I figured I’d just have to try it. I’ve heard so much about it, and it’s not really a psychotropic, eh? I mean it doesn’t make you hallucinate or anything. And as to seeing something that isn’t actually there, don’t we do that all the time in our imagination? It’s what brains are for; what is thinking but imagining a scenario that isn’t there? Well, part of it, anyway. Okay, sometimes it is.
Anyway, it was on my bucket list, and since the bucket is starting to rust, I realized it was just a matter of time before it wouldn’t hold any more. And most of the contents have already leaked out or slopped over the edge, so I knew that it was likely carpe situla now or never. You can’t continue to carry your dreams like that, can you? Mind you Value Village has probably improved since I bought mine.
But I’m getting off-topic. I’m not very good at trying new stuff, and I realized I would likely need some expert guidance -a mentor, or whatever- before I tried it on my own. So, I did what anybody in my situation would do: I Googled it. Maybe I used the wrong words in the search, though, because the instructions were all over the map, and parts of it were woo-woo. Clearly, some people expected too much of it, because the self-help articles Google listed first were like reading Alice in Wonderland. I mean, do only idiots go on line for help -or did I just stereotype myself?
There were claims it could make you fly if you wanted -and sometimes even if you didn’t; there were testimonials claiming it had saved their marriage, or cured deep-seated mental problems. I was reminded of those fast-talking hucksters that supposedly showed up at dawn in a village, sold sure-fire cures from the trunks of their cars, and then got outta of Dodge by nightfall. I suppose I would have bought stuff from them, though -I used to send away for those offers they used to put in the bottom of cereal boxes. I will admit I was a little disappointed in the tiny plastic submarine that supposedly ran on baking soda, but I still have the deed to one-square inch of Alaska somewhere -although I’ve often wondered about the wisdom of them giving it to an unvetted Canadian without a background check or a green card.
Anyway, back to my Google results. Anything that promised so much to so many people was suspicious to say the least, but I thought maybe that was just the scepticism of my years -unregarded Age in corners thrown, and all that. But there was a fair consensus that it shouldn’t be tried alone if you were the type who routinely suffered from nightmares, or bedwetting. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes -the things they let you say online nowadays!
In the end, I decided I’d better consult the real experts, people with actual pedigrees in the matter. And yet it wasn’t until I branched further afield than reading archival Reader’s Digest articles, that I literally stumbled on an essay written by someone who had also managed to cobble together a PhD in the field: https://aeon.co/ideas/the-lucid-dreaming-playbook-how-to-take-charge-of-your-dreams
The author’s name, Denholm Aspy, was sort of gender-nonspecific, so I have to admit I was going on the assumption that he was a she until I visited his website -that’s not cheating, is it?
Anyway, he was very encouraging about lucid dreaming; he was supportive and reassuring and didn’t even mention witchcraft or the Black Arts. There were no promises of shamanhood or the like if I got really good at it, but I did get the impression that he wouldn’t be averse to a disciple or two.
‘Lucidity (awareness of the dream),’ he writes, ‘is different to control (having power over the parameters of the experience)… [but] many ancient spiritual traditions teach that dreams can yield to us with time and practice.’ Good -that’s what I’m looking for: malleable dreams. The problem, of course, is realizing you’re dreaming while you’re still asleep. Usually I find I’m too caught up in the action to think much about anything -except that even in my dreams I know that I cannot fly over water, or something really bad will happen. I find that quite limiting -hence my desire to learn how to overcome this in a manner that doesn’t require my death. That, of course, is a worry.
Aspy lists a few exercises to practice getting into a lucid dream but unfortunately they all seem to require setting an alarm to wake you five hours or so after going to bed because apparently ‘most of our dreams occur in the last two to three hours before waking.’ I don’t think his techniques take the elderly bladder into account, however. In recent years, I have been reassigned a three-hour bladder -or two hours if I’ve had any wine- so I hate to think how that might mess up the process. I’ve actually begun to suspect that the inability to fly across water in my dreams may be an exaptation, a repurposing of the gene that is charged with nocturnal continence. Short of Attends -if they even make them for men- I fear I am likely destined to remain relegated to the back row of the movie-theatre with no chance of ever touching the screen -or at best, be forced to watch translucent dreams like those in that shower scene in Hitchcock’s movie Psycho. I seem to remember there wasn’t much in the way of control there either, though.
Come to think of it, I don’t know why I would ever want to do anything with my dreams other than watch them, anyway. I certainly wouldn’t dream (sorry) of controlling them -that would be like knowing how the movie ends; I think I’d get bored and wake up before the final scene. And anyway, I kind of enjoy how bizarre they get. How they skip around without explaining why it will help the plot. I sometimes get the impression they’re little tests: something is just being run past me to see if I can follow the thread. There’s little likelihood of that, of course -I sometimes get confused with the storyline in Disney movies.
So, do I really want to be aware that I’m dreaming? Would that be an important thing to know? For me at least, part of the thrill of watching movies, is to losing myself in the scenes, the plot, and the adventure -it’s certainly not remembering that I’m actually just sitting in a theatre biding my time until they turn on the lights. Worrying whether I’ll catch the last bus…