"Meeting In The Dream World"
May 5, 2013 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Not a recommended method according to Charles Simic.

I had a poet friend who tried to put these ideas into practice and in the process improve the quality of his own writing. He decided that for a couple of nights per week, he would eat an entire pepperoni pizza before going to bed at midnight and set his clock radio to a rock-and-roll station and have Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis rouse him out of deep sleep at four in the morning, make him rush to the writing desk and scribble down whatever he could recall of his dreams. He expected treasures untold, but what he got instead was his wife chasing him with a knife and other such immortal horror classics shown to anyone who overeats and goes to sleep on a full of stomach—and on a rare occasion some mystifying phrase like “Elephants are attacking the roof of my mouth” that would send him into ecstasies and make him repeat the experiment the following night.
posted by bad grammar at 4:25 PM on May 5, 2013

Now try doing something you’d only be able to do in a dream, like flying or walking through a wall. If you can, holy shit: You’re in a dream, you are now aware that you’re in a dream, and you should now be able to do whatever the f*ck you wanna do in that dream. If you can’t, you’re still awake, but the idea is that if you do this enough while awake, eventually it’ll become so ingrained into your consciousness that you’ll do it while you’re dreaming, and successfully go lucid.

Of course, you will have had to deal with the mockery of friends, family, and coworkers for weeks, so you may want to do this in private....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:28 PM on May 5, 2013

The four or five occasions when I have become aware that I was dreaming, I got so excited about it that I wound up waking up within a (dream) minute. I remember particularly the collapse of one of these lucid-dreams: I was in a light, but lushly green forest; the colors began to bleed and there was a vertical sense of vertigo, then a sense of everything running, like ink, upward in a swirl toward blackness. Then I woke up.
posted by adoarns at 4:37 PM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

At least half a dozen times now over the last couple of years, I've had dreams that refused to quit when I woke up-- one for half an hour.

I was able to get up and move around and do the normal things I do in the morning, and when I turned on the lights the dream was only a superimposed flicker, and its soundtrack was nowhere near as loud as the radio, but if I turned out the lights, there it was, carrying its little plot forward, though *I* no longer seemed to be in it somehow.

I was very, very relieved when it finally subsided, and I don't think I'm up for anything that will give my dreams greater agency than they possess already.
posted by jamjam at 5:30 PM on May 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

I had a poet friend who tried to put these ideas into practice and in the process improve the quality of his own writing.

Seems legit. In his introduction to Slow Learner, Thomas Pynchon mentions "having as yet virtually no access to [his] dream life" as a reason for the shortcomings of an early story. I've seen this interpreted as being a reference to psychoanalysis, but I am convinced it is a not-so-subtle reference to lucid dreaming. You can't tell me that a guy like Pynchon, living in Southern California in the late 60s/early70s, never came across a copy of Castaneda*. I realize this theory is based entirely on a single sentence fragment, but considered relative to the total amount of biographical data available it's basically a 100% true-fact, no?

* Find your hands!
posted by Lorin at 5:40 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The wall between our dreams and our perception if shared reality and long term memories is important. Tearing those walls down to improve recall and experience lucid dreams can really fuck you up.
posted by humanfont at 5:57 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I tried 5-HTP and B Vitamins a few times (in part inspired by AskMe) taking a couple in the evening. One night I found myself lucid dreaming being in my kitchen, which now had a door onto the back garden of the flat, slowly moving towards the door which had bubble glass like in some office or reception- clear not fogged. A segmented view of the flat's back garden gradually began forming in the glass as I got closer, until the blurry outlines and colours were there. Even closer, and the image broke up into hundreds of identical glass bubble miniatures in crisp hi-def. I'm probably not the only one here who discovered as a kid that if you bring your eye right up against a bubble glass window and move your head around it makes kaleidoskopic patterns. But then in some Plato's cave analogy taking my dream all meta I realised this was my cognition in waking life - a choice between a vague gesamtgestalt and fragmentation into detail. With that door in the way. I began passing through the glass and reality kicked up a notch and then some, more than I've ever seen it do. The body supposedly releases DMT when you dream and if one can have a lucid awareness of it that was very maybe what that's like, for a split second, it woke me up near instantaneously going ZOMG WTF for the rest of the night.
posted by yoHighness at 6:49 PM on May 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

Only once in my life have I been aware that I was dreaming as it was happening, and as soon as I hit awareness of it I awoke. A girlfriend of mine remembered every dream she had and was aware that she was dreaming as it went down; it seemed then and still does that she had an entire different piece in her life, and a very rich piece, too. An added dimension. She loved it. Or maybe not even that she loved it, as it was her experience her entire life, maybe it was too familiar to have loved it. But it gave her lots. I was envious, still am, really.

Some people talk about the help they get from their dreams, that they are guides for them. I've only had one portentous dream, only one dream that gave me huge insight into what was happening to me at that point in my life, and what was about to happen to me in my life -- I was at a crux but did not know it. I was awakened with a start, more thrown from sleep than awakened, it sat me up, chills running through my body, waves of energy pulsing through me. It was something.

I've since read a lot about it, pretty much everything I could get my hands on for a few years there, trying to determine wtf, and over the years I've also spoken with people who've had kundalini experience, brought on through depth prayer/meditation or intense life change; it seems a similar experience to what happened to me. Jung has been important, though his writing is so goddamn German and so goddamn heavy and so goddamn dense that I can only plow through it bits at a time, in fact I *can't* plow through it, have to just get what bits I can, as I can. Interesting guy, Jung. Completely nuts, but interesting.

It was a frightening experience, the symbols in that dream were very powerful, the entire of the dream was very powerful. And very obvious, but only obvious in retrospect; only over time did it unfold to me.

Hell of a thing.

My own take on it, when people are seeking answers in their dreams, my take on it is that if you need to know something from a dream, the son-of-a-bitch will absolutely get your attention. You won't need any dream journal or any of the rest of it, it'll throw you out of your bed and blow you out of your shoes and you'll remember every goddamn bit of it, no problem.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:02 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The most interesting trick I ever heard about was you stare at your hand for five seconds and say aloud "am I dreaming?" fifteen or twenty times daily for at least a month. Then after it becomes habitual you can lucidify your dream state by looking at your hand in the dream deliberately, which image is impossible to maintain stably. I tried this but it didn't work so hot for me. I thought I was getting good results from taking vitamin B-12 an hour before bed for awhile, but lost interest. Every one of the six or so times I have tried rigorous dream work I got bored with it before too long.

This morning before I woke my dream really had staying power. I was running gassers in the dream, like hundreds more than I am capable of doing while awake, and I woke up panting for oxygen.
posted by bukvich at 7:05 PM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I got into the habit of reality-checking for awhile, and started to do it in dreams as well. Literally every time I noticed I was dreaming, within a couple of seconds everything would vanish, and I'd be alone, locked in an immobile body, unable to breath, suffocating in the dark and unable to move or breathe. After maybe 10-15 seconds of this I'd start to regain movement, and maybe another five seconds later I'd regain control of my lungs.

Sleep paralysis is horrible and traumatic enough when it's a thing your brain does to you; I saw no need to continue inducing it, and discontinued my efforts at lucid dreaming.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:16 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Last time I realized I was dreaming, I spent 45 minutes trying to fly, and was frustrated that the best I could manage after extensive attempts was sort of a 30-foot gliding jump. :/
posted by NMcCoy at 7:47 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Gin does it for me, pretty reliably. If I overdo it, I wake around 4am, lie away until 5.30 or 6, then drift back off and have the most baroque dreams. Today being an example. I'm not a reality checker so they rarely become lucid, but they're common enough (I LOVE MARTINIS) that I'm getting there without the reality check.

The key for me is not to get up. It's usually 50:50 for me as to whether I can really be bothered to lie there, as I love to get up early and watch the sun rise over the valley. But if I commit to another couple of hours of sleep -- fireworks.
posted by unSane at 8:39 PM on May 5, 2013

Oh, but sleep paralysis is a bitch. I hate that. I've had the stereotypical 'demon sitting on your chest' more times than I care to remember.
posted by unSane at 8:40 PM on May 5, 2013

Sleep paralysis seems terrifying.
My old roommate had sleep paralysis many times. The first time, she believed someone was strangling her--I heard her gasping and screaming for me. I grabbed a gun, ran in there, turned on the light, and he evidently disappeared.
It happened several times, but I never had a clear shot.

Another guy I know--normal as a guy can be other than some sexual preference issues--had what sounded like sleep paralysis, but interpreted it as wrestling with an angel. He wasn't religious prior to their wrestling match, but knew of the Jacob story. He ended up joining the ICC (church/cult) and dragged his sister (my girlfriend at the time) in with him.
posted by whatgorilla at 9:19 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

A year ago, I bought a domain name to make a comic about my dreams, which for some reason have been incredibly detailed and weird for the past five years or so, more so than ever before in my life. I tweet them almost every morning, and I've been saving up narratives for a long while. I need to get on drawing that...
posted by limeonaire at 9:21 PM on May 5, 2013

I am always aware that I am dreaming, but if I try abd exert any control, I wake up, like breaking surface tension.
posted by curious nu at 9:56 PM on May 5, 2013

The most shocking thing to me, first time I woke up in a dream, was that the dream world is exactly as physical as reality. You can feel your feet on the ground, lean on a metal railing and feel it pressing back against your hands (a little cold, with a hard edge), you can taste food. Plus, flying. They talk about lucid dreaming a little in this episode of In Our Time. One of the guests makes a case that in the future, we could exploit this to make really amazing virtual reality.
posted by velebita at 10:27 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in a class with a focus on Dream Psychology and my faculty (who has had something over 2000 lucid dreams in his life) had us read Robert Waggoner's Lucid Dreaming. I heard Robert speak and he suggested most frequent lucid dreamers found using oneirogens to be one of the weirdest lucid dream experiences. However, I personally like using oneirogens specifically for dreaming of other types, but the lucid experiences I have had with them have been experiences I didn't want to repeat on the daily.

If you want to know more about lucid dreaming try that book, it has a lot of really useful tips and Robert has a lot of experience with dreams. Almost all of the issues people have stated in here are addressed in the book. Robert does take a road traveled by the consciousness studies sorts of folk, but the ideas work and work really well.

Also, long term meditators seem to have an easier time with lucid dreaming.

To address waking up from a lucid dream, this happens often because it is something unprepared for. Generally you have to be prepared for it to happen and acknowledge it as an OK occurrence, not judging it as good or bad really, and then having the intention to continue on in a lucid dream with specific goals made before you went to sleep. The first link and second link talks a little about that with gestation.

I've only had about 40 lucid dreams that I can remember (which hilariously stopped as soon as I started a dream class), and they always seemed kind of natural to me, like I was lucid because I was more aware of things that were important.

It is rather funny that we don't talk about Dreams more. I mean, we spend a whole at least fifth of our lives dreaming, we just often don't remember anything from that time. There is a saying, "A dream not reflected on is like a letter from your unconscious unopened."
posted by burntbook at 10:35 PM on May 5, 2013

I used to be able to snap awake from dreams that I knew were contrafactual to myself. When I was younger, I would occasionally have dreams of doing something horrible: killing someone or the like. The moment the horrible thing happened (and the dream always started in medias res), I could say to myself "Wait, this can't be real, I would never do this." And then I would awaken, a little relieved.

Lately (mostly in adulthood), that doesn't happen as much. The awakening, I mean. I still do horrible things in my dreams, and I still say "This can't be real" but I'm stuck playing out the consequences of my actions: horror at my actions, crying victims, trials and sometimes even jail. I conclude that one of the following must be true:

a) I have slipped, morally speaking, and now my subconscious (which is apparently better than my conscious) feels a need to push me further to show the evil of my ways
b) I can see my horrible reactions as a potential reality, rather than my (more naive?) younger self could
c) I just sleep a lot more deeply (and evilly?) than I used to

Back to my cell in San Quentin Dreamtime Reformatory.
posted by aureliobuendia at 11:04 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Or maybe all that stuff you read on the news is freaking you out and your mind is dealing with it? Maybe it's a compassionate response, rather than an innate desire to do bad things?
posted by sneebler at 4:58 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a pretty long history of lucid dreaming (and also a pretty long history of sleep paralysis...ugh...fortunately, I haven't had an episode of sleep paralysis in a while).

I haven't read all of the articles, but one of the articles mentions the Wake Back to Bed trick (you wake up a little earlier than you need to be, do something, then go back to bed.) This has been extremely effective for me to remember dreams. From there, it's really just reality checks -- I typically get in the habit of checking text twice (since it never stays the same) or flicking light switches (since the cause-effect relationship for electricity doesn't quite work so well in dreams).

When I learned about the check-the-back-of-the-hand trick, I tried that in a dream, and that was also effective...but I rarely think about that.

Anyway, one thing that I have noticed is that dreams have their own rules of physics. As someone commented above, the first way that this manifests is that dreams are very physical...but as another person commented above, it's not like you can just do anything in any dream -- even if you're lucid. I've had some dreams where I can fly, but other dreams where it really is just "gliding".
posted by subversiveasset at 6:31 AM on May 6, 2013

I almost never remember any of my dreams, so I'm a step behind all that. I could be having awesome lucid dreams every night for all I know. I can remember things if I wake up in the middle of the dream - an extended period of drifting in and out of sleep is the best for dreaming for me.

Alternatively, I went on zoloft for a few months once. One of the side-effects it gave me was being able to remember my dreams, which was pretty nice and unexpected. Not something the lists of common side effects mentioned, but most people don't seem to have complete dream-amnesia in the first place. The other side effects were mild but obnoxious, and it didn't do a whole lot for me as far as intended effects, but the dreams were fun.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:37 AM on May 6, 2013

I typically get in the habit of checking text twice (since it never stays the same) or flicking light switches (since the cause-effect relationship for electricity doesn't quite work so well in dreams).

I've never found this to be very reliable, though it certainly seems to be a common experience. I've read and re-read text in dreams without it changing when I look away, done math (like n-choose-k style stuff, a little harder than basic arithmetic) and light switches in my dreams have always worked just like they do when I'm awake. All in a range of lucidity.
posted by mrgoat at 11:11 AM on May 6, 2013

I wouldn't recommend calea, but only based my own experience. It's bitter enough that I think anyone who imbibes it must have masochistic tendencies. But I have very vivid dreams, and I can't remember ever not lucid dreaming at any age. When that stopped for a while, I actually stopped looking forward to going to sleep at night because I missed the epic scenarios and the surreal landscapes and the weirdly serious, continuous story lines.

I remember the first time I overcame sleep paralysis and twisted out of my body in the dream. Very strange, hyper-real, and incredibly adventurous, because the normal limitations my mind places on dreams as an adult (i.e. flying is impossible) no longer apply after sleep paralysis.

I find that I can manipulate either the scenery or my own actions, but not both, and not too much at the same time. It's interesting to me that most people don't seem to experience lucid dreaming on most nights, while I do. My friend talks about my "epic" (long, and detailed) dreams. They tend to affect my mood the next day sometimes.

I would recommend that novice lucid dreamers try a combination of vitamin B12 and high doses of liquid melatonin, with the caveat that melatonin seems to produce dysphoric (but vivid) dreams. YMMV.

I'd love to find a way to remember the ridiculously awesome stories and lyrics that my subconscious mind creates, but that I can't usually remember or create consciously. I remember experiencing those in a lucid dream and thinking "I won't remember this when I wake up," and I almost never do.
posted by quiet earth at 3:39 PM on May 6, 2013

« Older Squirrel Sunday   |   Obitfilter Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments