There are many benefits of actively working with your dreams in order to further develop a more well rounded total energy self. Sleep time provides a gateway to your subconscious where you can learn to communicate thru the contents of your dreams as well as a vehicle for spontaneous astral projections. The subconscious is the great storage center of all memories and knowledge we have ever gained in our lives. It acts as a huge warehouse of information that we can access if we learn the tricks. The subconscious also acts as a messenger service when we learn to bridge the path to the higher consciousness.
I have found that one of the most effective ways of working with my dreams is thru the process of journaling all the dreams I can remember in a night. I journal all of my dreams on my computer, however I started out with a notebook by my bed and each time I woke up, I recorded what I could remember. If you are one that cannot remember your dreams upon awakening, I have several suggestions that could help you. The first of which is similar to a pre-hypnotic suggestion, before you go to sleep each night, you can tell yourself that upon awakening you will remember your dreams in great detail. This may not work the very first night but if you keep repeating this each night it you will start to see results in a few days. It's basically stating the intent that you will remember your dreams, you are just communicating your will to your subconscious to help you retain the memory. Also try to allow yourself to wake up slowly and naturally and review the details of the dream before you jump out of bed. Mentally go over the highlights and then get up and record the basics of the dream either on teh computer or in a notebook leaving spaces so that you can go back later to add things or make more notes. A good tip to recording more than one dream in a night is to drink a full glass of water before bed and upon waking to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, record your dream and then drink another full glass of water. I have been able to record up to 4-5 dreams in one night this way.
Asking for guidance to come to you in a dream for a problem that you are working is also very effective. It doesn't always manifest within the first dream, nor on the first night. When I ask for guidance this way, it takes me an average of 2-3 days to get an answer but try to remember to record in the journal what the request was so that you can match the dream with the request.
Dreams convey messages in many different forms. There are personal symbols, and there are universal symbols. Personally, dream books to me are something I would line my cat litter boxes with but some people swear by them. I try to get as many definitions for a symbol as I can before I decide on the meaning if it isn't something that I instinctively already know. This will include looking up the definition in a book but I notice that 9 times out of 10 that my own interpretation of the symbol works better. A good example for this would be the symbol for a black cat. Most of us are familiar with the black cat from the traditions of Hallowe'en and the superstition of not letting a black cat cross your path as a bad omen. This superstition goes back to the times of cats being used as the familiars to witches and fear of witches thinking they were evil. In my case, I am a cat lover and a cat of any color would represent something of affection and warmth to me. The snake is another great example of a universal symbol vs. a personal symbol. The snake represented knowledge since nearly the beginning of recorded history. In many cultures the snake is considered a sacred animal and has great power in the spirit realm nor are snakes evil. Look at the medical symbol of the 2 snakes intertwined on a winged vertical pole as well as the fact that snakes have beneficial uses to humanity thru use of the venom for medicinal purposes and the help they present to farmers in controlling the rodent population which carries a lot of disease. Personally, I don't care for snakes at all and have major phobias involving them, however, if I had a dream with a snake I wouldn't follow only my personal view of them but would examine many points of view. I would examine what the overall feeling and emotion of the dream was as a key in determining which definition of the snake I would use.
The easiest way of finding your personal definition of a symbol in your dream is to isolate that symbol and to ask yourself, "what does this mean to me?". Take each symbol step by step, define them and then try to piece the story together. A good example of this was a dream I interpreted for a friend. In his dream, he was in jail and a flagrantly homosexual man was holding the keys. In this case we went and interpreted the symbol of jail. Jail for him was a fear and being locked into something against his will. Then we interpreted the man holding the keys. The man in the dream was openly homosexual and this disturbed my friend because he did not feel he was prejudice against gay people. In asking him what came to mind when he thought of the gay man, he came up with an ex-boss at a job he had left just a few months previous. In going deeper into the interpretation, I asked about the sort of employer he was and how he felt about that old job. My friend said he loved his old job and the employer was one of the best he had ever had because of his great sense of humor and the freedom he gave to the employees in the casual atmosphere. This turned what my friend had initially interpreted as a negative symbol into a much more positive one. Now, we interpreted the symbol of a key which I would categorize as a universal symbol, it was one meaning he could unlock the cage and gain his freedom. In taking all the symbols and interpreting them we confirmed that my friend had felt trapped in his new job but fear was keeping him from finding something else and that the key to his freedom was in having a job where he truly enjoyed himself. As a result, my friend went back to his old place of work and asked to get his old job back even though the job he felt imprisoned by provided him much more money. He was sacrificing his happiness for more income that lead him to feel unsatisfied in life. After we interpreted his dream and things clicked into place, he told me that he had been asking for help in his dreams to figure out what he should do. The dream provided the answer but it was all in code to the point that he had completely missed it as his answer.
After you start to work with your dreams on a regular basis you will start to nitice that you can do dream recall whether the dream was last night or last month. You can go back to the dream and you can pull out more details. This is the beginning of learning to lucid dream or dreamscape as some people refer to it. I can go to sleep and pull myself back to an old dream to rework it and get more information or to change events. Lucid dreaming means that you are aware you are dreaming while there and can manipulate events to your will. I will usually observe the events much as if I am watching a movie at a theatre. I am there but I am detached for the most part. I have learned to "pause," "play," "rewind,"or zoom into a specific detail. I can also send messages to myself in this phase. Most often it will be along the lines of making a memo to remember a certain sequence of events to record later. As with any psi skill you work to develop, this requires practice and confidence in your ability to successfully complete the task as an afterthought.