Last year on Christmas Day I had a decision to make -- a big one. My seventy-seven year-old father with Parkinson's disease was in the hospital with pneumonia, nearly delirious from a fever of 104. He looked like death warmed over. I was devastated. He barely recognized me. Was his time up? I wondered. So did his doctor.
Along with antibiotics there was only one thing left to do, his doctor concluded: "We have to put a permanent G-tube in your father's stomach." I froze. This meant that he would never eat real food again. No more pastrami sandwiches on rye, his favorite. He'd have to live with a six-inch plastic gastrointestinal tube inserted through his skin, sewn into his stomach. Ensure, that horrible canned supplement, fed through the tube, would be his only sustenance. Not a pretty picture. But if it would save his life?
I understood the thinking behind this choice. The theory was that Parkinson's disease had caused my father's swallowing muscles to stop working properly. As a result food intended for his stomach ended up in his lungs. Thus, he was susceptible to recurrent pneumonia.
Dream A Dream...
Still, something didn't feel right. So I did what I always do when I'm too involved to intuitively see clearly: I sent out an SOS for a dream. That night it came:
My father and I are having dinner at a table with a simple white cloth. He looks happy, physically fit. I watch him eat; he savors every bite. He says nothing. Suddenly he looks up at me. His eyes turn a radiant emerald green. They are loving and bright. I fall into them. Then all at once I know: It's okay to put off the decision about the tube.
I woke up certain of this.
Once my father's infection resolved, I took him home. A few weeks later he met Janice, a lovely eighty-nine-year-old widow ("an older woman", as she put it!). They fell in love. She gave him a new lease on life. They'd go out for Chinese food, would hold hands in the movies, stroll side by side with their walkers in the park. Without a doubt this was worth every minute of his doctor's obvious frustration with me, that look he gave me implying that I was trying to kill my father.
I didn't tell the doctor about my dream. I feared it would only have made matters worse. Not long after that my father winked at me and said, "I'm under your wing." I understood. By following my dream I'd spared him the hardship of rushing into a premature decision. I'd bought him precious time.
The Healing Instinct Manifest In Dreams
There is a healing instinct within you that can manifest in dreams. You'd be surprised at the straightforward health advice they give, either spontaneously or on request. Tips on food, preventive therapies, treatment options constantly come through -- but we miss them. Once remembered the essence of many of our dreams is lost because we, or our therapists, misinterpret them. A patient told me about a recurring broccoli dream. "You can't be serious," he said, chuckling. "It's actually trying to tell me what to eat? A vegetable?" Yes -- it was. We often dismiss such practical suggestions as meaningless. But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Keep it simple. Try something new. If you dream of eating a luscious mango, run out, devour one. Or when, in a dream, you're soaking in natural hot springs, make a date to go. I have a friend who dreams of a health spa in Mexico every few years when she's overly stressed. She takes it as a signal to make a reservation.
How do you know if the advice you receive is right? What if you feast on an entire, incredibly scrumptious, gigantic chocolate mousse cake in a dream? Does that mean you should run out to buy one, then eat the whole thing? Of course not. Who needs the calories or the bellyache? Count on common sense to direct you.
Though some intuitive flashes may seem impractical or unexpected, the authentic ones will never suggest anything to jeopardize you or anyone else's physical welfare. So, for instance, if you have heart disease and a dream tells you, "It's okay to smoke cigarettes," don't do it. Question all messages that risk your health. Along with this guideline, begin to familiarize yourself with traditional dream interpretation. I suggest Carl Jung's classic text Man and His Symbols, or take a look at Creative Dreaming by Dr. Patricia Garfield.
Understanding Dreams on an Intuitive Level
In addition, there's an intuitive level to understanding dreams of which I'd like you to be aware. Reliable intuitive information stands out in very specific ways. Watch for these clues:
• Statements that simply convey information
• Neutral segments that evoke or convey no emotion
• A detached feeling, like you're a witness watching a scene
• A voice or person counseling you -- as if you're taking dictation from an outside source
• Conversations with people you never met before who give instructions about your health
I've found that my most dead-on intuitions either come across as compassionate or have no emotion at all. I once correctly dreamed that a patient was going to have a stroke. Of course I was alarmed. But the information itself at the moment I received it was uncharged. Develop a careful eye as you practice separating the content of your dreams from your reactions to it. Soon you'll be able to tell what is reliable health guidance and what is not. You'll know just what to do with that chocolate mousse cake.
Be aware that your dreams go by different rules than your waking life. Get ready for a mind shift. Physical laws no longer apply. Gravity changes. In dreams you can fly! Remember as a child (or adult) when you took off wingless, soared over mountains and valleys below. Healthwise, this is a reminder of the vitality and freedom that is in you. Silence is pregnant. A dream's tone can be as restorative as its content; a revelation about staying well can come through someone's eyes rather than words, as it did with my father.
Develop a Partnership & Dialogue with your Dreams
You are in partnership with your dreams. Initiate an ongoing dialogue with them. It's like consulting the wisest old-time family doctor you can imagine who knows you inside out. You can ask your dreams anything -- even what seems most impossible. How can I keep my blood pressure down? What about my hip pain or allergies? Are there ways to stop catching so many colds? No question is trivial if it is meaningful to you. Expect answers. Some will be direct. Others may require interpretation.
Dreams can keep you well. Dreams provide answers. But first you must retrieve them. How many nights have you awakened with the most amazing dream you were certain you'd recall? The next morning it was gone. Our memories deceive. During sleep we experience a kind of amnesia. Dreams are not of the rational mind. Your intuitive memory is what is needed. Here is a method I recommend to remember your dreams. It's helpful to practice it each day. Soon it will become second nature to you.
Four Strategies to Remember Your Dreams
1. Keep a journal and pen by your bed.
2. Write a question on a piece of paper before you go to sleep. Formalize your request. Place it on a table beside your bed or under your pillow (like you did as a child when you made a wish to the tooth fairy).
3. In the morning do not wake up too fast. Stay under the covers for at least a few minutes remembering your dream. Luxuriate in a peaceful feeling between sleep and waking, what scientists call the hypnagogic state. Those initial moments provide a doorway.
4. Open your eyes. Write down your dream immediately; otherwise it will evaporate. You may recall a face, object, color, or scenario, feel an emotion. It doesn't matter if it makes perfect sense -- or if you retrieve a single image or many. Record everything you remember.
When you're finished, refocus on the health question you asked the previous night. See how your dream applies. One, two, or more impressions about the who/what/where of your solution may have surfaced.
My own answer to preventing recurring sinus infections came in a dream: the flash of an acupuncture office. An elevator. An old Chinese man. A rush of vitality. These were my signposts. Take note of yours.
Get in the habit of recording your dreams regularly. Be assured I've never met anyone who can't be taught how to remember. Keep at it. If your answer doesn't come the first night, try again. More details will emerge, rounding out the picture. Then look to your daily life for evidence of what your dream tells you. The woman's face you glimpsed for that split second could just be that of the healer you've been searching for.
I'll let you in on a secret. One of my favorite ways of conjuring up dreams is to turn on music at twilight as the moon rises and dance. You can try it too. Instantly I'm out of my head, into my body (a basic formula for intuitive awakening -- memorize it!). In my living room, gazing out at an expanse of purple ocean and pastel sky, with no one to please, I gyrate wildly to Nirvana's heavy metal blasting, boogie to Miles Davis, or glide like a raven on the wind's currents to haunting Gregorian chants. Tension dissipates. Energy surges up my spine. I leap, spin, twirl faster than light. I flash yellow on the horizon -- then become invisible. No more mind. Memory returns. Dreams fly through me. I become them. I am open. I can see.
This article excerpted from the book:
Dr. Judith Orloff's Guide to Intuitive Healing: Five Steps to Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Wellness by Judith Orloff, M.D.
About The Author
JUDITH ORLOFF, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, and a staff member at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. She is the author of Second Sight, a memoir about coming to terms with her intuitive abilities, as well as Dr. Judith Orloff's Guide to Intuitive Healing: Five Steps to Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Wellness, . Dr. Orloff is an international lecturer and workshop leader on the interrelationship of medicine, intuition, and spirituality. Visit Dr. Orloff's website at www.drjudithorloff.com