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Dreams That Help Us Make Important Decisions
by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, PhD

One of our greatest allies in life is our dreams. Whatever we seek to be, do or accomplish, our dreams can help us in reaching our goals.

Dreams have meaning, and when we pay attention to dreams their meaning bursts upon us in profound insights. Dreams validate the intuition, present solutions to problems, inspire creativity and bring healing. Since ancient times, dreams have been seen literally as a "hotline to God" for divine guidance in all matters of life.

When we are faced with important decisions, such as changes involving home, job and relationship, we often don't know which way to turn. We draw up lists of pros and cons, sit on the fence and second guess ourselves. Our dreams, however, cut straight through confusion with guidance that is crystal clear. Sometimes the dream guidance confirms what we already know and helps to end vacillation. Sometimes the guidance is unexpected--and we are put to a test of faith to follow it.

Dreams speak in symbols, which always have personal meaning within the context of the dreamer's life. Many symbols also carry larger-than-life, or archetypal, meaning. Each dream is unique to the dreamer, and any dream can provide the guidance or "aha!" that the dreamer needs. However, there are some symbols that appear often in guidance dreams. For example, maps, paths and instructions from voices and guide figures point out to us the road ahead. Unusual lights over places, landscapes and signs also mark the trail we need to take. Magazines tell us what we need to know. Bridges and gateways take us to new places. We navigate rivers. In these and similar symbols, the dreamworld is saying to us, "Here--this is the way that has been prepared for you, this is the way you must go."

The following are some examples of dreams that provided significant and life-changing guidance to the dreamers. You may see some similarities and resonances with your own dreams. If so, your Dreaming Self is inviting you to take a closer look: explore your dreams more, and learn how they are speaking to you.

Career and Relocation

Choices at the dream airport

Carol E. Parrish-Harra is a renowned metaphysical teacher and the founder of Sancta Sophia Seminary and the Light of Christ Community Church in Oklahoma. The school and church are part of an intentional community called Sparrow Hawk Village, located on Sparrow Hawk Mountain near Tahlequah. The Sparrow Hawk community and its church and school exist because Carol was guided to Oklahoma by meditation, dreams and a waking vision.

In the late 1970s, Carol and her husband, Charles Harra, were living in Sarasota, Florida, where Carol had a thriving ministerial preparatory program and a spiritual community.

Although Carol and Charles loved Sarasota, Carol began to feel a pull to move. In 1979, she was told in a meditation that in five years she would not want to be in Florida. It was hard for her to believe--but she also believed in following one's guidance. She considered moving to Sedona and to Rapid City, South Dakota, but took no action. Three years went by in which she remained undecided. Then Carol had these experiences:

...I had a clear guidance dream. I was in an airport and about to go through security check. There were three gates from which to choose. The first to the left, wide and attractive, was labeled "Sedona." The far right, again wide and attractive, was labeled "Rapid City," the middle was small and plain. The sign over it said "Other." With a feeling of resolve I lowered my head and went through the middle check area. I awakened knowing it would be neither of the places I was considering.

Soon thereafter the guidance came. In my vision I was in a large room with maps on all four sides. In front of me a map of the U.S. filled the entire wall. My inner teacher stands behind me and reaches over my right shoulder, his finger directly on a spot on the map. It seems I am standing too far back to see where he points. I step up closer. I am stunned as I see the state of Oklahoma with the name printed clearly across the state. His finger is in the northeastern corner of the state. My heart seems to stop. I cry out, "Oh, no, not Oklahoma ... not OKLAHOMA!" I snap out of the vision. My heart aches. I can't believe it. I've never been in Oklahoma in my entire life.

Carol's guidance also gave her the name "Tahlequah" as the place to find. She'd never heard of it. A check on a map confirmed that Tahlequah, a town of about 10,000 persons, did in fact exist. "My heart was the heaviest," Carol acknowledged, "because I thought that Sarasota was at least on a par with heaven. But I knew this was an opportunity to do something in keeping with a plan that I had envisioned."

Carol and Charles traveled to Oklahoma. When they saw Sparrow Hawk Mountain, located in the Ozarks foothills, they knew they'd found the right place. They purchased 332 acres and began to build Sparrow Hawk Village and create the seminary.

Answer in a magazine

Jeffrey Mishlove's name is synonymous with intuition and psi. Mishlove, who holds a doctorate in parapsychology and is a clinical psychologist, is the host and co-producer of a popular national public television series called Thinking Allowed, in which he interviews the leaders of consciousness exploration. In 1993, Mishlove became the director of the Global Intuition Network, an association of diverse professional who are interested in the practical application of intuition. He also serves on the editorial advisory board of Intuition magazine, writes books and lectures. His book The Roots of Consciousness, first published in 1975 and since revised and expanded, is considered a classic.

Intuition, psi and consciousness and broadcasting were not his original choices for a career. In fact, Mishlove's career choice was influenced by a guidance dream he had in 1972, while he was a graduate student in college. He was studying criminology.

My interest in criminology reflected my fascination with human deviance. However, I was feeling very uncomfortable studying only negative forms of deviance. I deeply wanted to reorient my career focus. One evening I felt inspired to tell myself, and to accept without a doubt, that I would have a dream which would provide an answer to my career dilemma. Then I did have such a dream.

I dreamed I was visiting some friends in Berkeley, who were not at home. Knowing where they hid their house key, I took the key and let myself into their apartment. I walked into the living room where I found a magazine sitting in the middle of the floor. In the dream it was called Eye (a popular magazine at the time. I picked it up and began paging through it. While I was dreaming, I had a distinct feeling of elation. I knew that somehow the answer I was seeking existed in that magazine.

I awoke early in the morning and...felt drawn to act on the inspiration of the dream. Immediately I dressed and ran four miles across Berkeley to the apartment I had dreamed of. My friends were not home, but I did know where they kept their key. Breaking the bounds of conventionality, I let myself into their home. To my delight, there was a single magazine in the middle of their living room floor. It was not called Eye, it was called Focus. And this magazine literally brought focus to my life. It was the magazine of listener-sponsored television and radio in San Francisco.

As I sat there paging through Focus magazine, I was struck with the idea that I would redirect my career through involvement with public broadcast media. I applied to volunteer at KPFA-FM, Berkeley's listener-sponsored radio station--and within three weeks I was asked to host and produce a program twice a week called "The Mind's Ear."

Suddenly, I found that my life was transformed. Every Tuesday and Thursday I had the opportunity to hold intimate, hour-long, uninterrupted discussions with leaders of the human potential movement, yogis, scientists, psychics, psychologists, visionaries, humorists, etc. I felt as though I had found my home in the universe.

This experience gave me the confidence to pursue a unique doctoral diploma in parapsychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and to write the first edition of The Roots of Consciousness. The inspiration of that dream still motivates my life twenty years later as I produce the Thinking Allowed television series and prepare this revised edition.

My own dream experience certainly does not reflect a contact with higher intelligence in the romanticized or stereotyped manner characteristic of theosophical and Rosicrucian legend. It does suggest a synchronistic connection (which implies some higher intelligence) that has been integrated into the movements and actions of my life pattern.

By asserting that he would have a dream that would address his career dilemma, Mishlove initiated a dream incubation. His resulting dream has elements of lucidity: the elation and the realization in the dream that his question is answered. Furthermore, Mishlove took the most important step: he acted on the dream.

If not for the dream, would Mishlove have taken this course? "Might have been's" are impossible to predict. But the dreamscape responded immediately to his need, and laid out the answer clearly so that he could proceed without delay.

On the map

Some years ago, a map dream helped me to move forward with a decision about moving to a new home:

I am given certain items of jewelry--they are ones I already own, but have been transformed somehow. The gold ones--earrings, ring--are shinier and have a brighter glow. Most significant is my watch, which was black and is now all gold, including the band.

In the dream, I see these pieces laid out on a map which shows what appear to be Connecticut townships. The pieces are on top of one of the townships where we have been looking for a new house. I take the pieces of jewelry and put them on. The watch feels the most special.

I interpreted the dream as both predicting and confirming my feeling that I and my then-husband would move to a particular community. We had looked at many houses in several communities, including the one depicted in the dream map, but I was afraid of making the wrong decision. The watch symbolized that time was at hand for a transition. The shiny gold jewelry also gave me the feeling that the move would bring about a spiritual renewal. There is an alchemical symbolism here in the transformation of the watch from black to gold. In alchemy, the nigredo, or blackness, must come first before the gold of enlightenment can be attained.


Letting go

Laura B. was unhappy in her marriage but didn't know what to do about it. One night she had a dream in which she was given advice by a wise man. The man was someone she knew in waking life, but in the dream assumes an archetypal role of the Wise Man. Her conversation with him enabled her to crystallize her growing anxieties about her marriage and take action.

In 1977 I had just completed my Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University and was teaching at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as a one-year Visiting Assistant Professor. I had been married for three years to a struggling young lawyer who was unemployed at the time. While I loved him deeply, I was beginning to sense that there were deep differences between us which could not be spanned. Then I had the following dream.

I was in a large, old, dark house. In every room there were parties going on. I would wander into a room and try to enjoy the party. But after a little while, something bad would happen and I would have to leave. I don't remember what the events were--perhaps just a drunk getting out of hand or a sinister mood descending. In each room I would get the feeling that I had to leave right away. So I careened from room to room, each time being driven out by something painful or vaguely evil.

Then I found myself in the very center of the house, in a room where I hadn't been. It was stark white, with a single bare light bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling and reflecting off the white glossy walls. It was a small room, like a bathroom, but I remember only a single wooden chair, in which was sitting a college professor of mine, a Jewish professor who had taught Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Old Testament. While I had not been his student, I had admired him and thought very highly of him.

He looked at me and said simply, "Don't you realize you are married to two people?" In the dream at once I realized that he was right. How could I have forgotten? That was why I couldn't linger in any of the rooms. I had to go back and put myself/house/life back in order.

I woke up then, with the sure knowledge that I was going to have to leave my marriage. It took a year, and was nasty and painful all around, and I cried regularly for an hour a week for three years before I could heal the pain and guilt of leaving. But a few years later I remarried, left the state, had children, bought a house, got the kind of teaching job I had always wanted, had a religious conversion, and started on the spiritual journey I am still on. My first husband had been a Marxist atheist who did not want children and could never have affirmed my present spiritual self.

At the time I thought that the dream meant that I was "married" to both my husband and my career. After twenty years I think that interpretation was mistaken. I didn't have to choose career or marriage. I ultimately chose both, although neither one was the sort I had fantasized about. Instead, I think the dream meant that I had made incompatible commitments to two people: to my husband and to myself, and in the end I could only honor my commitment to self. I had to find someone who could commit to loving the self I was committed to becoming. Fortunately, I did. We've been married for nearly seventeen years now.

Laura's dream wisdom could apply to any of us: we must honor our commitment to ourselves in order to honor commitments to others and to our purpose in life.

Start Your Own Dreamwork

In order to receive the full benefit of your dreams, make a commitment now to understanding them. Start recording them in a journal. Read books on dreams and attend dreamwork groups or seminars. It's easy to learn the language of your dreams. You will find complete dreamwork programs in my books Dreamwork for the Soul, Dreamspeak: How to Understand the Messages in Your Dreams and The Encyclopedia of Dreams: Symbols and Interpretations.

Our dreams provide us with constant guidance, whether or not we consciously ask for it. Regular dreamwork will ensure that none of your inner wisdom will be overlooked. Our dreams show us truth, and give us the validation and courage we need to act.

Copyright © Visionary Living, Inc. 2001.  All Rights Reserved. This article is adapted from Dreamwork for the Soul by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, PhD, published by Berkley Books.

Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Ph.D. has been a lay dreamwork facilitator for more than a decade. Her books about dreams are Dreamspeak: How to Understand the Messages in Your Dreams,
Dreamwork for the Soul: A Spiritual Guide to Dream Interpretation, and The Encyclopedia of Dreams: Symbols and Interpretations. For more information on Rosemary's writings and presentations, visit her website, Visionary Living, at www.visionaryliving.com.


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