Watching dreams

When I was little, I had night terrors. The first dream i can remember was cookie monster swinging on the bedroom drapes to “get me.” I had other dreams as well; ordinary nightmares and good dreams so vivid I’d wake up in the morning both exhausted and exhilarated. But as soon as I was old enough to read books without pictures, I began researching ways to get rid of the bad dreams. That led me down a path of life-long research. When I found something interesting, I’d usually try it on my most convenient subject: myself. My adventures in self-experimentation have led to some effective ways to defuse the fear left from a bad dream (though no way to avoid them) as well as multiple dream diaries, transcendental meditation and learning how to lucid dream. For what it’s worth, if you keep a regular dream journal you can remember five, six, ten or more dreams. I stopped because I didn’t have time to write them all down each morning and to be honest, they aren’t typically very interesting. We all think dreams are fascinating, but when you start remembering all of them you realize you spend a lot of time dreaming about setting the table and very few Bond-style plots show up. I think it must be only the really juicy ones that wake us most of the time

Oddly (or obviously?) I also suffer from semi-regular insomnia. Getting to sleep, and worse, staying asleep has been an ongoing problem. I have come up with many tricks over the years. For awhile I would image I would cut off parts of my body, from the toes upward, and throw each part down a bottomless dark well. This was actually quite soothing, as the discarded parts couldn’t wiggle anymore and keep me up. I’m sure there is a shrink out there rubbing his hands together in glee right now. I came up with a better technique in college. I went to sleep every night to the same movie when I didn’t have insomnia. Then when I couldn’t I’d put the movie on and fall right to sleep.

The movie?

“The Big Sleep.”.

As of late, though I still use the palov technique here and there, most nights I play a new game. I call it watching dreams. First you lay down comfortably, and quiet your body. Next you must quiet your brain. As they say in yoga, don’t beat yourself up about it if you start worrying about work or such, just dismiss the thoughts as they show up.

Once your mind is quiet comes the good part, though admittedly it is a little tricky to acheive. If you keep your eyes closed, but watch, your brain will start showing you images. And if you stay passive, they will start knitting together into little poems of imagery. Not much plot usually, but a steam engine will become bluebells in a waterfall then a dog asks you the time. They are compelling and sometimes pretty like surrealism paintings can be. Be careful, if you try to make them make sense you’ll wake up.

Around this moment, if you haven’t been diligent you’ll be asleep. And so it’s a fine cure for insomnia. It only works if your conscious mind won’t be silenced. Then pop in the movie.

But if you like dreams and if you can be miraculously gentle in keeping in one part of your mind in the world and the other part watching your unconscious quietly, you may be able to watch the dreams for some time. I find if I do it napping in the sun, I can stay wakeful enough to note down some interesting bits and prolong the dream state. But mostly I do it as I fall asleep. I do it for the sheer pleasure of the strange art my undermind makes.

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