Staring at my hands in a dream

If you are close to your dreams you can leverage them to your advantage. My best ideas have come from dreams.  Software, stories, new business models as well as training and webinar ideas.  All from dreams.   Many of my close friends know this.  From talking with them, I know that I am lucky.   I dream every nearly every night.

The exception is when I have a drink, which is fairly rare.  Usually, I can remember one and sometimes two or three dreams each night.   I have 27 years worth of journals.  The mundane mixed with the inspirational and sometimes, prophetic.  Stop there if you think I’m going esoteric.  If you are absolutely focused on a problem and you bring that resolve into your subconscious, your dreams, you can come to conclusions you would never have touched with the waking mind alone.  No burning bush crap.

I do understand that I am in a small minority.  Our society does not promote dream recall.  Have you heard that dream recall is like a muscle?  That is not entirely correct.  It is not like a muscle, but more complex; an athlete.  The ability needs cross training, but it also needs a coach, and resolve.  Coach: That is you. Resolve: also you.  Training: that’s right, you again.

For all those I have talked to over the years and asked me about dreaming.  I am writing this for you.  My dream recall was not something I always had; I trained myself to do it.

When I was 19, enrolled at the University of Miami, the ability to recall my dreams on a regular basis held a great interest for me.  Having already devoured many books on philosophy and religion, my interest in the more esoteric was awakened.   Many of the groups had interesting philosophical swag.  Scientology and Eckankar were two groups I frequented.  The people were really out there and the groups attracted outlier personalities that I enjoyed meeting. While it took a while to realize that both these groups were not what they outwardly projected, I decided not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

It was the time at UM that I joined an Eckankar class on dreaming.  It was clear from being a good observer that Scientology just wanted $$.   At the time, Eckankar was not looking for my cash and they had a nice group of people who I would truly classify as “seekers”.  To be clear, Eckankar is a cult and I’ll blog about it at length in the future.  This is what sparked my initial interest in knowing more about dreams.  The class, the talking about dreams, yes even the chanting. All of it enhanced my dream recall.

With my interest in dreams ignited, I started recalling dreams much more. Fast forward a few years.  The new setting:  New Paltz State University in upstate NY.   If there was Olympic training for dream recall, this is when I did it.

The old X10 Control Unit

Home automation has always been a hobby of mine. My off campus apartment was wired to the computer (I think it was a 486..yikes).  Everything was controlled by plug-in-the-wall devices called X10 units.  It was college days, hard futon next to a wall of books.

X10 Computer Interface

As an experiment, I set the X10′s to wake me up with an alarm clock periodically during the night.  If I recall correctly, I went to sleep around 10pm.

At first, I set them to wake me at 2, 4, and 6am.  It was hit or miss on the dream recall.  I did this for about a week and was walking around real tired; it was effecting my sleep.

Next I used a light next to my bed that would slowly brighten over a period of a few minutes.  At the end of the brightening cycle, the radio sound would go on. With the light waking me in a more gently manner, the recall increased again.  It was clear the radio was too harsh a noise, so I replaced it with environmental sounds like thunderstorms and ocean waves.   Lastly, I played with the intervals and it turned out that 1, 3 and 5am were much better times than 2, 4 and 6am.

Key observations.  I needed to have about 3 solid hours of sleep before performing any interruption of my sleep cycle.  The cycles ended up being longer in the middle of the night and shorter towards the end of the night.  Eating too late would interrupt the cycles (still does to this day).

The time span I played with my sleep cycles spanned a few months.  Eventually I did not need the sound; the light was enough to wake me.  Within a month I had a dream to recall whenever the light woke me.  Along the way I abandoned writing in the middle of the night. It was usually illegible and the medium interrupted the free flow of the thoughts.

For efficiency, I switched to a micro cassette recorded.  This is where it got weird.  When I wrote things down,  the next morning I remembered what I wrote. However, when I started recording my dreams, eyes still shut, the next morning was a wonderland in decoding.  In the first few weeks it took a concerted effort to understand the more cryptic.  One thing I realized is that I favored a different vocabulary in my half-sleep state.   The words I used recording were more poetic compared to my every day choice of words.

Sometimes I would have a “note to self” dream.  For me, these are the most fun.   An old librarian gives me a book that I need to deliver.  Same dream every time, different book, different note to self.  Another common occurrence was a ferry ride; many symbols that each had a specific meaning for me.  Once I had a dictionary of my common themes and symbols I was able to write closer to the heart of the dream when I wrote it down the next day.  I realized that the very act of changing the original words in the dream corrupted the recall of the dream itself.

This was the final bridge for me.  The breaking down of conscious and subconscious thought patterns.  I got to understand my own dream imagery.  Everyone has their own imagery.  No one can tell you about your dreams except you. Sure there are some common symbols, but I would not go so far as to say universal.  The conscious and unconscious parts of my mind play nicely together, it has allowed a greater creativity in my life.

You don’t need to go to the extremes that I did, if you want to recall your dreams.  A simple mental command, with a verbal affirmation before bed should do it.   “I will remember my dreams”.  That is it.

Get your pocket recorder ready.

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