Monday, May 3, 2010

on dreams: what to believe and not, part one

One of the posted topics of this blog (see the masthead above) is dreaming. It occurs to me that, while I've posted dream accounts now and then, I've never discussed my views about dreams and dreaming. My closest friends have some idea where I'm coming from, but the rest of you (all half dozen or so) can probably only guess.

One of the most intriguing subcategories to me is something called lucid dreaming, which is a great place for me to start my discussion.

As a young person I was always interested in dreams in general, and kept sporadic dream accounts. I still do. From time to time I spontaneously had some lucid dreams, and eventually pursued them through study and preparation because I found them so amazing.

Lucid Dreaming is the term applied to the state of consciousness whereby one is fully aware that one is dreaming while the dream is happening.

This immediate knowledge that everything around you is a mental construct facilitates a powerful and provocative dream-state, a kind of personal virtual reality which I look forward to eventually describing for you in some detail.

Lucid dreaming has multiple applications, including cognitive studies, self-improvement, and pure enjoyment. Intriguingly enough, lucidity can eventually be attained by most people via specific learnable techniques.

The human mind in general with regard to cognition and consciousness always seemed a fascinating field of study, and lucid dreaming provided some compelling possibilities therein that seemed obvious even to me. It was this, along with an interest in lucid dreaming's artistic and creative potential, that drew me in.

Although I could only approach the subject of lucid dreaming as a somewhat casual journalist because I am not a scientist (with no graduate degree), I was for a time quite involved in the fascinating field of lucid dreaming study as a dedicated amateur. I was privileged to assist reputable researchers as a laboratory subject at Stanford University, and also through writing the occasional lay article, or helping sort through research data.

By the late 90s, the notion of consciousness during sleep, with its often controversial allure of dream control, gained an appreciable level of popular interest. After working on lucid dreaming techniques and spending time with my researcher friends, I surprised myself and began making occasional public and media appearances, sharing information this way despite my naturally introverted nature.

My fascination with the subject remains more or less intact, even though I have been inactive in the public realm since moving to southern California. It should be noted that I have never been a fanatic who believed lucid dreaming could change the world. (And because I haven't been active for some time, these days a great many other names will come up online before mine does... and rightly so).

And now, before you start clicking on search engine links, here's a quick disclaimer. Perhaps not surprisingly, lucid dreaming has always been loosely associated with the so-called new age movement, which in my view has been of some help, yet even more of a hindrance. Despite it being a legitimate, proven physiological phenomenon with obvious research value in more than one field, as well as being pleasant, inspiring, and even of practical use to a variety of people, the subject of lucid dreaming retains an unmistakable whiff of flakiness.

Leaving that sticky wicket for now, I can state with confidence that there need not be any fear of lucid dreaming. It is a fascinating, genuine, well-documented, natural, legitimate physiological state well worth exploring; it poses no inherent conflict with science, religion, or for that matter, being a normal, well-adjusted human being.

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