Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Lucid Dreaming Project Is Dead. Long Live the Lucid Dreaming Project.

I’ve been obsessed with lucid dreaming for nine months and have immersed myself very thoroughly in the subject, reading several books and making near daily visits to a particular LD website, where I have received many excellent ideas.

And then, a few days ago, I was like, you know what? Screw it. This project is over.

This came shortly after recording approximately this dream for what seemed like the 500th time:

It’s night. I’m riding my bike. An unseen person says something about niacin.

I was lately telling my friend Angela that I’d had a dream about her. We were close when we were eight and have recently reconnected on you know what. Now we take turns calling each other on the phone every two or three weeks, and send the occasional email in between.

She wondered how I knew it was a dream about her, since it’s been 40 years since we saw each other in waking life, and I can’t have a good idea what she looks like now, despite recent photos.

I said it wasn’t a case of seeing an approximation of her. As in most of my dreams, I didn’t see her at all, I just knew it was her. That was confounding to waking-life Angela, but in probably 80 percent of my dreams, other characters are completely invisible, though it’s perfectly clear to me whether the person is unknown, a certain friend, or my mother.

In another 10 percent, other characters are sort of seen; in eight percent, they are pretty much but not really seen, and in two percent, they are crystal clear, or at least part of them is.

Also, darn near every dream I have takes place either at night, underground, inside, or on a dimly lit day. I virtually never have a really well lit dream.

I reflected that I had missed X amount of sleep getting up to record these kind of boring dreams, plus X amount of sleep lying abed in the morning in hopes of a lucid dream, plus X amount of sleep practicing various techniques and making dream notes during the night, not to mention X amount of waking time reading and obsessing about lucid dreaming.

The result? Hundreds and hundreds of pages of printouts of dimly lit dreams full of hardly seen people, and about 15 total minutes of lucidity.

Which is great! But screw it.

I decided not to record my dreams anymore, and when I went to bed the past couple of nights, I had a couple of new affirmations: “I probably won’t remember my dreams, and I probably won’t have a lucid dream.”

But it has been months since I went a day without remembering at least something of my dreams, so I do still wake up during the night and know what I was dreaming, and I do of course remember dreams in the morning.

For what it’s worth, when I wake several times during the night and thus remember many dreams, there is a very high likelihood of a lucid dream on that night. It’s just that there aren’t very many nights like that.

This project has turned my ideas about sleep upside down: Getting in bed, falling asleep right away and remaining so until the alarm goes off? Bad. Getting in bed, falling asleep after completing pre-sleep protocol, and waking up nine times during the night? Good!

The latter doesn’t happen that often, but if one could get the hang of waking after every dream, one could probably have great success with lucid dreaming.

Anyway, last night I stayed up late reading The New Yorker and watching a terrible movie on DVD—I can stay up late now that I don’t need an hour in the morning for writing down dreams—and this morning, while thinking over some dreams I’d had, I realized I’d had a relatively long lucid dream. Yeah!

Which I am certainly going to write down, plus I retrieved my pencils and little dream note notepads from the place I’d stowed them and put them back under my pillows. Just in case.

In this dream, I told two friendly young women, “I’m dreaming! This is my 18th lucid dream. Do you know I’m dreaming right now?” They said in a very pleasant manner, “Sure, we know that. We’re dreaming, too.” [It was actually my 19th.]

New plan: I will practice no technique whatsoever and I will not make dream notes or record dreams unless the dream was lucid and/or particularly interesting or delightful. And if I have a lucid dream, I will be very happy about it, as I am right now.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three Pictures of P.

Work, Bunny, Apple

Where the weekday magic happens.

Easter is (or was at the time) coming! Normally the person who rings up your groceries refrains from commenting on your purchases, but when I bought my yearly supply of Easter eggs, the checkout lady observed that I was certainly buying a lot of chocolate! I said I find it tastes better when it comes wrapped in bright colors and she said, deadpan, "That's been my experience."

If you want to know what it looked like when they launched the iPad, it looked like this. This is the view from my cubicle as work, as otherwise seen in the first photo above.

Lights and Point

Somewhere along the line, my mother suggested that I could solve the ancient (20 years?) problem of the little lamp with no shade by just getting a new clamp lamp, which I did, and it's great:

But, alas, with the clamp lamp in place of the little lamp with no shade, the room was too dark, so the problem persists, albeit on the other side of the/my roommy living room/bedroom/dining room/office/meditation space/library/entertainment center.

I like not having to tend (or clean) copious amounts of personal space.

Transamerica Pyramid

Chef Jia's

Not every day do I get to dine with seven personable gentlemen. (In fact, never before, come to think of it.) Lisa was still inside the restaurant. That's David in the front row looking like he's about 18 years old.

Michael and Paul

David and Lisa

Friday, April 09, 2010

Failure to De-Shoe Discountenanced (in All Realms)

I have resolved for the most part not to recount dreams here in detail, because it's generally pretty boring to hear about other people's dreams (unless they're about you), and also, they may afford more of a window into my psyche than I wish to supply.

Apropos of that, I once had a music teacher who told me that I needed to learn to play so that my thoughts and feelings came through my horn.

"But I don't WANT anyone to know my thoughts and feelings," I replied.

"Of course not," he said briskly. "No one does. You need to learn to play so that it SEEMS like your thoughts and feelings are coming through the horn."

So, few dreams to be read here, unless I absolutely can't resist, unless they have something to do with a coincidence, or unless they come true.

(I love this hobby! How many other hobbies can be done while lying in one's own bed, asleep?)

Herewith, a dream that came true, and practically right away. I dreamed this two nights ago:

I'm in my current apartment waiting for guests to arrive. [One of my sisters] arrives with another young woman. My sister is much younger. Her hair is almost straight and she has bangs. I hug her tightly, evidently too tightly, and she and the other woman head into my living room and then they turn right, as if going into the walk-in closet. They have their shoes on. I will have to tell them to de-shoe.

This evening, in waking life, a knock came on my door and a young woman with bangs and almost straight hair walked into my living room with her shoes on before I could ask her to de-shoe.

(It was my across-the-hall neighbor; we just had some locks changed and she was having trouble with her new keys.)

Isn't that kind of wild? I remembered my dream right away and because in the dream I felt I had hugged my sister too tightly, I made sure not to hover too closely over my neighbor while she made phone calls and such.

Speaking of dreams (do I speak of much else lately?) and neighbors, during the time when my grilling neighbor wasn't speaking to me, I had a series of congenial dreams about him and his wife. For instance, I dreamed that I told them, "I sent you a Christmas card," and in the dream, they replied, "Oh, we sent YOU a Christmas card."

It was comforting to have pleasant interactions with the grilling neighbor, even if they were only while I was asleep, and the feeling tended to carry over into waking lifewhen I saw him, I partly thought, "There's the guy who isn't speaking to me," but I also partly thought, "That nice man sent me a Christmas card!"

We're on cordial terms again now, thank goodness. We have mourning doves nesting outside our kitchen windows, and we have been chatting about that some. So my dream was correct in suggesting that there was still friendly feeling there, or that there would be.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Coincidence Theory

Yet another way lucid dreaming is improving my waking life is that I’m making an even greater effort to notice all of my senses—something I do for my meditation practice, anyway—so that my dreams will be more vivid. My dreams seem to be featuring more colors, more smells, more physical sensations, plus of course that much more is experienced consciously in waking life. Also, I periodically reread the list of things I want to do in lucid dreams and many of those things have turned up in non-lucid dreams. (As for the one that was doable in waking life, I just went and did it in waking life.)

Many of my dreams are dimly lit, so I’m making an effort to notice light during the day. Maybe dreams are often dark because they happen while it’s dark, and while our eyes are closed. Theoretically, neither of those should have any bearing, but maybe they do. And I suppose the reason one never sees the sun in a dream (at least, I don’t) is that we don’t see it in waking life, not directly. Maybe that’s part of the reason we are so enchanted by sunsets—it’s one of the few times we can actually look at this flaming thing that is the very source of our being.

Yesterday, while walking down to the Ferry Building farmers’ market to get some Snyders honey—it comes from very nearby and I’m hoping it will have a salutary effect on mild allergies—I paused at Main and Howard just to see what I might be able to see: turns out you can see PG&E’s Embarcadero Substation from there, which I had never noticed.

I also spotted a building that seemed similar in some ways to the building at the southwest corner of First and Mission. Turns out the building at the southwest corner of First and Mission is also visible from this spot, as well as my favorite tall S.F. building, the Millennium Tower.

The night before, I’d had a dream about a young woman known to be a “fluorescent writer,” meaning that her writing was vivid and exciting. The best thing I saw at Main and Howard, therefore, was a beautiful red truck with this painted on it: Fluoresco. It’s a lighting company.

In general, my coincidence life has picked up considerably since I started thinking a lot about my dreams. Not long ago, I dreamed of seeing a big seashell on a wall. As I looked at it, a second one appeared. When I went to visit B. the next day, I noticed a seashell tucked into a plant’s ceramic pot, and when I went into her bathroom, I saw a (or “the”) second seashell.

I very nearly emailed Sir Dave yesterday, the day I saw the Fluoresco truck, to see if he’d like to go to the farmers’ market with me, but in the end decided not to. I haven’t seen him in months—I ran into him by accident in the fall, and before that, I don’t know when I had last seen him, nor have we exchanged more than a few emails in all that time.

After work that day I went to the Zen Center to meditate and have dinner before going to a meeting of my small meditation group, but it turned out there was no dinner for whatever reason. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of their schedule yet. Another member of my group and I thus had 30 minutes to go somewhere, eat, and make it back for our meeting, so we walked down the hill one block to the café at Page and Octavia, and there, of course, was Sir Dave.

Sir Dave has immersed himself very deeply in the subject of 9/11 and can deliver many a heartfelt (or headthought) discourse on this topic. He told me once that “coincidence theorists” is what he and his 9/11 friends call the rest of us.

Lisa and David were here visiting from Seattle for several days, and we had quite a congenial social event last Saturday night at Chef Jia’s and then Caffe Greco: David and Lisa, Paul and Michael, Pete and David, Terry R., Tom and me.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


The last Saturday in March was a day of tropical heat and sun, relatively speaking. It was gorgeous. I had a lucid dream to record in the morning, the aforementioned fourth one in the month of March, and in the early afternoon, I rode over to see B. This time, I took Scott to Post, which was much better than riding north on Masonic, though a bit hillier at the end.

There are cyclists everywhere now, all the time, and on this day, there were hordes of us. As I cycled north on Scott, my front brake pads, which had recently been replaced, began to make a sandpapery noise. Then the brakes locked up almost completely, and then loosened again—fortunately—but there was a marked THUNK with each revolution of the wheel.

I made it over to B.’s facility and we spent a pleasant two hours chatting. When I said I was going out to the hallway to refill my water cup, she said, “Go ahead. They’re not charging for water—yet.” When I returned, she said that we are going to run out of water one of these days, that we’ll be fighting over it, that it’s already starting to happen. She is certainly right about that. I told her I was sure that in time she would be proved right on all counts and she said, “Yes, that’s why I've decided I’ve got to keep living for a while. Also, I like [my daughter] quite a bit.”

She speaks now and then of death. She says she is not afraid to die and is matter-of-fact when discussing it, but she also has said many things that suggest she doesn’t think it’s going to be any time soon. She told me about a woman in a social circle of hers who died, just like that, “zappo.” However, the thing was, they had agreed that if any of them died, that person would let the others know what it was like, and they were surprised that after their friend’s death, they didn’t hear a single peep from her. In fact, not a word to this very day.

B. likes an awful lot of things, and has many interests. She loves to read (and, fortunately, still can). There were at least 10 new library books stacked in her room—mostly true-life adventure and seafaring tales—and a pile of the magazines she subscribes to, including Scientific American, and she enjoys hanging out the window at night to see who’s walking by between two and four a.m., and she likes art museums. She said something like, “I think it’s marvelous, what this modern world has become.” She adores campfires. She used to live on a boat. She reminds me in some ways of my mother, who also has a million enthusiasms, and also of my great aunt Mary, now deceased, who was a person of immense good cheer. She lived to be 99.

I rode back to the Mission after seeing B. and went to Freewheel. I was assuming that maybe my front brakes needed adjustment after the recent pad replacement, but it turned out I had run over gosh knows what, some metal thing, and it had managed to lodge into into the side of my wheel rim, knocking the brakes out of whack, and settling in so determinedly that Carlos had to grind it off. He said the sandpaper sound is caused by grit that gets picked up and sticks on the surface of a brake pad. He said bikes with fenders, like mine, are more prone to this, because debris gets sucked up between the fender and tire and then “drizzles” down onto the tire. If you ride around with dirty brake pads, it can eventually wear down your rim.

Tom looked at my rims in the evening, when he came down to watch a movie, and he thought I could actually stand to replace the front rim in coming months; he says that once a rim gets sufficiently worn down, it can give way with no notice, which may not be a life-threatening event, but may strand you in an inconvenient location.

We watched Up in the Air, with George Clooney and Vera Farmiga (thanks, Dadindeed her name is not Very Farmiga), which we both thought was vera, I mean very, good. It takes place in a variety of locations, one of which is purportedly Detroit. When the characters were leaving the Detroit airport, I tried to figure out if they were really there. In a shot of a window through which could be seen the nose of a plane and a gate number, I studied the gate number: 40A, or some such. Does Detroit have a gate 40A? I think so, but then, doesn't every airport?

Thus I nearly missed what was in the foreground of the shot, inside the window, and when I saw it, I yelled “LOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” at the top of my lungs and then waited while Tom rubbed his damaged ear.

I don’t want to wreck the movie for you or anything, but that shot shows THE WATER FEATURE AT THE MCNAMARA TERMINAL! That really is the Detroit airport. The water feature is off and it just looks like a pool of water, but that is absolutely it, with George Clooney standing on the far side of it, looking out the window. As it turns out, they shot the movie in only four locations, one of which was Detroit, which must have stood in for Milwaukee and Chicago. It was nice of them to bring so much work to Detroit.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Jesus Loves You But I’m His Favorite

It’s been a month, so I know all four of you want to hear about lucid dreaming! I will oblige.

In mid-March, after many days of getting to bed too late, I was finally able to retire at my preferred bedtime of 8:20 p.m. for a few days in a row, and somewhere along in there, I had by far the longest (non-lucid) dream I’ve ever recalled. It was exceptionally vivid, and took more than three word-processed pages to describe. It started outside my old apartment building and ended with a low-altitude plane ride.

I think the vividness was due to an increased focus on seeing things during the day, announcing to myself in words what I’m seeing, and sometimes asking myself, “What else do I notice?”

I’ve started repeating the affirmation “Tonight I will realize I’m dreaming” as I fall asleep, and when I’m awake during the night after five hours of sleep or so (i.e., somewhere near a REM cycle), I practice WILD, mentally counting my breaths from one to ten and saying “I’m dreaming” with each out breath.

So far I haven’t proceeded consciously into the dream state, but I think it’s been fruitful to focus on dreaming while falling asleep. The night after that extra-long dream, and after a bit of a lucid dream dry spell, I had by far the longest lucid dream I’ve ever had. It was my 14th lucid dream, and it lasted for a good ten minutes or so.

I also ended up having a record number of lucid dreams in March: four!

My Now & Zen clock died again—this was a replacement for the original one—and, amazingly, the folks at Now & Zen sent me a third, but I can see the writing on the wall and obtained a Sony “Dream Clock,” which is a great device. I experimented with waking up to a Gyuto Monks CD, which is a reasonably peaceful way to wake up, but, unlike my beloved chiming clock, doesn’t allow empty space in which to finish up a final dream or recall additional dreams.

Unless you have a CD that has a lot of empty space in it! I’m planning to record my own CD of chimes a la the Now & Zen clock, or, my mother suggested, I could simply record the Now & Zen clock doing its thing. I tested this using the first microphone that came to hand, and I think it’s going to work pretty well, though maybe I can use a nicer microphone I have for the trumpet, which will probably sound even better.

Early in March, Carol Joy took me to see the Cartier exhibit at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, where I had managed never to step foot in nearly 30 years in San Francisco. It is a lovely spot, and I enjoyed the exhibit. Afterwards, we went to Marnee Thai on Irving St. for a most delicious dinner. I had to call Lisa and David in Seattle for the exact location first.

A mere two days later, Lisa was in town for a business trip and we had dinner at Herbivore on Valencia, a conversational and culinary treat. It was a rainy evening, so it was very nice of Lisa to slog over to the Mission.

One Friday evening in the middle of March, I saw The Private Lives of Pippa Lee on DVD. I love Robin Wright Penn and will see anything she’s in, though it stretched credulity that Blake Lively—what a pretty girl!—grew up to be Robin Wright Penn. (Not that Robin Wright Penn isn't prettyand, for that matter, not that it matters whether people are pretty or notbut they just don't look much alike.) I guess Blake Lively is in Gossip Girl. I briefly considered seeing an episode or two, but probably never will.

My beloved visitee, B., who “graduated” from hospice in November or December, has again officially been classified as a terminal patient at the assisted care facility where she has been living, not where I was visiting her before. She probably doesn’t even know of the change of classification. In mid-March, I went to see her, which entailed several blocks of cycling north from the Panhandle on Masonic Ave., of which once was enough. For subsequent visits, I found another route.

After that first visit, I tried the second location of Marnee Thai, on 7th Avenue. The ambience is not as nice and I thought the food was not quite as good, either, but if you can’t make it as far as 23rd Ave., it’s a fine place for lunch.

There is a new location of Osha, another Thai restaurant, at Third and Folsom, and I think it’s the best one. The prices and menu are the same as at the others, and it’s not deafeningly loud, like the one on Second St., nor crowded and with uncomfortable seats, like the one on Valencia St.

In March, I visited Carol Joy in Novato (in a City CarShare car) for a fantastic day of overeating, movie going and card playing. We had lunch at Toast, saw Mother in Mill Valley, followed by The Ghost Writer at the same theater, and had dinner at Vasco, the Italian restaurant at the corner of Throckmorton and Bernard.

I had intended not to see Roman Polanski’s film because of his long-ago sexual assault of a teenaged girl, regarding which he has never seemed a bit remorseful. It’s OK with me if he doesn’t go to jail and if he lives and enjoys his life, but I hadn’t meant to hand him any money, so I was chagrined when the credits rolled and I realized this was his film. It was pretty good, though it had some implausible plot moves, and left a major question or two unanswered. It’s extremely gloomy looking.

Mother, on the other hand, was unequivocally excellent. It’s a South Korean film about a woman whose developmentally disabled son is accused of murder.

The title of this post is what I saw on a bumper sticker not long ago.