As I have paid more attention to my dreams over the last few years, I have noticed just how many of them have recurring elements and have, indeed, recurred often over the course of my life. In some cases, these dreams have recurring plots or motifs; in others, they have recurring locales but not necessarily are repeated dreams. These latter dreams seem more like I’m returning to a place rather than replaying or remixing the same scene once again.
I have also found that for as much as I may not recognize I am in a dream locale once again while in the dream itself, I quickly recognize it as I am lying in bed and recording the dream into my journal. I typically will transcribe the dream over into a digital doc because I like to search shit after the fact. I also color code elements of dreams during transcription. For me, yellow is for “anxiety incident,” purple is “woo shit,” bright green is for “other recurring dream elements,” and red for “other lucidity cues” (stuff that should tell me I’m probably dreaming, but which usually doesn’t). I also believe that the anxiety and recurring dream elements should also be lucidity cues, but I’ve never had much luck with lucid dreaming.
But, for these recurring dream locales, they vary widely. For example, I realized that I had often dreamt of the house my grandmother and several of my aunts and my favorite cousin had lived in. It was also the house my mom had grown up in. I had dreamt of walking or being driven down the road leading to it. I had dreamt of being in the house, in the yard, and more. All of this is fairly typical and expected. What got my attention one night was when I was in this dream-Grandma’s-house and recognized, after waking up, that there was a whole separate, extra room—a separate dining room behind completely out-of-place glass doors, with curtains in the back that led deeper into the house. I realized, while journaling, that this extra dining room had always been there in dreams of the house—or often enough to seem such—though I hadn’t gone deeper past those curtains until this one night.
And, yes, I went back and explored it through my journeying work because there was quite a bit I found while exploring that space in the dream that got my attention.
As another example, there’s a major thoroughfare through my hometown that I lived next to while growing up, and I’ve been up and down that street in the physical world quite often. I’ve also often walked, drove, or been driven up and down it in the dream realm. In fact, I’ve been there in dreams twice in the last month. No big deal, right?
I almost always am dreaming of being on this street in the dark of night—I’m rarely there during the day in dreams—and on this last occasion, I was walking at night and decided to look for a path to a place I’d been to in previous dreams. In the dream, it was less that I had dreamt of the path before and more that I’d literally traveled that path. I found the way to turn off onto and, making sure no one saw me use this path, I followed it into a completely not-in-the-physical park or hilly area that I’ve dreamt of before. I even had a sense that, yes, I’d dreamt this before and had taken that path to get there. I had fond feelings for this stretch of dream countryside, and I approached a multistory house nearby that I also recognized, had visited many years previously in dreams.
Now, my point in all this is that I have been realizing that Dream-Me has been doing quite a bit in several Dream Locales that are specific, I suspect, to the land where I grew up. I have also grown to embrace the idea that Eduardo Kohn advances in How Forests Think regarding Runa beliefs about dreaming: when you dream you’re in the forest, then you are in the forest—or at least, the metaphorical side, the dreaming-side of the forest. You are not just dreaming about a forest. Your mind has not recreated a forest in your head for you to dream within, like some kind of stage designer setting the scene for some entertainment in your mind. No, you are actually in the forest while you are dreaming. Accordingly, I rather do think that I’m not dreaming about this street, this hilly countryside, and my Grandma’s house—I’m dreaming in those places. That those dream locales have extra, variant, or otherwise “hidden” elements is just how dreams and the spirit world can work.
I am also fascinated by how these recurring locales have generally consistent paths to them or consistent structure in the dreams. When I was younger, I would venture forth and discover a place I loved or which roused my curiosity in such a way that, when I realized I was again dreaming near the starting point of such a journey, I would try to find my way along the path to find more, to explore more, to go further. However, over time, I would have a harder time following the path or finding it, or obstacles would appear, or, more often, I would get distracted or wake up early. I think now I would blame a lack of follow-up in the physical: I wasn’t dream journaling, really, nor did I do anything to try to bring the dream closer to the physical or to my conscious awareness. Accordingly, I suspect that I literally and metaphorically grew apart from those locales or otherwise lost those paths.
In a similar vein, where I have had recurring dream locales, I have also had recurring motifs of trying to go somewhere in my dreams. I have walked through so many infinite houses—though many of them had recurring rooms, though I’d never seen any of them in the physical. I have also wandered through so many mazes of institutional hallways. I have tried to argue with so many elevators. I have tried to ascend so many stairs towards shining white lighted spaces. I have seen so many far too narrow “hallways” that a child might pass through—or someone who could shrink, at least. I used to routinely dream of urban exploration, finding small passageways through old sheetrock or service crawlways or that had somehow been cut but hidden in walls. I remember one particular path through an old Victorian house and a run-down business that led to an underground harbor with a ship.
There are also locales linked together by their motif rather than being specific locations or structures. There is a series of towers, skyscrapers, and maybe even a mountain that’re often posh in their seeming. These locales are not like the ones I mentioned earlier. Those locales look much the same as they always do. But in these “tower” dreams, its features and facades shift, but I know that I am wanting to get to the top—or to where things happen behind the scenes. You either want to get to the control room or headquarters at the top—or to where all the maintenance secrets can be found.
Frustratingly, I have found access to these tower locales rather gated. Curtailed. On the last occasion, the elevators were not wanting to cooperate or were rebelling. I was trying to avoid standing out too much to the “staff” (or security), but I kept finding myself having a hard time escaping the touristy spaces, or I worried about getting stuck in the interminable hotel floors that always feel more like cell blocks.
I think I finally reached a certain threshold with my dream work. Though I can lament how long it took me to get to this point, I also appreciate that I’m now recognizing both how consistent and how persistent my dream activities have been. I wonder how to move beyond where I’ve managed to go thus far and what I’ve managed to do. And, I can imagine, depending on where your dream practice may be, that you might begin to notice your own dreaming experience of the spirit side of your life and your locality—your own recurring locales and motifs.
We thankfully live in an era where we have increasing access to tech that can help us. Along that line, I figure I should address lucid dreaming. I’ve had lucid dreams, though rarely for any sustained period of time. I know that my sister mastered lucid dreaming well enough—partly as a response to lifelong, persistent nightmares—that she spent years perfecting how to fly in her dreams and to have super-strength. There are plenty of folks who’ve mastered lucid dreaming in whatever way. Most folks opt to use it as a “holodeck” fun factory—which, y’know, no shade from me, trust me. However, I have the feeling that, were I to focus on lucid dreaming, then I would be garbling whatever experiences have been coming through my unconscious and my unconscious connection/embeddedness in the dream realm about me. I have grown to recognize how that unconscious side needs its expression on its terms, even if I want to nudge it along or to move past where we’ve been.
Accordingly, in many ways, I want to push where my dream work presently is at without burdening it with conscious expectations and desires. (I did say burden it, not to go without any.) I want to recover some of those lost paths or to pull on them or new ones. I want to find and navigate those narrow passages that—oh, I guarantee you—someone is using. I want to find my way up higher in the tower and come out well in whatever results.
To some degree, journeying and active imagination are definite routes to take. In many cases for myself, I feel that the locales matter less than who’s there or who I can meet there, in the physical or in journeying-space. I have done this already with the region around where I presently live, but I want to push on the more explicitly recurrent dream locales and who may be there—especially when I can consciously (or journeying-consciously) respond more competently than I feel I usually do in dreaming.
Otherwise, enchantment also comes to mind. The PGM has several dream spells that can be adapted for a variety of purposes, and many of these are dream oracles or visionary spells that, I suspect, would work well for my purposes by asking the daimons in question to show me, for example, “What’s up with such-and-such place?” Otherwise, I have previously found that reciting the spells from the Book of the Dead produces pronounced resonances in my dreaming—so many dreams about being offered food while I wasn’t particularly hungry—but those spells are very much framed to particular challenges and ends.
More immediately, I’m thinking I will consider dream-related sigils. Given the long-attested link between sigil magic and unconscious states, it seems as if sigils should be good for helping get at and push on one’s dreaming experience. Here are versions of a few sigil intentions I’m planning to do:
- Always navigate the Tower with success
- Always navigate with success
- Always find my way backstage
- Always recognize allies instantly
- Squeeze through narrow spaces successfully
Things like that. Note that for several of these sigils I’m thinking of framing them in terms of what happens “in dreams,” but for others, I plan to point to traits or circumstances that would work well in the physical but also in dreaming. Indeed, most would probably work better in dreaming, like “Always can change size.”
These sigil intentions are very much specific to me and what I’ve been tracking of my dreaming and its metaphoric environments. The actual long-term project will hopefully be to push on these personalized elements to go beyond where I’ve often managed in the past. I also plan to follow up in the physical through journaling and journeying on them while trying to bring my dreaming-practice into alignment—or at least better resonance—with my conscious practice. Depending on what happens, I may wind up doing apt things or visiting places in the physical to do something.
Why do this? That I’ve had these recurring dreams and dream elements for most of my life—and new ones that appear—demonstrates that they’re obviously important to me. And, if the dream world I move through is connected to the physical world and to the spirit world—I would argue that they’re all the same thing, experienced in different ways at different times—well, if I can improve my ability to act and relate in and with these different states, then I hope I can improve my practice, my results, and my life overall.
Featured Image: Dlee | Pixabay
 I reflect, now, that in this particular locale is a particular geological feature that does not exist in the physical world, but the name of the street I grew up on for many years is named after that feature. Make of that what you will.
 Although I am distinguishing the physical, the dream-realm/space, and journeying-space in this post, these realities are modes or expressions of or ways of paying attention to each other rather than distinct or separate “worlds” or realities.
 If you’re wondering about my use of success words here, I’m experimenting with something I got in a dream.