DREAM SPEAK INTERVIEW
by Robert Waggoner
(click here for archived PDF online)
ROBERT: How did you become interested in dreaming and lucid dreaming?
DAWN: I’ve always loved dreaming. The nightly ritual of falling asleep, having all kinds of wild adventures, and then waking up with a story to share is both incredibly fun and fascinating to me. And when we begin to connect the dots — noticing how our dreams relate to or interact with our waking life — it’s even more intriguing.
I recall a childhood dream that awakened me to these deeper connections. I was about 10 years old. I woke up in bed and saw a woman sitting at my desk. She was positioned in an odd way and had a focused expression, as if concentrating. The next day at school we had a substitute teacher. While doing a writing exercise, I glanced her way and recognized that she was sitting at the desk in the same odd way, wearing the same focused expression as the woman I saw the night before in my dream.
I was amazed by how something so mundane — a teacher sitting at a desk in a particular way — could awaken such powerful feelings in me. In that moment I had a knowing — not an intellectual thought, but a deep-down certainty — that our dreams are talking to us, sharing things that might be helpful for our waking self to know.
This was not something I felt I could articulate to my parents or teachers, so it remained a secret, a personal mystery that I often wondered about. That experience was one among many that nudged me to explore further.
ROBERT: What do you recall of your first lucid dream/s? (For our reader’s sake, it helps to include an occasional lucid dream, if you can.)
DAWN: I don’t recall a first official lucid dream. I suspect that the way our culture tends to separate ‘dreams’ from ‘waking world’ is not as firmly entrenched in children as in adults. Some of my very early dreams seemed quite real and I sensed myself awake; I don’t think I distinguished that as different from waking life. However, once I bought into the belief that dreams and waking life should be considered separate realities, then the notion of lucid dreaming took on a magical quality. To be awake inside a dream — to know that you are dreaming a dream — is both strange and powerful!
ROBERT: Did anything surprise you about the experience of lucid dreaming? What did you make of that?
DAWN: As a teenager, I loved the coolness factor of lucid dreaming. I always felt a high degree of mystery there — and yes, there’s often such a surprise element to waking up inside a dream and realizing, Aha, I’m dreaming. It’s like when Toto pulls back the curtain and the Great Oz is revealed. The secret that you are dreaming is now exposed. But it doesn’t really end there, does it? There’s now another kind of secret to explore — the challenge and opportunity to interact with the dream as a conscious dreamer. What other curtains will be pulled away?What else will we discover?
ROBERT: Can you recall the first lucid dream in which you apparently communicated with an animal (I assume this is the opening lucid dream about Little High Top)? What happened?
DAWN: I’ve had many lucid dreams in which I’ve communicated with animals. That fits for me, however, because in waking life I sometimes work as an animal communicator— helping humans to understand the thoughts, feelings and perceptions of their animals.
For me, the dream which opens this book is unique — not so much because I communicated with an animal, or even because it a lucid dream, but mostly because it marked the beginnings of a more conscious form of dream-sharing.
This dream happened many years ago. I was sleeping on a ship and suddenly became aware of two screens of consciousness. On one side, I recognize my sleeping body on the ship and realize that I am having a lucid dream. On the other side, is a small, lively dog. I discover that I can slip my consciousness into his thoughts. As I do that, I know all about him. It’s as if I’m a guest in his consciousness and he’s showing me his life — how he’s very peppy and playful. He lives with a family: a mom, dad, older boy and young girl. His name is Little High Top, an unusual name given to him because when he first came to live with the family they set him inside the boy’s high-top sneaker and took his photo. This was a joke with the family, and they began calling him Little High Top.
As the dreamer, I’m fascinated by this dual awareness and how I can easily shift between the two worlds — I know I am dreaming on the ship, but so also do I know of Little High Top by sharing his consciousness. I sense that the dog seems aware of me. He understands that I am a dreaming human sharing the events of his life from within his consciousness. And he seems very welcoming of this type of connection.
Then, in that way of dreams, time speeds up and I watch Little High Top’s life passing by. He goes to live with an old uncle. This man is an artist who lives in a small house perched on the side of a mountain that overlooks a rocky ocean bay. The uncle paints at a table by a window and Little High Top sits across from him. It’s clear they have a warm friendship and both are content. A few years later, the old uncle dies, followed by Little High Top. But this isn’t sad; the dog shares that it was a good life, filled with happiness.
On waking from this dream, I was impressed with all the details that were specific to this dog. I was also excited about the idea of sharing consciousness within a dream. I had a strong feeling that this was not simply a dog representation (or a representation of a part of myself) but a sentient being visiting and connecting with my dreamworld. Was this possible? How? And why was it happening? This dream challenged and inspired me to think about dreams in a new way.
ROBERT: Was anything going on in your life, or did you have any specific interests, that would call forth such a lucid dream at that time?
DAWN: I’ve always had a good connection with dogs, so the fact that the animal who showed up was a dog made some sense. At the time, I was working on a book called Shapeshifting with Our Animal Companions. This book was largely about experiencing the world through an animal’s perspective. The dream symbology of the two screens of awareness, as well as the ability to move between them (from viewing my dreaming self to sharing Little High Top’s world) was similar to my experience of shapeshifting — or, as I often thought about it, the ability to shift the shape of one’s consciousness and thus perceive in a very different way — in this case, through a dog’s life and perspective.
ROBERT: In your book, Dreaming with Polar Bears, you mention that you had another lucid dream, which had a connection with your past lucid dream of Little High top yet presaged your book. Tell us about that.
DAWN: Yes, this was another significant dream for me as it held the invitation which led me to write this book. Although I dreamed it about a year later, it connected to the Little High Top dream in a remarkable way.
In the dream, I’m on an airplane flying from Juneau to Anchorage. It’s an early morning flight, so it’s still dark outside. I’m sitting in the window seat and an older, distinguished looking gentleman sits in the aisle seat. We strike up a conversation. He tells me he is a Professor of Dreamology and that he has come to Alaska to teach a special type of dreaming. He speaks in a humble way, yet I sense he is wise and knows some secrets.
During a lull in our conversation I look out the window. The sky is just getting light and the clouds are a beautiful golden-pink color. I imagine what it would be like to float into those clouds or even to become a cloud. And then I think: How strange is it that two such different worlds — one of magical pink early morning clouds and one of a darkened airplane with so many sleepy passengers — can exist side by side, separated only by a thin pane of glass? This thought causes me to remember my dream about Little High Top and the two screens of awareness.
I become lucid and am excited to recount the dream of Little High Top within this dream — and to a Professor of Dreamology no less! I explain how I was aware of two screens of consciousness, how I learned all about a little dog by entering its awareness, and how the dog seemed to be aware of me. When I’m finished, the professor looks me in the eyes and asks, “Is Little High Top real?” I get nervous and lose my lucid edge. “It was just a dream,” I say, but he continues to question me in a good-natured way. I still feel nervous but a little excited too as I realize that maybe there’s something important here.
The professor then pulls a briefcase from under the seat in front of him and takes out a packet of photos. He hands me one. It’s a picture of a little dog who looks like the dog in my dream. He tells me to turn it over. On the back of the photo are the words, Little High Top.
I am shocked and my thoughts begin to race — Who is this man? Is he really a professor — of Dreamology? How did he just happen to be sitting next to me and how does he have a picture of a dog I once dreamed? But the professor acts as if all is perfectly explainable. He tells me his brother was the old uncle in my dream, and that Little High Top lived with his niece’s family. I once more become lucid — but only for a moment — and have the feeling that everything this man is telling me is true. But what does it mean?
Then, in that fast-forward way of dreams, we have landed. As we stand, the professor offers me an elegant ivory-colored card. I understand that this is an invitation which I am free to accept or not. As I open it, he leans close and whispers the words written on the card: Dreaming with Polar Bears.
ROBERT: Then what happened?
DAWN: I woke up and thought — Wow!!! I was quite amazed. Actually, I felt many things: excitement, hesitation, curiosity, doubt…
I took the invitation seriously and gave it a lot of thought. I had many questions. What does it mean to dream with polar bears? That’s something very different than dreaming about polar bears (or any other animal). What would happen if I agreed to this? What was being asked of me?
But in the end, I realized it was simple. The invitation was clear: Dreaming with Polar Bears. The question was: Did I want to accept or not? I said yes.
8) Many of us think of animals in dreams as suggestive of human qualities. For example, a fox might symbolize being clever, while a mouse might suggest being unnoticed and unobtrusive. Yet, I know of lucid dreamers (myself included), who have lucid dreams in which their pet dog or cat appear, and often pass on valid information. But a polar bear? How did that connect with you?
It was surprising to me at first — why polar bears? Why not a dog or other animal? But the invitation was very specific — and who am I to question the wisdom of the dream world?! When I finally accepted this invitation and began dreaming of (and later with) polar bears, it began to make sense.
I spent some time reviewing my dream journals and found that I had dreamed of bears many times in the past. It was fascinating to find this trail of bear dreams. I now live in Alaska, where polar bears also reside, so on that level the connection to polar bears made a kind of sense. So too, there is something symbolic about the Arctic — the extreme environment; the absence of human diversions; the basic elements of land, ice, snow, water, sky — that seemed perfect for dreams like these.
ROBERT: In your book, you suggest that all of this came in a larger framework (across time in your dream journal). Yet you began to have ‘seed dreams’ which contained some hint or glimpse of what was to come, right? Tell us about that.
DAWN: Once I consciously accepted the invitation to dream with polar bears, it happened. These are the ‘seed dreams’ that I refer to. They were short and had a unique quality. I called them seed dreams because they were compact and self-contained. In retrospect, I saw they were also very much about germination, about underground (or undercover) growth that needed some time to develop.
In these dreams the landscape and sky vary, but the key event is always the same: I am in the Arctic walking shoulder to shoulder beside a polar bear. That was the total dream! I had these dreams sporadically for about a year. Near the end, I had two other dreams in which polar bears appeared, and I felt a quickening from within those, as if they were activating my awakening in the seed dreams.
I think that year of dream-walking beside the polar bear was necessary preparation. It helped me to slow down and deepen, and to open to a different type of dreaming. In the final dream, I am walking beside the polar bear as usual, but I become hyperaware of our movement — one foot, one paw in front of the other. I realize I have dreamed this dream many times before and that I am, in fact, dreaming now. I put my hand on the bear’s shoulder and turn to look at him, into his eyes. And in that moment I see from his eyes — I see myself, a dreaming human, walking beside him. I realize he is awake within this dream, that both he and I are lucid and aware within the same dream. That was quite a surprise!
10) As you went deeper into this series of dreams and lucid dreams with the polar bear, what did you learn about the importance of keeping an open mind and asking questions? Did you have to ignore the cultural idea that animals in dreams serve only as a symbol?
I realized early on that ‘dreaming with polar bears’ would involve exploring some uncharted territory. There’s not much written about that subject! So, an open mind was essential. I often found that I could ground myself in the dream by asking questions and making mental notes. I sometimes used that role of ‘curious journalist’ to stay focused.
As far as animals as symbols — sometimes that is true. Animals are often an easy shorthand in our dreams for a particular kind of help we may need. In these dreams, however, it was clear to me that the polar bears were not symbols, but something much larger, something much more real.
ROBERT: If you would, help us lucid dreamers understand the main messages (the top 3 to 5) that you received in these dream and lucid dream encounters? Were any of these messages completely surprising or unexpected?
DAWN: The messages were of different varieties. For example, there was some experiential sharing of what it’s like to be a polar bear. In a really wonderful dream, I ‘became’ a polar bear and was able to perceive the world from the eyes, paws, skin, body and consciousness of a bear. It gave me a physical understanding of what it’s like to be a bear. I think we humans are often unaware of how much we are influenced by our beliefs and preconceptions about animals. It’s easy to get stuck in a superficial, one-dimensional idea about an animal. Whereas the real animal is very often quite different. So, the message here is about letting go of limiting beliefs and opening our awareness so that we may enter a deeper, more genuine relationship with the animal world.
The bears also shared some of their history with humans, how at one time in our past we were much aligned with the animal world. But we moved away from that, for many reasons. We gained some things but we forgot others — among them the ability to communicate with animals and share knowledge, insights, wisdom. Much of the polar bears’ message is about bringing that back, welcoming humans back to a deeper connection — not only with polar bears, but with all animals, nature, and the Earth herself.
Another key message from the polar bears is about conscious dreaming. All animal species have a ‘medicine’ or teaching they carry for the world. Bears are often connected with dreaming, and polar bears are particularly connected with conscious dreaming. I think of that both as a form of lucid dreaming, and also as a connection between ‘dreaming’ and ‘waking’. It’s the ability to walk in both worlds — to have a paw in both — to be conscious while dreaming, and to dream consciously.
ROBERT: At one point, the polar bear encourages you to follow their path and explore “the deep self”. What does that mean? And more importantly, how do polar bears and people do that?
DAWN: The polar bears offered me a variety of challenges in the dreamworld, all of which were about expanding awareness and becoming more conscious of the interface between what we think of as dreaming and being awake. Much of my experience and much of the polar bears’ agenda is about conscious dreaming, about awakening to a larger awareness of who we really are.
So, how to do that? Great question! I think we begin with who we are, with seeing ourselves clearly — our strengths and our abilities, as well as our blind spots, our judgements and limitations. When I give animal communication classes, I emphasize the need to see ourselves clearly — to let go of our personal and societal ideas of who we ‘should’ be and make an effort to reacquaint ourselves with our authentic self. That often means we become vulnerable and take a good look at our own shadow material, but it also means we begin to find some of the wisdom and tremendous insights that our inner selves have held and protected for so long. By opening ourselves in this way, we become much stronger. We begin to see the importance of shining our own unique light to others and the world.
I think the polar bears are master teachers at this. They are very wise, yet very curious with an open mind. They also have a great sense of humor. They encourage us to find our deeper connection not only within ourselves, but also with others — all species — and with our home, the Earth.
ROBERT: Let’s say that tonight, after reading this article, one of our readers becomes consciously aware in a dream, when he or she sees an animal looking at them. It may be a fox, a bear, a jaguar or a hummingbird. Lucidly aware, how should they respond? How could they open up their awareness to another species?
DAWN: I think it depends on the individual dreamer. How do you feel when you see this fox, bear, jaguar or hummingbird? What do your dreaming senses tell you? What are you inspired to say or do? Or perhaps you are simply there to notice this animal, to be aware that it is coming to you for a reason. Look deep, listen, feel — what do you sense? I don’t know that there’s any one answer here because each dream and each dreamer is unique. My advice is to follow your curiosity, befriend your intuition, and trust yourself.
ROBERT: To my knowledge, this is the first book about lucid dreaming and animal species communication. Why you? Why now?
DAWN: Part of me wants to laugh and say, Just lucky, I guess! Though this is something I have thought about and something the polar bears have alluded to. I have a background both in animal communication and in writing books about that subject. I feel comfortable as a translator, sharing the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of animals so that humans can better understand them. I also have a long history with dreaming and very much enjoy dream exploration.
What the polar bears told me is that our connection was based on mutual needs and desires. I wanted to learn more about dreaming, and the polar bears wanted someone who could help translate their story to humans. It was a perfect win-win situation!
ROBERT: If people want to find out more about you and your book, Dreaming with Polar Bears, where should they go?
DAWN: My website — www.animalvoices.net — has information about me and all my books. If you click on the Dreaming with Polar Bear tab, you’ll find chapter summaries and excerpts, as well as information about where you can buy the book.
ROBERT: Thanks, Dawn Brunke, for opening a new window into the world of lucid dreaming!
DAWN: Thank you, Robert, for asking all these excellent questions and allowing me to share this message.