Talking to the Rest of You
Listening and Talking to My Dreams
I have always had a strange relationship with sleeping and dreaming. When I was young I had nightmares that made me afraid to fall asleep, in undergrad I completely ignored sleep all together - leading to a very unsettled consciousness, and over the past couple of years have worked out a more positive relationship with sleep, making it an important part of my creative practice, and am starting to take short naps throughout the day.
For my attempt at talking directly to the elephant I chose to explore the way our subconscious and unconscious works while we sleep and dream. There are still many schools of thought as to why we dream and what those dreams mean for our unconscious mind, with some thinking dreams are just our brains firing random meaningless signals as we sleep, while others contend that this dream state is a mental projection of our deeper mind. For the sake of this exploration, and personal beliefs, I choose to believe that our dreams do hold meaning and are a glimpse into the unconscious areas of ourselves.
Where to Start
To begin talking with my subconscious I chose to try the practice of lucid dreaming - a dream in which the dreamer is aware that they are asleep and part of a projection of their deeper mind. This new level of awareness can open opportunities for the dreamer to interact with their deeper mind and exert some control of the dream itself.
The Process - Gaining Awareness
There are a series of practices that can help lead to lucid dreaming:
Dream journaling - writing down what you remember of your dreams every morning
Reality checks - creating a habit of checking your reality in daily life, such as checking a clock
Daily breathing meditation - to raise mindfulness and self awareness in daily life
Waking up and going back to bed - to play with your REM cycle
My Practice & Experience
Proponents of lucid dreaming state that it can take 3-21 days of practice to begin seeing results, but already having some daily practice that supports lucid dreaming I felt like I could give it a go.
Last semester I began practicing a (mostly) daily 20 minute meditation practice, so incorporating that into this experiment was easy, where dream journaling didn't seem like something I could fit into my life at all.
- Waking Up & Going Back to Sleep
As far as practices I brought into my sleep, I tried playing with the method of waking yourself and going back to bed. I tried this the first couple of nights by not drinking water for a while before bed and then placing a full glass of water in my room, but in a place where I would have to get up to drink it. This method worked for my mind wanting to get up for water, and I woke feeling that my dreams were a hell of a lot weirder, but I didn't feel that I had any new self awareness within those dreams.
- Reality Checking: What Really Started Working
Another method I was practicing the entire week was the 'reality check'. Some people use this method in a physical way, like poking your palm throughout the day to confirm that you feel it, where in their dreams they can even push through their palm. I took a different approach and used text and numbers, building a habit of looking at a clock in every room that I go in to. This habit is then supposedly transposed into your dream world, where numbers and text are either blurry or out of order. It is this blurriness our chaotic representation of symbols that triggers your brain to know it is not in a woke reality. This was the method that started working for me, only a few times so far. In all the scenarios i saw a clock or a street sign that was completely distorted The shift in my relationship with that dream was not one of having complete control over that reality, but more of an acknowledgement that 'this is a dream' and to look at all of the motions inside of it through that lense. This acknowledgement led to the dreams feeling much longer, possibly because I was seeing what was happening with them on a slightly different level.
While I have begun gaining more of an awareness of being in a dream state occasionally, I am in no way in a space where I have intense control over my dream state, and maybe I don't really see that as a goal. What I am excited about with a new relationship with dreaming is to peek into my unconscious in a way that could change the work I make in my waking life. Perhaps this can be a way for me to see things I am missing.