Where were you born?
Where is your home?
Where are you going?
What are you doing?
Think about these once in awhile, and watch your answers change.” —Richard Bach’s Illusions
My high school graduation is impending, marking a notable transition in my life. Society is filled with people trying to impose their dogmas upon you, and I think leaving a public, structured educational environment is a perfect time to start a methodical re-examination of my values and beliefs. Here is the method I have been using to start deprogramming my mind:
- Find a friend. Having a partner in this endeavor will expand the possibility of progress for both of you, simply because your mind can never challenge your most basic assumptions in a way that another can.
- List some values or beliefs to be assessed. Here’s a good example: “Government is necessary”, something I assumed until I had some anarchist friends.
- Play Devil’s Advocate. Challenge the underlying assumptions behind each reason given for one’s values.
- Create extreme hypothetical value conflicts where the values you hold are at odds.
This process, or similar methods, will either strengthen your current beliefs or destroy them. Either result is progress on the road to truth.
So with Senior Project winding down, I’ve had some extra time to delve into some interests I’d put aside for a while in favor of Lucid Dreaming- most notably, exploring new trends in technology. So, without further ado:
Twitter: Sure, I’m getting on the Twitter bandwagon a little late. While I’ve occasionally tweeted since March 2007, I started in all seriousness this month. I like that I am able to plug in my Tumblr and Goodreads, and export Twitter statuses to Facebook (using the Selective Twitter Status on Facebook application, which keeps my friends on Facebook from hating me). Following personal friends, tech celebrities, and news services is another key use for me. Before, I hadn’t been in tune with a completely different layer of the Web, the conversation. I only saw the conversation’s end products as realized by pundit bloggers. I’ve also replaced many of my feeds with Twitter users- I have 59 RSS feeds where before I had ~110. The real-time status updates can kill my productivity, but I can always close Tweetie (my favored Twitter desktop interface). The other really fascinating implication of Twitter is the search. I can see real-time reactions to real news or ideas from real people. While Twitter isn’t particularly useful on the surface level, all of these things add up to making it quite useful, at least for me. I have heard a lot of people mentioning FriendFeed, where I have an account, but I haven’t fully explored it’s potential yet. One thing is sure, though: the real-time web is here.
Wolfram|Alpha: The tech world is currently fascinated with this “Computational Knowledge Engine” built on Mathematica. One twitterer described Wolfram|Alpha as “a solution searching for a problem. Google remains safe.” Watching the screencast, you do realize that it builds on a foreign methodology, but I think eventually it will find the problems it can solve, especially when it’s API (an Application Programming Interface, which allows other services can use Wolfram|Alpha’s skills in personalized use cases) is used more widely. Gina Trapani, founder and former lead editor of Lifehacker, has an interesting demonstration of Wolfram|Alpha’s potential here.
Visualization: I’ve been following @brainpicker, aka Maria Popova at brainpickings.org for a few days now. I highly recommend poking through that blog and / or her twitter account. At any rate, one of her pet subjects is Visualization. Here’s one interesting example to get you thinking about this idea.
Senior Project Night was last Wednesday, and it was quite successful. People seemed to enjoy my project, I had some productive discussions, and many of my handouts were given out. One person had a lucid dream that night after using my tips! So while I still have to write my paper, Senior Project is effectively done. My investigations into Lucid Dreaming, however, are not. My reason for choosing this project was always personal interest in mastery, and while I’ve made some great progress, I have not fully mastered the skill. I define mastery as being able to have lucid dreams at will, with a high level of flexibility and control over the dream for the majority of the dream. I can’t yet have them at will, I’ve only started to control the dreams, and they usually only last 30 seconds to a minute. Hopefully by the end of the summer, I will have made decent progress in this direction.
What is Lucid Dreaming?
A lucid dream is a dream where one is conscious that they are dreaming, allowing the oneironaut (“explorer of the dream world”) to fully appreciate or even alter the dream.
Why would I want to try this?
Lucid dreams combine the conscious thought of reality with the infinite possibilities of the imagination. You can theoretically do anything in a lucid dream.
How do I learn this awesome skill?
All methodologies start with two basic techniques: dream recall and reality testing. For the first, you need to improve your ability to recall your dreams when you wake up. Everyone dreams several times a night, even if they don’t remember them. Searching your mind for thoughts and emotions as you awake should produce rapid dream recall improvement. Keep a notebook and pencil beside your bed. Second, you need to constantly ask yourself if you are dreaming or awake, accompanied with reality checks such as flipping light switches (light levels don’t often change in dreams) or looking at text (text cannot remain constant in dreams).
Mnemonic (MILD): Set an intention while falling asleep to remember to recognize dreaming or dreamsigns, or to perform reality checks.
Wake-Initiated (WILD): A difficult technique. The lucid dreamer attempts to transition between the waking state and a lucid dream, maintaining self-awareness.
Wake Back To Bed (WBTB): Go to sleep tired, wake up five to six hours later, spend an hour thinking intensively about lucid dreams, and go back to bed. This method has a 60% success rate, because it takes advantages of the REM cycle most prone to dreaming.
Supplements: Melatonin, 5-HTP, Vitamin B6, and Galantamine are all common dietary supplements associated with sleep, dreams, and lucid dreams. I am not a doctor / your mileage may vary.
Induction Devices: The NovaDreamer can be purchased or imitated in a DIY fashion. Uses LEDs to create a guaranteed dreamsign.
What now? Once you’ve mastered the ability to dream lucidly, and have had some basic adventures, there are more things to try! Many people try to solve problems, practice skills, or try to achieve philosophical or spiritual experiences.
Other thoughts? Sleep paralysis is normal, and will pass. Beware false awakenings! If you feel yourself losing lucidity, spin your body in the dream. Analyzing your dreams can reveal scary things about your subconscious!
I was standing on a tower with a superhero, dressed in a gold and black suit and sporting a sword that looks particularly vicious. I have no idea what the inspiration for this character was. The tower is positioned in the middle of a vast river at the bottom of a canyon. He shows me a button on his sword, and tells me that it allows him to fly back to where he started. We fly down the river, and when we turn around, he presses the button. We are no longer flying: instead, we are being carried back to the tower. I realize I am dreaming and repeat that fact to myself to avoid losing lucidity. I didn’t try to do anything (probably related to the being carried in the air part, not entirely sure), but instead I enjoyed the increased vividness of the dream. A beautiful sunset filled with purples and oranges accompanied the moving crystal blue water below us. I lost lucidity after that, but the lucid dream was a clear example of “hyperreality” and it was quite pleasurable. Considering that I hadn’t even been trying to have a lucid dream (I’d stayed up quite late), I’ve made a lot of progress.