The Dreamers’ Den Series Ep 16: Ancient Wisdom, Possible Futures & Decolonization in Dreams (a conversation with Nicole Torres)

Dreamers Den Podcast Episode 16 Nicole Torres Ancient Wisdom Possible Futures Decolonization in Dreams with Leilani Navar

Scroll down to click “Play” on this episode. Or, click here to listen on Spotify, or here to listen on Apple Podcasts.

The timing of this conversation was perfect for me. By the time you listen to it, the U.S. election may have come and gone, but no matter what the outcomes are, some things remain the same.

Working toward the changes we want to see, and supporting the growth of what we believe in, is an ongoing process. The road ahead might look different, depending on what happens (maybe… VERY different), but no matter the twists, turns, roadblocks, or flooded-out passes, we’re still on the same road we’ve always been on. And, we’re on it together.

For me, one of the most helpful things on this road is dreamwork. Dr. Nicole Torres joins me this week for a conversation about dreams and liberation. 

“Where do dreams lie?” she asks. 

In the personal, in the collective, and in their overlap. 

Nicole is a dreamworker, psychotherapist, and medical anthropologist. In her psychotherapy practice, Nicole has worked for over 15 years with minority populations in urban and inner city environments. She’s committed to providing therapy that works toward liberation, in a holistic, creative, and culturally relevant way. Nicole is devoted to her own ongoing journey of decolonization, liberation, and learning to “honor the dream.” In this episode, she explains what all that means to her.

Early in our conversation, I ask Nicole’s take on something I’ve wondered for a while: Why do some people explain that their families don’t talk about dreams with this statement: “My family is religious”? 

I know religious people of various faiths who do like to talk about dreams, so why do some say that their religion is a reason not to?

Nicole’s thoughts on my question lead us right into talking about what “decolonization” means, and how dreams connect us with the wisdom we all carry in our bodies. She calls this our “indigenous wisdom.” We talk about what that means, too. 

She shares her process around a life-changing dream of her own. She felt torn about this dream at first, but it became a potent influence in her work and her life.

Have you ever had a dream character come back again and again, in different forms, or in different settings? The figure from this life-changing dream was one of those for Nicole. She shares what she’s learned about these recurring characters: If we don’t pay attention to them, and act upon the wisdom of our dreams, we are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over.

Nicole and I share the perspective that our dreams are a form of communication both from and for our collective community. As I spoke about in the last episode, Dreaming Your Genius, our dreams can reveal to us where we have the most energy to give, and where in the world our contribution is most needed. 

Have you had any dreams lately that feel especially related to our current political climate? Or, our “climate” climate? Apocalyptic dreams, or dreams reminiscent of terrifying times in human history?

Nicole and I have heard several dreams in those veins, lately. We talk about these “possible future” dreams, and ask, how can we heed our dreams as wake-up calls? How are our dreams nudging us to prepare for these possible futures, or to take action, so that they don’t come to pass?

She reminds us, “It’s incumbent upon all of us to do what we can, and tap into our creative energy that comes in the form of dreams so that we can actively participate in creating a better vision of the future, not just for us, but for future generations, and for the planet.”

Dr. Nicole Torres’ website:

The two psychiatrists/healers she mentions, who have influenced her thinking about liberation: Lewis Mehl-Madrona & Eduardo Duran

Leilani Navar


  1. Jeanne on November 10, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Wonderful podcast, thank you both! I have had dream figures push me to do my real work as well, and have sometimes followed them and sometimes pushed back. They feel like a life-long conversation between my daily waking self and my deeper soul, personified in the dreams. I haven been learning to respect, honour, and respond to the dream while holding onto the centrality of waking life, both personal and communal. I want to hear more about how we can dream into our communities, dream with and for each other, how dreams can be part of our shared communal life as well as personal exploration.

    One quick note about the religious views on dreams. Several years ago I discovered the source for my Catholic family’s fear/distrust of dreams. The Baltimore Catechism has been used in teaching Church doctrine to Catholics around the world for many generations (my mother’s class memorized its lessons in the 1930s and 40s). The Catechism clearly describes belief in the importance of dreams as a sin against the First Commandment, which is to love God. It was hard to read, but it helped me better understand my family’s reluctance around dreams, which in turn gave me room to relax my own fears. I don’t know if Protestants have the same strictures but I am guessing they do, and the more closely people adhere to the Christian doctrines, the more likely they have learned and internalized this lesson. Other faiths have different lessons, of course, but this was the underlying message in my childhood lessons about dreams.

    • Leilani Navar on November 14, 2020 at 12:22 am

      Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts, Jeanne! I too am deeply interested in how we can attend to the shared nature of dreams – how they prompt us to consider our communities and serve global healing, and how we can share the dreams themselves to deepen our connections with each other. Thanks for sharing about the Baltimore Catechism as well. I’d never heard of that clear statement against believing in the importance of dreams. That probably has influenced many of the people I’ve heard say they don’t talk about dreams. Great to hear from you, as always, Jeanne!

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