Monday, January 21, 2013

Focused dreaming

This post has nothing to do with farming, and it won't have pictures or recipes. But it's something I've always been interested in, and that I realize I do naturally and that others are curious about.

As long as I can remember, I've been able to direct my dreams, gaining control scary ones and asking questions of mysterious situations.

The first time I remember doing it, I was about seven. I had a nightmare about the neighbor's dog. In real life this was a gentle, elderly pooch who let us do all kinds of things to her, but in my dream she turned out to have a demonic face behind a dog mask. I became aware that I was dreaming, and knew "if I roll over to my other side this will get a lot less scary". I turned over and immediately was able to direct the dream so that a cat came out of the sprinkler system and helped me.

If you have scary or helpless dreams, you might want to stop seeing them as inevitable. The same problem solving skills you use during the day will help you in your sleep! If you just want to have more interesting dreams or to enlist new problem solving skills in your brain, you might  want to think about taking a more active view of your dream life.

In writing this blog, I'm not going tospecifically list things you can learn in Lucid Dreaming workshops, because I haven't taken them. But I find that I was naturally doing a lot of the things lucid dreaming recommends, so my story may sound similar to things you hear elsewhere.

It does take some commitment

I hate when you want to lose weight or learn a language or land a job, and you hear that it takes time and commitment. But it's true. Gaining control over dreams is no different. You can't achieve things without wanting to, and working for it. I never minded doing it because it was something I thought of on my own, but I did spend time and energy, which I could have spent on something else, on learning to direct my dreams.

My suggestions:

  1. When you are falling asleep, be aware as you are drifting off and tell yourself you will remember your dreams. It won't always work but this improves your chances.
  2. Learn to review your dreams the instant you wake up. Lie in bed for a few minutes reviewing your dreams as soon as possible after waking. If the dream wakes you up, think about it even if it was scary.
  3. Keep a dream journal. No one else has to see it, so it can be a messy, abbreviated and incoherent as you want. Just get in the habit of  writing impressions from your dreams. I've kept a dream journal off and on my whole life. It helps me find patterns in my thoughts, as well as bringing up vivid memories long after the event. 
  4. Assign yourself a few things to notice while dreaming. Do you dream in color? Are you inside our outside? Who is there with you? Do you recognize people or places? Do they look the same as they do in waking life? 
  5. Also notice yourself. Do you have a body? Can you see your hands or feet? As with remembering your dream, you won't always remember to do all these things but planning in advance will make it more likely.
  6. During the day, when you are awake, notice similar details. This will help you set a background of "normal". When you dream, noticing that stuff isn't normal can help you realize that you aren't awake.

Nudging the process along:

  1. If you are still not remembering dreams, try to go to sleep earlier. Then set your alarm to wake you up an hour or two before normal. As soon as you wake up, make yourself calm and try to go back to sleep with the goal of dreaming. Don't think "I need sleep", instead think "I am going to dream now". 
  2. I have the most vivid dreams and the most control over them at times in my life when I have a break between waking up and work/school/other social activities. Walking, commuting or riding the bus gives me a quiet period to review my dreams.
  3. I had my very most controlled dreams during the year I took an art class and spent a lot of time drawing my hands and feet. There seems to be a connection between looking - intensely studying - ones hands, and recognizing the difference between wake and sleep. Go figure.
  4. If you have a bad dream, do a post-mortem on it the next day. Ask how you would have rescued the dream if you could have. Dream power is really strong stuff. You don't have to obey the rules of physics or anything else. You could fly away, or turn invisible, or who knows what. It's liberating, so go with it. 
  5. Don't worry too much about what a dream "means". I have a few dreams that hit me over the head with their significance. And I have a hand full of dream teachers, enemies, and places that occur often. But I don't think you have to understand a dream to jump in and change thing.
It has not been my experience that having control over dreams has weakened my grasp of reality. If anything, it strengthens it. When I want to control a dream, I have to be able to recognize that it's a dream. So if you're worried about entering a freaky movie plot, I have not found that to be a danger.

It's also really important to know that just because you dream something, doesn't always mean you have a subconscious wish to do that thing - let alone that you're brain is telling you to. Dreams often involve things you wouldn't do in real life. They can involve violence, public nudity, forgetting huge chunks of one's life, intimacy with people one doesn't care for - you don't have to do this stuff just because it happened in a dream. I think of it as the brain playing dress up or make believe, not necessarily asking for wish fulfillment.

Sweet dreams.

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