Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tamest dreams

This will be the final instalment in my Tedious Dreams Trilogy, I promise, but I wanted to talk about lucid dreams - something I've been intrigued by for years and actively pursued for a while, before my tragic and embarrassing lack of imagination caused me to grow disillusioned. You'll see why.


If you haven't come across it before, lucid dreaming is the phenomenon of suddenly becoming aware that you're dreaming, allowing you to take control of the dream and - in theory - do anything you desire. There are plenty of websites and books that give advice on how to achieve and perfect lucidity, and experienced lucid dreamers find it a very satisfying and rewarding experience. I'm not one of them.

It's quite simple to take control of your dreams when you learn to recognise the tell-tale signs. The trick I found most useful was the reality check, which involves getting into the habit of taking time out to look at the world objectively at various points throughout the day, to confirm that you are, indeed, awake. Double-takes are an effective way of doing this, as dreams don't tend to be consistent in the tedious way the waking world does, meaning that if you check your watch twice and it reads radically different on the second glance, you're either sleeping, in some kind of Matrix, or maybe just have a rubbish watch.

There are plenty of other exercises that are worth trying out, if you have the time and patience, but what these guides don't usually tell you is what to do after you gain control of your dream, leaving that up to you. But sometimes this freedom can be too much to take in, if you're weak-willed as I apparently am.

This is a strange and disappointing revelation for someone as preoccupied with independence as me, but it seems to be mostly due to a lack of preparation. When I become conscious in a dream, momentary delight gives way to confusion and disappointment as I realise I haven't got a clue what I'm supposed to do next, now that I'm flying on manual and have to choose for myself. What ought to be the ultimate freedom of unconscious expression becomes a burden, as my limited imagination struggles to find inspiration. Occasionally I'll try to do something that I imagine would be enjoyable, only for my subconscious to rebel and prevent me from doing so.

So my advice, that I'll endeavour to follow myself, would be to plan out your ideal lucid dream scenarios beforehand, so you'll be prepared when the situation arises and won't be caught off guard. It's like when you prepared your perfect, jinx-free three wishes as a child, for when that magic lamp/genie scenario inevitably arose. I'm still waiting.

Here are some of my most embarrassing and pathetic experiences of lucid dreaming for your amusement and disdain.

Always the real thing (age twenty)

Image: Canal Photos

I'm in the Water Witch pub in Lancaster with some university friends, when I suddenly achieve lucidity and realise it's a dream. I look around at my companions, all involved in their own conversations, and I realise I can do anything I want to! Bear this in mind, as it makes the following events all the more pathetic: I can do anything I want to.

I go to the bar and order a Coke. Then - and here comes the twist - because I know it's a dream, I walk away without paying for it! I walk back to my table feeling pretty damn pleased with myself.

Except this isn't something to feel proud of at all. Every action I'd just taken represented a staggering missed opportunity and perfectly demonstrated the limited scope of my ambition. I didn't have to go the bar and ask for my drink, I could have had it magicked in front of me. It didn't have to be a boring Coke, it could have had an alcoholic mixer in it, even a fictional one that actually tasted good. I could even have abandoned the Coke theme entirely and had an amazing futuristic space drink that flashed different colours and sang to me as it flowed down my gullet, but no. I ordered a simple Coke and felt a sense of achievement for not having paid money that didn't even exist in the first place. What a bloody idiot.

To make matters worse, I'm pretty sure it was a half-pint too.

It might even have been a Pepsi.

Automobiles, automobiles and automobiles (age twenty-two)

Image: Greg Barbier

I'd agreed to meet up with my friends Lana and Andie in St Andrews around midday, but I'm feeling particularly sprightly this morning for some reason, and take an early bus from Edinburgh that leaves me with a few hours to kill. But then I remember I'd planned to meet our friend Katie while still in Edinburgh, as we'd arranged to make the trip over the Firth of Forth together. I curse my hastiness and start to head back to the bus station, when I suddenly become aware that I'm dreaming.

I realise I don't have to take the bus any more, I now have unlimited transport options to choose from. I could transform into a hawk and fly over the sea. I could magick up some kind of futuristic space motorbike that flashes different colours and plays a continuous guitar solo as we loop-de-loop and drive at impossible speed through the air. I could even just teleport or something. Better still, I could forget my appointment entirely and head for the nearest bar for a free glass of Coke! But alas, the burden of choice is just too much to handle.

I decide to take the bus after all.

The man of my dreams (age twenty-three)

I'm heading down a highway in the passenger seat of a truck cab, being given a lift by a fat, hairy truck driver with a handlebar moustache. This dream isn't going where you might expect, my unconscious doesn't hate me that much.

I realise I'm dreaming and I explain the situation to the driver. He's sceptical about being a figment of my imagination, and understandably demands proof, so he sets me a challenge: 'Turn me into a woman.'

Pah, easy, I reply. I stare at the man and imagine him morphing into a female. Nothing happens. I try again, exerting all my willpower, getting exhausted and frustrated, and gradually his form does, slowly but surely, yes, begin to morph into a slender, dark skinned woman with no moustache in sight. As the transformation is painstakingly completed I release my mental grip and the woman instantly reverts back to the truck driver, who laughs at my impotent mind.

I sigh and we continue our journey down the long, dull, pointless road. I look forward to waking up at some point.

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