Laura Hileman is a dreamer, and she wants you to be one, too. Hileman, who has been leading dream groups for more than 10 years, believes that “dreams become a portal to prayer and to deeper relationship with the Holy.”
A former high-school teacher, Hileman holds degrees from Rhodes College and Vanderbilt University, as well as certifications in Dream Leader Training and Spiritual Direction from the Haden Institute. Working under the moniker “Dream. Pray. Live.” (dreampraylive.com), Hileman encourages people to document and explore their dreams in order to access and embrace the “night wisdom” they can offer regarding discernment, relationships, creativity and problem solving.
The underlying idea in dream spirituality, according to Hileman, is that our nightly dreams, like all of creation, have a purpose in our lives. It’s not about trying to wring an interpretation out of a dream. Instead, people are invited to treat their dreams like stories or poems, staying open to possible layers of meaning even when tempted to nail down an explanation.
Hileman finds that when we’re receptive to the images, metaphors, and feelings in a dream, we can make connections between our dream story, our waking story, and the story of the active, indwelling grace. “With imagination, which is another name for the Spirit,” she explains, “we begin to see how our dreams help us become more consciously formed into that particular creation that the Divine imagines and desires each of us to be.”
While we can work with our dreams on our own, Hileman likes the benefits of the group dynamic. Participants in Hileman’s dream groups explore their dreams together with the understanding that dreams — even nightmares — come in the service of healing and wholeness. As time goes on, Hileman says, dreamers — and we all dream, even if we don’t recall them readily — sense with increasing confidence and amazement that there is a divine wisdom that comes through dreams to guide, challenge, know and love us.
“I think lots of our dreams are made to be shared. We need each other to see past our blind spots, to experience different insights, and to enjoy the sheer amazingness of dreamwork,” she says. “Our dreams can help us translate the mystery, that essential something that is bigger than we are.”
Praying for a dream to guide us, says Hileman, is just as valid a prayer as any other. You might ask, for example, what is God’s perspective on this question, or ask God to help you shift your understanding of a certain situation.
“For instance, one dreamer encountered some spiritual experiences that were challenging old belief systems and shaking him up a bit,” recalls Hileman. “He needed to know how to think about these new practices. Did they hold some truth, or were they mostly bunk? So he asked the dream Source for some help. That night he dreamed he was trying to look up ‘doubt’ in the dictionary, but the word wasn’t there. The dream pictured his truth about the question, that he saw ‘doubt’ wasn’t part of his personal lexicon.”
Literature and religion are vital to Hileman. She is fascinated with poetry and myth, both of which, like dreams, rely on imagery to stir the heart’s truth. As a lifelong Presbyterian, she is grateful for her grounding in a religious tradition that encourages the interplay of faith, intellect, imagination and service. As a spiritual seeker within and beyond the realm of Christendom, she finds that Jungian-based dreamwork offers a rich, reliable method for exploring the mystery of life.
“Dreams embody important aspects of the human story that help us understand what it means to be whole, alive, and in relationship with the depths,” says Hileman. “Dreams do not usually predict the future or tell us what to do. Rather, they indicate, like a marked map, ‘You are here.’ They help us recognize the deep narrative we currently inhabit, what is truly important in our lives, and how we feel about these things.”
In her own dreaming, praying, and living, Hileman trusts that the dream giver is ultimately God, and that God is ultimately mystery. “We dream because we need to integrate the dream’s perspective and wisdom into our soul’s growth,” Hileman says. “Thinking about the dream is a start, but it’s not enough. To live into a dream is to give ourselves to the transformative process it offers us. The fact that we can dream about an issue assures us that we have the resources to engage with it in a conscious and creative way.”
Dream Prayers: Dreamwork as a Spiritual Path, by Tallulah Lyons
Dream Theatres of the Soul, by Jean Benedict Raffa
Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language, by John Sanford
Dream Work, by Jeremy Taylor
Little Leah Cordovez knew she wanted to be a doctor when she was four years old. “I used to follow my brother around with Band-Aids and cotton balls just waiting to jump in with first aid. I was all over it.”
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