Thursday, August 08, 2013

Review: A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming

You can called it lucky or cursed – I have always had really intense dreams. Dreams so vivid they often form half of my reality, their experience so strong they would affect me in my waking life. There is the old joke about a girl waking up and punching her clueless boyfriend because he cheated on her in her dream. Yeah. Not that I have ever done that, but that intense.
 I’ve had dreams that haunted me for days after waking up, and dreams making me feel unspeakably happy, more than anything ever had in “real life”.
I had serial dreams about a stalking monster as a toddler, and about the Faceless ones, and about that woman that looked like my mother from behind but was a cruel, deformed creature once she turned around to respond to my calls. Freud, Jung, and any dream analyst on this planet would have a field day using me as a guinea pig. Archetypes, classic and more postmodern symbolism, it’s all there.

There was a brief time in my life so traumatic that I didn’t seem to dream at all. And although I know it was just my mind trying to protect me from things I couldn’t handle, it was an incredibly grey and empty time, too, like a part of me had been amputated. It had, in fact – when dreams comprise a large part of your experience for all of your life, suddenly not dreaming feels like you’ve been lobotomised. Then I went on Prozac, and it was like adding fuel to a nearly extinguished fire... it flared up, the dreams returning, even more powerful.

When your life is dominated by dreams, you inevitably search to make sense of them, like you would of any experience. To your brain, it doesn’t matter whether you’re asleep or not: whatever you experience has the same value to your emotional makeup. What you’ve felt is what you’ve felt, no matter when and how. Reality becomes relative in emotion, maybe that is why people often don’t dream or can’t remember their dreams after a traumatic event. And why PTSD is so sinister and self-perpetuating, because the flashbacks and nightmares distress you the same way over and over again.

 So inevitably, you try to get a sense of control over dreams. Especially when your dreams are so horrific that you just want to wake up. Or when they’re so beautiful you don't want them to stop. It might be a fool’s business, attempting that, to some at least. But I had heard of lucid dreaming before, and I might have had a couple of experiences before, which were wonderful, but they were erratic. I needed some guidance.

A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming turned out to be a gem.

Just at the first browse, it is simply beautiful. Wonderfully designed and filled with gorgeous illustrations, it is an inspiring feast for the imagination. But it’s not just eye candy.
It takes you back to the very basics, exploring the history of dreams and lucid dreaming, and how dreams played a huge role in many previous and continuing cultures, essentially showing that the Western view of dismissing them as brain gibberish is a minority, reflecting an impoverished mind... something I have long agreed with. It wipes the plate clean to enable you to start exploring your dreams with a fresh, open mind, teaching you the basics of remembering them, remembering them for longer, outwitting that twilight zone after waking in which a dream often becomes frazzled and diffused, and drifts into forgetfulness within minutes.
It explains the structure of REM sleep to help you ‘find’ the moment in which lucid dreaming is most likely, teaching you mind techniques to help you trigger a lucid dream, delivers tips on how to keep a dream journal, what to make of your dreams and how to develop a conscious relationship with them, of a heightened sensitivity that will ultimately help you reach awareness within your dream, as well as the increasing ability to direct your dreams.

I have yet to have a lucid dream. But I have only started practising, and it takes time to train your mind and awareness to the point that you will have a lucid dream. What I have noticed, however, that since employing the techniques offered in the book, the more elusive dreams have become clearer and easier to remember, more cohesive no matter how random they are. And they have started making more sense, in terms of what they tell me about my state of mind. I’ve started to write them down, and it’s wonderful – tales of an exploration of another, parallel world in which the senseless makes sense. That alone totally makes this book worthwhile.

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