The technique of transforming dreaming is to saturate the going into sleep and the waking up times with as much attention and devotion as possible.
For this reason Rudolf Steiner has given a number of very useful exercises and indications concerning these times of day. The fundamental idea however is not that there is a particular exercise which is most appropriate but that the students themselves find the most appropriate exercise to do the work. In Zen practice they say that the goal and the way are one. Finding the appropriate exercise with which it is possible to enter into the spiritual world is the particular healing that the soul is seeking through guidance and submission to the influence of a teacher. If the student, through inner practice, finds an effective and appropriate exercise then they can be sure that they are their own teacher and that the goal and the way are one.
The esoteric task of finding the right exercise is a microcosm of the lifetime battle each student faces with their own anxiety states. This is because anxiety states are the energetic source of the everyday organ dreams which are the common stuff of dreaming. Organ dreams are entirely subjective. They are images of anxiety experiences which the soul encountered in the preceding days and which were not fully integrated emotionally. They come into the soul from the hierarchies which are maintaining the life organ under stress for the purpose of healing and balancing the physical organs. The anxiety state can be looked on as an emotional symptom of the organ wounds which we daily receive from our interaction with the sense world. It is this anxiety which sends us to our beds every night seeking healing from the constant wounding taking place in the processes of our awake consciousness.
Children have such abundant energy because the intensity of the daily wounding produced by the awake consciousness is not as severe in them as it is in an adult. They are already living in a dream state most of the time and so the daily attack on the life organs is not as taxing. However, since children are in an awake dream most of the time the anxiety attacks on them imprint themselves on the soul with abandon. It is these early attacks which form the anxiety patterns in the adult which are in such dire need of healing. Dreams enter our soul and give us warnings that there are things which are not working too well in our life. It is here that the daily practice of sacred sleeping can be most effective. An esoteric student who wishes to heal the soul anxiety must face the beasts within the soul in a direct way. The encounter between the soul and the beasts of anxiety takes place on the border between this world and the next, the boundary area between the awake consciousness and the sleep consciousness, the realm of the dream.
Going into Sleep
We want to disengage from the process of digesting the enormous amounts of experiences we have encountered during the day and focus instead on the process of assimilating their lessons.
The work on dreaming is divided up into two distinct phases: the entrance into sleep and the time of awakening. Each phase brings into play very different aspects of the problem of transforming the wounds in the soul. In the evening when the experiences of the day are fresh it is most useful to begin to make an approach to the sleep life starting with the evening meal. Avoiding heavy protein and instead, eating more digestible or enzymatic foods like salads and vegetables allows the liver to disengage from the enormous task of digestion and shift to the task of assimilation. This is an exact analog of the process which we want to start as an entryway into sleep. We want to disengage from the process of digesting the enormous amounts of experiences we have encountered during the day and focus instead on the process of assimilating their lessons. To relieve the liver of the digestive burden is a good approach to dream transformation. Going to bed at the same time every night is also a good way to help the process of assimilation of dreams. Every hour of sleep before midnight is equal to two hours sleep after midnight.
Once in bed, the real work of processing impressions of our day begins. Rudolf Steiner has given the daily review as an ideal way of doing this processing. The goal is to form images of specific events of the day but to see them in the reverse order. Getting hung up on trying to see too much in detail is a common frustration for those just beginning this practice. The goal is to feel the day as a kind of backwards gliding through the events. See yourself doing something and then see yourself doing the thing you did right before that and so forth. This is most effective as an exercise when we can imaging our way backwards through the day to the place where we were when we just had awakened.
In the practice of the daily review we can accurately and safely imagine ourselves up to the threshold between this world and the next. When practiced regularly the capacity to remember details gradually unfolds in the soul, however the gliding through without editorializing or commenting is a most useful capacity to develop. Gliding without blaming or commenting about our failures and successes eventually transforms, by itself, into the ability to see oneself in a more objective way.
The growth patterns of flowers are images of the trials which we are struggling to overcome.
As an aid to help maintain a good gliding technique, it is useful to practice the art of Goethean observation of nature. The accurate inner depiction of the transformation sequences of a plant or animal or cloud pattern creates in the soul a rich reservoir of gliding or morphing images. Morphing images from nature are actually coded lessons on how anxiety states manifest in our dream life. The growth patterns of flowers are images of the trials which we are struggling to overcome. Animal morphology and instinct patterns teach us about the way in which our soul moves when under the influence of particular desires. Weather and cloud formations are full of pictures of inner states like depression and mania or the fury of a tempestuous temperament. When we practice forming accurate inner pictures of transformations in nature we strengthen our capacity to bring the daily review into a gradually increasing power of perception. We can even go so far as to do research by taking particular images from the natural world into sleep as a conscious question and answer process between the True Self and the soul.
Phenomenology, and the picture forming processes of the daily review, give us access to a place where we can ask our dreaming self to go into the next world and search for significant images there which can be useful in our work of self transformation. The images will come to us out of the spirit and clothe themselves in a dream as usual, but we will be able to access them with the day waking consciousness. This happens because through the practice of higher beholding, the I being is placed consciously as a witness into the dream state. The backward motion of the inner eye developed in the daily review and strengthened by practice in phenomenology creates a "hut" in which the witness can live attentively at the boundary between the worlds. "And so to sleep, perchance to dream."
Gathering Dew of the Night
The daily review and the morphological thinking processes arising out of the practice of phenomenology are only the first half of the alchemical art of transforming dreaming. The second half of this most interesting art is the cultivation of a particular state of awakening in the morning in which the soul learns to hover just on the edge of a complete awakening in the physical body so that the dew of the night can be gathered into the soul as a refreshment against the drying effects of a too bright day awake consciousness. To instill the mood of the threshold into the daily life the period of awakening provides a most enlivening spring of creative image forming forces.
At the change of teeth the human being must transcend personality driven fantasy into an active and living imagination.
The problem with working with images is that images which have their source in the personality either have a tendency to die rather quickly into meaningless husks or become obsessive and lose their objective symbology. Imaginations from the personality are usually no more than programmed responses to external stimuli which arise in the body as daydreams. The daydreams produced in this way are the basis for the instinctual life in animals and produce childhood fantasy in the human being. Childhood fantasy has its place in humans in childhood. An adult who is prone to acting out fantasies is often heading towards pathology because in fantasy, the personality becomes stronger than the I being. At the change of teeth the human being must transcend personality driven fantasy into an active and living imagination. This is aided in a large way by transforming the time when we are waking up in the morning into a holy and sacred space.
In the work of Rudolf Steiner there is a continual return to a fundamental picture which can be used in the establishment of a morning practice for the purpose of catching the dew of the night. This is an image of what we could call color breathing. It is best described through example. In the course for doctors Rudolf Steiner gives an exercise in which he tells the doctors to imagine that they are in the center of two concentric bands of color. One band or circle is close to the body and the other is farther away but they both are concentric. For the doctors he mentions that blue is on the outside and yellow within. These two colors are Goethe’s primary colors out of which the whole spectrum can be made. The doctors are then asked to imagine the blue circle shrinking and the yellow circle expanding until they meet in a common green color. The blue continues to shrink until it is around the body and the yellow continues to expand until it is on the outside. Now the outer circle is yellow and the inner circle is blue. Once this is settled then the whole processes reversed and the colors once again resume their original configuration. This exercise can be successfully directed at the area of the throat and a wonderful , peaceful mood is established which can be easily transformed into a mood of the threshold.
An exercise like this performed first thing in the morning, even before thoughts of the day or any activity of the day has taken place, creates a safe and devotional space perfect for sustained listening in silence into the space of the dream. This type of exercise is most effective when the earth is breathing out in the early morning. Different complementary colors can be worked with in order to approach different areas of the soul. Magenta and green bands are effective with the area around the heart. Violet and gold are effective in the area of the head. As the colors breathe in and out of the soul, the student is learning how the language of the soul can be integrated in an objective way into the processes of imagination. Ten minutes of color breathing followed by ten minutes of prayerful affectionate remembering of those who have passed on to the next world, is a good way to meet the onslaught of the day.
The establishing of day and night rhythms can be called sacred sleeping. In sacred sleeping we daily renew our vows as mystery pupils to accept and reveal the great mystery of life in the small mystery of our daily life.