Tuesday, August 6, 2013

how do you remember your dreams in such detail?

I think it's helpful to step back and take a look at the whole process that has to happen for a dream to be recorded. Remembering the dream is only one part of that process. But before you can remember a dream, you first have to HAVE the dream.

People always ask me, "What did you eat last night to give you such crazy dreams?" Or they ask me, "What did you drink? What did you smoke?" It's actually the exact opposite of that. I tend to have the best dreams when I've had the best sleep, when my stomach is most settled, when I'm most sober. When I want to have good dreams, I try to keep my sleep schedule as regular as possible. Quality sleep produces quality dreams. Just as you want to have a good night's sleep before a big day, you want to have a good day's awakeness before a big night. You don't want to be too intoxicated or too exhausted heading into dreamland, otherwise you might not be prepared to receive the dreams when you produce them, so there's a kind of discipline involved

The second step is to develop an AWARENESS of the dreams. It's not enough to just HAVE the dream. Everybody has dreams. But unless you're AWARE of them, unless you're able to recognize that you're having a dream and hold on to that experience, you might as well have never had the dream in the first place, at least as far as recording the dream is concerned. My meditation practice, I feel, has had a lot to do with cultivating an AWARENESS of my dreams. A big part of my meditation practice is awareness training, not only while I'm meditating, but also as I'm living my life, so that I'm habitually AWARE of what I'm doing as I'm doing it, even when I'm sleeping. I started meditating about four or five years ago and that's when my dream life really started to blossom. I don't think it's a coincidence.

A dream is a private experience, and the dream recorder's job is to bring that private experience out into the public sphere. The third step is to FERRY the dream from sleep to wakefulness. When I look back at some of the dreams I had several years earlier, they seem so complex, and I think, "How on earth was I able to remember all those things?" But after a dream, when I wake up, all of those complexities, no matter how bizarre they are, hang together somehow. There's this logic about them. They make so much sense. I don't have to remember all of the individual elements of the dream. I just have to remember one thing -- the whole dream all at once. And then when I sit down to get it out on paper, I'm often surprised at how many words it takes to portray that dream experience, because the experience of the dream felt so concise. There's usually an emotional core to the dream, and all of the different elements cohere as a single unit around this emotional kernel. I just have to remember that one thing, and FERRY it from dreamland to wakefulness, where I spell out its complexities on paper.

The fourth step is to TRANSLATE the dream into words, usually directly onto my iPhone as a Facebook post when I wake up. Or, if I'm up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I scribble it onto the notepad that I keep near my bed. I take what is a primarily visual and emotional experience and turn it into a sequence of words that faithfully describes it. 

And dreams, of course, decay rapidly upon awakening, so if you don't write the dreams out as soon as possible, they evaporate into nothing. Again, there's a kind of discipline involved. Imagine waking up every morning, and before you get out of bed, before you do anything else, you spend thirty or forty minutes writing out your dreams. It can be a drag. Which is why I can't keep it up all the time. I have to take a break every now and then, and let the dreams evaporate and be forgotten, as much as that pains me.

So to answer the question, "How do I remember my dreams in such detail," I would say that by commiting to the above process, which is a kind of dream yoga practice, I'm able to HAVE good dreams, be AWARE of them, FERRY them into wakefulness, and TRANSLATE them into words, maximizing detail each step along the way.