Thursday, July 08, 2010

No More Oedipus

I think the lucid dreaming project is back on track. I haven’t had a lucid dream in more than two months, but I can tell one’s coming. A couple of months ago, I decided to give up on this project because it seemed the results—one lucid dream every two weeks on average, most very brief, except for one ten-minute extravaganza—weren’t worth the expenditure of energy and the missed sleep, though by then I wasn’t missing nearly as much sleep as in the beginning.

I stopped making dream notes during the night, and ceased keeping a dream journal. I decided that I would just go to sleep without doing anything special, and if I had a lucid dream, so be it. I would certainly be happy about it. But after just a couple of weeks or so, I couldn’t stand letting all those dreams get away, and I started writing them down again, and making notes during the night.

(There is a 3 x 5” pad of paper under each of my two pillows, along with a mechanical pencil, and the same next to the bed. I have calculated that, if I live to be 90, I should be able to fit my dream journal in my current apartment—just barely, and only if I don’t acquire anything else between now and then, 42 years. I hate printing it out—so wasteful of trees and space—but part of my practice is to review the day’s catch at bedtime and underline anything that should have told me I was dreaming. I hope that by the time I’m 90, if I live that long, I can have a lucid dream at will.)

Since gearing up again, I’ve been writing down dreams each morning, but until the past couple of days, had not had a single lucid dream, or a dream that hints that lucidity is around the corner, such as a dream about dreaming, a dream about making dream notes, or a dream where something odd is noticed and not rationalized away. Quite often, we dream of things that would be unusual or impossible in waking life and, if we make anything of them at all, immediately think of an explanation: “Oh, right, this is that country where everyone has three legs; I read about this,” or “Hmm, it must be Cinco de Mayo.”

Patricia Garfield says that dreams where we know we are seeing something strange and can’t account for it are “cooperative dreams,” and well along the path to realizing we are dreaming.

After I started writing down dreams again, I couldn’t figure out what more to do to encourage a lucid dream, and then I came upon an article by B. Alan Wallace that reminded me that the practice of concentration (samadhi) might be helpful. Three nights ago, I chose, arbitrarily, the object of ambient sound while I was falling asleep and every time I was awake during the night, and in the morning, for the first time in a while, I had ten dreams to record, which means I was briefly awake many times during the night, which means I wasn’t sleeping very heavily, which is good.

One doesn’t wish to be lying awake half the night, but if you sleep heavily and don’t recall any dreams until morning, it is unlikely you will have a lucid dream. I also had two dreams that night that contained weird things I couldn’t explain: a raccoon as big as a large dog, and a man who wrote a phone number on his own teeth.

The next night, I chose the object of ambient sights (i.e., mostly nothing, since my eyes were closed) and had a very different experience. It didn’t keep me awake, but it immediately caused a sense of what I would call activation throughout my body, plus a breathless sort of claustrophobia, and actual pain here and there. I had seven dreams to write down the next day, but the practice was quite unpleasant. (I’ve noticed that if I visualize—imagine seeing things—while trying to go to sleep, I will be unable to fall asleep for hours.)

Last night I tried body sensations in general. This was not at all unpleasant, but a bit harder to stick with than hearing. This morning I had five dreams for my dream journal, four of which were long and involved—another good sign—including a hideous nightmare in which my mother, after nearly 50 years of marriage, suddenly leaves my father for a guy named Jerry and says with satisfaction that now she doesn’t have to hear about Oedipus or the oscillation of electric fans anymore. The first I even know of this guy, he’s sitting in the living room and my father is gone!

I woke up hugely relieved, and also amused at the part of the dream where I threatened to go live with my father. (“Oh, is that so? Well, maybe I’ll go live with Dad!”)

I emailed the entire dream to my parents and my father wrote back, “Wow! And I had no idea! [Linda’s mother], how could you?"

My mother's comment? "Good stuff!" (Which may have meant my riveting account of this dream and not that she has a desire for divorce.)

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