my family.

T: Yeah, yeah. So fear, you know, the need to protect and the fear of something bad happening to your loved ones.

J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

T: So I’d ask you on the emotional level or on the spiritual level, any inner level, any part of your life, do you feel like there's some kind of spinning vortex of energy set on destroying you, your life or your loved ones, your connections?

J: I do believe in good and evil and I believe evil is a force as much as good is a force, you know, Star Wars, there's a real equivalent in our universe. And so if there's any spiritual destruction, that would be it. I don't fear physical destruction because I do believe so strongly in an afterlife. So I don't think it's physical, it could be spiritual, I suppose.

T: Is there any way that you spin and spin in life at times and cause some destruction to you?

J: (Laughs) Oh, that one makes me laugh right away. I'm a fast-paced person, I'm always going, I'm always rushing after the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. So I definitely spin and my mind spins and I always want to do the next thing. Slowing down and is hard for me, but I do meditate and I do walk, but I do like that fast pace, and so that could definitely be a theme.

T: Yeah, that spinning might be a part of yourself. And, you know, I'm taking you through this very quickly now, if we were working together, we would really speak of spinning; we would not spin, we’d really take our time. But another question I would ask you is to try to take on the perspective of the tornado for a moment.

J: Ooh.

T: And think about, “What does the tornado want?” And if the tornado had any positive, even in a small dose, you know, if it was a little tornado or a little more gentle spinning action, what good qualities might that have or could there be anything helpful about its actions?

J: My immediate thought was the tornado saying, “Wake up, life is so short, it could be gone in a minute.”

T: Mm, beautiful. Well, you are a very great dream client because I love how open you are to just say what comes to mind; that's how we get to the bottom of this and that's beautiful. So in just a few minutes, we got to some possibilities with this dream. It might be talking about your own spinning in life and your own need to slow down a little, and also a really deep message to wake up and remember how precious life is and to be close to your loved ones, which could be the reward for some of that slowing down, more quality time with the people you want so much to protect.

J: You're right, I think you nailed it, oh, but how to put it into practice. (Laughs)

T: Oh yeah, so that’s a great question and that's where dreams are really helpful. So I invite any of your listeners to play with their dreams the way we just did with this, and then how do you put it in practice? Because if you just have this conversation, it's interesting, but it didn't change your life. So you could use the very image from the dream in some way to bring it into waking life. So how do you bring it into practice? You could post an image of a tornado somewhere where you're going to see it, a picture or, you know, a tornado, that swirling energy, it reminds me also the spiral and that's a more healing version of that tornado energy, that spiral that helps us spiral into ourselves. But in any case, to either post an image of it or to do a little twirling around before after our meditation and to say that affirm to yourself, you know, “I want to wake up, life is so short,” or, “I’m now waking up to the fact that life is short and I cherish time.” So to make some small action step to bring this off the pillow into waking life and that will interact with your subconscious and help you solidify this message that you really want to take to heart.

J: Wow, this is so beautiful. If anyone wanted to work with you and do some more advanced dream work, what do you offer and where could they find out more information?

T: Sure. I work with people literally all around the world. English is my only fluent language, so as long as people speak English, I love to work with them and on my website tziviagover.com, t z i v i a, gover, g o v e r.com, you can book an appointment with me for dream work. And we work by Skype or phone and we have wonderful time exploring the dreams. And as you just experienced, it's a creative and fun and life-changing process.

J: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that mantra you said suggested for me, the, “Wake up, its precious,” it's just like totally resonating in my soul, there is something so deep there. And I already thought I was kind of woken up, so my goodness, I have more work to do. (Laughs)

T: We all do.

J: Mm-hmm.

T: But Jen, I want to point out something really important, those were your words, I was just echoing your words back to you.

J: Right.

T: And that's what's beautiful about this dream work. We say interpretation, but really, I'm not interpreting your dream, I'm listening to you and feeding you back what you're saying, so it's yours, yeah.

J: Nice, oh, I love this. Well, we could go on and on but I would like to jump in and talk about a few of your favorite things, especially I'm interested to hear what does your daily routine look like, especially your morning and evening routine?

T: Yeah. So I always start with the evening; for me, the day starts with night. So my evening routine looks like a little bit what we started to talk about before which is, I like to start winding down at least an hour before bedtime and I meditate during that time. Sometimes just a few minutes, 12 minutes is what I consider my minimum daily requirement. And before bed, I really try to start focusing on gratitude, I like to make a list of 10 wonderful things about the day that just passed and I write that down in my journal. And in terms of the things that are part of that routine, I have a sleep mask that makes me feel real cozy before bed. And a sleep mask, in addition to shutting out some of the light, it puts a gentle pressure on your eyeballs that slows your eyes down to help you fall asleep. And I live in New England and so in the cooler weather, which we're getting plenty of right now, one of my favorite things in my evening routine is to heat up in the microwave a buckwheat, one of those buckwheat hot packs.

J: Mm-hmm.

T: Sometimes they’re lavender scented, you can put them in the microwave and then I slip them between my sheets before I get into bed so they warm up my sheets for me. And, you know, if it's scented with a little bit of lavender, it makes for a little aromatherapy just before bedtime. So that's part of my sleep routine, and of course I always have my journal in my pen near my bed to write down dreams; if I have a question, I'll write it down in the journal before bed. And waking up is actually similar in that I try to connect with gratitude before my feet hit the floor to, you know, just thank God or be grateful for a safe night of sleep and dreams. And of course, I like to lie in bed for a couple of minutes and write down my dreams if I can, if I have the time. So those are some of the major components. I also love to start the day, you know, when… while I'm eating breakfast, I'll have nearby made my one of my inspiring books of quotes or something like that so that I can start off with some positive thoughts before I turn the news on.

J: Hmm, that sounds great. And I love that you talked about an evening routine, we often don't mention that on the show, but it's important, especially if you want to have a calm, restful night of sleep maybe with some great dreams to write in the morning, so thank you for that.

T: Absolutely, it's so important. I like to think of the routine as the route in, the route into sleep and dreams. It's like you're starting the pathway in, yeah.

J: Yeah. Well, what is your favorite life hack? It's just any random tip you have that you find helpful that maybe others don't know about.

T: You know, I am the queen of random tips, I just love life hacks. And I'm always collecting tips and putting them into practice and sharing them in my books and my writings, but I have so many of them. One we talked about already which is what I call a dream incubation which is asking my dreams a question and paying attention to the answers because that really gives you a leg up in life, you know; a lot of great creative and inspirational thinking comes from that. Another one I love to share with people because it works for me and I hope it will work for others, I know it does what my clients. You know, a lot of what keeps us from sleeping and enjoying a good night's sleep is our racing brains or anxiety, you know, our racing minds. So I like to bring what I called some beditation, meditation into bed, so I call it beditation. So if you're feeling anxious, if you wake up anxious at any time in the night, you can actually use anxiety as your meditation object, you know, usually we meditate on the breath. So I sort of love to befriend that anxiety and just suspend all judgment, and as I'm lying in bed, focus where is it in my body? When you drop the story of anxiety, it's just feelings, its sensations in the body, and you just start focusing on that and dropping any story and any judgment. Just being curious and paying attention to the anxiety itself, just like you would pay attention to breath on the meditation cushion, and it can bring you into really relaxed hypnotic dreamy space.

J: Hmm, that’s great; beditation, I love it.

T: Even if you don't fall asleep, you've had a nice relaxing time in bed and an interesting one, so…

J: Yeah, that's great. What's your favorite book, Tzivia?

T: Ah, so many favorite books. Well, for one thing, in addition to dreams, I love poetry so I love to read over and over again, you know, Walt Whitman's poetry, which is very metaphysical and beautiful to me. When it comes to sleep and dreams, a new book that I've been really enjoying is Matthew Walker's book on ‘Why We Sleep’ because it gives a great all-around picture from a scientific point of view of sleep and dreams.

J: Mm-hmm.

T: Just a reader so I'm always having a pile of books by my bed and, yeah.

J: Awesome, I think we all do. Well, I'll tell our listeners they can find links to everything we've been talking about on our show notes page at jenriday.com/143, including the link to your Facebook group and your website and Matthew Walker's book. Well, let's go to my favorite question, what does it mean to be a vibrant happy woman?

T: Well, for me to be a vibrant happy woman is to be an empowered woman; so recognizing our power from within. And a big way for me to get there is to be very conscious of what intentions I'm setting during the day, what I pay attention with, sort of deciding ahead of time how I want to experience my time awake and asleep, both in dreams and waking. And one of the beautiful byproducts of that is you start to experience synchronicity, you know, these so called coincidences but meaningful coincidences. And when you do that, when you're setting your intentions, when you're paying attention, especially to your dreams, life starts to take on some magic. You really do start to feel powerful and that you're living in a vibrant, alive and responsive universe. And to me, that just makes life joyful and rich and worth living.

J: Hmm, so you set an intention at night and in the morning would you say?

T: Oh yeah. I try to remember to set intentions all day long every time I… you know, for example when I started this interview, you know, I sent intention that I want to enjoy myself and I want to share my joy for dreams with others, so yeah, and then at the threshold of sleep and waking, yeah.

J: Wow, I love that, I’m going to try that. Well, let's have a challenge from you to the listeners and then we'll say goodbye.

T: Okay. Well, I would really love to invite your listeners to pay attention their nighttime routine and see if they can add some comfort and care to the process of getting ready for sleep. And if they can to, as we said, set an intention to remember their dreams because it really will help them to sleep better, dream better, and wake up well.

J: Thank you, that's a great challenge. And also, we mentioned where people can learn more about you, but remind us again of your book and why we should all read it; because I thought it was great.

T: Oh, thank you. My book is called ‘The Mindful Way to a Good Night’s Sleep’ and it includes tips about dream work, meditation and journaling, all the things we've been talking about and how you can make sleep and dreams a beautiful part of your day and enrich your life.

J: And who doesn't want more sleep? But adding the dreams, why not? Let's solve some problems while we're sleeping too (Laughs); that's great.

T: Exactly.

J: Thank you so much, Tzivia, I love what you're doing, I'm definitely going to go check out that Facebook group, and I appreciate you being on Vibrant Happy Women today.

T: Oh, thank you, Jen, it's been a true pleasure. And I love your podcast, I hope more and more people find you, and I'll certainly point them in your direction.

J: Oh, thank you, I appreciate it.