Dream or reality?

Dreams have always fascinated me. I’m sure they fascinate most people to some degree, but I’m always surprised by how most people (myself included sometimes) manage to brush them off so easily.

Vague explanations like “it’s all in your head” or “it’s just the brain sorting out the events of the day” have never really convinced me.

After all, a rock is “merely” a collection of atoms and a star is “simply” a giant nuclear reactor. Does that in any way reduce their significance? I don’t think so. At least I don’t any more.

Last week I finished reading a book on the Tibetan yogas of dream and sleep, and though many of the concepts didn’t really resonate with me, one idea in particular slapped me in the face: the idea that dream and waking “reality” may not be so different after all.

In fact that idea seems to me to be the very basis of dream yoga, or lucid dreaming.

In the dreamscape, things are fundamentally unstable. Everything changes constantly. Impermanence is the only rule in dreams.

The state that we normally identify as “real” is fundamentally stable (relatively), and seems to have a ton of rules by which the objects within it abide, but in the end the only certainty is that everything changes.

The desk I’m sitting at right now may seem stable to me now, but it’s easy to imagine what it will look like in 10 years, 100 years. In 10,000 years, nothing will remain.

That’s why I said that waking reality is relatively stable, because what’s stable to me is not stable in a mountain’s perspective. A

mountain is not stable to a star. A house fly is fleeting to us, living only a couple of days, but from the point of view of a molecule of plutonium, two days is eternity.

The reality check

One of the main practices outlined in the various guides to lucid dreaming is the so-called reality check, which means exactly what it sounds like.

For example, my go-to reality check is to close my nostrils with my thumb and index finger and try to breathe through it. If I can’t breathe, I’m most likely still awake. If I can breathe, I’m almost certainly dreaming.

This has worked countless times for me in dreams in the last few years, but I’ve had limited success in actually doing anything within the dream after the fact.

The trick to making this happen is to make reality checks a habit in waking life. The theory goes that once the habit of questioning reality becomes ingrained enough, we start doing it automatically in dreams.

I haven’t been consistently working with dreams since I discovered lucid dreaming, but in the last few months I’ve found a renewed interest in them. After all, the possibilities for growth and learning is practically limitless within the dream world.

The missing ingredient

However, I’ve found that simply making reality checks an automatic habit is missing a crucial ingredient: awareness.

When I finally did start doing an automatic reality check in dreams, I would realize that I was in a dream but still somehow not fully understand what that implies.

It’s weird, really. I would think “hey, I’m in a dream!” but then just keep reacting to it as if I didn’t know.

After I started to do reality checks habitually with full awareness, things started to change.

I’ve only become lucid in dreams a few times after I started to do this, but there is a definite difference in clarity and understanding, though to my infinite consternation my dreams keep falling apart after about 10 seconds of lucidity and I end up waking up.

What do I want?

Still, I see every moment of lucidity in the dreamscape as a step forward, and I try my best to view it in a positive light, as in “yes, 10 seconds of lucidity” instead of “dammit, only 10 seconds of lucidity”.

Which brings me to my last point in this rather all-over-the-place article on lucid dreaming: intent.

I’m sorry to say that I’ve been very lazy with implenting this particular key practice in dream work, but the times that I do, the results have spoken for themselves.

What I mean by intent is simply this: going to sleep with the actual intention of becoming lucid in dreams. It seems so obvious but to me and many others, it’s very elusive. I’ve been working on a nighttime ritual to remedy this, linking it to my meditation habit.

After meditating, I’ll sit quietly for another 10 minutes and reflect on the day that’s coming to an end, focusing on the more dreamlike qualities I’ve experienced, like strange encounters and weird coincidences.

Then I’ll reflect on the endless possibilities for the conscious dreamer: flight, exploration, understanding, *cough* SEX *cough* and so on.

I try to foster the feeling of excitement and anticipation for developing awareness within the dream and learning to control it.

For some reason I’ve been experiencing loads of resistance to this simple formula, but persistence is key. I won’t give up.

I’m gonna wrap this up now, but you can expect way more content on dream awareness in the near future.

Until then, much love and pleasant dreams.

Expansion and contraction – Rebuilding habits is easier than you think

Sometimes we manage to build excellent habits and routines only to see them come crashing down around us. It might be because of a difficult event or even a crisis, or it may just be a lapse in awareness or even laziness.

I’ve been going through this in my own life for the last week or so.

Those of you who’ve read my latest posts (yep, all two of you) will know that I returned from Spain about ten days ago, where I walked the way of St. James.

It was a wonderful experience, but coming home has left me very much out of sync. I’ve gotten so used to waking up between six and seven in the morning and just walking, eating and sleeping that now that the walk is over I find myself not knowing what to do with myself.

Before going to Spain I had gotten into a great routine of twice-daily meditation, journaling, yoga and exercise and general mindfulness, but the walk changed all that.

That’s not to say that I didn’t do all those things during the walk, in fact I think I’ve never managed to develop my awareness so much before.

I was very focused on being mindful while I was walking and I kept up the journaling habit as well, but the routines I had built were no longer relevant there.

So now I have this challenge that I’ve been working on since I got back, the challenge of re-adjusting to non-pilgrimage (haha).

First of all, I think accepting that I’m having difficulty getting back into habits that I thought I had gotten down completely is most important.

Sometimes we won’t admit to ourselves when something we thought was a sure thing ain’t so sure, and that obtuseness prevents us from seeing how things actually are and most importantly, prevents us from changing them to the better.

Secondly, I believe realizing that all the time we spent on building said habits was not wasted time.

Imagine a musician picking up his instrument after a year of not playing at all. He’ll be rusty, and he may even think his skillz have just evaporated completely.

But give him an hour or two of getting back in to the groove, so to speak, and he’ll almost certainly have remembered loads of tunes and licks.

Compare that to the person picking up an instrument for the first time in her life. An hour or two of practice will not bring nearly the same results. That’s the difference between having ingrained neural pathways and, well, not having them.

In my experience, this phenomenon isn’t limited to muscle memory only, but in fact applies to all habits that we build, consciously or not, good or bad.

We may have difficulties getting back into habits right away, after being lazy for a week, a month or a year, but like the musician we can get back into the groove relatively quickly if we put a bit of effort in.

I emphasize the ‘if’ because in the past, I’ve often put lots of effort into building a habit, only to drop it again, and then even if I want to build the habit again I wouldn’t put in the effort. Why? Because I felt like I was back on square one.

We have to realize that if we’ve worked on building a habit, we’ll never be back on square one. Every time we rebuild a habit, the easier it will be.

Expansion and contraction, up and down. Building a habit and then losing it again are two sides to the same coin, and they are inevitable.

That’s what I’ve been trying to accept.

I’m not perfect, but then nothing is. Perfect is an abstract term, concieved by human beings. In nature, nothing is perfect, and so everything is perfect. Everything is just as it should be, just as it needs to be.

So let’s allow ourselves to expand and contract, without hang-ups.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to rediscover the joy of awareness.

Dimensional dysfunction – My evolving OBE experiment

In the last month or so I’ve been reading about and experimenting with OBE (out-of-body experiences), AKA astral projection.

Strange stuff. I’ve had some weird experiences so far, but as of yet I haven’t been able to project. If you wanna know what the hell I’m talking about click here.

So what have my results been? Well, I’ve taught myself to relax very deeply, which is very pleasant to be honest.

Deep relaxation is supposed to be a cornerstone for achieving the OBE state.

Multiple times now I’ve started experiencing projection related phenomena while or after doing these relaxation exercises, like a very heavy feeling in the body, vibrations, rapid heart beat, auditory and visual hallucinations, but no success with actually having my consciousness exit my physical body.

There was one instance especially where I was sure I was on the verge of projecting.

I had been lying flat on my back without moving for about 40 minutes, focusing on relaxation and sort of encouraging the vibrations to spread throughout my body, when quite suddenly everything became way more intense.

I started to feel very heavy, my heart started pounding, I started hearing voices, I felt a strong tingling or vibrating sensation all throughout my body and I started seeing strange visuals behind closed eyelids. The visuals were like falling through a colorful, swirling tunnel or wormhole or something.

It was all very strange and I became very excited and thought ‘This is IT! This is IT!’ and I opened my eyes. I was still lying in my bed, certainly still in the physical, and all the sensations faded away. I couldn’t help feeling a bit bummed.

I’m pretty sure I just opened my eyes too soon, if I had allowed what was happening to keep happening, maybe something would have happened.

Frankly, after that I became a bit discouraged for some reason. It’s weird, because I feel like I came very close to the goal but somehow stopped myself short.

Instead of seeing it as a sign of major progress, it felt more like a failure. I was busy walking the Camino de Santiago at that time, and I kind of stopped trying after this episode, I’m sorry to say.

I started to focus more on lucid dreams again, and I’ve had some minor success with that in the last few weeks. Now that I’m back home I want to start working on the astral projection stuff again.

I want to combine it with lucid dream work, as I’ve learned that many skills necessary for the one are also immensely useful in the other.

Stuff like visualization, relaxation, prospective and retrospective memory, and concentration all seem to play a major part in both.

I already have a little experience on and off with dream work, and I’ve had some major success with it in the past, including one particularly clear and powerful lucid dream that sort of redefined my view of the world as a young adult.

I’ll write an in-depth post on my experience with lucid dreams at some point.

Suffice it to say, I’m ready to do some real work on OBEs and dreams in the coming weeks and months.

This is an area of spiritual discipline that I find incredibly interesting and I’m sure there are endless opportunities for growth and learning hidden within (and outside) the unconscious mind.

I’ll be writing a lot more on this topic in coming days. For now I’m still getting my mind to accept the fact that I’m no longer walking 30 km a day, that I’m back home in Iceland.

Much love, until next time.

Home again

I’m back! It’s been six weeks since I wrote anything on here. The reason? I was walking the Way of St. James.

That was a doozy, 800 kilometers… It was long and arduous, but well worth it. This post is really just me welcoming myself back from Spain.

On my walk I had more than enough time to ponder about my plans for my life. I came to realize that starting this website is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

Even though hardly anyone ever visits it (yet), I still feel immensely proud for having taken this step. I’m putting my spiritual life out on the web in blog format.

I feel like I’ve come a long way in the last 6 weeks, pun very much intended. I was diligently mindful most days, and the rest of the time I was reading, meditating, talking to some pretty amazing people (and sadly, some assholes as well), and reflecting upon my existence.

I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to make this journey. It wouldn’t have been possible without my midnight of the soul, ironically, because without it I would still have been in school and not had the time to spare.

That’s life, ups and downs, yes and no, happy and sad, the whole bit.

I’ll keep this post short. I will say this though, I’m all in on making this site a thriving hub for spiritual awareness, full of meaningful content and insights.

I have all the time in the world, and slowly but surely this will become something magnificent.

Stay tuned.

A long, long walk

This is going to be the last post I write for the next seven weeks. Fear not, however, because I’ve been writing every day for the last seven weeks, so that new articles and content will be released every three days until the beginning of May!

Actually, I sometimes feel like I’m just talking to myself here, since I have practically no readers at this point. I don’t mind though, because I’m just getting started. I’m confident in the content I’m releasing, and I know that my writing and artistic skills are only going to improve the more I work. And anyway, I’m having loads of fun.

I won’t be writing for the next seven weeks is because I’m embarking on a journey. The first few days will be spent in Riga with my mother and sister, and then I’ll head over to Albania, where I’m meeting up with my girlfriend Sylvía, and we’re going to spend two weeks discovering that relatively obscure country.

After Sylvía flies back home to Iceland, I’ll be flying over to Bayonne in the south-west of France, from there I’ll take a train to Saint Jean Pied-de-Port. That’s where I’ll start a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and beyond.

Its a long, long walk. More than 800 kilometers. I’m a bit nervous, since I’ve never walked that far in a single stretch, but at the same time I know it will be an excellent opportunity for adventure, expanding my comfort zone, and meditative self-inquiry.

So that’s all for this last post, wish me luck on my trip!

Until next time, much love.

 

Update on my OBE experiment – Week 2

This post will be short because, frankly, nothing has happened yet.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I’m getting really good at chilling the fuck out, pardon my french. Like consciously relaxing my body, and I feel some nice benefits from that alone. It’s a cool skill to have.

If you haven’t read my first post on my OBE experiment, feel free to check it out. In short, I’ve decided to make the experience of an OBE or astral projection a priority in my life, if it is at all possible.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, OBE is short for Out-of-body experience, and it means just what it sounds like. I haven’t experienced it for myself (yet, hopefully), so I don’t know if it’s real or not, but there are so many accounts and loads of anecdotal evidence from people who have experienced it that I find it highly unlikely to be some kind of mass ruse or delusion.

That said, I’ll just quickly lay out my regular OBE routine that I try to do every night for 30 minutes to an hour. I’ve been changing it a bit as I go along, figuring out what works for me.

I start by lying down and getting comfortable somewhere quiet where I won’t be disturbed, and then I do some conscious relaxation. Normally, just focusing on my breathing and then expanding my awareness throughout my body is sufficient for me to fully relax, but sometimes I need to do a more structured relaxation exercise, like focusing on each body part individually, consciously releasing tension as I go.

After I feel fully relaxed, I start to focus on the tingling, vibratory sensation that I almost always feel throughout my body at this stage of relaxation. I focus on it, kind of encouraging it to expand and intensify. Up until recently I was also repeating a mantra/affirmation, like I now allow my consciousness to travel beyond my body, but I feel like it disrupts my relaxation so I stopped. Maybe I’ll try them again later.

At the point where I feel very relaxed, feeling mildly intense vibrations in my whole body, I to focus on the darkness behind my eyelids, and the low ever-present ringing in my ears.

Yesterday I tried moving my attention to where my third eye would be, I’m not sure if I was focusing on it mentally or visually behind my eyelids, but some strange sensations started to occur. At one point I felt like the darkness behind my eyelids became three dimensional, if that makes sense, as if it became spatial.

I’ve also tried visualizing or imagining the sensation of floating and lightness, which can become very pleasant.

All said, I’ve been experiencing some weird, cool stuff, but so far I have yet to actually experience separation from my physical body. I’m going to keep going though. I’m prepared for this to take quite some effort and time. I’m in no rush, to be honest.

If anybody reading this has any more info or experience with OBEs or projecting from their body, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or send me a line through the About me page.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

Until next time, much love.

 

Mindfulness or multitasking?

It continues to baffle me, the power of being mindful. I’m was the kind of guy who, if I wasn’t doing at least two things at the same time, would feel as if I were ‘wasting time’. I now see the error of my ways.

The topic I want to rant about today is the seductive allure of multitasking and why it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Multitasking is the norm today. It’s almost considered lazy to do only one thing at a time.

When I was a teenager, I loved playing electric guitar. I started playing at around sixteen or seventeen. I played mostly rock, with a majestic emphasis on Slash’s guitar work in Guns ‘n’ Roses. I would play all day, every day.

Okay, maybe not all day, I still had to go to school and whatnot, but I would skip every class I could get away with skipping, I would skip meals, I would even call in sick for work (I worked in the meat section of the local supermarket at the time). All so I could go back home, lock myself in my room, and play.

I became incredibly proficient in a very short time frame. A friend of mine who had played for years by then was awestruck. I was shredding and soloing like nobody’s business.

Then I discovered the concept of multitasking, and it was pretty much downhill from there. I applied it to guitar practice. I started to watch documentaries, listening to audio-books, sometimes even reading physical books (I had to contort into some pretty weird positions to make that work), while practicing riffs and scales and all that stuff you do to get good.

And mysteriously, inexplicably, I stopped getting better. Well, I was still getting better to some extent, I was just improving at a snail’s pace.

Except it’s no mystery to me today. I’ve long since lost interest in electric guitar, though I still play acoustic every now and then, but I often go back to that time mentally to see what lessons can be learned.

At first I thought I must have been practicing less, but that’s nonsense, because I had finished high school by then and could practice without worrying about homework or cramming for tests.

Then I reckoned maybe I had just lost interest, but that explanation’s no good either. I remember distinctly that my interest first started to fade after I realized that I wasn’t getting any better.

Pretty recently, though, I started applying mindfulness to drawing, which is a great passion of mine. Specifically I started being mindful in model drawing sessions. And the results went way beyond what I expected.

To be clear, when I speak of applying mindfulness to something, I simply mean focusing fully on the task at hand without distraction. No radio, tv, eating, talking, or anything else to split my attention.

As you may already know, mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, is an approach to reducing stress and anxiety through present awareness. That’s what got me interested in trying out mindful model drawing.

I always used to listen to podcasts or audio-books while drawing, and I was consistently absent minded, unfocused and stressed. All of that was gone in the first few minutes, but what really struck me was the quality of focus I attained and the results of that first mindful model drawing class were very good. My best work so far. And then I had an epiphany.

The above are from my first mindful model drawing class, all in ink.

The epiphany was simply this. A skill will improve in direct correlation to the quality or amount of focused attention directed to that particular skill.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been improving steadily in model drawing even though my attention has been divided. It’s just that I could quite simply feel the improvements, the learning, when I focused solely on what I was doing in the present moment.

When we divide our attention, we think we’re spending our time wisely, when in fact we are missing out on the incredible power of fully focused attention.

This is what happened to my guitar playing as a teen, I’m sure of it. When I started playing, I was focused on my practice and nothing else. I made incredible progress in record time. As soon as I started to divide my attention between practice and *insert distraction here*, my progress effectively halted. Beautiful in its simplicity.

I’ll bring this to a close now.

What can you learn from my mistakes? There is no such thing as wasted time. We do what we do. That is what time is. A measurement of change. When eating, eat. When sleeping, sleep. When practicing or working on your passion, do that. There is no need to try to ‘improve’ any activity with anything else.

That’s not to say that every activity is equal, far from it. Practicing guitar is way more fruitful than watching TV, for example. But if you do decide, consciously, to watch TV every now and again, just do that. It’s pretty simple, really.

Where attention goes, energy flows. That’s the essence of this post.

So since I realized this, I’ve been applying this principle to all aspects of my life. I still feel the weird need to ‘make full use of my time’, but consciously decide not to multitask. I hope you will too.

Until next time, much love.