The Importance of Dreaming
Dreaming is one mysterious phenomenon that is extremely common. It is one of those areas like the deep ocean, or the surfaces of other planets, or deep space where there is still so little known. A common scientific description is that it is the firing of the brain that occurs at certain stages of sleep, notably REM sleep. Dreaming can be considered an altered state of consciousness, that arises without ingesting drugs, and happens to sane individuals regularly. These visions are received by consciousness in some manner, but upon awakening they seem to disappear, becoming strangely unavailable to conscious recall if one is not training to remember them.
Psychologists, both ancient and modern have taken an interest in dreams. Religious figures often receive divine revelations through their dreams, like Jacob from The Bible. Sigmund Freud, father of Western psychology believed dreams were a way to have the unconscious fulfill wishes that could not be realized in real life, a place for forbidden fantasies to be lived out. His student, CG Jung, saw dreams as the unconscious mind being symbolized. The unconscious in his model has a small personal aspect, tied to the individual, and a much larger collective unconscious that is transpersonal. Dreams could reflect and symbolize a persons mundane experience, or could be a doorway to the archetypal level, having dreams that relate to the universe at large, or playing stories from mythology that have always dwelled in the psyche.
The Buddhist view of dreams turns the Western model upside down, instead of being the random neural activity of the brain creating a hallucination, actually the outer world that is participated in waking life is the hallucination, along with the Self experiencing it. Nondual Shiva Tantra also has a similar model, having 3 states, waking life, dreaming, and deep sleep, and an additional 4th stage that transcends the distinctions. Both traditions have dream Yogas, where the lucid dream state is not used to pursue desires, but to achieve enlightenment.
What could possibly be the benefit of recalling dreams? It opens doorways to interesting experiences. You may find your dreams give intuitive messages to you that are not explicitly stated but picked up implicitly. There may be people from your life who have some meaning to you that appear to recur, like meeting spirit guides. The best way to start this is to keep a notebook or diary of some kind near your bed, and upon waking from a dream, write down what you can of it. It may only be a simple sentence or two that is enough cue to remember when you look back at it. You may be able to write a very detailed account. I've gotten to a point in this practice at times where you are dream journaling in a dream, like the film Inception. The difference between regular dreams, and dreams that are interacted with could be likened to “having thoughts” vs “thinking”.
If you make a consistent effort to be cognizant of your dreams, and also practice “dream checks” you may trigger lucid dreaming. When you are lucid in a dream you have an awareness that you are in a dream, and can change what is going to happen at will. Its an unstable zone of consciousness for sure, as you can slip back into having a regular dream, or simply wake up completely. In a lucid dream you can fly, visit whoever you want, and overcome fears. The same attitude applied to a threat in a dream, can be used in waking life situations. As if having a dream of being chased, but then turning to the threat, and making it disappear. Being able to navigate the realms between being asleep and awake can help you achieve OBEs (Out of body experiences), or Astral Projection, where an astral double of your form can leave the body or enter into alternate dimensions.
Dreaming and noticing your dreams is a great way to get beyond your normal modes of seeing the world. Being free from the ego of waking life to a realm that is entirely different and possibly just as real. Whether it is a material phenomenon, or an actual other timeless, massless, non-physical dimension cannot be known at this time, but if you dig into your own dreams with interest what they mean to you will become apparent.