There is a long history of dream analysis in Western tradition, but dream interpretation within other cultures is equally rich-and often markedly different. For Native Americans, dreams and their messages are ways of predicting and understanding events. In many Eastern traditions, it is widely accepted that the dreamer can actually influence his or her dream world.
Eastern dream analysis
Many Eastern dream analysts believe that a dreamer can actually take control of his or her dream world and thereby pursue a path of personal growth and spiritual development. Some even claim-in contrast to most Western thinkers-that the dreamer can remain conscious while dreaming. Moreover, it is this conscious dreaming that enables the dreamer to gain the greatest spiritual rewards.
Some Eastern philosophers describe the process of sleeping as a preparation for death. Each time we sleep, we ready ourselves for the time when we must die. It is thus in the dreamer's interest to prepare for sleeping and dreaming in the calmest and most comfortable way possible.
Native American dreams
Different Native American tribes use a variety of techniques to induce the dream state and to interpret dreams, but all share a profound belief in the willpower of the dreamer. According to this belief, the dreamer can will the occurrence of a specific type of dream by concentrating upon the desired themes in the pre-dream state. The dream that follows can act as a guide to show the dreamer how he or she should act upon waking. Preparations for the desired dream include praying, meditating, and fasting. Spending time at a peaceful and secluded location is also seen as an important inducement for entering the dream state.
Native Americans believe that they can encounter a spiritual guide in their dreams, who may then assist them in some capacity. This spirit helper, who can reappear repeatedly in dreams, may impart a specific piece of knowledge or skill within the dream, such as a way of understanding an object, or an aspect of the animal kingdom.
In the Malaysian jungle, the Senoi people have developed their own form of dream interpretation. They believe that dreams can be controlled and modified in a positive sense while they are occurring. Thus a dreamer facing danger should tackle it head on. If something good happens in the dream, the dreamer should approach and embrace it; if evil is told to the dreamer, he or she should refuse to listen. In this way, Senoi interpretations are connected to the dreamer's emotional development. Learning to deal with dream fears, for example, can help the dreamer to manage real fears; welcoming pleasure in dreams can engender positive attitudes during wakefulness.
Dreaming is therefore a two-way process: just as our waking emotions affect our dreams, the reverse can also occur.
A shared experience
In the Australian Aboriginal tradition, the recounting of dreams is a frequent, shared experience. For some tribes, if a dream subverts the expectations of the community-such as a man's sexual dream about a woman who is not his wife-something in the dream is expected to intercede.
Dreams play a crucial role in Aboriginal tradition, which holds that the universe was created from a series of dreams.
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