Dreaming With Jen Doll: Lucid Dreaming and Making Out With Sam Rockwell -The Toast

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dreamingDear Dreamers,

Now that the days are growing darker at an ever-earlier degree and we’re all heading back to school or adjusting to non-summer Fridays and the impending official end to summer, it’s time to look at dreams just a little bit differently.

When I was a kid I read a story about a boy who realized he was dreaming in the middle of the dream, and in so doing, he found himself able to fly (at least, I think this was a book. Maybe I dreamed it?). Ever since then, I have wanted to have a lucid dreaming experience. Lucid dreaming is essentially being aware you’re in a dream as it’s happening, and being able to control what happens to you because you know you’re in a dream. Just think, you could be facing your dream-bullies or find yourself nakedly pacing the halls of your long-ago high school and you’d say to yourself, “Jen (or whatever your name is), duh, you’re dreaming!” and suddenly be able to conquer your bullies, or find yourself wearing a really great outfit, or making out with Sam Rockwell. Or whatever.

I’ve never really managed to dream lucidly, though, and though my dreams are often weird and fascinating, I’ve never, ever had one in which I was able to fly or make out with Sam Rockwell. But I do desperately want to do both of these things, not only because lucid dreaming sounds so cool, but also because if you can harness the power of your dreams, imagine what else you might be able to do. What could you accomplish in your dreams that you’d never even consider in real life, and how might doing those things in dreams impact what you do in real life? Since we spend an average of six years of our lives dreaming, we might as well make the most of that time, right? Thus, it is with great excitement that I’d like to ask the rest of you to try a little experiment with me. Let’s learn to lucid dream this fall.

In an effort to do this, I have consulted a new book, A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming: Mastering the Art of Oneironautics, by Dylan Tuccillo, Jared Zeizel, and Thomas Peisel. The authors promise that “We will teach you how to become an oneironaut, a word derived from Greek that means ‘dream navigator.’” This is very exciting, as is the ability to use the word “oneironaut,” in  an actual conversation! So, how does it happen?

According to our dream-team, “Typically, lucid dreams are triggered by some sort of inconsistency, something that suddenly causes the dreamer to stop and question his or her reality.” To acknowledge such inconsistencies (because what are dreams if not inconsistent?), and most of all to tell yourself you’re in a dream, you have to prepare yourself. As you drift off to sleep, you must remind yourself of your intent to dream lucidly, repeating to yourself stuff like, “I am lucid and aware in my dream” to “eliminate any doubt that your wish will come true,” and to visualize what that experience will feel and look like. This may sound hokey, but a number of people have their first lucid dream after hearing or reading about it, so consciousness on the topic has an impact on the subconscious. Maybe this post is enough to get us started. Tell yourself you’re going to do it, get sleepy, put your head on a nice, soft pillow. Visualize, dream, wake up, and report back. I’ll do the same.

A few added tips: The writers say that nighttime rituals, going to bed at the same time each night, having comfortable bedding, and not drinking or smoking too terribly much will help one dream lucidly. They also say you should be able to remember your dreams before you attempt to dream lucidly, and the best way to remember them is to write ‘em down as soon as you wake from them. (Back-to-school dream journal time is now.) Oh, and most lucid dreams tend to occur in the early morning, during the last stages of REM sleep, which is handy — no one wants to keep updating their dream journal all night long.

Now, just because we’re working on our dreaming skills doesn’t mean we’re going to abandon dream analysis, no, not in the slightest. Here’s a fun one, from Elmo Keep:

This morning I was awakened, mid-dream, by my cat standing on my chest.

But shortly before this, I was in a shantytown of some kind, where the streets were filled with houses without any back walls, so we could see into everyone’s home.

One of these homes was blaring loudly a message from an answering machine, “We are expecting a call from the President!”

At that moment, Gwyneth Paltrow came around the corner carrying a basket and wearing an tatty green overcoat that reached down to the ground. She was mid-sentence, badmouthing Robert De Niro.

A woman then appeared behind Gwyneth and winked at me very ostentatiously. It was clearly Robert De Niro in drag, wearing a grey wig and bright red lipstick to offset his paisley flower-patterned dress.

I said (addressing Robert De Niro), “Oh! Hello there, young lady!” Then the cat wanted breakfast immediately and I woke up.

What does it MEAN? Better, what was going to happen next? If you know that, it would be great to find out.

Elmo, I can’t say what’s going to happen next, but there’s another dream technique I’ve wanted to do since I can remember, which is to get back in a dream once I’ve woken from it and see what happens next. Can you add to your lucid dreaming preparations the desire to return to this dream, or to the characters within it, and thereby uncover dream-scene 2?

I suggest remembering this dream each night before you sleep and imagining what happens next, then seeing if the dream continues in your subconscious.

As for what it means, I speculate that this is a dream about perceptions and realities, and the near-impossibility of privacy in today’s society. Everyone’s house can be seen into, whether it’s due to the prying eyes of neighbors or the 24-7 news cycle or social media or the ole government, or even because we ourselves share so much. Do you feel your affairs are exposed in a way that makes you a little bit uncomfortable? Are you worried about this as it pertains to friends and family? Has someone been talking behind your back, or have you done that to another?

That you go along with the game, calling De Niro a “young lady” even though he will never see seventy again, makes me wonder if you’re grappling with what you might see as hypocrisies among others, or even in your own self. Of course, in life we may present many different faces to the world, and sometimes that’s OK, as long as we’re aware we’re doing it, and comfortable with what that means. Or maybe you hate Gwyneth Paltrow.

Until next time, when we discuss, among other things, how to know whether you’re in a dream or real life. Tip: I pinch myself. Truth: I am often bruised.

Semi-lucidly yours,

Jen

Jen Doll is a contributor to The Hairpin and The Atlantic Wire. Her first book is due out in Spring 2014. In her dreams, she has perfect vision.

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