Dream incubation has its roots way back in the past. It is an ancient practice about which there are a number references in the texts of the Egyptians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, and many other past civilizations. Native Americans have a strong dreaming tradition, as do many of the African tribal cultures and Aborigines. Actually, it is worldwide - people have turned to their dreams for answers to life's questions since the dawn of time.
Incubation is used for the times when we can't easily get the answers we need. We may have tried every avenue possible to get the information, and all the creative thinking in the world doesn't cut the mustard. What do we do? We turn to our dreams.
In order to impress on our dreaming self the importance of the issue in question, it helps to devise a ritual that you will carry out shortly before going to bed. You can create a ritual of your own. The important point is that it acts as a disruption to your normal routine, and so leaves a more powerful impression.
The following suggestion is usually quite effective for most major concerns. Take a clean sheet of paper and a pen and empty your mind of all the thoughts concerning you, writing them down on the paper. This doesn't have to be perfectly written. It is best done as a stream of consciousness. Don't stop writing for 20 minutes. Keep going and when the time is up, twist the paper up and burn it. Don't read it back. Next, relax in a bath scented with your favorite essential oils. Lavender will soothe tensions away, but the choice is yours, as long as it makes you feel good.
Once out of the bath get ready for bed and then write your key question on a small piece of paper. Roll it up like a miniature scroll and tie it with some thread, then place it under your pillow. Keep a pen and notebook by your bed to record your experiences. Write down whatever dreams you have during the night, even if they don't make any immediate sense. Continue with this practice for several nights if necessary and you will get an answer. You will know it because it will feel 'right.'
A friend of mine had a cat whose stomach seemed to be continually upset, despite being given all kinds of treatments and diets to remedy it. He decided to call on his dreaming self to provide the answer. He practiced a much shorter dream incubation ritual than the one above for several nights and came up with the following dream.
His cat had its head in a carton of live yogurt and was licking up every last trace - enjoying it immensely. He remembered the dream and dutifully went out and brought some for his cat. The cat loved it just as the dream suggested, and his cat's stomach improved greatly on a spoonful of yogurt a day over the course of a week or so. The cat healed completely and then stopped eating the yogurt once it no longer needed it.
This example leads to the final point: if you get an answer in the form of a dream, it is important to honor it by acting on the suggestions given. If you do, your dreaming self will become more ingenious, more helpful, more creative, and more obliging as time goes by. It really is worth the effort!