On Lucid Dreaming

A Dali Dream by Karen Ilagan
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Often, when my life undergoes the timely transitions from one chapter to another, my dreams invoke deep reflections of my subconscious. They become introspective and prophetic. I have always been very in tune with how my dreaming life effects my waking life, and vice versa.

For months of stagnant activity , I may not have a dream worth remembering 10 seconds after waking. During times of change, however, I will have several vivid and powerful dreams every night for weeks on end.

When this happens, I manipulate the plot of every premonition I manifest. Plainly: I engage in lucid dreaming.

For those that might not know what this is, lucid dreaming is the state of consciousness while in the state of dreaming. Through discipline and awareness, one has the ability to alter their dream environment, the people in it, and even the laws of physics.

I was 8 years old the first time I experienced the revelation. Standing by the storage shed in the far northwest corner of my childhood backyard, the only visible light  illuminating the space came from a string of lamps hanging from the shed connecting to a pecan tree.

Reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, zombies began to rise from the ground all round me. I was terrified. I held still for nearly 5 complete seconds before something occurred to me: none of this was real.

Like stepping stones across a gentle stream, I hopped from one rising zombie head to the next until I made it up to the backdoor of the house, enthusiastically flipping the deadbolt with a satisfying ‘click.’ I woke up.

I took me almost another decade to figure out what exactly I was doing. After watching the movie Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise & Penélope Cruz, I began to research the topic of lucid dreaming and how to sharpen the skill. I bought Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge, and started my training.

How does one “train” to lucid dream?

It starts with simple practice. The first and most important step is to actively recall what it is you dreamed. Within 10 seconds of waking up, the mind begins to forget what happened during the dream, so keeping a journal close to your bedside is very important. Write down every thought and observation that comes up in the dream: colors, people, words, events, anything. It need not make sense, just write it down. Doing this first step will enable to you recognize patterns. As time goes by you’ll start to see these patterns more clear. It could be your childhood home or a shopping mall. They can be specific feeling or events from life.

The patterns will differ from person to person, dream type to dream type. Yet a few things remain constant. Try to flip a light switch when you’re indoors. Attempt to read a page of a book or the time on a clock. These routine tasks are difficult–the words change and numbers blur–and seeing these phenomena indicate you are no longer in the real world.

One major sign that I am dreaming occurrs when my teeth fall out. It is the same sensation I felt when I lost my baby teeth: a wiggle a gentle tear of flesh, and an ensuing gap in my mouth. I see the tooth clearly in the palm of my hand, and I tell myself “time to fly.” Immediately, I would bolt in the nearest open direction, lift one leg into the air, and take off ceremoniously into the sky.

Dreaming of losing one’s teeth transcends time, languages and cultures. It’s meaning is debatable, and I think it depends on the context of the dream and the desired of the dreamer. For me, losing teeth signifies I am worried about losing something in real life, be it my finances, reputation, friends, lovers, etc. I counter this fear of loss by going in the opposite direction, I fly.

Flying is easy for me–routine now–when I am in a dream state. When I feel not entirely in control of my environment, or run into a projection I rather not engage, a simple flick of the wrists lift me upwards and I float on to another venue of my own creation. I fly because I’m motivated to rise up from petty worry and fear, to escape it in the most dramatic of fashions.

Sleeping became such a joy, I worried I may never want to get out of bed again. I have seen intergalactic wars, impossible panoramas of exotic beaches and the deepest crevices of the ocean deep. I’ve died and awoken to tell the story, still within another dream. I’ve been in dozens of car accidents and plane crashes, and seen scores more. I’ve listened to incredible visionaries in history and hobnobbed with celebrities.

In highschool, I gave presentations explaining the power of lucid dreaming to my classmates. These were one the few speeches where people failed to take naps and chose to listen. More recently, a student a year older than me sent a message in thanks for teaching him there’s no limit to the imagination. “If you’re going to be asleep 1/4 to 1/3 of your life, why not have some fun doing it?” It’s an humbling to know that my complete lack of regard to geekiness can help someone.

What dizzies my senses the most in dreams are the conversations. When I was in Architecture School at the University of Texas, an early design professor screened Richard Linklater’s Waking Life for us. While he asked that we study the artistic rendering of each frame, I was delving into the existential consequences Linklater proposes when playing in the ephemeral playground of dreams.

I once dreamt that I was at a track meet hosted by my high school. I was a high jumper back then, so naturally I found myself hanging by the pit in light conversation with competitors from other schools. Lucid, I declared that we are all in a construct of my mind, and I’m manipulating everything around us. Crouched in the lotus position, I rose 25 feet into the air and back down to prove my point. Two of these jumpers, my projections, are impressed.

I proceed to ask what part of my brain did they come from and why (I ask this question to projections often). They both look at each other in mild bewilderment and counter that they are not my projections.

We’ve been dead for a long time,” one says. “Massive vibrations are sent out when you do these things, so we wanted to see what all the fuss was about.”

They go on to explain that the realm of the afterlife can intersect with the worlds of the waking and the dreaming.

“Do you wish to join us?”

This proposition completely blows my mind. I can’t take it anymore. A quick snap of my fingers after shouting something along the lines of “Oh hell no” and my eyes open into my bedroom.

What I have been doing, as Linklater suggested, is using this purgatory-like space as a playground of my own creations. Inevitably, I was bound to encounter spiritual bodies passing through, asking about my sand castles strewn about the beaches of nowhere and everywhere.

The meaning of dreams rests solely on those who have them. My experience helps as a guide to interpret, but it does not guarantee their meaning. By learning what goes on in your subconscious, you gain a better perspective on how to handle your reality, motivating and inspiring you to achieve more than you could ever dream.

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