Inquiry on the Oddities of Alpha Sleep

This may not be the most thrilling post, but it is a subject that I think is worth more attention for my fellow dreamers.

I have been told by a friend of mine that he often experiences these loops of what happened the previous day while he is about to go to sleep. Sometimes as he recounts the repetitive tasks of the day (i.e. playing tennis, checking his phone, ect.) and will be startled awake by sounds or feelings that get “too real” during these memories. This is known as a hypnogogic hallucination, a mental mishap followed by a sudden muscle contraction that is common during the first stage of sleep.

Alpha waves are released when the mind enters a relaxed, focused state and provide a contrast to the other powerhouse Beta waves that are active in our day-to-day life.

Alpha waves have far-reaching potential, ranging from meditative expertise to controlling video games with your mind. I’ll get back to meditation, but the mind-reading technology is getting cheaper and more trendy. In this TED talk, Tan Le describes the accessibility and utility of headsets made to take advantage of this mental energy.

What I imagine a brain-wave to look like. As created by Dale Chihuly, and displayed in Fairchild Botanical Gardens.

What I imagine a brain-wave to look like. Sculpture created by Dale Chihuly and displayed in Fairchild Botanical Gardens.

In July of 2014 I had the opportunity to attend the annual science exhibition of The Royal Society and saw a display on brain function. Strapped into a headset, I won a brain-powered game of pong versus an elderly woman I had just met. The exhibition educators explained that youth, mental acuity, and inherent ability all play a role in the strength of brain waves. With this I’ve come to question how lucid dreaming and meditation could increase our Alpha wave control.

It seems natural to me that if these brain waves are being projected in such a way that can be measured externally, the mode of that projection should be able to be manipulated by the user. With new technology in this field we may not be so far from telepathy. Exercising alpha waves through meditative practices seems like the best way to ensure adaptability to this upcoming realm of technology. Although that’s just speculation.

How does this energy translate into sleep rituals? Is there more to hypnogogic hallucinations than mere inconvenience?

I want to know so badly. In my youth I dreamed of creating DBZ kamehameha waves and moving objects with the power of my mind. The simmering potential of alpha waves proves to me that these fantasies aren’t so far from reality.

Dream on little dreamers,

EB

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What Do We Seek From Dreams?

In essence, dreams are our personal window to the subtle mechanisms that underlie our everyday self. Sometimes these insights are inspiring, other times they are frightful. But the question I seek to answer is: how do these ephemeral movies reveal their worth in a tangible way? There is no worth to this practice of journaling unless I can prove that it makes a positive difference in my quality of life.

I’ve just made the five hour drive from Miami to Gainesville, and I listened to the audiobook Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse along the way. The book, published in 1922, depicts the spiritual journey of the character Siddhartha as he seeks the meaning of worldly existence. It was amazingly written, to say the least, but the point of interest came not from Siddhartha but from Hermann himself.

Hermann Hesse was a german-born novelist who, by virtue of his birth in 1877, lived in the interesting time of the two world wars and the rise of psychoanalysis. His commitment to psychotherapy, the practice of dream analysis, is credited with helping Hesse move past periods of writers block caused by the intense strain of his time period. It was through his dreams that Hesse was able to recapture the value of his waking life’s work, and thus continue to work on highly appraised literature such as Siddhartha.

Through our lives there will be many sources of anxiety and stress that will lock us away from the drives that fulfill us. It is difficult to achieve our actualizing goals, and easy to forget about their importance in the tumults of life. Dreams are the key to these inevitable locks. It is in our dreams that we cannot ignore the necessities of our eternal witness. Whether you attend to them or not, dreams will remind you of your virtues and your failures.

The thing that we seek from dreams is luminescence on the path of our lives. If we can better see the past and future lain out by our innermost self, we may be better prepared to act upon that wisdom when the opportunity arrives.

What do you want from your dreams? I’m surely missing quite a few potential uses. When was the last time a dream made an effect on your reality?

Dream on Little Dreamers,

EB

Hanging On to the Day as I’m Fading Away

I’ve approached an interesting point in my lucid dream career where the memories of dreams are often as poignant as those in my day to day life. The nightly occurrence of vivid dreams is a boon that I find difficult to resist at times.

I’ve recently whipped my sleeping schedule back into shape after about a week of sleeping 12 hours a day. As I slept-in my circadian rhythm creeped closer and closer to the sunrise until the morning birds were chirping a concerto before I made it to bed. There was a certain peak moment in that binge of dreams where I was recalling up to three dreams in a night, but it was soon drowned out by the grogginess and work-stress that comes with a terrible sleeping schedule.

It is with this that I present the advice: hang on to the real world, no matter how tempting it may be to fade into your dreams. It is only with the experience and turmoil of the real world that dreams have any significance or substance. As I slept every sun-lit hour out of the day I sensed the quality of my dreams decrease. It was as though I had processed all the important bits and my brain was just running through the motions of mediocre falling dream, mediocre running dream, and mediocre underwater dream.

My sleeping schedule is back under control and my dreams are at a healthy one recalled per night. It’s unnerving to think of the temptation of my unconscious mind as a legitimate drive from living my life but there are worse things.

Dream on Little Dreamer,

EB

No Wrong Way To Remember

The other day I was talking with a friend about dreaming logs and he offered me a glimpse of his journal. The dark leather-bound book filled my outreached palms, a slim steel buckle guarded its contents.

“Are you sure? I recognize these matters are sometimes private.” I sheepishly asked.

“Go ahead!” he urged.

I held my breath. My thumping heart made me fumble with the simple latch. Within were the unconscious records of another’s mind, the first scribbled pages felt like mountaintops of the great frontier.

From these a pattern of heavy pen inked drawings emerged. These etchings were extremely stylized and ranged from incomplete to intricate. Long-armed damsels had their curvature enhanced through trans-dimensional gowns. Gaunt gentlemen garbed in gothic suits were surrounded by eerie smoke. They were inspired bits straight from another world!

My friend explained that he enjoys fashion design and often wakes with the memory of these clothing styles. His journal was shudderingly alive with these images and wonderfully disjointed words to supplement….for about 15 pages.

He felt that he wasn’t ‘doing it right’ with journaling and had trouble committing to the practice.

There is no wrong way to record your dreams! I’d have yelled it at him if I had a more alpha personality, but instead I suggested it gently.

So here’s an experiment. Remember the last time you ate icecream….1……2…….3…….Now STOP!

What did you think of? A word? A taste? A sound? An image? Record whatever you thought of on a scrap piece of paper.

A dream recording exercise.

Ice Cream for Ice Cream! I’m no Picasso, but this record will do.

Try again with something else. Remember the last time you pet an animal. How about an audio story? Was it a fast-paced affair or did you cuddle?

[I made an audio recording of this one but apparently can’t insert that on wordpress, does anyone know how to transmit audio here?]

Keep it fresh!

There isn’t a wrong way, but there’s a whole lot of ways to try. Make it personal and fun, don’t stress over the little details. Your dreams are just that, yours!

Dream on little dreamers,

EB

A Recording Revolu(a)tion

Recording dreams is hard, like sorting a grocery bag full of Magic ™ cards under a dose of morphine hard, but damn is it worth it. So lets talk about how to see the forest for the trees and how to equip yourself for ease.

In the past five months I’ve been experimenting with using an audio recording device to supplement my journaling practices. It’s been extremely effective for extracting dreams from days where grogginess or morning responsibility would leave them to exile. The audio plays out like a yawn-fest ramble, but the point gets across. Personally, I have a lot more peace of mind hitting the snooze button after taking a few minutes to note that space alien that was just about to eat me moments before.

I want to stress that there is no cost barrier to entry for this style of dream recording. To quote our Apple overlords “there’s an app for that.” There are free audio recording apps in abundance on smart phone and tablet app stores.

On my IPhone I’ve used the free Voice Memos app and was satisfied with the quality; my only complaint is the transferred file defaults to entering your iTunes library. I’ve dabbled more with audio apps in the Android app store and would recommend the free Smart Voice Recorder app. I’ll often switch between my Android tablet and my Sony device depending on which is closest when I wake up.

Let’s lighten up and talk about wiggly dream-stuff. I find that dreams recorded with audio have a different feel than written ones upon review. Audio has a way of catching the discreet details of dreams at face-value while words tend to capture higher themes and roll with them. As an alternative metaphor, on a canvas audio dreams would look like water colors applied with a spoon while written dreams would look more like acrylic applied with a window wiper.

There are strengths and weaknesses to both, but using them in conjunction is a good way to adapt to your morning circumstances. The greatest danger to someone seeking to lucid dream is burnout when a few dreams are forgotten. Why wouldn’t you equip yourself with more tools to catch your inner self before it slips from you?

I’d like to finish this post with an experimental dream record analysis of something on my Sony from last night, which may give you some idea of the dialogue.

——————–

I had a dream that I woke up in a computer chair in the middle of a Renaissance fair. My chest hurt and I wondered if I had slept incorrectly [a pain that I attributed on record to weight-lifting strains]. Everyone was in costume and I knew I had to blend, I grabbed a heavy blue blanket and tied it as a cape as the start of my own costume. I needed a mask and saw a stand with a child’s Transformer mask that was also blue [on record I grumbled that it wasn’t cool enough for me]. I met an old friend Kristina and her fiancee Rene [on record I mused how radiant she looked in her pregnancy, talked briefly about how beautiful her baby bump and her enchanting happiness].

[[[At this point there is a nearly incoherent section about a damaged wedding-cake, a black child facedown on the floor, and a large group of costumed people — this apparently was a bad dream sign that I decided not to express to Rene in the dream]]].

Rene [who I noted I’ve never actually met in real life] and I got along well in the dream, I asked him about his experience in the peace corps as we walked down some royal-looking white stairs. Kristina interrupted his answer by bounding down the steps 2-3 steps at a time [above Rene’s head I saw a thought bubble that expressed 5/5 stars, a concept that I have trouble describing in writing even now]. We get to the bottom of the steps and all start running through this gorgeous mansion: the floors made of checkered peach/black marble, the walls etched with “long dead important people.”

They ran past me towards another staircase that was wider at the bottom than the top, it lead to heights I couldn’t see. As I tried to catch up a decrepit woman appeared from an airport walkway [I had great trouble describing this object in audio, and bumbled my words for awhile] off to the left and told me “Turn back! this is a museum, you’re not supposed to be here.”  I considered whether to tell her that I wasn’t the only one there, but as I looked up and saw them holding hands walking up the steps [they looked so happy, I can almost hear myself smile], I decided against it – apologizing for my transgression and walking away.

———————-

As you can see there’s a certain monologue that takes place alongside the dream. It can be difficult to extricate the observations of my grumpy morning self from those I experienced during the dream. I hope this gives you some idea of what an audio record feels like and that I’ve made you a bit curious to try it for yourself.

Dream on little dreamers,

EB

Manifestation vs. Manipulation

I often get asked by friends what kind of control I have in my dreams. I’ll usually answer with a practiced bit of how I have basic decision-making abilities, and sometimes can make myself fly and similar fun things. Here they usually ask if I’ve placed them in a lucid dream, and if so what happened to them.

First and foremost, its usually best not to tell people about their dream-projections as it’s a quick route to awkward conversation. Ignore this rule if their dream-projection did something particularly hilarious.

However on a more serious note, this question prompts an interesting debate about the difference between manifestation and manipulation in lucid dreams. Both are definitely possible in dreams, but the levels of difficulty are completely polarized. In this post I hope to distinguish the two in a way that will lead you to have more realistic expectations of your dream world.

Many expect that any amount of lucid dreaming practice will lead to the ability to manifest objects in your dreams. This includes generating fireballs, creating dreamscapes and summoning characters from your everyday life. It is very dissuading to newcomers when they find that this is not indeed the case in most recalled dreams. While it is possible, it is in fact the exception for lucid dreams. More often than not manipulation will be the primary way in which you exert conscious control over your dreams.

Manipulation in dreams works very much like real-world manipulation. You are presented with a situation and you have the ability to react in any way you choose. In the real world an example might be a rainy day, and whether you choose to stay-in or brave the rain. In the dream world an example might be an infinite white space, and whether you choose to sit-down or go exploring.

Especially in the early stages of recalling your dreams this will be the primary way in which you take an active role in your dreams. Try to take note of the decisions made in a dream in your dream journal. Anything from “there was a fork in the road, I turned left,” to “the man asked me to take a bite of the burger, instead I slapped it out of his hand” counts for this exercise. During the dream try to recognize points where you feel the power to make a decision. Try doing the exact opposite of what you think would be a good idea. Although you may end up in some particularly interesting situations, this is a good way to practice the power of manipulation.

Manifestation is a feasible goal for lucid dreamers, but it is in fact a lofty one. It is also definitely NOT the only way to have fun with lucid dreams, so acquiring this ability should not be a stressful process. The ability to manifest characters and objects in your dreams comes with a lot of practice.

As a disclaimer, I do not have the ability to manipulate everything in my dreams (nor would I want such an ability) so this is entirely theorized.

The easiest things to manifest in your dreams are things that you are very familiar with and have no definite dimensions. An example of this would be the quintessential ball of fire. The hardest things to manifest are people. Yes, that includes all of you inquisitive friends of mine. While it is easy to fling an object it is much harder to create a anatomically correct human being with a proper persona. Go figure.

My recommendation for working towards manifestation in your dreams is to recreate the simplest thing you can imagine. The “anchor” you chose (see my post Lucid Dreaming: The Basics) is a great start. Maybe create a list of objects that you check off each time you successfully manifest them. Something like this would work: Anchor object > pen > book > sandwich > ??? > fireball. Just a warning, on occasion trying to manifest even the simplest objects may wake you up as a result of the conscious effort you’re exerting.

I want to stress the fact that manifestation is NOT the only goal of lucid dreaming, and the inability to do so should not be seen as a failure on the lucid dreamer’s part. Relish in the power you do have in your dreams, you may find that even the smallest manipulations can bring great insight.

 

Dream on little dreamers,

EB