I returned to the land and people I love in Bali during the past two+ weeks, and what a gift a little time to dream there was!
I'm super inspired by a workshop I led for children, aged 8 - 12, hosted by holistic educators Susan Allen and her husband Susiawan at Yellow Coco Creative Nest, their marvelous center for children. Dreaming with children is absolutely magical.
Here's what we did during our two hours together, and if you feel drawn to do something similar with the kids in your life, please do. Take what feels fun and make it your own, experiment, play, and give children the opportunity to share their dreams with each other in empowered ways. It will inspire them to value their dreams and imagination, and the seed you plant may be with them for life. I remember vividly my favorite teacher, Mrs. Berlin, sixth grade, who reminded me to always value my imagination, even when I grow up, so that I won't lose it as so many adults do. I took it to heart, the best advice ever for living an interesting life.
We started with questions and answers, leading to surprising dialogue and dream sharing. Kids ask astute questions. I was stumped by some of them. One question was, "If dreams come from us, why don't we know what we're going to dream ahead of time?" It's OK to say, "That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that." This leads them to ponder their own creative answers, and models the truth that we don't always know the answers to everything, which is perfectly alright.
Then we moved into an opportunity for the students to experience their live imagination. Stepping into guided imagery led to excited sharing. The secret is using guided imagery that is non-specific so the dreamer finds their own place in the imaginal. "Close your eyes and get comfortable. (Lying down is great.) Imagine right now you're somewhere beautiful in nature. It can be a place you dreamed, you make up right now, or a place you've been to in waking life. You're moving through this place and you come to a beautiful body of water. Look at the edge of the water and see if you can find a helper there. Perhaps it's an animal or a bird or a sea creature...this is your friend. What happens next?"
Every child found a place in nature, a body of water, a friend, and had an adventure! And they loved sharing that with each other, as engaged storytellers.
A quick watermelon break led to Dream Theater. We acted out two dreams with the dreamers acting as directors for their dreams, with guidance from me. Both were nightmares that had left an icky impression and the dreamers were eager to create a new, better ending for them. They liked the idea that these dreams are like a story, unfinished, and that they have the power to change them. We had a spider-spitting scary man in a dark room defeated by a blazing Phoenix leading to a new open doorway, and a murderous teacher struck down by a lion, given the opportunity to become a nicer person. The light shone in the eyes of the dreamers, and the consensus was that this was "awesome!", and there was a tangible sense of relief for the original dreamers.
Notice at no point did we do dream interpretation. The idea is to alert the children to the fact that they have power as dreamers, and are not just observers of their dreams or their lives.
Next, the kids were outfitted with drawing supplies. I drummed for them as they closed their eyes and allowed a dream to form, with the instructions to open their eyes and start drawing when they felt ready. I continued to drum for about ten minutes as they drew, and it was remarkable how focused they were during the drumming, with no fidgeting, jostling or distractions. They were creatively engaged in their dream worlds. Afterwards, a few were not finished with their drawings and said they would like to finished them later. They were eager and happy to share their drawings with each other and their parents.
It was a resounding success. At no time were the children bored. They engaged with each other and listened to each other. They played and laughed, and encouraged each other, even when working with a scary dream during dream theater. They left wanting more!
You can do these things with kids. Encourage your children and grandchildren, your students and friends, to talk about their dreams, and to find power in them. Find moments for little impromptu dream theater, even at home. Play with it.
If you would like to learn more about this, I'm available as a consultant and facilitator. I am a former school teacher and my final Master's Degree project was teaching dreaming at the famous Green School in Bali.