It’s always hilarious to me the way mind-reading is portrayed in movies and other media, as if you’re thinking in neat, linear sentences in your head and the mind reader can just drop into the narrative and play along like it’s a book on tape. Sure, much of the time there’s language, but even at that I defy anyone (but maybe one or two people) to decipher what I’m actually thinking based on what they might “hear”. It’s absurd. It’s a jumbled up mess in there, and the most coherent stuff that goes on is probably either replaying a conversation I’ve already had or composing writing in my head. I should hope if someone came along and heard me plotting various murders, they’d realize I wasn’t actually about to commit mayhem. But while I may have a grocery list in my head on repeat, I don’t often bother to think what I’m thinking in longhand. And I’m someone who prefers, even internally, to arrange my thoughts in words rather than pictures, so I suspect most people are even worse than I am. It’s not just all Homer Simpson in there. When I do think in very structured, expository language about whatever I’m thinking of, there’s still too much going on under the surface, and I think that’s the heart of my point. And can you hear what I’m thinking over the song (or mix of songs) that is ALWAYS going on in there?

That’s why I think any telepathic communication (or anything approaching it, if you’re uncomfortable with the notion of ESP) is necessarily based on images, emotions, and a simple transfer of “knowing” rather than a literal reading of the narrative. Most of us are more nebulous and complicated than that, and it simply isn’t practical.

Yes, I realize it’s a plot device. It’s still funny.

It seems there may be another reason for the dry spell on this blog. I may be thinking too much about what other people think.

Now, this isn’t so much about whether specific people approve of me or will make fun, but more about my not wanting to misrepresent my opinions or draw snarky comments that I technically agree with but which broadly miss the point. All I’m doing here is fieldwork, gathering anecdotal data, trial-and-error… not rigorous lab testing. Spaghetti is being thrown at walls to see what sticks. If it turns out oil-based paint helps more pasta stick than acrylic, that’s useful to know, but I don’t care in this venue about the interaction of starches and surface tensions that make it stick. I am interested in that, yes, just not in the scope of this blog, and I have a nagging feeling that if I don’t keep reiterating that, someone will think I’m some wild-eyed, New Age, drink-any-KoolAid-that-comes-along, crystal-naming* kind of person with no filters at all.

Well. So what if they do? I’m mainly interested in fostering discussion and finding out what’s useful in day-to-day, real world application or what’s interesting to consider. I’m very good at compartmentalizing, and this is the compartment where I’m exploring to see what’s useful even if I don’t know for sure how it works or, in some cases, even if I’m pretty sure I know how some of it works but find it more interesting to get out of my own way. I love the logic and the science, but this is the “what if?”ing, the general view where it’s helpful to be comfortable with paradox in order to get more marrow out of a subject (or web of subjects). There’s a sort of disconnect/interplay between faith, practicality, and certainty that I believe a well-rounded person is able to dance with… and there’s an appalling arrogance to a point of view that assumes we have all the answers already. Flexibility is key. Besides, this is just fun. I want to talk about the stuff that we don’t often talk about.

It’s just a big spaghetti-throwing party here, folks. Grab a handful and start flinging.

(*Though I haven’t named any of them, I love my stones and gems. Back off my shiny rocks, Maynard! I’ll talk to my garnet if I want to. Nyah.)

I’ve been stalling on my meditation post, and I think the reason is mostly that there’s SO much ground to cover, I can’t find a good place to jump into it. Another part of the reason is that it seems to me not to be in any way near the fringe, which is what I thought this blog would be about. But it’s my blog and that realization gives me a toehold into the matter, so here we go.

The thing is, meditation is such a basic thing in the sense that it’s a base for so many other interesting things. I’ve heard of it being used for everything from simple relaxation to achieving immortality. I expect most of us come in somewhere between those two goals. The important thing is that with meditation, you can clear your mind, focus on one thing (or no thing) and use that as a stepping stone to greater awareness in any area you choose.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. If you want to study a system like yoga or TM or some of the more involved Zen techniques, you can, but at its core meditation is starkly simple. Alpha waves. That’s it. With practice or natural talent, you can go deeper into theta and delta waves but if all you achieve is an alpha state, you’ve got it. We all slip into alpha and deeper all the time, in and out over the course of any given 24 hour period, so I know you can do it.

Of course, part of the point is to be more conscious of the process, which can be something of a paradox at the deeper levels of meditation. If you’re emitting delta waves because you’re in stage 3 sleep, you’re not meditating. You’re just sleeping. There’s no directiveness, no intent. (Unless you’re meditating to cure your insomnia. In that case, you’ve nailed it.)

Other than that, it’s largely personal preference. Sure, there are people who say you MUST learn a certain technique or you’re not “really” meditating, or insist that you use a particular method for certain uses. I suppose there are probably some forms of meditation that might work better than others for, say, automatic writing or remote viewing or healing, but what it comes down to is that the best method for you is the one you can do. You can clear your mind completely or use mantras or visualize or focus on a goal or a Bible verse or a magickal intent or your breathing or physical relaxation of your muscles or WHATEVER YOU PREFER to get your brain to start sending out those yummy, languid alpha waves. It depends on what works for you, and what you want to accomplish with the practice.

What meditation can help you accomplish is an endless list. You can relax, have personal ephiphanies, improve your intuition or observational skills, lower your blood pressure, even keep yourself from mauling annoying coworkers. None of these things seem at all strange to me. But the practice deserves mention here, since it’s also helpful in getting in a state of mind to do other, more fringey activities.

It’s too soon to tell whether I’m immortal, though.

As I understand it, most of us carry on a running dialogue with ourselves in our head constantly. I suspect some of us have more, um, “lively” inner commentary than others, but I’ll assume that’s not an indicator of relative quality and move on. I have noticed different levels of inner voices, corresponding to varying degrees of accuracy. I’m curious to know if I’m alone in this.

At a relatively meaningless level, there’s the normal monologue that goes on in your head nearly all the time. It’s this commentary that most meditative systems are trying to shut up. There are those sayings that come from some forgotten childhood experience and serve no useful purpose, those that pop like a firecracker through seven layers of private jokes and movie quotes while you try to carry on a professional conversation about credit card fees, those that rehash the plot of your favorite TV show over and over. This category is mostly background noise. That’s not to say you can’t get useful information from it, but it takes an application of conscious thought and a trained psychologist or at least a self-help book. These insights aren’t fully formed. Most of them aren’t insights at all. They’re ingredients. They’re also the most familiar voices.

In a category of its own, the “something just isn’t right” voice is terribly useful. Popularized (and exquisitely captured, I must say) by Gavin DeBecker in his classic (yes, I’m telling you, go out and read it now) “The Gift of Fear”, this is the voice that tells you not to get in the car, to avoid the poorly-lit hotel lobby, not to hire that babysitter. This is the one you can sometimes quash because you don’t want to seem foolish and the one you hope you never hear. These are the immediate gut reactions to situations. They don’t ask permission, and many times you get near-instant feedback. I suspect this one is, for the most part, a lizard brain function that leeches information mostly from your senses and a bit from your higher brain functions to tell you lizard brain things, in no uncertain terms.

The intuitive voice, the one we think of when we talk about these kinds of things, seems to have two modes – an indoor voice and an outdoor voice. The indoor voice is those only somewhat articulate inklings, gentle and easy to miss. It’s connected to emotional and physical reactions for most people, but I think the source of this one is from rather higher brain centers than the visceral fear instinct. It’s subtle. It’s easy to miss, easy to talk yourself out of, but you can learn the most interesting things from this one if you listen to it, learn to winnow it out from the louder, more practical thoughts that often argue with it. Meditation often does the most interesting things to this voice. In fact, a lot of people hear it either mostly or exclusively while meditating.

Sometimes it’s more urgent. Especially if you’ve been trying to solve a problem for a long time and throwing tons and tons of information at it, the intuitive voice can speak loudly in a burst of insight about a specific, well-known problem. It’s the volume of voice we talk about in connection to the invention of the sewing machine or a sudden brilliant business move. It is Eureka. There is definitely frontal lobe involvement when this voice talks. My theory is that part of the reason it’s so loud is that it’s often connected to some external trigger (assuming we count dreams as external – at least external to the worrying on the problem at hand), so when everything falls into place with a “snick”, concrete sensations and events from outside anchor it to experience. That makes it easier to remember, often easier to test.

My favorite and most hated voice in my head, however, is the one I refer to as The Little Voice. It is fleeting but incisive. It’s certain. And it is never, ever wrong. It says things that I should always listen to, it speaks with 100% confidence, and it has yet to steer me wrong.

And I have yet to listen to it with the trust it deserves. In most cases, I don’t manage to follow its advice at all. I tell myself that’s because I can’t tell the difference, but that isnt’ really true. But it’s scary. I don’t know where this one comes from – I mean, it’s gotta come from me, right? Right? – but it feels alien enough that I shy away from what it says. When am I ever that certain about anything? The Little Voice is absolutely sure. I’m not, and I rationalize it away. Then I regret it.

That’s too bad, because besides a practice of meditation, the best way to encourage any of these voices except the first category is to listen to and act on them. I often wish The Little Voice would appear and tell me what to do, and it stays stubbornly silent. I can’t help but wonder if it’s in a snit because of all the times I heard it and went the other way.

I’ll be back soon to put up a real post, honest I will, perhaps even today. But for this one, I wanted to mention a few things I mean to do with this site and (I hope) get some feedback.

First, I think I’m going to move the Second Hand Dream Repository to a page of its own. That should make it easier to find and navigate, so more people will drop by and leave dreams. The rest of the “Dreams” category may follow. I’m open to bribes on this matter.

Second, I fully intend to answer the comments that have questions or that seem to call for some type of further comment, but I’m considering pulling some of them and making them the basis for their own posts. Some of the lucid dreaming comments have already been used that way indirectly, and there are a few meditation questions sitting back there that could use the same treatment.

Finally, I will put up a blog roll and say something (anything!) on the “About” page. Leave your links in the comments if you want to be on the roll.

There are a few components involved in successfully waking up inside your dreams, otherwise known as lucid dreaming. Sometimes it’s easy. Other times, you’ll wake up and immediately wonder why you missed your chance.

Probably the single most critical skill to master is the habit of asking yourself if you could be dreaming and being willing to test the answer. As luck would have it, my last sleep cycle included a dream in which my mom showed up unexpectedly at work, just as I was going to get to have some down time and relax. That she would do that is highly unlikely for many reasons, and so when I saw her, I asked myself if I could be dreaming. My answer to myself? No, because I’d just had the same situation in a dream where my sister dropped by awkwardly, and it couldn’t be a dream twice. I missed a chance to control that dream because instead of looking around surreptitiously to see if I could change the time on the clocks, I didn’t really follow through on the question. How helpful of my brain to supply me with an example for this post, huh?

So, to sum up the key skill: get used to asking yourself throughout your day or at any time you notice something out of the ordinary, “Am I dreaming?” and when you do, take yourself seriously enough to test the hypothesis.

The first part of this is wonderfully simple. You just have to remember to do it. At regular intervals throughout your day, take a moment to ask yourself (mentally; one likes to fly under the “crazy” radar), “Am I dreaming right now?” You can ask every hour, whenever you pull up to a stoplight, when the phone rings, if something unusual happens, when your cat horks up a hairball on the carpet… anything that happens often enough to create a habit of asking the dreaming question. I hope that last isn’t a regular occurrence, but hey, if that’s your life, work with it. Just pull back and observe yourself and the situation and ask the question.

The second part is also easy, but it requires a willingness to take yourself seriously that can be difficult to muster. Whether it’s because we’re usually sure we’re awake and hate to be wrong, or because the question is generally “no” and we begin to ask rhetorically instead of thoughtfully, the answering half of the equation can get skimmed over. In most cases, if you really consider the question, you’ll be able to tell… but, of course, there are tricks. Trying to change the time on the nearest clock is one. Trying to read something and then change it is another. My favorite is to attempt to levitate as a possible prelude to flying away. Another, especially if it’s a nightmare I’m questioning, is to see if I can stop the action for a second. If you can’t immediately tell you’re in a dream, do something to modify the environment in a way you couldn’t in waking life. It doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to take long, but you do need to signal to yourself that you really want to find out.

If you’ve been keeping a dream journal and paying attention to the trends, there are other ways to approach it. Does your brother-in-law have black hair in real life but red hair half the time in your dreams? Tell yourself that the next time you see him with red hair, you’ll know you’re dreaming. It’s a nice shortcut.

You have to be careful, though. Your subconscious is good at keeping dreams out of your everyday life. I gleefully discovered several “I’m dreaming” indicators, like not being able to stop a car no matter how hard I braked (yet never hitting anything), whacked-out staircases, not being able to read, and having trouble removing clothing. Within weeks, stairs straightened, cars stopped, and I could take a shower in a dream without the jaws of life to get my pants off. Keep your dream-clues updated.

An overall desire to become conscious in the dream state is sometimes enough to trigger lucidity, and a healthy dose of auto-suggestion won’t come amiss. Repeating to yourself, “Tonight, I recognize when I’m dreaming” just before you drop off can set the stage. Keeping a voice recorder or notebook next to the bed reinforces your intention to dream, too. You can even date and label the page as an act of confidence that you will have a lucid dream that you’ll then be able to record. The point of those things is to give weight to the notion that you CAN be conscious in a dream and capture the experience. They’re helpful rituals, little self psych-outs that help get you into that dreaming state of mind and smooth the way, and you can easily create your own. But when it comes right down to it, while these set the stage and can help increase your chances, you still MUST be willing to accept the fact that you’re dreaming, and that you know it. When the thought, “It’s a dream!” strikes, you have to agree. The more you can train yourself to have the thought, the better your chances of having it when you’re dreaming.

I had a conversation the other day about spirituality, and it started me thinking… well, about a great many things, but one of them was how much the spiritual and the kind of thing we’re talking about here have to overlap. And it turns out that my reaction is, “Not much.” Sometimes, or for some people, they do completely, but that’s not the main idea behind this venture.

I certainly don’t mean to discourage comments or discussion relating to spirituality. It’s bound to come up. I think it’s just as fascinating as any of the other subjects that might wander in, and probably more personally relevant to many people. However, I won’t relate everything that comes up back to a spiritual viewpoint, because I just prefer not to take that tone and I think the subject matter stands on its own just fine. In general I’d prefer to gather information and build systems and “act as if” from a practical (and practicable) standpoint than to have to burden everything with either spiritual nuances or skepticism. I have buckets of both, but to always insist on taking everything back to either perspective can kill the exploration. I’d rather meander through the woods and see which smells I notice.

If you’re a spiritual person, it permeates other areas of your life (or, in my opinion, it should). If you’re searching for more meaning, almost every subject discussed here can further your journey. But I’m not about to make that call for you. What it comes down to is that spirituality is going to get its own tag since I feel a high degree of overlap is just plain unneccesary. But I think it’s important and interesting enough to have one.

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