Book Review: Dream Tending by Stephen Aizenstat

Dream Tending book

Dream Tending: Awakening to the Healing Power of Dreams by Stephen Aizenstat, Spring Journal, Inc, 2009, 281 pp.

Dr. Stephen Aizenstat is highly respected as a Master of Dreamwork, his extensive study and deep connection to the power of dreams and the dreaming psyche has influenced his life’s work in a way that is extraordinary. Among Stephen's many students over the years, I remember asking him if he had ever considered writing a book about Dream Tending knowing what an incredible contribution it would be to the world if he did. I was one of many who encouraged—perhaps even begged him—to write about his teachings and ways of working with dreams. Now that this highly anticipated book has found its way into the world, it is a privilege to review it here.

Dream Tending is a deeply moving, holistic and embodied way of working with dreams. It is a way in which dreams are engaged as living images who, through their ability to bridge the worlds of the dreaming psyche and the waking world, are given voice and expression. It is a way of working with dreams that allows the images to speak to us on behalf of themselves, allowing us to be a part of the process versus the center of it, inviting the world psyche to interact with us as part of a whole, living, breathing organism.

Whether you are an experienced dreamer or just beginning, this insightful and rich book contains practical methods and exercises for working with your own dreams. Stephen goes into great detail on how to develop relationship with dream images and how to engage them on an ongoing basis, making Dream Tending a “life practice”, as well as fostering an ongoing relationship with your own inner “Dream Council” of figures.

In addition, Stephen offers his readers a step-by-step guide to access the living power of their dreams to:

  • Transform nightmare figures into profound and helpful mentors

  • Bring fresh warmth and intimacy into relationships

  • Overcome obsessions, compulsions, and addictions

  • Engage the healing forces of dreams through imaginal “medicines”

  • Re-imagine careers and cope with difficulties in the workplace

  • Discover the potential of untapped creativity

  • See the world with a new and dynamic perspective

Dream Tending is a life practice that healers, storytellers, and poets have known by many different names for thousands of years. Passed on through the generations, the art of tending living dream images emerges in a culture when the call to see the natural world as alive is urgent.” (Quoted from page 11, The Living Image)

It is true that we are in a period of great transition. Never before have we experienced our world in such deep need of healing, yet we must look to the hidden blessings in these times. Perhaps we are being reminded to slow down and make space for a re-connection to the Earth, to the animals, to our family, our friends, our neighbors and to ourselves. One way to navigate these times is to turn inward, to sit quiet and allow a new sensibility to come forth, not through the mind, but through the soul. Working with dreams allows us to experience our world in a way not just heard through the ears and seen with the eyes, but felt, deeply into the cellular makeup of who we are, which we share with all other living things. We are being called to act on behalf of something bigger than ourselves, we are being called to live as a global community, where respect for each other and our planet are not only desired, but essential to our well being and our future. What better time than now to intimately engage the dreamtime and allow it to open us up to new possibilities to heal both ourselves and our planet, one dream at a time.

Stephen Aizenstat, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, marriage and family therapist, and the founding president of Pacifica Graduate Institute. For more than 35 years he has explored the power of dreams through the study of depth psychology and the pursuit of his own research. He has collaborated with many masters in the field, including Joseph Campbell, Marion Woodman, Robert Johnson, and James Hillman; as well as native elders worldwide. Dr. Aizenstat has conducted hundreds of dreamwork seminars throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He lives with his wife and three children in Santa Barbara, California. (Quoted from the cover of DreamTending)

For articles written by Dr. Stephen Aizenstat, please visit his website and click on “DreamTending Resources.”