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Illustrations by Brittany Falussy

Episode 4: How To Dream Creatively

What dreams can teach us about ourselves.

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How can dreams help unlock our creativity, and put us better in touch with ourselves? Brian’s lucid dreams of flight help him create a comic book superhero, and to process his emotions. Amy composes operas and new musical works while sleeping, dreaming her way through tricky creative challenges. Host Kate Berlant meets dream coach Kim Gillingham for a session examining her own dreams.

You can check out Brian’s work here: https://www.luciditycomix.com/

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Read Episode 4 Full Transcript Below:

Photo credit: Sela Shiloni

KATE [VO]: I’m Kate Berlant. I’m an actor, comic, and writer, and host of this podcast, “Are You Sleeping?”, from the sleep experts at Mattress Firm, produced by Vox Creative.

[MUX IN: CLIP FROM BRIAN DREAM JOURNAL READING]

I hear a weird noise coming from the living room. I fly slowly through my apartment. It’s dark, but the streetlights outside my window provide enough light for me to see. There’s a shadow of a man in my kitchen. He has a hat on and claws coming out of his hand.”

KATE [VO]: We all have dreams, even if we don’t remember them. They’re an incredibly mysterious part of our lives where anything can happen.

And these visions from your unconscious can be so vivid and lifelike that your body sweats, or you feel the grass beneath your feet. They can be so scary that your heart pounds and you call out in your sleep. And they can also be absolutely magical.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big believer in recording my dreams. And so is Brian Badgette. Like me, he writes his dreams in a journal. Here’s one.

[MUX IN: CLIP FROM BRIAN DREAM JOURNAL READING]

[MUX IN: RUSHING NOISE AND VIBRATION SOUNDS]

I’m laying down in bed, about to fall asleep, and suddenly, my body starts to vibrate. It starts at my feet and builds up to the top of my head. This is new. I know this is a dream, it has to be. But I don’t panic.”

Composer, Amy Scurria

KATE [VO]: Meanwhile, Amy Scurria writes her dreams on musical notation paper.

AMY: My mom came around the corner. She said, “Oh, what is that piece?” And I said, “I wrote it.” And she said, “When did you write that?” And I said, “Last night in my dream,” you know, she was like, “What?!”

[MUX IN: MUSIC FROM AMY’S COMPOSITION, “UPON REFLECTION”]

KATE [VO]: On today’s episode, we’re going to meet two extraordinary dreamers. People who harness the power of their dreams to make art.

And we’ll connect with a dream specialist who helps Hollywood stars unlock their inner artist. Because it turns out we all might be able to use our dreams to access hidden parts of ourselves.

KIM: Our work is to engage with that dream without smushing it, without trying to crack it or decode it. But to really work with the living fabric of that dream in a way that can bring some of that energy from the unconscious up into the topside world.

[MUX TRANSITION]

BRIAN: My name is Brian Badgette and I live in Cleveland, Ohio. I work as a storage general manager. You ever seen Storage Wars at all? That’s what I do.

KATE [VO]: Brian’s thirty-four and lives with his wife. By day, he’s at his storage job. But by night, Brian’s an artist and the creator of the comic and web series, “Lucidity.”

[MUX IN: CLIP FROM LUCIDITY]

“I used to look forward to going to sleep when I was younger. The idea of closing my eyes and waking up in a new world always amazed me. I was always anxious to find out what new adventures awaited me.”

KATE [VO]: Brian’s brightly colored comic is about a young guy named Michael Miller, who gains superpowers from something that we all could learn to do: lucid dreaming — that’s the ability to be aware that you’re in a dream and to control what’s happening while you’re still asleep.

BRIAN: There’s no comic book characters that directly deal with dreams and the idea of lucid dreaming. I just felt when I was younger, like this will be like a real cool foundation for a character. Because the great thing about lucid dreaming and using it in a comic book is that it’s tangible. You don’t have to have some radioactive bug bite you on the wrist. You don’t have to be some alien or, you know, you don’t have to be rich like Bruce Wayne. Anybody can do this.

KATE [VO]: Lucid dreaming has long been a passion of Brian’s. In a way, it’s the source of his superpowers, too. It’s how he taps into his creativity. And it’s a passion he shares with his dad.

Writer and lucid-dreamer, Brian Badgette

BRIAN: We were obsessed with “The Matrix” when it first came out, pretty much I told my father that, “Man, I wish I could fly like Neo, in like Superman.” And he said, “You can,” and introduced me to lucid dreaming. And, um, I studied it day and night. Anything I can read, any movie I can watch, ah, about it, took over my whole world, and I’m still obsessed with it today.

KATE [VO]: Brian has been lucid dreaming since he was a teenager. And, since I’m slightly obsessed with the topic too, I wanted to know everything.

KATE: How do you prepare yourself for lucid dreaming? Or is there any kind of technique that you, um, specifically use?

BRIAN: Before, I thought that me just bombarding my mind with everything that has to do with lucid dreaming, you know, would help. And sometimes it did. Practicing different techniques like flicking a light switch and looking at your watch helped sometimes. But you know, the thing that has worked the most — it’s kind of funny.

[MUX IN: RUNNING FOOTSTEPS]

BRIAN: So when nobody is looking, and I’m like outside, I kind of take a running start and I’d leap up in the air, looking at the sky with like the full intentions of not coming down. And that’s been my way of like testing the dream.

KATE: Okay, so, like, when you’re sleeping and you think you’re starting to dream, you just try to jump and fly?

BRIAN: Yeah, yeah. I wasn’t, at first I was just doing it because, like, man, I want to fly. But eventually it became, you know, an actual thing that seeped into my dreams. And since I did it so much of my waking life, when I did it in a dream, it worked.

[MUX IN: RUNNING FOOTSTEPS AND SUPERHERO JUMP SOUND]

KATE [VO]: Brian even included that bit of his personal life, learning to fly in his dreams, as part of his comic “Lucidity”.

[MUX IN: CLIP FROM LUCIDITY]

“This is amazing. I’m flying! I’m actually flying! It’s like as soon as I focused on what I wanted, it happened. Everything feels and looks so real, but different. Like I’m connected to everything around me.”

KATE [VO]: Brian has also used this ability to control his dreams in other parts of his life and he’s uncovered so much about himself, especially some emotions he didn’t know he had.

[MUX IN: SOUNDS OF CAR REVVING AND SPEEDING UP AND THEN CRASHING]

BRIAN: I had this recurring dream where I would be in a car driving on a freeway, the car seemed to kind of like speed up sometimes, and eventually the car would spin out of control and I would start spinning, what seemed like forever. And I’m just waiting for impact. And as soon as I hit impact, I wake up.

KATE: Woah, that’s really scary. What do you think that dream was about?

BRIAN: I realized I was kind of in a place in my life where I was trying to control a lot of things in my life, far as how people perceive me, dealing with situations with, you know, loss of friends, um, relationship, job, you know, I was trying to control stuff instead of just letting it go and letting it be. And after having that realization, next time I had that dream, I stopped the car from, from spinning, you know, because I realized…

KATE: Wow.

BRIAN: We’ve been here before. You know, we know what this is. Relax. Stop trying to control. I became lucid and started flying around in the car, and I really haven’t had that dream since.

[MUX IN: GENTLE PIANO NOTES AND CHORDS]

KATE [VO]: Brian also realized that his dreams could help him cope with losing a friend to suicide.

BRIAN: I remember about a month after his passing, I started dreaming about him a lot. He was never really smiling. It was hard to embrace him and hug him the way I wanted to. And he would say very little. Eventually, those dreams of him turned to him smiling a little bit more. Then it turned into me actually being able to hug him and embrace him. And in hindsight, when I look back on it, I realized that man, that was my subconscious letting me know where I was with my grieving process.

KATE: Mm, wow, that’s a really powerful gift. So, what do you think you’ve learned about yourself through your dreams?

BRIAN: I think that what I’ve learned about myself is that I am more imaginative than I thought. I had to learn in my life that your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. And I think dreams taught me that. I mean, that’s the case with everybody, but I just realized that I have the ability to recognize how my mind is communicating with me, and I’m able to see how that plays out into my physical world. A reaffirming thought that I may have from a dream that carries into my waking life.

KATE: I have to say, I’m inspired by how much your dreaming has become part of your creative process.

BRIAN: Being an artist and dreaming goes hand-in-hand with me. It’s all about imagination. And luckily, I have an ability and been blessed with a talent where I can literally manifest my thoughts onto paper and share it with other people. And maybe that’s my relationship with lucid dreaming, too, is the fact that, you know, I’ve learned to take my thoughts and manifest them into a physical dream world. And I’m doing the same thing with, with drawing and creating.

KATE: We’ll have a link to Brian’s comic “Lucidity” on our website so you can check out his beautiful work.

[MUX FADE OUT]

KATE [VO]: Dreams or dream-like visions have been depicted in art for centuries. Think about the melting clocks in Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”, the so-called “prophetic works” of William Blake, even the freaky hellscapes of Hieronymus Bosch.

But what if you’re not exactly the painting or drawing type? What if your creative work is for the ear?

[MUX IN: AMY’S MUSIC]

AMY: I actually have a really active dream life. I look forward to bedtime and climbing into bed and falling to sleep, because I never know what’s going to happen. I never know where I’m going to go, what I’m going to dream.

KATE [VO]: This is Amy Scurria. Amy is 48 years old and lives with her family in Durham, North Carolina. And she’s a professional composer. Amy’s written works for piano, orchestra, and voice. We’re actually listening to some of her work now.

[MUX IN: AMY’S MUSIC]

KATE [VO]: Like Brian, Amy also uses her dreams – both vivid and lucid dreaming – to tap into her creativity. And she’s been doing it for four decades!

AMY: I used to think really hard, you know, “Remember that I’m dreaming. I’m going to start dreaming. I’m going to start dreaming.” As I was falling asleep, I would just repeat it like a mantra. And it took me a while, and I remember the first dream I had, there were, I was surrounded by animals and they started to get scary and I went, “No, no, I can control this.” And that was the first time, and I made the animals friendly.

KATE [VO]: Amy had her first lucid dream when she was just eight years old. And by thirteen she was using that skill to fuel her musical work.

AMY: In the dream I was doing that, I was creating it at the piano. I remember waking up and thinking, “That’s a really good piece,” and, yeah, I ran downstairs and my mom and my sister were, “Hi, Amy,” and you know, and I was like quite the diva and, “Be quiet!” You know, “I’ve got a piece that I need to go figure out!” And so, ran to the piano, and, and was able to play it pretty immediately.

KATE [VO]: Amy has written countless pieces, some inspired by her dreams, but others entirely composed in her sleep. So yeah, dreaming is a huge part of her creative process. But these days, she uses her dreams a little differently.

AMY: Now when I dream, I don’t have to imagine being in front of a piano. I can just kind of hear it and then wake up and write it down.

[MUX IN: AMY’S MUSIC]

AMY: When I was younger and I was writing simpler piano pieces, you know, that were three minutes long, I could compose the whole thing in my sleep. Now, I write, you know, I just finished a two-hour opera that I’m still revising and working on, you know, clearly, I’m not going to dream an entire opera in a dream.

The music I dream is oftentimes, like, it’s usually shorter musical ideas that are sort of the next section of the piece I’m writing. It tends to be my problem-solving area.

[MUX IN: AMY’S MUSIC]

AMY: As opposed to when I was younger and, you know, thinking about the instrument I’m writing for and how would this sit best, what key should it be and what meter is it, you know, really the technique behind creating the music and crafting the music.

KATE [VO]: My mind is completely blown. I mean, just imagine it: creating new work or deconstructing and unraveling the puzzles of your life in your sleep?! Listening to Amy, I’m so jealous, and I just really wish I could write a show in my sleep.

And also how do I start having more lucid dreams? And what exactly are they, anyway?

Sleep Researcher and Neurologist, Dr. Chris Winter

CHRIS: Lucid dreaming is the act of dreaming with some degree of awareness or consciousness.

KATE [VO]: This is Doctor Chris Winter. He’s a neurologist, author, and sleep expert based in Charlottesville, Virginia.

CHRIS: That’s to me what a lucid dream is, versus waking up and remembering the dream but in the moment as you were flying around in the sky with feathers sticking out of your arms, you didn’t really question it. You were just kind of in that moment, versus, “Wait a minute. I don’t have feathers sticking out of my arms and can fly over power lines.” So when you develop that ability to kind of bring your wakefulness awareness into the dream, that’s lucid dreaming.

KATE: Wow, okay, so what about dreams that you can’t control but seem incredibly realistic?

CHRIS: Vivid dreaming is a term that some people use for just a dream that is remarkably detailed, contextual. It’s the dream where you wake up, you’re like, “My God, this would be an amazing book or movie.” It is an explosion of action and color and symbolism and whatnot.

KATE: So, I’m a big dreamer, I’ve had tons of vivid dreams throughout my life where I wake up and I actually have to ask myself, like, did that just happen, was that a dream? But lucid dreams are obviously more unusual. And, I mean in my case, I’ve experienced it a few times throughout my life, but I would really love to do it more. So Chris, is there a way I can trigger lucid dreaming? [laughs]

CHRIS: Absolutely. Yeah. And most of them involve some sort of reality check. The one that I always did was I would take my wedding ring off and I would say to myself, “This is real. I am not dreaming.” I would turn it around and I would put it back on my finger and sort of evaluating everything. And so what you’re trying to do is to kind of make it a habit to sort of check reality at various times during the day, because then you’ll start to do that while trying to go to sleep or actually asleep.

And it was surprising to me as somebody who’s not a natural lucid dreamer, how quickly I started doing that in my dream. And then what would happen would be, I would realize in the dream that I was in fact dreaming. And I would get so excited that I would wake up, you know, and you’re like, “Oh, crap, I was just there.” So it took a while to be, like, cool about it, “Hey, I’m dreaming here.” I’m clearly, you know, not 20 feet tall and, you know, walking around a forest. So let’s just relax and kind of go with it. And then, it’s really lovely.

KATE: Okay, so, you’re a neurologist, and so you’re the expert on exactly what’s happening in our brains when we dream. And listening to Amy and Brian explain their ability to dream and their creative lives, I can’t help but wonder, is there some actual neurological connection between dreaming and creativity? Like are the same parts of our brain activated when we draw or create music — and when we dream?

[MUX IN: LIGHT, ETHEREAL MUSIC]

CHRIS: It’s a very difficult thing to study. There have been studies done where you put humans in PET scanners and try to look and see which regions of the brains are active and in most of that research, everything lights up. I mean, your visual cortex, your memory. So everything that you’re using when you’re awake is often sort of activated when we dream. And if you just look at the brain activity, it’s very difficult to distinguish a dreaming individual from an awake individual.

KATE: Okay, that just takes my fascination with dreaming to a whole new level. Thank you so much, Chris!

CHRIS: Hey, you bet.

[MUX FADES OUT]

KATE [VO]: Let’s get back to Amy Scurria, our dream composer. Recently, she’s been working on an opera based on Lewis Carroll’s book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Talk about an iconic work based on dreams, right? And at one point, Amy was struggling with a duet she was writing for Alice and another character, the Duchess.

AMY: And so I stepped away that day and I was just like, I trust that it’s going to come, you know? And so that night in my dream, this blonde British boy walked up to me, and just basically described to me what should happen in the piece. And then that was it. And I woke up the next day and I was like, “Thank you, blonde British boy.” [laughs]

KATE [VO]: The boy in her dream solved her writer’s block. And for you classical-music lovers, Amy thinks he was a young version of the English composer Benjamin Britten. In her dream, the boy told her to use the circle of fifths and chromatic intervals in her duet. And that’s exactly what she did. This is Amy’s “Achoo Duet.”

[MUX IN: AMY’S ACHOO DUET]

KATE: Amy, it feels like this creative dreaming process that you have, it’s almost like a passive or non-grasping relationship, like it comes to you without forcing it to happen.

AMY: That’s a great way to put it, yeah.

KATE: God, I wonder, like, do you have any advice for someone who would want to use their dreams in their creative practice?

AMY: And so you said the word non-grasping in my relationship to composing while I’m dreaming. And I think that idea of not grabbing at things has been most helpful for me in creating. Because I don’t know about you, but it’s like when you create something and you get into that, I know this word is way overused, but I’m going to use it because it applies. But the word flow.

KATE: Yeah.

AMY: You know, getting into that idea of a flow where you kind of click into something that’s almost otherworldly, like where you’re sort of going beyond yourself.

KATE: Yeah.

AMY: And you’re, you know, I’ve heard people say almost like receiving and…

KATE: Yeah, channeling.

AMY: That’s what it feels like sometimes. You know, we’re all capable of creating and we’re all capable of being brilliant creators, it’s just a matter of what are you going to tap into? Are you gonna allow creativity to come and flow and trust in it? It opens us up to be more creative.

In my waking life, we all feel such pressure and such, you know, the weight of the world, especially right now, it can just kind of bear down on us and, um, I think when you have that freedom in a dream and you can kind of tap into that feeling and pull that into waking life, what a gift. So I’m grateful that I have those vivid dreams.

[MUX IN: MUSICAL NOTES, JAZZ-LIKE MUSIC]

KATE [VO]: I’m in awe of Amy and Brian’s ability to use their dreams to fuel their creativity. Like, as cool as their dreams sound, they’re also getting paid for them! And they’re gaining deeper understanding of themselves.

I’ll be honest. I want to know how to dive deep into my dreams too. And after the break, we’ll talk to an expert who might be able to help me do just that.

[MIDROLL]

Kate: Hi, Kim.

Kim: Hello.

Kate: Hello. So nice to meet you.

Kim: Very nice to meet you, too.

KATE [VO]: After learning how Brian and Amy tap into their dreams, I was curious to try it myself. And I found the perfect person, the dream expert to the stars: Kim Gillingham.

Kim: I work with a lot of actors in Los Angeles and in New York, and I have also worked with directors and writers and musicians, and, um, I’m very bad at name dropping so I am not going to do that. [laughs]

[MUX IN: LIGHT HARP STRINGS, SNAPPING BEAT ADDS IN, THEN MORE ELECTRONIC BEAT]

Creative dream work instructor, Kim Gillingham

KATE [VO]: Okay, so Kim’s too polite to name drop, but I’m not. She’s worked with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jane Campion as they prepared for “The Power of the Dog.” In fact, Jane Campion, the first woman in history to win academy awards for both directing and screenwriting, said the dream work she did with Kim is the most amazing work she’s ever done.

Sandra Oh even included Kim in her acceptance speech for her SAG award.

Kim is a big deal. But she’s not an analyst or a therapist. Kim is more like a dream coach.

And so for people who don’t know what you do, can you explain what it is that you do?

KIM: Um, I can try. I work with creative people and their dreams and listening to how the unconscious is responding to creative material, or how one might open up the deeper waters of your creativity by consulting with and collaborating with your dreams.

KATE: What do you feel that dreams are?

KIM: I was just thinking this this morning. I had a dream and I was thinking, “Well, what if it’s absolutely nothing?” And then I thought, even if it’s absolutely nothing, the meaning and the curiosity that I’m projecting on to it is revealing.

KATE [VO]: So before we go all-in on Kim and her process, I want to give you the quickest overview ever on Carl Jung and his work on dream analysis.

Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, and when it comes to dreams, Jung thought they were messages from our unconscious. He wrote that our dreams might contain information that can uncover our internal conflicts. They could also show us the solutions to our problems. Jung called the process of working with that connection between the conscious and the unconscious the “active imagination”.

And Jungian philosophy is a central inspiration for Kim’s work.

KIM: I am coming from a Jungian framework with the understanding that the inner self or the unconscious there is expressing to me, my own recipe for my individuation path through the dreams to become more fully and truly who I authentically am. And my teacher Marion used to say each dream is like, you’re in a jungle and you feel the river at the center. And each dream is like another chop away of the path down to that river of self in the middle of there.

KATE: I love that idea of exposing kind of like the path to who you are.

KIM: Yeah.

KATE [VO]: Because of the pandemic, Kim has been doing her work mostly online. But normally, she invites her clients into her studio — a creative space where the person can move and make as much noise as they want.

First, a client reads one of their dreams that they’ve jotted down in a journal. Then, Kim invites the person to lie down on a mat and the work begins.

Now, I didn’t get to experience all this magic in person, but I did get to meet Kim online and do a mini dream session with the master.

I found the experience really fascinating. Here it is.

KATE: So imagining sort of I’m kind of in a session or something with you right now, like what would you, um, when people are starting to work with you, what is it that you do with them or how do you bring them into this work?

KIM: So the first thing we would do would be to listen together to whatever dream you had.

KATE: Um, well, for like two years now, I’ve gotten really serious about recording my dreams. And every morning I record a voice memo and I dictate my dream into my phone.

KIM: Yeah, that’s great.

KATE: Here’s one. So I’m in the ocean and it’s nighttime and it’s sort of turbulent, and I’m seeing these big waves starting to come toward me, and I’m feeling, like, fear and anxiety.

[MUX IN: WAVE SOUNDS, CREAKING, TENSE MUSIC]

KATE: And I decide, okay, what I’m actually going to do, is I’m just going to float and kind of let the waves carry me.

KIM: Hmm.

KATE: And so I start to do that, I start to get onto my back and sort of float in the ocean, and I feel the waves starting to come and they start becoming a little turbulent. So much so that I’m sort of pushed under the water, but not very far. Just a few inches and I decide in the dream I’m like, try to float in this and open your eyes, and I opened my eyes and through the water, it was super clear, I could look up and see the night sky and I could see all these stars.

[MUX IN: WAVES LAPPING AND LIGHT, GENTLE MUSIC]

KATE: And it was really beautiful. And of course, it came with this profound feeling of safety and I was just like floating in this water. And the night sky was so bright.

KIM: Beautiful. And what do you notice in your body as you’re telling me the dream?

KATE: Just total like relaxation and kind of awe.

KIM: Uh huh.

KATE: Yeah.

[MUX IN: LIGHT MUSICAL NOTES]

KIM: In the first step of our work, I’d say, “Allow your eyes to drop closed.”

KATE: Mm hmm.

KIM: And then again, take an easy, soft breath. And as you exhale just really softly, just allow yourself to enter the dream again, like it’s happening in the here and now. And now you can walk through it together, so you’re in the water. And there’s kind of turbulent waves there.

KATE: Yeah.

KIM: Yeah, and then just tell me where you are and what you notice.

[MUX IN: WAVE CRASHING, TENSE MUSIC]

KATE: Yeah, I just sort of see these like, and it’s nighttime and the ocean looks really gray and dark, and I see these waves and I’m sort of bracing myself.

KIM: Go in slow motion there. What’s it like to brace yourself like that?

KATE: Um, just like, you know, fearful imagining like these waves are going to take me under, I’m going to drown.

KIM: Mm hmm. And what’s the physical experience of sort of bracing yourself for the turbulence?

KATE: Yeah, almost this like familiar bracing like, oh yeah, okay, I know how to do this or something.

KIM: Great, I know how to do this. What’s familiar to you about that kind of bracing?

KATE: Um, just the anticipation or the anxiety of like some impending event or something that’s going to come and potentially annihilate me. [laughs]

KIM: Mmhmm. Familiar?

KATE: Yeah, sure.

KIM: We’re just observing and understanding. The dreams will often give you that first image of like, here’s a situation that needs your attention. So then keep going. Then what happens?

KATE: So then, so I’m, I feel like I’m going to brace but then I just have this idea that feels sort of novel of like, oh, what if I just floated, like what if the water just carried me?

[MUX IN: WAVES LAPPING AND LIGHT MUSICAL NOTES]

KIM: So we’ll just mirror that back and forth again. All we’re trying to do is hear the dream. So what if I floated, right? What if the water just carried me?

KATE: Yeah.

Kim: And then mirror back to me again? Say the line again.

KATE: Yeah. So I just thought, “I could just float on the surface.”

KIM: Aha.

KATE: And maybe it would be fine.

KIM: Yeah, maybe it would be fine. Beautiful, lots of energy where you say, “I had a novel idea.”

KATE: Yeah.

KIM: What’s a novel idea if I don’t know anything?

KATE: I guess just like, [gasp], you know, this like moment of discovery of like, oh my God, I don’t have to, you know, be potentially annihilated. I could just float.

KIM: What’s it mean to float if I’m from another planet? What’s it mean to float?

KATE: To surrender, to, like, let something carry you.

KIM: So I’ll say it back to you, just to surrender or to let something carry you.

KATE: So, I sort of lifted up my feet and then, you know, got into like the floating position. And I think I, in the dream, I closed my eyes, like, I sort of was like, okay, the waves coming. And then started to feel the wave carrying me. And definitely this kind of like, okay, like, here we go, [laughs] it’s happening. And then being kind of like surprised, like, oh, wow, it’s working, it’s working, I’m floating, I’m not drowning here. And then the wave did become a little turbulent and I was kind of being thrashed around a little bit, but I was still okay. And then I felt that the water actually go over my face.

[MUX IN: BUBBLING NOISES]

KIM: Hmm, what’s that feel like, when it goes over your face like that?

KATE: So initially, definitely anxiety of kind of like, okay, it’s happening. The water’s going to overcome me. Um, and so I felt the water go over my face and then it kind of, similarly, this idea of like, open your eyes, which isn’t something that I would have maybe thought initially.

KIM: Yeah, go in slow motion there. What’s it like when the idea comes of like, oh, open your eyes?

KATE: Yeah. Like some other kind of knowledge, that’s almost just like, coming to me.

KIM: Great. Some other kind of knowledge coming to you. So I would direct you to really come into the feeling of what that other kind of knowledge is. So if that feeling of I’m floating in the water, I’ve made two decisions so far of like, “[gasp] What if I float?”

KATE: Yeah.

KIM: And then the second one, the “[gasp] It’s working. I’m floating. It’s the night, and the waves are getting a little bigger.” And oof, it goes over your face, just a little bit, and then a sensation, I’m going to say from within, you correct me if I’m wrong, comes, “Ah, I’ll open my eyes.” What’s the feeling of the sensation?

KATE: It feels calm, like relaxing.

KIM: Okay, beautiful.

KATE: And exciting.

KIM: Yeah, great. What’s exciting about if I don’t know anything?

KATE: I think just like there’s another way to do this thing.

KIM: There’s another way to do this thing. Right? Repeat that back to me.

KATE: There’s another way to do this thing.

KIM: There’s another way to do this thing.

KATE: [laughs] Yeah.

KIM: What’s different if you allow that understanding of there’s another way to do this thing?

KATE: It’s connected to the idea of floating.

KIM: Yeah, in what way?

KATE: Of, um, letting go of, you know, trying not to control. Letting go of that bracing feeling and dread.

KIM: Mmhmm.

KATE: And, you know, anticipating some kind of hurt. Yeah, and then the opening of the eyes.

KIM: What’s it feel like as you speak of it?

Kate: Well, it feels very maybe “obvious” is like too cruel a word.

KIM: No, no no.

KATE: But like a pleasantly obvious kind of like, “Oh, of course, like learning to float.” Learning to not brace oneself or imagine or anticipate some impending wave or doom and instead surrendering and floating.

KIM: And is that resonant material for you right now in your life?

KATE: Yeah, absolutely. Totally resonant. Yeah.

[MUX FADES OUT]

KIM: So I see a couple of things there. So we’re not trying to analyze or solve the dream. We’re allowing, the, our dreams to be expressed through our creativity. So I would say to you to even use your non-dominant hand so you don’t get into like, I don’t know how to paint, I don’t know how to do it, but I would paint that, the vision of the sky.

KATE: Mm, mmhmm.

KIM: And what you’re seeking to do is to speak back to the unconscious saying, “I, I heard you, I got this image and I’ll reflect it back to you.”

KATE: Oh wow.

KIM: So I would paint the night sky there or use pastels or whatever it is. I would find a piece of music that feels to you like the experience of that floating.

KATE: Oooohhh.

KIM: The unconscious is speaking to us in the body through our gestures, through the way our tummies tighten, through the way our breath changes. All of that is material to work with.

KATE: Yeah.

KIM: And then if you were an actor, you might look to think like this is a character that’s going from bracing to surrendered floating. What’s that like? What’s the physicality of that or what’s a poem using just the images of the dream, what’s a poem I might write? Again, we’re just making contact with the dream and expressing it creatively.

Where in my life am I currently bracing, where do I know this feeling of, feeling turbulence, and my response is to brace? Where do I know that from my childhood? Why would the dream be coming now? Or, the opposite, where did I feel the turbulence and think, “Oh no, oh no,” and then have the sensation of like, “It’s okay. I can surrender.”

KATE: Yeah.

KIM: Beautiful thing: I’m going to let something support me, surrender. Those are the words I’d work with, even for yourself of like, huh? Why would the inner self want me to have these new words with me today?

KATE: Totally.

KIM: Why do I need that?

KATE: Mm, I love it.

KIM: We take the dreams very, very personally, as if they’re here to really save your life.

KATE: Oh, Kim, thank you so much. This has been so fantastic.

KIM: Thank you for talking with me.

[MUX IN: THEME MUSIC]

KATE [VO]: I left that mini session with Kim Gillingham with so much to unpack. I have a completely new appreciation for my dreams. And some ideas for how I might be able to use their teachings in my creative work.

For some of us, dreams are a place where we can learn more about ourselves. Where we can experience the impossible. And where we can make beautiful music or create a new superhero or process our emotions.

And the thing about dreaming is that it’s universal. It’s something our brain has to do. Regardless of where or how we sleep, every person on the planet dreams. It’s just that some of us have a way more epic time once we slip into that world.

So whether you want to control your dreams, or use them to fuel your creative process, maybe it’s worth taking a second in the morning to ask yourself, “What was that all about?”

[THEME MUSIC THROUGH END OF EPISODE]

KATE [VO]: Next time on “Are You Sleeping?” another question from you, our sleep-curious listeners. And coming soon:

LAUREN: You know, a lot of times people find out I’m an Olympian, all they want to do is like, “How do you train? How do you eat? And like, how much can you back squat?” Or something like that. But no one ever asked me, what do you do to get really good, restorative sleep? And that is so important.

KATE [VO]: How can we all sleep better to perform at our best? We’ll speak with an elite athlete about her sleep journey.

To find out more about this podcast, and for links to Brian and Amy’s work, join us at “vox dot com slash are you sleeping.”

Subscribe now and be sure to tell your friends about the show! That’s the best way for us to get the word out.

“Are You Sleeping?” is an informational podcast and does not substitute medical advice, contact your doctor if you’re seeking medical advice on your sleeping habits.

(CREDITS)

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