Made Of Dreams


Communique From The Dream World

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Communique From The Dream World

What if you slept, and what if in your sleep you dreamed, and what if in your dream you went to heaven and there you plucked a strange and beautiful flower, and what if when you awake you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then? (Samuel Taylor Colridge) 

 What if you slept, and what if in your sleep you dreamed, and what if in your dream you went to heaven and there you plucked a strange and beautiful flower, and what if when you awake you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then? (Samuel Taylor Colridge)

Throughout history, poets, philosophers. and other dreamers have been challanged by the fantastic idea of bringing something back from the dream world - something as substancial and real as Coleridge's flower - something to prove that the dream was as real as life. In the late 1970s, when I began my Ph.D. study on lucid dreams at Stanford, I found myself challenged by a seemingly even more hopeless task: proving that lucid dreaming is real. The experts at the time were convinced that dreaming with consciousness that you were dreaming was a contradiction in terms and therefore impossible. Such philosophical reasoning could not convince me, since I had experienced lucid dreams - impossible or not.

I had no doubt that lucid dreaming was a reality, but how could I prove it to anyone else? To do so I needed to bring back evidence from the dream world as proof that I had really known I was dreaming during sleep. Simply reporting I had been lucid in a dream after awakening  wouldn't prove that the lucidity had occurred while I was actually asleep. I needed some way to mark the time of the lucid dream on a record showing that I had been asleep. I knew that earlier studies had demonstrated that the direction of dreamers' physical eye movements during REM was sometimes exactly the same as the direction that they reported looking in their dreams. In one remarkable example reported by pioneer sleep and dream researcher Dr. William Dement, a dreamer was awakened from REM sleep after making a series of about two dozen regular left-right-left-right eye movements . 

He reported that he was dreaming about a table tennis game; just before awakening he had been watching a long volley with his dream gaze.  I also knew from my own experience that I could look in any direction I wished while in a lucid dream, so it occurred to me that I ought to be able to signal while I was having a lucid dream by moving my eyes, in a prearranged, recognizable pattern. To test this idea, I spent the night at the Stanford Sleep Laboratory. I wore electrodes that measured my brain waves, eye movement, and muscle tone, which my colleague Dr. Lynn Nagel monitored on a polygraph while I slept. During the night I had a lucid dream in which I moved my eyes left-right-left-right. The next morning, when we looked through the polygraph record, we found the eye movement signals in the middle of the REM  period. At this writing, dozens of other lucid dreamers have also successfully signaled from lucid dreams, and these dreams have occurred almost exclusively during REM sleep.

This method of communication from the dream world has proven to be of inestimable value in the continued study of lucid dreams and dream psychology. The fact that lucid dreamers could remember to perform previously agreed upon actions in their dreams and that they could signal to the waking world made an entirely new approach to dream research possible.

By using trained lucid dreamers, we were able to develop the eye movement signaling technique into a powerful methodology . We have found that oneironauts can carry all kinds of experimental tasks, functioning both as subjects and experimenters in the dream state. The one ironautical approach to dream research is illustrated by a series of studies conducted as the Stanford Sleep Research Center that have begun to map out mind body relationships during dreaming.

Reference: Exploring the World Of Lucid Dreaming: Stephen Laberge, Ph.D. & Howard Rheingold




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