To Dream Yourself Awake

I often wonder if dreams are where our memories, ideas, and other thoughts go to play once we melt into our beds.

I had an amazing dream Saturday night, so amazing that I hopped out of bed and typed down my thoughts like a madman lest I forget something.

I’m not going to bore anyone with the full details of my dream; it wasn’t some bizarre landscape inspired by Salvador Dali or scenes pulled out of Twin Peaks.

In fact, what surprised me most about my dream was how coherent it was, how positively ordinary it turned out to be. It reminded me of the movie Inception.

For the uninitiated, Inception is about highly trained professionals who can travel into another person’s dream and extract (or implant) information. It’s basically dream espionage.

The concept of a lucid dream is very important to understanding the movie. I’m sure everyone’s had a lucid dream at one point: it’s a dream in which you know you’re dreaming.

I’ve had lucid dreams in the past, but Saturday night’s dream was on a whole different level.

You know how people claim that a dream feels “so real!” You’ve probably uttered it yourself at one point when describing your dream to a friend: “That gnome riding a unicycle across the Grand Canyon looked so real! The wind on my face felt so real!”

Before Saturday I slung those phrases around too, but looking back on those dreams now, I realize they were still covered by the “fuzz” of the dream world.

You know what I mean, right? It’s like a screen of lint, a membrane of some sort that’s draped over your senses in a dream. It doesn’t have the clarity of the world as you read my blog or scroll with your mouse or listen to your boss in the background.

Yet my dream on Saturday did.

And it fascinates me.

In the dream, I looked down at my hands and could make them out perfectly, every ridge and nail and wrinkle.

I knew I was dreaming and willed myself to remain inside, asleep, so that I could listen and see and touch. I was in a car and could make out the bumpy texture of the leather dashboard.

Time wasn’t elastic: I wasn’t in one place one second and miles away the next. Time was linear and tangible.

I could simultaneously feel my body under the sheets in the real world and within the car in the dream world. And it was the dream world that was sharper and clearer.

Again, very oddly, I refused to rouse myself from sleep. I wanted to explore the feeling or consciousness in both worlds.

Ok, that’s enough of that. I’d love to hear your thoughts on dreams.

Have you ever had an especially potent dream? What do you think dreams are or believe they signify?

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19 comments on “To Dream Yourself Awake

  1. Maybe it’s because I was an English major, but my dreams are usually very transparent, with lots of symbolism that I can usually interpret with a fair amount of certainty.

    When my father-in-law was dying of cancer I dreamed he was in my childhood bed and I was in the dark, trying to protect him from the mosquitoes with a fly swatter. I couldn’t see them, but their buzzing was loud and chilling, and I was helpless to defend him. Then a malicious faceless stranger started to pry open the window over the bed, trying to get in. Standing on the bed, trying not to step on my father-in-law, I fought with the man, trying to shut the window, pound his strong grasping fingers, but he was too powerful. That’s when I woke up, very disturbed, and it became obvious to me that I could neither relieve my father-in-law’s discomfort nor protect him Death, which would find its way in. I believe he was in my childhood bed because I lost my dad when I was eight, and I was once again losing the closest thing to a father that I had, and powerless to help him.

    • What a vivid dream, and your interpretation of it is fascinating.

      I wonder why the brain goes through the process of dreaming. I’ve read books on dreams and their functions (from a scientific view), and we still don’t definitively know the purpose of sleeping and dreaming.

      Is it a coping mechanism (so that you can come to terms with what happened to your father-in-law)? A problem solving activity (I tend to have dreams where I work out something that’s coming up, like a presentation).

      Who knows? Thanks so much for sharing your dream.

      • It IS fascinating. I wonder if it’s our subconscious need to make sense of our world. As a storyteller, I firmly believe that the human brain is hardwired to see the world in terms of story. We use it to heal, to teach, to entertain. A story will touch the heart first so that the mind may understand. I wonder if a dream is our way of subconsciously telling ourselves stories to help us process the events of our lives. Great post, Mike.

  2. I’ve willing myself to stay in dreams before and actually as I felt them ending willing myself to remember as much as possible. I find the best dreams start dissipating almost before you are even awake and it takes a lot of willpower to hold onto them. Dream symbols for some seem very odd but they really make sense to me. I say my dreams feel surreal and that means a particular kind of dream where you know you are dreaming and the world in your dream doesn’t jive with the real world but the dream world is more interesting and you are so fascinating by the bizarre happenings. I’ve only ever had the same dream once and it was more a continuation yet I have a friend who redreams all the time. Anyway I love dreams and all the different aspects of them. Great post, Cheers!

  3. Amazing Blog i love popping in for a read. I have been having the same dream for months now. Same setting ,same people in it. When i wake up it feels really familiar but then i feel unsure i have had it before ?? Make sense ? Me neither !!! I also have a dream where i am breastfeeding a monkey !! Might need some pills for this LOL !!

  4. I’ve had similar dreams. I’ve even woken up from them and went back to sleep, dreaming where I left off. It’s the oddest thing really.

    And I never understand where some of these thoughts actually come from. For exaple, the The craziest dreams I have are architectural . Usually, I will be in homes I’ve seen before, The most reason one was an immaculate design, I remember every feature of the house down to the color of the tile, the enormous fireplace and the the feel of the stone it was made of.

    I don’t have any idea how I could dream something like this.

    You know, I read recently Billy Joel claimed one of his songs came to him in a dream. I wouldn’t doubt it. It’s funny the things that happen when you close your eyes at night.

    • I’ve had “architecture” dreams too. They tend not to be in the same detail you described (you must have a great memory), but I recognized them either by some feature or by a feeling, if that makes sense. I just feel that I’m in that place.

      I may have had a continuing dream only about once in my life. I’ve had plenty of dreams that I wanted to continue (where I had super powers, was in a beautiful place, etc.), but my brain is an asshole and wouldn’t let me go back once I woke up. 🙂

      So that’s awesome, and I would love to know what one of your continuing dreams was about.

  5. Waking Life reference? My greatest talent is trippy dreams. Half of my conversations are about my dreams and usually leave people in some kind of awe that is either terror or envy of my sleeping self to trip monkey balls. I like to think the latter. I eat a lot of PB&J before bed to maintain such vividness.

    I think that dreams are a river between past and future and/or other life paths (Footnote: Donnie Darko). Dejavu (in addition to being a Great America ride) is dreamt places/interactions, I think. You can train yourself to have more lucid dreams, which I have done. I don’t know why, I just decide to touch everything in my dreams. Which is stupid because I only touch sh*t that I can in real life- like clay sculptures that my BF made in 5th grade. WTF.

    You guys have flying cars in NYC?! Rad.

    • So PB&J leads to more vivid, lucid dreams? Do fat kids roam their dreamworlds like kings and queens?

      Haha, I love how you just touch ordinary stuff in your dreams. “There was this dragon shooting babies out of his eyes, and a legion of pineapple jets zooming through a pecan sky. But, man, when I touched a piece of toast, it felt so real!” 😛

      Dude, where we go in NYC, we don’t need roads . . .

  6. I’m really glad I stumbled onto your site recently. I studied a little bit about lucid dreams, and when I have them I try to hold onto them because each one is such a fascinating experience. I am also of the opinion that deja vu may be us experiencing something we had only dreamed about previously, because I personally experienced it (remembering, to this day the very vivid dream of a place I had never been to before, and then being in that place and recognizing it from my dream).

    It’s also amazing how dreams sometimes help you sort through issues you are having, or let you KNOW about issues you are having (such as repeat dreams of my car being stolen, or repeat dreams of fighting with my mum). Know what i mean?

  7. It’s always nice to fly in a dream, but about a week ago, I finally picked up a package from home at the post office, an there inside were many little things my mom had wanted to send me, but also a Christmas present for our family from my brother with the sweetest of sweet Christmas card filled with love. I had a dream that night that transported me from a mild and warmer than average spring in Edmonton, to a snowy winter day in my hometown. I wrapped on my brother’s door politely and gently pushed it open saying, “Good morning, it’s Christmas morning, Merry Christmas!” It went on all through a lovely morning including a wonderful ham and egg breakfast. I haven’t spent Christmas with me beloved family since moving here so it was such a real treat!

  8. Popped over here from jmro98’s blog to find out more about your Versatile Blogger award and wasn’t expecting a discussion on my favourite topic!

    Here’s the thing – we don’t wake up or become lucid in our dreams because we don’t know we are dreaming BECAUSE there is so much detail!! I’m only triggered into “awakeness” when something truely bizarre happens and my conscious mind says, “Hang on! What’s this?” This doesn’t happen often enough for me lately, but for instance in a dream where I’d crash my Mom’s car I was shocked into lucidity and could “fix” the car by seeing / willing it fixed. The car literally (can one ever apply this word to dreams?) uncrumpled itself before my eyes and returned to it’s pre-crash state!

    Looking at your hands in a dream is a classic way to anchor yourself in the dream – have done this as well as “Bellows Breath” breathing and certainly works. Trick is to keep looking at your hands and then glance rapidly at your surrounds coming back to your hands if you feel like you are drifting back into unconsciusness. Next time you manage this make the decision to meditate while lucid and see what happens…..

    • Thanks for the advice, Diane. Sadly, I haven’t read up much on lucid dreams since I saw a few supplemental materials for Inception about a year ago.

      I never knew there were little tricks to keep you lucidly dreaming, but the breathing technique and rapidly looking around are something I’ll have to try.

      Speaking of Inception and lucid dreaming, in one of the specials I saw for the movie, they mentioned that the US government was training soldiers to lucidly dream. They could drop into a dream state and consciously manipulate their dreams at will. Isn’t that fascinating?

      • You’re welcome Mike!

        I’m not sure why they would train them – as your focus or interest in the non-physical is different – but have heard about this. Have you seen the movie “Men who stare at goats”? It’s partially based on fact.

        The Monroe Institute i.m.o offers the best tools and info on this subject – not punting them, just saying – and I think the army have been working with them.

        I personally believe dreams are memories of actual experiences we are having in another state of consciousness which means there is a non-physical component to us which we in the West are being very slow in accepting.

  9. You could do worse than checking out this free material by Douglas Baker, a South African medical doctor who started astral projecting as a medical student and then made it a life long study. There is a website for his books and the website owner makes out as if he is Douglas – but he is NOT as I know that Douglas passed away a long time ago.

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