Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Who Are You Calling a Hypnic Jerk?

I’m starting to experiment with the other main lucid dreaming induction technique, WILD. The one I’ve been working with is MILD: Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams, which involves doing reality checks during the day, and, during the night, combining auto-suggestion with picturing yourself back in a recent dream realizing you’re dreaming.

I did have a little lucid dream—I think—last week where I simply realized I was dreaming, apropos of nothing, which I think is a good sign: nothing particularly odd had to happen for me to know I was dreaming.

I remembered some things I wanted to do upon becoming lucid and did them, but was completely unable to get another dream character to appear. Prior to this dream, it was as easy as saying, “I would like so-and-so to walk through that door,” so I wondered later if I was dreaming I was lucid rather than actually being lucid, which can happen. Whatever it was, it ended very quickly, which is slightly frustrating, though I know I will get better at prolonging lucidity.

In the longest and best lucid dream I’ve had, I saw something weird, thought I might be dreaming, confirmed it with a reality check, and then jumped up and down for a while, and went on to have a very satisfying little adventure. I suspect that jumping up and down may end up being the best way for me to prolong lucidity, but I’ve been trying other things since then, too, which have not worked at all.

Anyway, I’m now experimenting with WILD: Wake-Initiated Lucid Dreams, where you try to get your body to go to sleep while your mind stays awake. That is, you try to go directly from the waking state to the dream state while remaining conscious. There are a variety of techniques for this, one of which is identical to an instruction that is sometimes given for meditation: to count your breaths.

Apparently it can be difficult to learn to WILD, and many report that the experience is frightening—you may pass into sleep paralysis while conscious—did you know you’re almost always paralyzed when you’re dreaming?—but if you can get the hang of it, having a lucid dream is much more certain to result, and I have read that WILD lucid dreams are longer and more stable than those that result from MILD.

I haven’t even really come up with an initial WILD technique to try yet—there is much to read about this—but this morning, when I woke up two hours before the alarm was to go off, I tried lying on my back, focusing on my breath in my belly, and counting breaths: “One, I’m dreaming. Two, I’m dreaming.” I was just reading online about this technique; some fellow was saying, “Don’t worry if you get to 400. That just means you’re 400 breaths closer to a WILD.” I thought, “Four hundred breaths!? My goodness, these people are zealots,” but then I remembered that I’m also a zealot, so I resolved to count 400 breaths if necessary.

I actually thought I would probably just fall asleep at about breath number ten, but in fact I counted to maybe 130 breaths without too much distraction, and then I felt a very strange physical sensation and it did scare me. I reminded myself that there was nothing to be afraid of, that it’s all produced by the mind, and that I could stop anytime I wanted.

I continued counting, but then absolutely had to move, or, at any rate, felt so much like moving that I did.

Then I experienced a hypnic jerk or three. A hypnic jerk is “an involuntary myoclonic twitch which occurs … just as the subject is beginning to fall asleep [Wikipedia]." A myoclonus is the “irregular involuntary contraction of a muscle,” per Merriam-Webster Online.

So there was a jerk or so, and in my new position, it was harder to stay alert, but I was still pretty much counting, I think, and then two hours had gone by, and I decided just to go back to sleep, which I did.

But here’s the thing: I was asleep for only 54 minutes more, and in that time, had two very vivid dreams, one of which was kind of frightening and involved physical motion: I dreamed I was in an elevator that started moving sideways with the door open. Then the door shrank to a square opening and the elevator went faster and faster and I had no idea where I was going to end up and I was all alone and I was afraid. That was a dream about doing WILD, which I think is great. I consider that a cooperative dream. I think it means I’m on the right track.
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