As occurs so often in my dreams, I find myself once again sat in an aeroplane in trouble. It has not long taken off, and is struggling to maintain thrust in its ascent. It dips and rises in spurts. I wonder how we are still airborne. I see the terrain ahead of us. A mountain bluff approaches. We are coasting towards it. At the last moment, the plane thrusts and we just clear the bluff.
These dreams typically end in an unlikely landing, or a crash, or waking before I find out. In this case, this final thrust over the mountaintop initiates a lucid crescendo to the dream, and an uncommonly triumphant one.
Power starts to surge through the engines and I become instantly lucid. I experience in my body a visceral sense of exponentially increasing acceleration, that internal heaviness of g-forces compressing my muscles, organs and skeleton. Faster, faster, faster. The plane’s trajectory through the air more and more inclined to the vertical. All the while, an ear-piercing, high-pitched, gravelly sound builds inside my skull. Growing in pitch and intensity as the plane accelerates. It feels as real as regular sound, hyper-real in fact, except for having a special quality that tells me it’s coming from inside my head – or perhaps that’s just the lucid state allowing me to rationalise the experience. It is the auditory phenomenon classically associated with the ingestion of DMT, or what some speculate are spontaneous DMT dumps within the brain. Like a distorted radio frequency ratcheting up and up. Almost inconceivably loud, all the more so knowing that it has no external physical source. There is a jarring contradiction in it. It feels as if the sound should hurt me, damage my ears, and I almost brace for the coming agony. Yet it never comes. The louder it gets, the greater that sense, and the greater the incongruence of the lack of pain.
Almost as soon as these phenomena had begun I was in an effectively waking state of awareness, fully conscious that I was dreaming, objectively watching and wondering about what I was experiencing. I began very quickly to worry, as can often occur in such states, that I would inadvertently wake from the dream due to excessive conscious processing. I find it’s necessary to very deliberately moderate one’s energy and thought processes to stay lucid – too active and you wake, too relaxed and you fall into a non-lucid dream state.
The worry increases and snowballs throughout the experience. Remarkably, this seems to have no effect on the dream or my lucidity. The ascent continues. The acceleration, the noise. A sublime experience, until finally I drift awake…
One can speculate about what’s going on with dreams. Their meaning, their source, their physiology and so on. I usually avoid this, at least in any detailed sense, as I feel there’s a mystery in dreams that is far deeper than the feeble reductions of our pre-frontal cortex and our popular cultures can handle. Instead, I would say I find interest in dreams on two main fronts:
1) Rather than seeking to explain what a dream means, I instead seek to explore as closely as possible what occurs and what it Feels like. The most interesting dreams tend to be those with the most depth of feeling – particularly complex emotional states, but also physical sensations. (The dream above, as powerful as it is, still pales against my more emotionally complex outings.) This depth can occur even in dreams that are otherwise bereft of interesting narrative detail. I think that these feeling states have much to offer us in becoming subtly attuned to the complex, non-linear realities and potentialities of our spirits, our bodies, of the systems of nature, of community and society. Not clairvoyance. Not physics. Not politics. Not religion. Just tiny yet complex motifs hinting at the deep nature of the Cosmos.
Beyond personal enquiry, I share my dreams in the hope that they might inspire a diffuse and dreamlike sense of reflection in the interested reader. That here and there, one or two facets of my dreams might offer the reader a sense of hope, or curiosity, or a creative inspiration. I would much prefer they take away a sense of unknowing awe in the mysteries of nature than a superstitious or unreasoned dogma with which to reduce the world to certainties.
2) Dreams and their impact can be intensely personal. I feel that many people rush to interpret their dreams in the context of the material world around them. A google search for dream-based blogs, vlogs etc renders almost exclusively either literalist/fairytale-like/quasi-religious interpretation, or “how to” guides on gaining lucidity. I’m wary of this.
The greatest conscious emotional benefit my dreams have for me is that they remind me that my mind and body are still capable of feeling intense sensation and emotion. Due to long-term, incessant mental illness, my waking life is starved of deep feeling, or what you might call deep presence, physically and mentally, and the intense feeling I do experience is typically at the negative end of the spectrum. My dreams rescue me. They show me the profound possibilities for feeling that still exist within me.
I do not know how this will ever translate into my waking life. I log and write about my dreams in the hope that this will help bridge the two worlds. Whatever the case, while I search for those bridges, the dream realm is my connection to the deep self I somehow lost touch with or never knew.* Like a nurse tending to a patient who is yet too ill to care for themselves, the dreams are keeping me alive. I feel they’re the strongest evidence I have of the psyche’s profound instinct towards preserving and expanding its own vitality, and more broadly the vitality of the social and ecological meshes we all belong to and help to sustain.
*Perhaps I’m even witnessing the building of a new, more integrated, more expansive inner identification. Considering the fundamentally novel, hyper-dimensional objects and sensations I experience, many that seem to have no possible analogue in the world of regular consciousness, geometry and physics, it’s easy to suspect that deep new neural pathways must be being forged.