First, a note about yesterday’s entry: Today I realized that I probably was unclear enough that you might (justifiably) think that my definition of helping loved ones was confined to only offering them a place to visit or stay. That’s far from true; what I was trying to do was compare my idea of the Island I visualize with a physical analog, my house and how I might use it to offer help to those who need it. I didn’t point that out as a comparison, though, which makes me feel a little silly. But there it is. I want to offer help in all shapes and sizes when I can – that’s just one large Island example.
# # #
I’ve heard about lucid dreaming most of my life: That cool state where you’re aware enough that you’re dreaming to be able to control the dream – even ask people (and things!) questions about what exactly they’re doing hanging around your psyche. Many of those interested in theosophy and other spiritual pursuits make lucid dreaming a goal – which I can totally understand, and I’ve considered this as a down-the-road goal myself, being that it seems to be a combination of something so useful and fun.
But I’d gotten so fixated on the idea of lucid dreaming that I never even considered how much I was already doing something just one step away from it. This is active dreaming – which I didn’t even have a name for until Alexandra introduced me to it just a few weeks ago. In active dreaming, you realize that you’re in a dream, but it doesn’t sink in enough to give you control of the dream – or in my case, to realize that everything around me isn’t “real”. (I put real in quotation marks because many people believe what comes to you in dreams is just as real as waking life, only a different form of real. But that’s another post.)
If the difference doesn’t make any sense, here’s what I’m talking about. Say you’re having a dream where – and I’ve had this one more times than I care to count – you’re back in school but suddenly realize that you’ve missed a class all semester and you’re going to fail it.
Lucid Dreaming: “I’m not really in this school! And I’m not failing a class.” (Pulls aside friend in dream.) “So why are you here and why am I dreaming this?”
Active Dreaming: “I’m about to fail this class! But this is only a dream, so I don’t have to show anybody my report card.”
(Yes, I really have thought that in the dream. Multiple times.)
The difference, then, is that with lucid dreaming you realize that your dream is only part of your reality, whereas with active dreaming, as far as you’re concerned, it is your reality as much as if you weren’t actively dreaming. You’re aware enough to change some of the dream’s circumstances, but not to control and question.
I’ve been doing this for a long time, actually. Ever since I was a kid. Back then it would take the form of “This is a nightmare and I want out, so I’m going to wake myself up”. And I would. But after some active dreaming early this morning, I started wondering why I was doing it in some dreams and not in others. So I started comparing them, including the failed class dream above (a.k.a. “Active Dream #1).
Active Dream #2: I’ve been invited to a dinner by Her Royal Highness, the Queen of England. I don’t know why; it’s a random thing like a lottery, and as it happens I’m the only American there. The other attendees look down on me, and include me in a party game that paints all Americans as racist. I want out but don’t want to make a scene leaving, or to annoy Her Royal Highness. But then I realize I’m dreaming, so I can essentially make myself invisible and scoot out without being noticed.
Active Dream #3: A whole field beside the place where I work is filled with objects that look like bombs, although only one of them is. But the person who left the bomb says if anyone gets close to them to try figuring out which one is the real thing, she’ll blow it up, which will destroy the whole neighborhood. I realize I’m dreaming, and will into existence something that will scan the objects from a safe distance.
At this point I noticed a general theme: The active dreaming kicks in at a time something bad is happening or might happen, and I want to prevent the bad thing. But then there was my dream from this morning:
It’s my birthday, and two separate groups of friends converge to whisk me away for surprise plans they’d made. The problem is that those plans conflict. Clang! I realize I’m dreaming, and alter the circumstances of the dream to make both surprise plans compatible. And away we all go together!
That last dream was about friends and fun things and thus seemed to contradict my theory – except that on further thought, it didn’t. Nothing bad happened yet, but my friends were about to come into conflict over who got to do what with me. And awake or asleep, I’ve always been one who tries to – sometimes going way out of my way to try to – avoid conflict. It’s been a bad habit in quite a lot cases over the years, especially being married to someone who thrives on conflict and chaos. But until this survey I hadn’t realized how deeply it affected even my dreams – to the point where my conscious self jumps in (or at least dips a toe in) to stop it.
So there’s step one. The active dreaming seems to come in invariably to prevent the dream from turning bad or getting worse. To extricate me from something unhappy or frightening.
One peek into my psyche. Huzzah! But it doesn’t always happen, and the question still remains of why it seems to only happen under that sole condition. I’d still like to try being more active in happier dreams, or for that matter, figure out what barriers I still have to get through to take that single if giant step to lucid dreaming.
Maybe the real question I should be asking myself is “What is the main reason I want to do this?” There are several reasons, but if I zero in on the one nearest and dearest to my heart and soul, that might give me a step up – or maybe at least a better view of how much farther I have to go and what more I need to do yet.
In the meantime, I’ll keep paying attention.