Live ''Longer'' Through Dreaming

by phil on Sunday Mar 28, 2004 11:54 AM
lucid dreaming

Did you know that you have about four dreams that last 5 to 45 minutes every night but you just don't remember them? (1)(2) While the subjective experiences of dreaming are much longer, usually the process of falling asleep and waking up feels instantaneous.

To explain my point, I need to switch to some heady concepts about life for a moment.

Here is one tricky concept to grasp: experiencing and remembering are mentally equivalent. You will only assume you lived through something because you've remembered it; you feel that you've never experienced any moments that you've forgotten.

And here is a second concept. People spend a lot of time trying to expand the biological length of their life, i.e. they want to increase the number of hours that they exist on Earth, when really they should be focusing on something else. The notion of age is merely a socially inculcated concept of life's length. One can adopt an alternative perspective, wherein life's length is the number of moments that one has lived through. Using this metric, the life of an adventurer experiencing novelty every day is longer than the life of the routinized cubicle tenant.

Since experiencing and remembering are equivalent, an easy way to extend your life is to remember your dreams. I've been practicing dream recall on and off for the past two years, but have been really getting into it these past weeks. It's gotten so good that this morning I remembered five distinct dreams. Each dream was in a unique setting, with an odd assortment of characters from my past, and canvassed with bizarre events. As a result, as I'm sitting here typing this, and as I reflect about my life since 8pm last night, I feel like I've gone through a lot! Last night doesn't feel like last night, but rather maybe like last week. For in between last night and this morning I did the following: I went to a Stadium, I lived in a Monte Carlo villa, I took a final on Simpsons 101 in the rain, I took a lady-friend of mine to a luscious Miami mall, and I hosted a Reality TV show. And the best part is, I'm not tired, my wallet is not empty, and no important physical time was lost.

The simplest method for dream recall is keeping a journal to write down your dreams. I have a little pocket notepad, pen, and flashlight by my bed for this purpose. Google "dream recall" or check the Lucidity Institute for more ideas.

I'm going to pundit for a second; the following is just an image of my experiences, not scientific fact.

The problem with dream memory loss is that right as soon as you open your eyes, there are scrubbers crawling around in your brain, erasing the active memory of your dreams. Getting into the habit of writing down dreams in the morning reverses this tendency. Every morning, just at least having the intention to recall tells the scrubbers to stop. In addition, struggling to remember the tiniest details adds new tools to your brain. You eventually develop instinctual skills at stringing dream fragments together to form a cohesive whole.

Ultimately I find that with managing dreams, and even lucid dreaming, intention and motivation are key. If your mind is set on dream recall or lucid dreaming, your self-interest will manifest itself while you are dreaming and when you awake, then making you do the necessary steps.

Good luck oneironauts! (3)

(1) How long do dreams last for
(2) Stages of Sleep diagram
(3) "oneironaut" is Greek for oneiros (dreams) + nautos (sailor)


Brandon B said on March 29, 2004 1:57 AM:

I tried this for a few months when I was in high school. It was extremely interesting to remember five or six dreams every night. The plethora of images that one has stored in the mind is absolutely, well, mind-boggling.
I should start again. It was an enlightening time, and since I've been remembering my dreams regardless lately, perhaps this would be the perfect opportunity.
And yes, you're absolutely correct about increasing the number of moments one experiences as opposed to the arbitrary divisions of time that most people seem to depend on. I have long attempted to break free from the chains of the 24-hour trap that has ensnared most people.
Physically, the body runs out on its own after so much time. Entropy is irreconcilable. We cannot hope for a satisfactory period for life if we use this as our ruler. If we lived to 200, we would simply waste more time and wish we could store up another 100 years. What men are really trying to escape, the looming face of death, is an inevitability. No amount of stalling will prevent it.
To that effect, appreciating the time one has, never rushing for the sake of getting to some vague 'goal', and accepting the fact of death are ways of making life all the more valuable. And when one is enjoying the moment, truly enjoying it for the sake of nothing else, then time is no longer a concern.

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