My empty bucket

A blog by Adam Morris

Dream analysis 101

Okay, here is my quick and dirty Jungiang Dream Interpretation guide. Brace yourself.

There are 3 elements to Jungian dream interpretation:

  1. Dream Details.
    Record as closely as you can the exact details of the dream. Events, emotions, anything out of the ordinary, anything that stands out. Not just the object in the dream, but also the distortions on the object.
  2. Personal, cultural, and archetypal associations.
    Gather your associations of your dream details, starting with what symbols mean to you personally, and then what they mean to you culturally, and finally what they mean on an archetypal level (in that order).
  3. Put it in context.
    Place the dream and associations in the context of the dreamer’s current life situation. As a general rule, if you already know what the dream seems to be saying, then you have missed its meaning.

There you go. That’s it. I said it would be quick and dirty, didn’t I? It’s not rocket science.

Where do dreams come from?

Recent theories postulate that dreams often stem from worries or emotionally charged problems that are unresolved when you go to sleep. The dream process helps to break down the emotional charge so you the following day you can devote your energy to… uncovering new problems and worries!

This is slightly different to Freud’s theory that dreams have latent meanings; instead, your dream comes from your conscious introspections instead of your ‘subconscious infantile impulses’ (if you have such a thing). Also, your dreams aren’t disguised or distorted wishes – they are just your senses replaying unexpressed emotions that have aroused from your day.

On another interesting note, your beliefs about how your dreams are structured and what they mean may actually effect HOW you dream. If you read up on Freudian dream analysis, your dreams are more likely to fit Freud’s theory. If instead, you’re a believer of Jung’s interpretation methods… then your dreams will adapt accordingly.

Either way, the more you recall and analyze your dreams, the easier they become to understand.

Dream recall

Having trouble remembering your dreams? Here is what you do:

  1. Get a private dream journal and keep it next to your bed.
  2. Before falling asleep, repeat to yourself (at least 10 times) a positive intention to remember your dreams. For example: “I remember my dreams with ease, and write them down as I awake.
  3. First thing in the morning, as you awake, lie still. (Yes, this is difficult with an alarm clock.)
  4. There is a period between when you end dreaming and when you awake, where you are conscious but still have access to your dream memory. Think up 3 key words to describe your dream.
  5. When you awake, write down the key words before anything else.
  6. Next, write down your dream in a much detail as possible including anything you remember – most importantly how you felt and anything out of the ordinary.

The longer you do this, the better you get. Practice, patience and intention. Everyone dreams every night. Except possibly when there is a lot of alcohol… I find that drastically interferes with my dreaming process. Which is probably why I don’t drink much. I like my dreams.

I must be dreaming

Dreams are a beautiful thing. Half our life we run around in a dream world, half asleep, running away from something or plagued by problems we don’t understand. Then we wake up, and keep doing the same thing.

My interest in dreams boils down to three things:

  1. Dream Recall (remembering our dreams)
  2. Dream Analysis (understanding what our dreams are about)
  3. Lucid Dreaming (becoming conscious as we dream)

Dream recall is the first stepping stone to any dream work. Everybody dreams, whether they think they do or not. Being able to remember your dreams is possible for everyone, it just takes some practice, intention and patience.

Once you can remember your dreams, then you can look for useful symbols and patterns that uncover problems in your life that you might not be aware of, as well as a source of creative insight on ways you might approach these unresolved issues.

Lucid Dreaming is taking control of your dreams while you are dreaming… a tool where you can both embrace your problems and create situations that you wish to be in… like the ultimate vacation. Too bad it only lasts until you wake up.


I like to dream. I even like to dream that I’m dreaming. During the day, I look for hidden opportunities, like riding the tube, where I can doze off and discover a delightful dream. Only when I dream, I try to become lucid and awake, so I can be aware of what’s going on.
I know you think this topic will put you to sleep, and you wish I would pick something else.

Dream on.

Five senses plus four more

At the core of Vipassana is understanding the impermanence of all things. Everything we know, we experience within the body as a sensation, either as a subtle vibration of awareness, or through our senses. Everything we experience arises within us, and then passes away.

Our obvious senses include sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch.

According to wikipedia, our senses also include:

Thermoception – the sense of heat or the absence of it (cold)
Nociception – physiological pain (in our skin, joints and organs)
Equilibrioception – our perception of balance
Proprioception – our kinesthetic sense – our body awareness

What about our thoughts? Are a thoughts one of our senses? Or are they a product of a different sensation? They’re certainly something I experience… and something I can even influence occasionally.

Dissolving pain

I have experienced two 10-day Vipassana retreats.

During my second retreat, I had an amazing insight into the power of the meditation. (I’m a slow learner.) One of the objectives behind Vipassana is to dissolve pain by observing it in the present moment and accepting what is. When we are aware of the internal resistance we are creating, we can stop the cycle of craving or aversion that creates pain within us.

At these retreats, around the fourth day, they start these sittings where you are expected to sit still for the entire hour. For a guy like me, who doesn’t sit on the floor often, my back starts aching after about 10 minutes. In my first retreat, I never quite made it a full hour without adjusting my back.

The second time around, and something stupid came over me – I resolved to sit still for a full hour. My back was killing me, but I continued to meditate without moving. I could barely focus on anything except for the sharp feeling in my back, which, by the way, felt like an army of four year olds scratching chalkboards. I forced myself to sit through it. Masochistic? Probably.

And then the most curious thing happened. The pain… dissolved. It went from feeling completely unbearable to feeling like any other sensation on my body. It didn’t cause me any more anguish. What I found really peculiar was that those same sharp fingernail on chalkboard sensations were there… they just didn’t hurt. They didn’t distract me. They felt as painful as my pillow.

That’s when the practice of Vipassana became clear to me, and what they mean about using awareness to dissolve your pain. The physical sensation, even if uncomfortable, is not what I thought was the pain. The true source of pain is something I don’t think I could have understood before I experienced it.

I have started noticing where in my life I am resisting what is, and how I am reacting to situations. It is not just physical pain, but can be found anywhere – arguments, laziness, frustration, boredom, apathy, and probably a million other places.

Practicing Vipassana

Vipassana meditation is pretty straight-forward. At the retreat, you start working with your breath, and progress to passing your awareness through your body.

The rough guide to Vipassana is:

  1. Awareness of breath (paying attention to your breathing).
  2. Focusing your breath awareness onto a smaller and smaller point at the base of your nose.
  3. Passing that same awareness slowly over the surface of your entire body, starting with your head, arms, chest, back, legs and then back up to the head.
  4. Sweeping your awareness over the surface of your body.
  5. Passing your awareness through (inside) your body.
  6. Becoming aware of your entire body simultaneously.

All this is done while trying to remain as an objective observer. This would be dead easy, but unfortunately, minds like mine like to run wild… much of the meditation is just recognizing that thoughts are popping into our head, accepting that this is happening and returning our awareness to the practice.

I never knew how much my mind had a mind of its own until my first retreat.

Vipassana retreat

The largest offering of Vipassana Meditation is that taught By S. N. Goenka, offering free 10-day courses (costs are covered through donations). It originated in India, but now there are meditation centers world-wide.

At first glance, the daily schedule for the 10 days looks pretty demanding:

4:00 a.m. Morning wake-up bell
4:30 – 6:30 a.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
6:30 – 8:00 a.m. Breakfast break
8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Group meditation in the hall
9:00 – 11:00 a.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
11:30 – noon Lunch
12 noon – 1:00 p.m. Rest break
1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Group meditation in the hall
3:30 – 5:00 p.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
5:00 – 6:00 p.m. Tea break
6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Group meditation in the hall
7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Video recording to recap day
9:30 p.m. Retire to your own room/Lights out

When I first went, I thought it would be impossible to wake up at 4 am and meditate all day long in silence. (There is no talking during the retreat, except for brief check-ins with the assistant teacher.) But waking up was a lot easier than I expected… you are naturally rested from going to bed early and meditating all day. And you are free from other distractions, such as work, mobile phones and e-mail, so it’s not difficult.

At the same time, I think I convinced myself on one of the days that time had stopped and I was going to be there forever.


Vipassana is a meditation centered around observation and awareness. It differs from focused meditations that use mantra’s, such as transcendental meditation, or meditations that focus on controlling the breathing, because it is precisely about NOT controlling anything, and just observing.

Sounds easy enough, right? In Vipassana, for once your life you don’t have to DO anything. In fact, you’re specifically NOT supposed to do anything. Well, other than observe…

The meditation stems from Buddhism as the technique taught by the Buddha to reach enlightenment. The meditation itself is quite separate from Buddhism and is something that anyone can do.

Where to start? Zencast has some great meditation podcasts available for download introducing meditation.