All dreams have something they can teach us and some dreams feel particularly potent with meaning and messages. It is tempting to run to the nearest book of dream symbols or to ask someone, "What does my dream mean?!"
There are recommended ways to do this and distracting, oversimplified ways to do this. Let's take a look, remembering that the language of dreams is in the realm of symbols and archetypes.
Symbols are objects or images that are containers for deeper meaning, while archetypes are symbols and truths that are universal to the human template (to use a Jungian influenced definition, Carl Jung being one of the godfathers of dream work).
Write down your dream. Speak it aloud in detail.
Note the different archetypes and symbols that show up in the dream and start to notice how they make you feel.
Note the qualities and memories you associate with the symbols and images.
Start with the ones that feel the most energy, whatever that energy may be.
You may free associate the first 10+ qualities you relate to an image, color or experience from the dream. Don't think or judge, just quickly write down what comes to mind.
If it feels appropriate, do some research to find out actual qualities of the symbol.
Look for these symbols in waking life; think of them as a part of you.
Do not run to a book of dream symbols to "interpret" your dream. It might help share some archetypal qualities, but it can never give you easy answers. Dreams are personal.
For example, a whale might mean something entirely different to you than it does to another person. To stop at the generic level of what a book of dream symbols says could deprive you of the real message.
It would be better to actually research whales and see what you can learn about them that resonates with the emotions and themes of the dream.
The lessons and guidance from a dream are called to the surface from the bubbling brew of the unconscious through the process of working with them.
Find a dream group, someone you trust or a dream practitioner (this may be a coach, therapist, shaman or spiritual teacher who offers this practice/service).
Tell them your dream in detail and notice the language you choose and the emotions and themes that show up.
Expect them to ask you to clarify different pieces and ask questions to help you dig deeper.
Have them work with completing the sentence, "If it were my dream..." and notice what resonates or what feels completely wrong and do several rounds of this. (This can be particularly powerful in a group setting.)
Caution against asking someone what your dream means. This can invite them to project all over you and it's an impossible question because they can't really know.
We are not trying to guess here. Dreams have power, don't give that away.
Rather, you can share your dream with people you trust and they can ask questions and point things out from a different perspective, which can help you peel back the layers and feel into the dream.
Anyone can play the "if it were my dream" game, but it helps to have a facilitator in the group or someone more fluent in the language of dreams and the unconscious.
First reactions to dreams and things that seem obvious are often distractions from the deeper levels of meaning in the dream, especially as you are just getting started with a dream practice. Try to leave your ego out of this.
These are a few recommendations from my personal dream practice and the dream services that I offer to my clients. There are many things you can do by yourself as you get started, if that feels more comfortable and accessible. Like any practice, the more you work at it, the more it becomes intuitive, natural and powerful.
And remember, that when asking what your dreams mean, direct this question to the dream itself.