Are you stuck for ideas for a homework task or university assignment or just not sure what topic would be the best to explore? Why not dream on it? Through dream incubation or lucid dreaming (realising that you are dreaming while inside a dream) you might be inspired to approach the task a different way.
Image: Intention by Keturah, flickr.com/photos/22304420@N05/3374447352
In an article titled The “Committee of Sleep”: A Study of Dream Incubation for Problem Solving (1993), Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D. demonstrates how dreams and hypnogogic imagery (the imagery that forms between the state of waking and sleep) have been a source of creative inspiration for scientists, writers and musical composers alike. She points to specific examples, showing how the Russian scientist Mendeleev developed a more complete version of the periodic table of the elements after a dream, and how the author Robert Lewis Stevenson “dreamed the two key scenes of his novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.
Image: The Periodic Table of the Elements (today), commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … _large.svg
While many of the accounts of “solving problems or producing creative products during sleep” that Barrett highlights were the result of spontaneous dreams, she suggests that we can also learn to incubate dreams with a specific intention or question in mind. She describes an early study she conducted with 76 college students, who were asked to incubate dreams addressing problems of a “personal, general objective, or academic nature.” Students were asked to write out the problem in a simple form and carry out dream incubation according to a particular method.
Incubating a dream to help with your homework
While I’m not familiar with the specific approach for dream incubation used in the study, the process is generally straightforward. If you’re looking for assistance with your homework, you might approach it as follows:
Decide on a problem that you want help with, e.g. “What would be a good topic to write about for this assignment?”
Write down your question/problem on paper.
Clear your mind and remind yourself of your intention just before you go to sleep.
Keep a pen and paper by your bed and record the resulting dream as soon as you wake.
Write a personal comment to explore any connections you notice between your dream and your original intention.
In Barrett’s study, students were asked to follow the dream incubation procedure nightly for a week, or until they had a dream which solved the problem. Interestingly, Barrett found that about half of the students were able to recall a dream which they felt was related to the problem - and of these seventy percent believed that their dream contained a solution to the problem. In addition to the students themselves, independent judges were also asked to rate students dreams in terms of their relevance to the problems identified, and the capacity of the dream to find a solution. The results were surprisingly similar.
An example from the study demonstrates how one of the students was able to incubate a dream seeking assistance with a personal problem.
If you want to know more about how dreams can be used for creative purposes like these, check out a much more recent book by Deirdre Barrett, The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use Their Dreams for Creative Problem Solving - And How you Can Too. It looks like a good read!
A note for lucid dreamers
If you can already lucid dream, you might go about this slightly differently. Holding a clear intention is still key, however once you become lucid and conscious that you are dreaming, you could ask a dream figure (perhaps a wise professor?) for advice directly, or even hunt down a room in which your finished work is being presented to your classmates.
This article was originally posted to my website Sea Life and is available at this address: