42

42

 

I turned 42 a few days ago. As birthday’s go, it was quite unremarkable from the point of view of opting to go to work, the usual wakeup start of 6 a.m, then a day spent in the cold, doing my usual stonemasonry routine in a nine hour day. I had a celebratory meal with my family after work (which was lovely) then came home and the day was just as good as over. It added a sharp contrast to my 41st, which was spent lounging around in the beautiful Caribbean sun of Grenada, I have now vowed to myself that I won’t do a working day on my 43rd, 44th etc. I felt quite flat.

Entering 42 has been a poignant experience lurking in the back of my mind, mainly because it has provided me with a little opportunity to dwell on the numbers involved. It caused me to reflect on ‘halves’, specifically half of my lifetime, twenty one years ago.

At 21 in 1992 I’d just moved to Bristol, having left the comfort zone of my familiar home county in Norfolk. It had been a massive step in my independence as a young man, no longer reliant on the familiar faces and locations I had always known as home. It was a leap into the unknown and uncertainty. I took the move in a brazen spirit, it felt a little risky and dangerous, I won’t deny that deep in my heart I felt the call of adventure and the unknown variables just meant excitement to me.

Historically, twenty one years ago was a pivotal junction in my life, the choices I made in relocation became life changing circumstances which echoed on to present day. I live in Bath now, having spent eleven years in Bristol. Those years, upon reflection were like a burning forge for fashioning the man I would eventually become. I won’t deny that they were emotionally incredibly difficult years in the most part, much of my life in Bristol became a stormy season of letting go of ‘kidulthood’ even though I wasn’t aware of this at the time. I’d wrestled with myself and my often complicated emotions throughout the most of it. I generally don’t look at my ‘twenty something’ years with much affection, I was lost, directionless, emotionally lonely, acutely aware of being in a boat without a rudder and terrified of what that actually meant in the long run. At the same time, the connections I had made with new friends had helped me through the most difficult of those times, I will always be grateful to those who cared.

By the time I reached my thirties, I felt a great relief, It seemed that the most desolate and difficult emotions had passed. Life still seemed difficult but I felt that I’d survived a lot of the shit I had either put myself through or been put through. This gave me a core of resilience, I knew I had it, and it pleased me to know I could survive. Is that how one starts to grow up?

I’m quickly heading into the tenth anniversary of meeting the lady who is now my wife, this adds another contrast for processing half of what happened over the course of twenty one years ago. She has been the greatest personal catalyst I have ever known, my lover and my best friend.

Becoming 42, has been a ponderous experience because of the above reasons. I know that I have lived my whole life all over again since being 21. In turn, the memory of my twenty one year old self has been akin to remembering being a child; something I could never have anticipated feeling. Unlike the string of small recollections I have about being an infant, the memory of who I was as a younger man, seems very fresh, as if two decades worth of living feel like something that happened last year. It makes me feel a kind of emotional vertigo.

It’s easy to imagine further down the line, advice I would have given my younger self, changes I might have made to do things differently, but, I don’t really go too far into those thoughts because I’m mostly happy with who I am and how life has changed for the better. Remembering half a lifetime ago is bittersweet, of course there are things I would do differently if I could do them all again, yet at the same time I’m very aware that my greatest mistakes and challenges have also been my greatest teachers, and now I’m old enough to appreciate such an insight. Isn’t this a case of Ouroboros eating its own tail?

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*Hat worn like a lemon for artistic purposes

 

 

He Craved Lucidity.

As HIAB-X.COM evolves and fills with more content, I’ll be dedicating more of my writing to  experiences with altered states of consciousness. I haven’t deliberately meddled with my perceptions for many years now although the historical legacy of my adventures during my twenties still has a very profound impact on my world view today. I’m not ashamed of where I’ve taken myself, I sought answers to questions that couldn’t be adequately be answered by anyone else’s written accounts, I had to see things and experience them for myself.

During the period of my twenties, probably somewhere around 1996, I began taking an interest in the phenomenon of lucid dreaming. I’d read a fair amount about the subject and felt a natural gravity towards experimentation with techniques suggested to induce one.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it’s pretty straight forward. Ordinarily, everyone dreams, you may not always remember it but it’s a hardwired biological fact. If, like me, you are fortunate to have good dream recall, it logically follows that all dreams as most of us experience them, are events that occur in the night, where the dreamer remains completely unaware of the condition of being in a dream until awakening in the morning. At this point, the awareness of the dream is that of a collection of fragmented, recollections of what had happened in the dreamers mind at night.

Happy with that definition? Good.

OK, a lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer’s critical faculties kick in and conclude  with the general notion “Oh, this must be a dream!” or thoughts to that effect. Most of us have experienced this also. From my own experiences and speaking with countless friends about it, many people gain this brief insight during uncomfortable dreams and nightmares only to awaken from the dream a moment later. The dream is lost and we are safely back in the reality of being in bed in the dead of night.

There is another way of going about it, the one in which the dreamer gains the self awareness of the situation at large and remains in that awareness as the dream continues.

This is the proper art of lucid dreaming and at best, it can be very tricky to attain this state either regularly or for any significant duration.

The Nineties was an exciting era for technological innovation, particularly for the emergence of gadgets that suitably fell into the niche category of ‘Techno-shamanic devices’. These were things like the early Mind machines and creations like Stephen LaBerge’s ‘Nova Dreamer.‘ I’ll cover Mind machines in other post, for now, I’ll keep on topic with the Nova Dreamer.

The Nova Dreamer was a device designed to be worn during sleep and resembled a slightly over sized eye mask.It contained a small computer situated above the centre of the eyebrows which had infrared sensors in place just above the eyelids. What it it did was very clever, it would detect when the sleeping wearer was going into REM sleep (The mental state where dreams begin to occur, then it would gently flash tiny LED lights just above the eyelids which in turn would appear as a light orientated visual cue within the dream. The cue of the lights would not last long but the theory was, that the will and attention of the wearer, hoping to have a lucid dream, would be sufficiently invoked to a point where the cue was understood and lucidity could begin.

A certain degree of mental preparation was also involved, simple daily practices such as keeping a dream diary, employing critical thinking to discern the multitude of ‘unlikely’ occurrences that might suggest that ordinary linear reality was not being experienced.

There was also the practice of ‘reality checking’ whereby the would-be lucid dreamer should take pause during certain random points during the waking day and perform some brief mental tests to ascertain that a dream was either occurring or not occurring.

I’m pretty certain that nothing much has changed in the routines and practices of the budding lucid dreamer. I was particularly interested in using the mask as it seemed like a good shortcut to lucid dream induction. Although effort was involved, there was also a little bit of electronic help at hand. I briefly had access to a Nova Dreamer which I’d obtained on a trial basis. Unfortunately for me, I found the mask incredibly uncomfortable to go to sleep with, as it was quite rigid and felt like a clunky facial object. I’d wake up every morning with it somewhere next to me in bed and no recollection of having experienced a lucid dream. Even though I’d followed all the instructions that accompanied it, including a rather in depth course in lucid dream induction, I just couldn’t get on with the mask. Within the safe period of my trial, I repacked it and sent it back to the company who’d supplied it.

Irony ultimately ensued, on the day I returned my briefly owned Nova Dreamer, I went to bed and experienced my first ever lucid dream.

The Dream.

It began with a false awakening, I remember sitting up in my sofa bed and feeling a momentary disorientation. I was in the right bed but it had somehow shifted position within the bedsit I was living in. I just couldn’t fathom why this should be and promptly decided to try a reality check, I took a look at my hands. (As suggested in the lengthy procedures outlined in A Course in Lucid Dreaming) I was immediately surprised to see that I held a tube of Colegate Toothpaste between my hands. This immediately began the realisation that I was in fact experiencing a dream.

The sheer thrill and excitement of this awareness began to destabilise the dream, I could feel the room around me beginning to fade and vibrate as if it were a bubble about to pop. Fortunately as I was quick enough to realise this, I returned my gaze to my dream hands and felt a general calming down of my surroundings. A sense  of stability descended and I hoped out of bed.

I was struck initially by the appearance of my bedsit in its dream form. It looked like the place I actually lived in, the layout was almost the same yet all personal objects decorating the abode were other worldly and unfamiliar. I briefly took notice of a black pyramid ornament sitting on top of my TV set. The object resonated faintly glowing red lines that looked like drifting parallel laser beams. I was fascinated yet at the same time hungry for further experience of my environment, I wanted to see what the outside world looked like and promptly left the bedsit via the exterior kitchen door. I was incredibly unprepared for what I would then discover.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=intJbX4OUR4&feature=youtu.be’]

In reality, my back garden was nothing special; some compacted soil and a horrible little Hawthorn tree.

Until that point, I'd never given fairies serious thought.

In my dream reality, the garden was the same scale but had now gained two rows of parallel trees evenly spaced on opposite sides of the garden to each other, i think there were six trees in total and they were swarming with flying life forms that looked like fairies from folklore. The only noticeable difference with these fairies was that they had  flickering lights glowing from their backs, the lights appeared to fan and had a fluttering wing like appearance. The beings took no notice of my presence, my dream jaw was on the dream floor at the sight of them but then I was distracted by yet another surprise; I felt a warm air current breeze over my bare arms. It caused me to look around and notice the radiant sun. It was a beautiful, non blinding giant orange orb hanging in a golden sky. Vivid to behold, probably four times greater in size than the brilliant sun of reality. I was noting as I witnessed this, the vivid hyperreality of the situation, everything before me stood in vibrant, tangible,infinitely detailed form. This observation appeared to occur in my head as a thought processing the perceived world before me.

I looked down to check my body was still there, I felt quite unbothered by the fact that I seemed to be naked. I briefly focussed on my left nipple and I decided as this was all happening in a dream, that perhaps I could shift form. Was there any reason why not?

No. I willed my body to shift gender and it immediately responded. I could hear a noise like air filling a balloon as I watched my chest suddenly inflate into two hairless, perfect female breasts. In retrospect, I regret that I didn’t explore further below but I was reeling in psychological awe at the simple effectiveness at willing the transition. I reflect repeating the phrase over and over to myself “This is a dream, this is a dream…”

I looked up again to see over to the corner of the garden, I noticed that there was an open gate that wasn’t normally there, I took steps towards it and briefly recognised a distinct similarity to the garden gate of my best friend’s old house, even the paving leading into this other garden looked the same… I started to walk through and would have continued my exploration had it not been for the sense of physically acute sensitivity in my left nipple. I looked down and saw that it had become erect, in a perfectly female way so that it was a little fleshy raspberry shape. I couldn’t help but touch it with my fingers, It felt solid, utterly tangible and full of sensation. I started to laugh, a proper belly laugh, at the absurdity of the experience, and that unfortunately, was all it took to wake me up.

Waking up was a strange and heady mix of excitement, the continuity of being conscious from the state of lucid dream to ordinary consensus reality was practically seamless and so on a very rare occasion for me personally, my waking mind was sharp and supercharged. I felt like some kind of time traveller or super human with the ability to jump from one universe to another. The memory of the experience rocked my world for the rest of the day, and in many respects the rest of my life until now. I cannot adequately convey the extraordinary other worldliness of walking through a dream with present awareness perfectly intact.

Since that fateful day in 1996 I have had several other lucid dreams, mostly occurring spontaneously. A few of them were clustered around that original episode. I remember watching Inception the movie when it came out and thinking how accurate the scene was when the streets of Paris reached into the sky then folded over to make a curved reflection of the city.

Around 1996 or 1997 I’d experienced another lucid dream where I looked across the dream city of Bristol, thought of travelling to another part of it and seemed to will a large urban swathe of the cityscape to come rushing towards me as if on rails, my dream feet never walked a step.

Enter the Remee.

A chance conversation with an old friend on Facebook recently reminded me of dream machines, which in turn sparked a reminder of the frustrating Nova Dreamer. I hadn’t forgotten it in spite of its clunky and uncomfortable liaison with my head, I loved what it represented and admired the ingenuity of its design. I never liked the price tag however.

In thinking of it again, I decided to see if time and technology had perhaps refined the design, and I was initially disappointed to discover that it appears to be a discontinued product. I checked the Lucidity Institute’s page on the device and noted that they mentioned that someone else has devised a similar device called ‘The Remee’. Following the link took me to the Remee homepage, and I was thrilled to see that some guys have developed a superb looking sleep mask that operates on the same principles as the Nova Dreamer, even better still, at a very accessible fraction of the cost.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03ouH9Pw_sk’]

I haven’t had a lucid dream for about a year, when I last had one it was frustratingly short, my mind has been generally unprepared for things like reality checks etc so I have found that I tend to reach lucidity briefly before slipping back into a non self conscious state of ordinary dreaming. Needless to say, I’d very much like to acquire a Remee in the near future.

As a dream artist, such a tool will be an invaluable investment, as an adventurer into altered states of consciousness, a chemical free solution into really travelling to the wild side of reality makes this too good an opportunity to ignore. The general demands of day to day living have really tempered my former psychedelic exploration down to a base line of zero activity for at least sixteen years, I’ve had opportunities but generally passed them up in favour of keeping the rest of my life on track and running smoothly as possible. My general muse and drug of choice for creativity has been my fortunate ability to recall most of my nightly excursions in dreams. If Dr Rick Strassman is to be believed, then, these nightly visions I (we all) experience, are largely thanks to naturally occurring DMT released in the Pineal gland. Once again, to use technology to make the most of this wonderfully quirky side of neurochemistry is too good to miss.

When I’ve acquired a Remee, I’ll update these pages and start posting my written and visual results. In the meanwhile, I’ll post some links for you relating to points I’ve mentioned earlier in this post.

Lucidity Institute

The Remee

Dr Rick Strassman