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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Illucid Dreaming


Lucid Dreaming. Heard of it? It's the idea that one can control one's dreams if one can simply become aware (lucid) of the fact that one is in a dream state, and not bound by the laws of reality. This is how a mundane dream about digging potatoes can suddenly turn into a Flying Cowboy dream - and boy howdy, let me tell you, it doesn't get any better'n that.

The key to becoming lucid in a dream state, I have read, is not dissimilar to what Carlos Castaneda wrote about (except that his "dreams" were hallucinations brought on by the ingestion of psychedelic plant matter). Castaneda's moment of control came when he believed he had seen a monster out of the corner of his eye.

His first instinct was to flee, but he forced himself to focus on the monster, which turned out to be a shrub. He insisted to himself that he must stare at the thing, must ascertain its identity, must figure it out... And the shrub became as fascinating as the monster was terrifying.

Anyway, they (the supposed experts) say that one way to attain lucidity in a dream is to think about your hands as you are falling asleep. Hold them in front of your eyes as your lids slide closed, and say out loud to yourself, "Look at your hands... Look at your hands..." Kind of like counting sheep but with a way different purpose.

Then, if a particular dream becomes too vexing (like the one where I can't get a ride to someplace, so I start walking, and it starts raining but it isn't rain falling from the sky, only tiny lizards that wriggle and squirm into the gutters after bouncing rudely on the ground), you just... look at your hands. Once you have accomplished that monumental subconscious task, you become aware - Hey, I Did It! After that, like I said, Flying Cowboy.

Look at your hands. Look at your hands. Look at your hands.

Yeah, look at them. They're scarred, skinned, singed, scraped. Once described by my dear mother as "piano hands", they now look like undercooked pork chops with fingers. The knuckles have been calcified into cornices. Look at them. They've been crippled, crushed, crimped into crab claws. The calluses have no nerve endings under them anymore. Look at them. Look at what's left of them.

I used to tease Charlie about his soft, boneless hands (that's what I called them). I used to tell him they would someday find his body in the desert next to the jug of water that he was unable to open. He found a way to be indignant and still get a laugh out of it at the same time. The horrible fact is that my nephew never got the chance to turn his hands into anything like mine.

Look at them.

I've been using them while I still can, because life is not a dream; I still have to fix the car when it breaks. I still have to build shelving units to hold all the tools I use to build shelving units. Still have to get in a kitchen and work with them every night. Still have to type.

I find woodworking to be beneficial - not to my hands but to my mind, which is far more fitful in its waking state than it could ever be in the respite of REM sleep. Building things is a good way to kill the time when you'd much rather be killing something else.

When the project is complete, I have transformed a few bucks' worth of lumber into a table, or a shelf, or a nightstand, or a ladder. Something I can use, that I can trust, that I can rely on, because I know how it was made, what materials went into it. I don't have to feel too terrible about the working conditions of the poor guy who had to perform all that labor. And that which occupies my hands also occupies my mind (math, mostly).

That which I cannot grasp with my hands or my mind rests none too lightly on my shoulders. But I can't make a dream better by saying, "Look at your shoulders." They are broad and strong, the basis of many a bill of lading. They are tired and sore from the weight of angels and devils sitting on them. Angels and devils, saying, "Look at your hands."

Look at them.

Trying to pick up the thing they dropped, one priceless, shattered piece at a time.

Bleeding as the shards sink into the skin.

Breaking as the weight becomes too heavy to carry anymore.

Feeling along the floorboards hoping to find anything that might help.

Pushing back against my eyes as if to keep the pressure from bursting out through them.

Balling into stony fists as I lose control of, not a dream, but my nightmare, the one I go to sleep to get away from every night. Go on...

Look at them.

***

pH 1o.17.17



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