My Dream Life

In reviewing my dream journals, I came across an entry from my college years in which I recorded a dream that lasted “a very long time, days at least.”  I do not remember the dream today.  But it is clear that time can become relative in dreams.  The following dream seemed to have a life of its own.

As the dream began, I was in college again.  That was not an uncommon theme for me.  The dream was intense in the sense that the details were full and the experience seemed very real.  In other words, there was no initial way to distinguish this dream from waking life.  But I did not know I was dreaming.  I was a resident assistant in the dormitory, and had a single room.  I attended classes, none of them difficult.  I established a full day’s routine, which included eating and going to bed at night.  While my life was pretty good, I was dreaming out of my current mind, and some of the things I was asked to do irritated me.  For example, I was asked to write a report for a class that seemed like nothing more than unnecessary busy work. And I didn’t really like the dorm manager, who was the supervisor to my post as resident assistant.  He treated me like I was a kid, when in fact I was much older in mind that he was.

Despite its intensity, what truly distinguished this dream was the mirror dream from Anonymous Art of Revolutionfact that I became lucid.  In other words, at one point in the dream I became aware that I was dreaming.  As real as the dream had seemed up to that point, it took on an additional reality due to my awareness.  At first, it seemed miraculous.  I was aware that the dream had already been in progress for an undetermined amount of time, at least several complete days and possibly months.  Now, each moment could be consciously measured, just like when I was awake.  I realized I had been given a gift of time, that I could live a life in my dream and my sleeping body would only age one night.

To take advantage of my situation I began to observe my routine more fully so that I could find opportunities to make my life more fulfilling.  Every day, throughout the day, I would remind myself that I was lucid within a dream, and that it was my responsibility to take advantage of the situation.  But after several weeks of this, it became obvious to me that I hadn’t formed any strong relationships.  My interactions with people in the dream, while often pleasant, were superficial.  In my spare time, I began searching for people I had actually known while I had been in college.  In this way I had hoped to improve the quality of my life.  But I could find no one I had known.  My next strategy was to try and develop new relationships.  I was patient with the process, but I wasn’t connecting with anyone on a sufficiently deep level.  I came to the conclusion that these dream people didn’t have the capacity to experience life as fully as a real person.  My next strategy was to have a superficial relationship with a pretty college girl.  But I soon discovered they were just that – girls, not mature women.  I didn’t find that attractive.  My last strategy was to go back into karate.  After all, my body was healthy and pain free.  If I couldn’t find the old karate club with its familiar membership intact, I could begin practicing on my own.  But I had the thought, “I’ve already done that,” and dropped it.

This process of discovery took months, during which time I remained intensely lucid, continued attending classes, and continued to discharge my responsibilities (few that they were) as resident assistant.  I had exhausted my strategies for improving the quality of my life, and I knew it.  At that point I became almost hyper-lucid.  I realized that I had an ability to extend this lucid dream as long as I wanted.  Forever seemed possible.  But I had to examine the consequences.  On the plus side, my life was pain and strain free.  And I had (what felt like) complete freedom in the exploration of my apparently limited universe.  The only negative consequence I could come up with was that I was wasting time, that there was no real quality of life available for me in that experience even though I had the capacity to extend it indefinitely.

As I continued to reflect on my situation over the next few days, I determined that this lack of quality in my dream-life was a rather significant drawback.  I realized that my quality relationships and interests existed in my ticking life, the one with actual time, and that the lucid dream I was currently extending was out of sync with my life.  That was why I couldn’t find real quality in it.  I realized that I could continue dreaming, or wake up.  Since there seemed no point to continue dreaming, I decided to wake up.

Even as I was still dreaming, I realized there would be a transition between such an intense dream and my waking life.  So, a bit like jumping into cold water, I said to myself, “one, two, three, wake up.”  On suggestion, I opened my eyes and the dream ended.  But I felt most disoriented as my “new” reality sank in.  It took me several long moments to gather, and even then there was a kind of alien quality to my experience.  I finally sat up in my bed.  “I’m glad to be home,” I said out loud.

The moment of recognition, of corralling all the details of my life with an effort of will, was powerful.  It was clear that my waking life had more memories, more quality than the dream-life I had left behind.  But, my dream-life had also been rich with the details of existence.  I felt a little grief as I said goodbye to that world.

And yet I felt renewed by my dream experience.  I was fully capable of accepting the experience just as it was, a life created outside of time without depth or meaning.  But ever the dream analyst, I also looked at the dream metaphorically.  Waking up was the central metaphor.  The dream was providing me with a visceral opportunity to feel what it was like to wake up to my life just as it was – filled with relationship, challenge, and tomorrow.

Photo from Facebook page Anonymous Art of Revolution

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8 Responses to My Dream Life

  1. Irina says:

    A fascinating account, Jim, with many layers of meaning!

  2. Jerome says:

    Very interesting. Have you looked into the book “Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep” by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche?

    Do you truly believe, however, that you were intensely lucid during that whole dream? For that time to have passed you must have glossed over aspects of life, like sleep and defecation and what not – were you aware of these lapses? Also, totally not criticizing, but it seems to me that if you had truly been intensely lucid you would have thought of something better than “karate” (I’m a martial artist, so I’m not against it in any way, but it loose and generic). It seems like for that much time to have passed, intense lucidity would lead to changes in that world. For the world to have remained so constant, it seems like the lucidity must have been somewhat illusory.

    Fake lucidity is possible in dreams, as is misjudgment about the degree of lucidity.

    • Jim says:

      I slept but did not dream. I ate but did not defecate. I enjoyed eating and sleeping and my daily experiences generally. They were pleasant. In my life at that time my physical body was chronically wounded, but not in the dream. I missed the fact that I would not practice karate again. I had been an accomplished practitioner, and had been given an opportunity to practice again in a lucid dream. Initially, it seemed like a great opportunity. I consciously gave that up, that was part of the point of the dream.

      It was the state of clarity itself that gave me the knowing that I could extend this dream as long as I wanted. This is not easy to communicate, and the reader has every right to be skeptical.

      At this time in my life having a lucid dream was not uncommon, but this dream was singular. Other lucid dreams may have been more “classic.” I had dreams in which I became lucid during a recurring dream, and found the dream’s resolution. Those dreams did not recur. There were dreams in which I was given wisdom, sometimes being given a book that I could read in the dream. The conundrum with this type of dream: my experience was that I could not retrieve the book to waking consciousness. Going from dreaming to waking was like passing through a screen. So I’d memorize and practice parts of the book that I’d hoped to stick to me as I came through the veil.

      As for this dream, I don’t exaggerate that it felt like another life, but not like experiencing a past life. I had full working consciousness of my current life. Still, re-entry really was disorienting, I’d been away for such a long time. When I returned and gathered myself, I felt grateful for my life just as it was.

      • Jerome says:

        I have had many lucid dreams, but nothing like this. The book thing really resonates, though. I wrote something great in a dream once. It was crushing when I couldn’t bring it out. But I guess it’s still in there, somewhere. But I couldn’t even pull out a single fragment of meaning.

        Was your sleep session very long for this dream? Was it irregular, like sleeping in late?

        All in all, kind of like Groundhog’s Day with Bill Murray. Thank you for sharing it!

        • Jim says:

          Was your sleep session very long for this dream?

          I can’t tell you how long I was dreaming in clock time, only that it was a single dream. But here’s something kind of nifty: When I ended the dream and woke up — it was time to get up. Now, I had the luxury at that time of working a second shift — so I didn’t set an alarm clock to get up. And I finished this dream about the time I usually got up. So, once I pulled myself together, I could begin the “new day.”

          Thanks for your interest.

  3. Kate Sosinska says:

    Your essay arrived to my mailbox today just as I was considering my new dream experiences of the last days and making notes. It’s happened for the second time, the relevance and timing.
    The most amazing thing is, you came to certain conclusions that are directly related to my latest spiritual work. They vocalize the message brought to me in my last journey (just two days before). Waking up to my own life. Awareness.
    Thanks and blessings.

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