Sorry about the horrible pun. Today's post is about dreams - keeping track of them and directing them. I'll mention lucid dreaming a bit, but mostly to emphasize that you can do a lot of neat things without it.
Dreaming is cool. It lets you become far more immersed in adventures you wouldn't want to have in your waking life than any material technology (such as a video game) does, it gives you insight into yourself and your relationships, and it takes place during time that you can't use for anything else. Personally I think that every parent should encourage children to keep track of their dreams from an early age, but it may be awhile before we get anywhere close to that in this society, because the importance of having an inner life is very downplayed. As a consequence of the outward emphasis of society, some of us don't even realize that an amazing world awaits them between their ears. Some people even think that they don't dream most nights.
This is not true unless you are a very bizarre mutant. You dream or go into some form of inner activity that we might as well call dreaming at least once during every sleep cycle. If you believe that you don't dream, consider that, since dreaming does not have consequences outside of your mind, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between not dreaming and forgetting that you have dreamt. So the first step is to get those dreams into your consciousness.
The best way, and the only one I know if, is to keep a dream journal. If you're dreamless, you're probably asking, "Well how can I write my dreams down if I don't have any recollection of experiencing them?" It probably sounds like a Catch 22. Interestingly, it's not. Before you go to bed, write, "I will recall my dreams and write them down upon awakening." Maybe you won't the first night. But if you do it a couple times, your deep mind will get the message and start allowing your dreams to come to consciousness, unless you're secretly afraid of having dreams or blocking them for some other reason.
It doesn't matter if you only recall a single scene or detail - write it down as soon as you become conscious the next morning. Sometimes I only remember a shard or two of my dreams, other nights I fill several pages in my journal with them. But I wouldn't be able to fill pages at a time if I hadn't spend a couple weeks recording small recollections. It's a skill rather than purely a talent - you get better at it as you go along.
There are a couple tricks for helping deepen your recollection, too. The first one is simple but can be challenging it you let it - make sure that when you go to sleep, you're actually going to sleep rather than 'passing out'. Avoid drugs and alcohol for at least couple hours before going to bed. The second trick is also very simple: if you wear contacts, make sure to take them out before sleeping. I discovered this one myself - I used to sleep in my contacts most of the time, but I took them out one night after I started keeping a dream journal and had a much more immersive experience in the dream. Now whenever I leave them in I'm often wondering the next morning why my dreams felt so inhibited. My theory is that having plastic sitting on your irises inhibits the rapid eye movement which occurs during the phase of sleep when dreams happen.
This next trick is more challenging, but also more rewarding, as it will improve any meditation you do as well as improving dream recall. When you first come to consciousness after sleeping, remain completely still. While you're in this same position, go back through your memory, asking yourself questions about your dreams. (Questions like "Where was I, somewhere familiar or somewhere new?" "Were there other people with me?" "What was my moon?" and such are good places to start.) Recall as much of your dreams as you can before you move, then write them down.
That should be enough to help you start awakening your dream life. Now to talk about lucid dreaming and directing dreams. Lucid dreaming is where you become consciously aware that you are dreaming while you are dreaming, and try to take advantage of this fact to manipulate your dreams from inside of them.
Personally I have a lot of trouble with fully lucid dreaming. The first couple times I managed lucidity, I got so excited that I woke up. After that I developed a tendency to lose lucidity soon after attaining it, my dreams falling back into unconscious control. The problem I had with it was that my conscious mind was aware that it was dreaming, but it was still very tired and just wanted to sleep. In one such dream, I attained lucidity, transformed a bookshelf in the room I was in, and then looked around and found no other furniture. Then the phone (in my dream) rang and incoherent speech came out of it. I told the person, "I'm sorry, I can't understand you. You see, I'm having a lucid dream," but by then I believed the phone call was actually happening. I was no longer lucid. I'm going to keep trying at it.
But here's the thing: there's a way to influence your dreams without taking complete control of them as you do in fully lucid dreaming. Have you ever noticed that what you're thinking about just before and as you fall asleep tends to show up in one way or another in your dreams? If not, try an experiment. Think of a particular "what if" scenario that modifies some part of your life in a way a dream might. Try it a couple times, and you'll find a way to influence the setting of your dreams. Practicing the visualization exercise I posted a couple days back can be very helpful with this - not to say you should perform it right before sleeping, but that if you do it regularly you'll have more capacity for preemptive control of your dreams.
The interesting thing about this is that you don't have to limit yourself to selecting scenery and situations for your dreams to involve. You can also give yourself any capability which you might use lucid dreaming for. Suppose you want to be able to throw fireballs in your dreams in case you need to get out of a sticky situation. As you're going to sleep, imagine what it'd feel, look, sound, taste, and smell like to throw fireballs. Do it over and over again until it comes naturally. This type of thing can make dreaming more exciting than lucid dreaming sometimes does, because you're not in absolute control of the dream so there's still a bit more excitement.
I'd be delighted to hear about some of your experiences with dreaming, so feel free to post them.