Dream Interpretation Coincidence | Dream Meanings
If your dream featured coincidences, you should study the symbols of your dream carefully. Your subconscious mind is trying to send you an important message.
If this is a play on words, your subconscious is saying that for some reason you have begun to feel as productive as an inanimate, uprooted vegetable. Get up and become an active participant in life again!
Each vegetable in a dream has a different interpretive value.
For example, a carrot is a masculine emblem that also represents vision and luck. Additionally, as an omen, carrots symbolize forthcoming wealth, health, and happy marriages.
Dreaming of eating celery is an omen of love and affection. Cauliflower growing in a garden foretells increased business prospects, corn might depict a “corny” personality or the promise of improved finances, and beans carry a magical overtone thanks to the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
Root vegetables denote grounding, a connection to your family, and the staples of both spiritual and mundane life.
Jungian: Because vegetables get nourished by all the elements, they represent the depths of the subconscious, the deepest roots, and the fundamental self.
Societal, cultural, or religious limitations. Many vegetables have been shunned because of one of these contexts, such as tomatoes being thought poisonous, or potatoes not being eaten by Puritans because they are not in the Bible.
Eating vegetables in a dream is a portent of odd luck and coincidence on the horizon.... The Language of Dreams
Depth Psychology: Participating in a horse race: the success you enjoy is due more to a lucky coincidence than to vour own efforts.
The dream suggests you keep this in mind because “Lady Luck is fickle.”... Dreamers Dictionary
Depth Psychology: The pine tree (as a phallic symbol) may express sexual desires; but it might also indicate the need for more peace and quiet or a vacation. Pinecones sometimes announce an unexpected, positive, “accidental” surprise.... Dreamers Dictionary
It is no coincidence, therefore, that it was the only organ that the Egyptians left inside mummies. Symbolically, in this organ, life, emotion, and wisdom are concentrated. Furthermore, it is an ancient archetype of love. The dream is probably describing your emotional side and how you approach it with your feelings.
If the heart is damaged, has been operated on, or has a bullet wound, it means that you are going through a bad time. In these cases, the other elements of the dream usually contain advice and recommendations you should to follow. Finally, if the heart is in perfect condition, it reflects you feel very good in emotional matters.
In India, the heart is the symbol of divine love. It also represents your most intimate motivations.... The Big Dictionary of Dreams
It is no coincidence that the hen is associated with rumors, whispers, and slander. Therefore, the presence of a hen in your dreams may suggest that someone is making malicious comments about you behind your back. A totally different sense arises if you dream of a hen laying an egg. In these cases, the dream images portend a profit in short time. This dream can also be attributed to excessive concern for your partner, children, or friends to the point of becoming a “mother hen.”... The Big Dictionary of Dreams
If you wake from such a dream with feelings of remorse, perhaps you have been unfaithful or less than honest with your partner in other ways. It is also worth bearing in mind when trying to interpret dreams that depict you making love to someone who plays a major, but definitely nonsexual, part in your life that your unconscious may simply be reflecting your waking preoccupation with them at the same time that you are becoming sexually aroused. So if you dreamt of making love to your unattractive boss, it may simply have been a coincidence that they stepped into the lover role in your dreams.... The Element Encyclopedia
Ancient art and literature are crowded with references to dreams. For thousands of years dreams have been credited with supernatural or prophetic significance by the majority of the world’s spiritual traditions. The Bible, for instance, makes it clear that dreams are divine messages and this explanation for dreams was shared by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, all of whom also believed that dreams had healing powers.
Certain cultures, such as the Australian Aborigines and many African and Native American tribes, have always believed dreaming to be a way in which an individual can enter into the collective spirit memory. To this day, dream pooling plays an important role in those societies where tribal members gather together for the purpose of interpreting dreams. Another view is held by the Inuit of Hudson Bay in Canada, who believe that when a person falls asleep and dreams, their soul goes wandering.
The Egyptians are thought to have been the first to develop a system of contrary dream interpretation; a positive dream, for example, predicts misfortune and a nightmare predicts an improvement in waking fortunes. They produced the earliest known dream dictionary, written approximately 4,000 years ago. Now called the Chester Beatty Papyrus, it came from Thebes in Egypt and is kept in the British Museum.
It was the ancient Greeks, however, who first proposed the theory that dreams were not from some external, divine source but internal communications, or the divine spark within. Plato (427-347 BC) suggested that dreams were expressions of a person’s hidden desires, whilst his pupil Aristotle (384-322 BC) speculated that dreams shared similar themes and were not divine oracles but coincidences. It was the ‘father of medicine’ Hippocrates (460-377 BC) who proposed that dream symbols reflect the state of the dreamer’s body—for example, fire denoted indigestion—and should be regarded as valuable diagnostic tools.
The first fully-fledged dream researcher to focus on dream symbols and dream themes was a Roman living in Greek Asia Minor called Artemidorus (AD 138-180), who wrote a book about dream interpretation that is still in print. As far as Artemidorus was concerned, dream symbols had certain meanings but the most important aspect of dream interpretation was the symbols’ personal significance to the dreamer, along with the dreamer’s personal circumstances.
In much of Europe, even though the early Christians respected dreams for their spiritual significance, the repressive control of the Roman Catholic Church put a stop to any attempts at dream interpretation. By the fifteenth century, dreams were regarded as no longer significant or important. Even a century or so later, Shakespeare called them ‘children of the idle brain’. This school of thought persisted into the eighteenth century, when dreams were still thought to be meaningless.
In the early nineteenth century, when the restrictive influence of the Church began to wane and members of the German Romantic movement—in their quest for spontaneous expression—rediscovered the potential of dreams, a revival of interest in dream interpretation began to trickle into the mainstream with the publication of popular dream dictionaries such as Raphael’s Royal Book of Dreams (1830). The stage was now set for Freud and Jung; two men who continue to have the greatest impact on the way we interpret dreams today.... Dreampedia
Dreams and their purpose
Consider dreams like home movies that each person produces in response to their daily experiences. These movies are meant to clarify certain situations and support the person. With sufficient knowledge, they can become a sort of spiritual guide, since oneiric thoughts are a window to the subconscious where, frequently, hidden feelings and repressed needs are stored without us realizing.
Even then, there are people who question the importance of dreams. Some scientists, for example, believe that the content of dreams is simply a random mix of the many electronic signals the brain receives. Others, however, find all types of messages in even the simplest dreams, and end up distancing themselves from daily reality in favor of oneiric activity.
Neither extreme is advisable. Each dream is undoubtedly a journey into the unknown, but, at the same time, modern psychology has allowed us to understand a good part of their structure. One of the conclusions drawn from the study of dreams confirms this: dreams can be a priceless aid to the imagination, but above all when it comes to solving problems. You just have to know how to listen to them, because their content tends to have a direct relation to the emotional challenges you are experiencing.
Each dream is a journey to the unknown with an implicit personal message. Although it is the content of the episode that determines our emotional state, dreaming in black and white indicates a possible lack of enthusiasm or nostalgia for the past. These dreams are an invitation to live with more intensity and enjoy the present.
Still from the film Viaje a la Luna (Méliès, 1902).
It is known that in times of crisis, our oneiric production increases significantly, both in quantity and intensity. Should we consider this “surplus” to be positive? Yes, as long as one makes an effort to remember and interpret the dreams, since, as we will see further on, they have a valuable therapeutic potential.
For example, if a couple is going through a critical phase, remembering and analyzing usually helps them understand the subconscious reactions they have to the situation. In other words, dreams are an excellent tool to get to the bottom of emotional conflicts. Knowing the causes is an essential step to resolving the problems, regardless of what course you take.
The English psychologist David Fontana, whose books have been translated into more than twenty languages, said it clearly: “In listening to my patients’ dreams in therapy sessions, I have observed how, often, these can take us right to the root of the psychologic problem much quicker than other methods.” Although, we shouldn’t fool ourselves: dreams are a mystery that can rarely decipher everything. But if a certain level of interpretation helps us understand ourselves better, what more can we ask for? From a practical point of view, our own oneiric material can be very useful.
In dreams, relationships with others are a recurring theme. The people that appear in our dreams, especially strangers, represent facets of ourselves that the subconscious is showing us.
Well-known writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, William Blake, Edgar Allan Poe, and Woody Allen have had faith in this, acknowledging that part of their works have been inspired by dreams. The discoveries of Albert Einstein or Niels Bohr (father of modern atomic physics), among other celebrated scientists, had the same origin. In any case, these examples shouldn’t confuse us: no dream can tell you what path to follow through symbolic images without the intellect to decipher them.
Prosperity, precognition, and pronostics
What’s more, judging by some documented cases, we can even reap material gain from dreams. There is proof of some people that had premonitory dreams managing to earn significant sums of money thanks to their oneiric “magic.” The most spectacular case was in the fifties, when an Englishman named Harold Horwood won a considerable number of prizes betting on horses. His dreams transmitted clues as to the winning racehorse to bet on. Unfortunately, these types of premonitions don’t come to everyone. However, anyone has the opportunity to discover the greatest treasure of all—knowledge of one’s self—through their dreams.
We’ve all experienced the feeling of having lost control of our lives at some point. We might feel like others are deciding things for us or that we are victims of our circumstances.
Our “dream-scapes” contain valuable information about our desires and concerns; they could also function as a forecast of some aspect of our future. According to ancient tradition, dreaming of stars predicts prosperity and spiritual wealth. “Starry Night” (Van Gogh, 1889).
However, many psychologists disagree with this. That is, they argue that daily events are not coincidences but rather meaningful deeds that reflect the inner state of the individual.
Dreams and thoughts
According to these experts, luck is a pipe dream, something that does not exist, since that which we consider the result of coincidence is none other than the natural manifestation of our thoughts and attitudes. We are basically creator, not passive receivers or victims of the events that unravel in our lives.
An example that illustrates this idea perfectly is the story of the old man who threw rocks into the sea. One day, someone asked if he ever got bored of the simple game. The old pebble thrower stared at his questioner and gave an answer he’d never forget: “My small stones are more important than they seem, they provoke repercussions. They will help create waves that, sooner or later, will reach other other side of the ocean.”
What does this have to do with dreams? It’s simple: as we’ve just seen, we are the only ones responsible for our daily experiences, no matter how hard that is to believe. Therefore it shouldn’t be too difficult to take control of our lives; we just have to listen to the messages in our interior, that is, our oneiric thoughts, of which we are ultimately the authors.
In this way, thanks to dreams, our two existences—conscious and unconscious—can work together to make our lives more creative and free. An important part of this process is getting to know and understanding better the process of thought. One of the most beautiful and commonly used visualizations in yoga reminds us of this: “In the bottom of the lake of our thoughts is a jewel. In order for it to shine in the light of the sun (the divine), the water (the thoughts) must be pure and crystal clear and calm, free of waves (excitement). If our water is murky or choppy, others can’t see this jewel, our inner light...”
In the bottom of the lake of our thoughts is a jewel...
But it’s not that simple: it’s often difficult to discern the connection that unites wakefulness with sleep, between what we think ourselves to be and what our oneiric fantasies say about us. In any case, if our search is passionate and patient, constant and conscious, it will result in the discovery of our true Self. Therefore the interpretation of dreams cuts right to the heart of the message conceived by and for ourselves (although not consciously). It is important to learn to listen to them (further on we will discuss techniques for this) when it comes time to unstitch their meaning and extract the teachings that can enrich our lives.
The rooms in our dreams reflect unknown aspects of our personality.
In this way, when we have to make an important decision, we can clear up any doubts through a clear understanding of our most intimate desires. Although it may seem like common sense, this is not that common these days, since most people make decisions at random, out of habit, or by impulse.
The meaning and psychic effect of some deities in Tibetan Buddhism can be linked to the monsters that are so popular today.
Dreams allow creativity a free rein and free us from worry, sometimes resulting in surreal images that would be impossible in waking life.
Put simply, the idea is to find your true identity and recognize your wounds, fears, and joys through dreams. Never forget that the subconscious, although hidden, is an essential part of our personality. Dreams are fundamental for understanding the Self, since they are a direct path to this little-known part of ourselves. Their symbolic content allows us to recover repressed emotions and gives us a map to the relationships that surround us.
Nightmares that put us to the test
Sometimes the messages they bring us are not so pleasant and take the form of nightmares. However, although it may be hard to accept, these nightmares are valuable warnings that some aspects of our life are not
in harmony with our deepest Self and thus need our prompt intervention. Nightmares are proof that self discovery is not always pleasant. Sometimes it’s necessary to feel this pain in order to find out what you really are and need.
On the other hand, dreams give creativity a free rein because, when we sleep, we are free from our day-to-day worries. Therefore, even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, keep in mind that all the scenes, symbols, and characters that appear in your dreams have been created solely and exclusively by you.
It’s often very helpful to record dreams in a notebook (we will explain how further on) in order to later analyze them and apply their teachings to daily life.
It is quite the paradox; the human being awakens their most intimate reality precisely when they are sleeping.
Carl Gustav Jung, who dedicated his life to studying dreams, developed this metaphor: “People live in mansions of which they only know the basements.” Only when our conscience is sleeping do we manage to unveil some of the rooms of our magnificent house: rooms that may be dusty and inhospitable and fill us with terror and anxiety, or magnificent rooms where we want to stay forever.
Given that they all belong to us, it is reasonable to want to discover them all. Dreams, in this sense, are a fundamental tool.
How to remember dreams
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Sure, dreams are really important, but I can’t use them because I simply don’t remember them.” That’s not a problem, there are techniques you can use to strengthen your memory of oneiric thoughts. Techniques that, when applied correctly, allow us to remember dreams surprisingly well.
The use of these methods is indispensable in most cases since people tend to forget dreams completely when they wake up. Why? Because, according to the hypothesis of Sigmund Freud, we have a sort of internal censor that tries to prevent our oneiric activity from becoming conscious material.
Sometimes the message of dreams turns unpleasant and takes the form of a nightmare...
However, we can laugh in the face of this censor with a few tricks. The most drastic is to wake up suddenly when the deepest sleep phase (REM phase) is just about to end, so that you can rapidly write all the details of your mind’s theater in your notebook. Waking suddenly will take this censor by surprise, stopping it from doing its job. The best time to set the alarm is for four, five, six, or a little more than seven hours after going to sleep.
If your level of motivation is not high enough to get up in the middle of the night and record your dreams, there are alternatives that let you sleep for a stretch and then remember what you dream with great precision.
First of all, it’s helpful to develop some habits before going to bed, such as waiting a few hours between dinner and going to sleep. Experts recommend avoiding foods that cause gas (legumes like green beans, raw vegetables, etc.) and foods high in fat.
You must also keep in mind that, like tea and coffee, tobacco and alcohol alter the sleep cycle and deprive the body of a deep sleep (the damaging effects of a few glasses on the body does not disappear for about four hours).
What is recommended is to drink water or juice, or eat a yogurt, more than two hours after eating, before going to bed. There are two main reasons for this: liquids facilitate a certain purification of the body, and because, most interestingly for our purposes, it causes us to get up in the middle of the night. As we said, this will catch the internal censor by surprise and allow us to record our dreams easily.
Relaxing in bed and going over the events of the day helps free the mind and foster oneiric creativity.
Yoga exercises, such as the savasana pose, are great for relaxation, restful sleep, and a positive outlook.
It’s important to surround yourself with an environment that stimulates oneiric activity. You should feel comfortable in your room and your bed. The fewer clothes you wear to sleep, the better. Practicing relaxation techniques, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath a few minutes before getting into bed will help relieve stress so that you enjoy a deep restorative sleep.
There are good books on relaxation on the market, both autogenous and yogic; we recommend one of the most practical, Relajacion para gente muy ocupada (Relaxation for Busy People), by Shia Green, published by this same publishing house. However, the real key is to concentrate on remembering dreams. When you go to bed, go over the events of the day that were important to you. This way, you will increase the probability of dreaming about the subjects that most interest or worry you.
So, let’s suppose you’re asleep now. What should you do to remember dreams? First, try to wake up naturally, without external stimuli. If this isn’t possible, use the quietest possible alarm without radio. Once awake, stay in bed for a few moments with your eyes closed and try to hold your dreams in your memory as you gently transition into wakefulness. Take advantage of this time to memorize the images you dreamt. The final oneiric period is usually the longest and these instants are when it is most possible to remember dreams.
Remember that it’s best to write the keywords of the dream immediately upon waking. It is convenient to keep a notebook on the nightstand and reconstruct the dream during the day.
The dream notebook
Next, write in the notebook (that you have left beside your bed) whatever your mind has been able to retain, no matter how absurd or trivial your dreams seem, even if you only remember small fragments. This is not the moment to make evaluations or interpretations. The exercise is to simply record everything that crosses your mind with as much detail as possible. Giving the fragility of memory, it’s okay to start off with just a few key words that summarize the content of the dream. These words will help you reconstruct the dream later in the day if you don’t have enough time in the morning. Ideally this notebook will gradually become a diary or schedule that allows you to study, analyze, and compare a series of dreams. Through a series of recorded episodes, you can detect recurring characters, situations, or themes. This is something that’s easy to miss at first glance. One important detail: specialists recommend you date and title each dream, since this helps you remember them in later readings.
It’s also interesting to complement your entries with relevant annotations: what feelings were provoked, which aspects most drew your attention, which colors predominated, etc. An outline or drawing of the most significant images can also help you unravel the meaning. Finally, you should write an initial personal interpretation of the dream. For that, the second part of this book offers some useful guidelines.
While we dream, there is a sort of safety mechanism that inhibits our movement. Therefore, sleepwalkers don’t walk during the REM phase. This protects us from acting out the movements of our dreams and possibly hurting ourselves. Still from the Spanish movie Carne de fieras (Flesh of beasts) (1936).
As we’ve seen, there are a series of techniques to remember dreams. This is the first step to extracting their wisdom. Now, given that oneiric thoughts are a source of inspiration for solving problems, wouldn’t it be great to choose what you dream about before you go to sleep? Rather than waiting for dreams to come to us spontaneously, try to make them focus on the aspects of your life that interest you.
How to determine the theme of dreams
Let’s imagine that someone is not very satisfied with their job. They’d like to get into another line of work but are afraid of losing the job security they enjoy. On one hand, they’re not so young anymore, they should take the risk to get what they really want. But they don’t know what to do. They need a light, a sign, an inspiration. In short, they need a dream. But not just any dream, a dream that really centers on their problem and gives answers.
However, if you limit yourself to just “consulting your pillow,” you won’t get the desired results. There is a possibility you will be lucky and dream about what you’re interested in, but more likely you will dream of anything but. If we are really prepared to dive into that which worries us most intimately, we can direct our dreams to give us concrete answers. Just like the techniques to remember dreams, the process is simple: before sleeping, we must concentrate on the subject of interest.
It’s also best to write in your notebook all the events and emotions of the day that were most important before you go to sleep.
Once your impressions and theme to dream have been noted, concentrate on the subject that most bothers you. Think about it carefully; propose questions and alternatives, “listen” to your own emotions. It’s best if all possible doubts are noted in the dream notebook. This way you’re more likely to receive an answer.
In order for it to be an effective answer, the question must be well defined. The fundamental idea of the problem should be summed up in a single phrase. Once you’ve reflected on the problem, it’s time to go to bed. But the “homework” is not finished yet. Before going to sleep, you need to concentrate on the concrete question. You need to forget everything else, even the details. Just “visualize” and repeat the question, without thinking of anything else, until you fall asleep.
Oneiric thoughts are a source of inspiration. Annotating and analyzing them carefully fosters a process of self discovery.
Writing a dream notebook
You should always have a notebook and pen near your bed to write down dreams the moment you wake up. Don’t forget to always write the date. What details should you include in this kind of diary? As many as you remember, the more the better.
Dreams are “signs,” messages from our subconscious, and the study and interpretation of them helps resolve the problems that worry us.
Nocturnal sleep puts us in touch with the deepest level of being, which allows us to approach our problems with a wider perspective. And induced dreams tend to be easier to remember than other oneiric activity.
When we dream, we enter a marvelous world that escapes the laws of spatial and temporal logic.... Dreampedia
What happens when we sleep?
Why do we sleep? The answer is not as simple as it seems. We sleep so that our body can rest, we think at first. However, science has not been able to prove concretely that sleep is necessary for physical recuperation of the body. Experiments performed on rats have proven that when deprived of sleep, these animals die.
But human nature is not as simple as that of rats. Everyone knows people who barely sleep. The most extreme case, published in some scientific magazines, is that of a man who claims not to have slept since contracting a serious illness. In a similar vein, some individuals with a highly developed spirituality are able to remain conscious all night. We’re not referring to a student during exam time drinking coffee or taking stimulants to stay awake more than twenty-four hours straight. We’re talking about people who can achieve advanced levels of relaxation through deep meditation.
It is known that anxiety and lack of concentration increase considerably after a night or two without sleep. One theory related to sleep affirms that we sleep to conserve energy. However, another suggests that we rest to conserve our food stores, since when we lose consciousness, we repress the hunger mechanism.
How much do we sleep?
Sleep at different ages
In the course of his life, a person has, on average, 300,000 dreams. As we age, both the time we spend sleeping and the time we spend dreaming decrease gradually.
Newborns sleep almost all day, alternating hours of sleep with short spells of wakefulness. By one year of age, they sleep fewer sessions but for longer in total: they have cycles of 90 minutes of sleep followed by another 90 minutes of waking time. Gradually, the child will sleep more at night and less during the day. By 9 years of age, most need between 9 and 12 hours of sleep a day.
The average for an adult is between 7 and 8.5 hours. But after age 70, we return to the sleep phases of childhood and sleep fewer hours continuously.
There are arguments that even claim we have slept since ancient times in order to appear a less tasty snack for nocturnal predators (when we sleep, our body looks like a corpse).
There are theories to suit everyone, but we shouldn’t forget the fundamental: for almost all of us, sleeping is a relaxing and pleasant experience that lasts between six and eight hours each night, an experience that is utterly necessary to “recharge the batteries” of our bodies.
It’s no coincidence that we choose nighttime to sleep. In the darkness our vision is reduced, the world becomes strange, and as a result, our imagination runs wild. Our minds remain occupied with images (that is, dreams). At night, our eyes don’t work, but we have a need to create images. If for some reason we are deprived of sleep, the following nights our dream production increases, since we spend more time in the REM phase (the period of sleep when oneiric thoughts are most active). Therefore it seems evident that we need dreams to live.
Some ancient civilizations believed that dreaming served, more than anything, to be able to dream. They were convinced that oneiric activity wasn’t the result of sleeping, but rather the reason for it. Some scientists, however, don’t share the theories of our ancestors when it comes to the reason behind our dreams.
There is a scientific school of thought that asserts that oneiric thoughts are simply a neurophysiological activity that comes with sleep. According to this theory, when we sleep we generate spontaneous signals that stimulate the sensory channels in the mind. The brain transforms these signals into visual images and induces the dreamer to believe that he is living real experiences.
Up to that point, perfect. But, why do dreams have such an interesting narrative? Why do they so often express metaphoric language? Why do they narrate stories that directly affect us? There is no concrete or scientific answer to these questions.
Percentages of REM sleep
Cold-blooded animals never dream; the cold temperatures at night cause them to hibernate and all their vital functions, including the brain, slow down. Only when the sun comes out or the temperature rises to an acceptable level do they recuperate all vital functions. The only cold-blooded animal that has shown signs of dreaming is the chameleon.
On the other hand, we know all warm-blooded animals dream, since REM-phase activity has been detected in all of them. Birds dream only about 0.5% of the time they spend asleep, while humans dream up to 20% of the time. There are exceptional cases, such as that of the Australian platypus, that never dream.
Other theories suggest that dreams serve to eliminate unnecessary facts from memory, since we can’t store everything that happens every day. According to this thesis, at night we erase the “archives” we don’t need, just like a computer. The sleeping mind tests the process of erasing in the form of dreams, which would explain why they’re so difficult to remember. There are obvious limitations to this theory if you keep in mind that, occasionally, oneiric thoughts work creatively (they go beyond the information that we give them). These don’t have much to do with the merely “hygienic” function that the aforementioned scientific community claims. Often, dreams don’t eliminate the useless leftovers of daily experiences. Quite the opposite: they give them a surprising new shape, so when we wake up, we can reflect more deeply on their meaning.
The phases of sleep
Even though we don’t realize it, when we sleep at night we pass through four different phases of sleep. Each phase is distinguished by the deepness of sleep. That is, when we are in phase 1, it is a fairly light sleep; during phase 4, we reach maximum intensity.
When we go to sleep, we enter a period in which we gradually pull away from the exterior world. Little by little, our sleep deepens until finally (phase 4) our breathing slows and becomes regular, our cardiac rhythm slows down, and our body temperature decreases. Therefore the body’s metabolism also reduces its activity.
More or less an hour after falling asleep, your body has already gone through the four phases. At this point you begin to go back through the levels until you return to phase 1. This brings along an increase in respiratory and cardiac rhythm. Parallel to this, brain waves once again start to register an activity close to that of consciousness. You are therefore in a moment of transition, demonstrated by the fact that at this point the body tends to change position.
All signs indicate that any noise might wake us. But that’s not the case: since your muscle tone has been reduced, this is actually the moment when it’s most difficult to regain consciousness. At the same time, your eyes begin to move behind your eyelids (up and down and side to side). This ocular phenomenon, which anyone can observe easily, is known as the REM phases, which stands for “rapid eye movement.”
Certain areas of the brain are associated with different functions and human skills, translating external sensory stimuli into a well-organized picture of the world. In dreams, those same stimuli produce different reactions. If a sleeping person hears a sound or touches something repulsive, those stimuli will probably be integrated into their dream before they wake up.
The REM phase
The REM phase is particularly important for those interested in dreams. All studies indicate that during this brief spell (from five to ten minutes) we typically experience the most intense oneiric activity. Some of these studies, done in a sleep laboratory, have observed that eight out of ten individuals relate very vivid dreams when woken up right at the end of the REM phase. These periods alternate at night with what we could call non-REM phases, that is, periods when no ocular movement is registered.
How many times do we reach a REM stage at night? It is estimated that each cycle is repeated four to seven times. As the hours pass, each phase gets longer. This way, the final REM stage might last twenty to forty minutes. On average, an adult enjoys an hour and a half of REM sleep each night, although for older individuals it may be less than an hour and a quarter. Babies, on the other hand, remain in the REM phase for 60 percent of the time they spend asleep.
In any case, let’s make this clear: not all dreams are produced during this period. It has also been demonstrated that humans generate images in other stages. However, these are dreams of a different quality, since during the non-REM phases, our oneiric activity tends to generate only undefined thoughts, vague sensations, etc. Nothing close to the emotional content that characterizes dreams produced in the REM phase.
The oneiric images produced in the most intense phase (REM) are more difficult to remember. One method to remember them consists of waking up just after each REM phase.
As we’ve commented already, those who wish to read their dreams have to first do the work of remembering them. If we want this work to be 100 percent effective, we can use a method that, although uncomfortable, almost never fails: wake up just after every REM phase. If you want to try this method, set your alarm (without music or radio) to go off four, five, six, or seven and a half hours after falling asleep. You can be sure that if you wake up just after one of the REM phases you go through each night, you will enjoy vivid memories.
This is the process used in sleep laboratories, where oneiric activity is studied through encephalographic registry of electrical brain activity.
The people in the study—who are volunteers—sleep connected to machines that register their physiological reactions (brain waves, cardiac rhythm, blood pressure, muscle activity, eye movement, etc).
At certain points during the night, these reactions indicate that, if you wake them, they will be able to tell you what they dreamed. This is because the phase that produces the most intense dreams (REM) is characterized by a physical reaction easily observed: the rapid movement of the eyes of the dreamer.
With this method, sleep laboratories can collect proof of precisely
when subjects are dreaming. And given that oneiric images are difficult to remember, the lab techniques have been a great advance in dream research. Some experts assert that thanks to the scientific advances of the second half of the twentieth century, we have learned more about sleep processes in the last fifty years than in all the history of humanity.
What do we dream?
A wide study done in France on the subject of dreams produced these results:
Hypnagogic images: between waking and sleep
As we’ve seen, throughout the night our sleep is divided into four distinct phases. But what happens just before we sink into the first phase? Are we still awake? Not exactly. In the moments when our mind decides between wakefulness and sleep, we begin to lose contact with the world around us, without the characteristic physiological changes of sleep.
This intermediate point has been called the “hypnagogic state” by psychologists. This is a period when, despite the fact that we’re not asleep, our brains generate images that can sometimes be very beautiful. In some ways, these images rival those found in our dreams.
Hypnagogic images of great visual beauty evaporate like bubbles when we wake up and are barely remembered.
However, the hypnagogic state cannot be considered a truly oneiric state. Among other reasons, the scenes produced in this phase are unrelated to the episodes with a more or less coherent plot that characterize dreams.
In the hypnagogic state we produce unrelated images that hardly connect to each other and that, unlike dreams, are not linked to our daily experiences. This phenomenon occurs not only before sleeping but also in the moments before waking up, when we are not yet conscious enough to be aware of them.
Sometimes, before falling asleep we also experience a curious sensation of floating or flying, or we may see very sharp scenes, with a clarity comparable to that of real visual experiences. These types of images, like dreams, evaporate like bubbles when we wake up and we barely remember them, which is a shame because their beauty slips from our minds. In any case, unlike oneiric thoughts, the hypnagogic state is little use for understanding the messages our subconscious wants to send us, and we should value it more for its beauty than its transcendental content.
Salvador Dali, painter of dreams.
To remember them you must not lose consciousness during the apparition. That is, you must observe the process of the hypnagogic state without falling asleep. It seems simple but it is not, because you must submerge yourself in sleep while the mind remains aware of the events happening in its interior. With a little luck, we can see some of the marvelous “paintings” of our private museum.
The surrealist artists of the 20s and 30s knew all about this. This is how Salvador Dali, fervent lover of hypnagogic scenes, turned to what is known as “the monk’s sleep.” He went to bed with a large iron key in his hand. With the first dream, the key would fall to the floor and he would wake up suddenly. In his mind he recorded the hypnagogic images he would later transfer to the canvas in his masterful style.
The seven “chakras,” or centers of subtle energy in the ayurvedic hindu medicine (1).
The nadis according to Tibetan tradition (2).
The meridians of traditional Chinese medicine (3).
If you have difficulty retaining the hypnagogic state, try centering your attention on a concrete point. For example the “third eye” of the yogis (that is, between your eyes), in the area of the heart, or in the top of the head. These three positions are, according to the philosophy of yoga, the centers of subtle rather than physical energy in the human body. You need a place to direct the mind. Another trick to hold attention without effort is to think abstractly about the name of the object you wish to see. This doesn’t mean you have to “create” the images; you just have to induce its appearance during the hypnagogic state. Entering through meditation is also very useful and beneficial.
Sometimes, the hypnagogic scenes are not as pleasant as we would like, but we must confront them in order to strengthen our ability for self-control. If they persist, try following the previous advice. Think abstractly about the name of what you want to see, resisting the temptation to construct it in a certain way from the conscious mind.
The main advantage of the hypnagogic state is that it brings us progressively closer to our deep Self . . . and all that helps to understand and better benefit from dreams.
The same subject can have very different meanings depending on the circumstances and personal situation of the dreamer.... Dreampedia
The technique of “lucid dreaming”
Broadly speaking, this type of dream permits the dreamer to consciously participate. That is, realize suddenly that they are dreaming and that they can use the elements of the oneiric scene to their advantage or whim. In this aspect, lucid dreams have a greater potential for creativity; it is the ideal occasion to invent, conceive, and formulate without any type of limit or restriction. The main course of these dreams are the curative properties they offer. The life of any individual can be improved by sleeping, since making direct contact with unconscious material makes it easier to discover oneself and progress interiorly.
But what is a lucid dream? You may have experienced it before. You are sleeping and your mind enters into a dream in which a stranger, for example, yells at you to go home. The inverosimile of the situation makes you suddenly say to yourself: “This is a dream.”
Lucid dreams are very stimulating, above all because they allow the dreamer to control their reactions within the oneiric episode, even if it is a nightmare.
Experts define this phenomenon as “prelucid oneiric activity.” But this situation can manifest in a much more evident form. In this case, you not only know you are dreaming, but you can also use your conscious to change the dream as you wish. In the example given, you could ask the stranger who he is, or why he is throwing you out of your own house.
It must be said, however, that oneiric lucidity is not common, even though surveys have reported that 70 percent of people claim to have had this type of dream at some point. It is possible that many are confusing lucid images with prelucid ones, in which they only had the vague sensation of dreaming.
Keeping the conscious awake for a long time as you navigate your oneiric oceans is complicated. When one has lucid dreams, normally you either wake up shortly after, or quickly fall back into an unconscious state. Lucidity is only intermittent. And once you’ve had a dream of this type, it could be years before you experience another one. This exceptional character is why many people consider lucid dreams to be the most stimulating, above all because they allow the dreamer to control their reactions within the oneiric episode, even if it is a nightmare.
Unfortunately, not much is yet known about this type of oneiric process, although it is believed to occur more frequently in the early morning hours, since this time period makes it easier for the individual to realize that the mind is conceiving something improbable or outright impossible (for example, seeing yourself lift an airplane with one hand).
Are lucid dreams beneficial? Of course, since the individual who experiences them, upon realizing their mind is conscious, has the satisfaction of the sensation of freedom increasing as their self-control does. In this sense, some experts go beyond and claim that when one has learned to control oneiric events, it is much easier to solve daily problems and face anxiety. Lucid dreams, therefore, can contribute to our spiritual growth.
In another way, their potential can help us to treat the most terrifying nightmares. Lucidity allows you to face the threatening images in order to understand them, not obliterate them. According to some psychologists, such as the reputable American analyst Gayle Delaney, the best way to deal with a nightmare is not to turn it into a pleasant dream. Quite the contrary, those who dream lucidly have a better option: directly ask the oneiric characters that so terrorizes them what it is they want, or what they represent.
This experience can not only help transform the evil figures into friendly characters, but also allows one to discern what parts of the dreamer’s personality are represented by the original threatening images. With proper training, the individual will report feeling more secure and confident upon waking.
How it all began
The term “lucid dream” was coined by Frederik Van Eeden in 1898, using the word “lucid” in the sense of “mental clarity.” So we can say that a lucid dream is one in which “the dreamer becomes conscious that they are dreaming.” This definition, given by the researcher Celia Green in 1968, is the most widely accepted today. In any case, the
study of this type of dream has been ongoing since Ancient Greece. In the fourth century BC, Aristotle makes the first written reference to a lucid dream in his Treatise on Dreams: “When one is sleeping, there is something in the conscious that reveals that what is present is nothing more than a dream.”
In 415 AD, Saint Augustine used the story of a lucid dream to justify life after death. Later on, in the seventh century, Tibetan Buddhism studies the yoga of dreams, in which the monks train themselves in lucid dreaming as part of their spiritual development. Despite these precedents, the study of lucid dreams, as we understand them today, does not emerge until the nineteenth century, by the hand of Marquis d’Hervey Saint Denys. This researcher published the book Los suenos y como controlarlos (Dreams and how to control them), in 1867. In this, he demonstrated that it is possible to learn to dream consciously. This fact converted him into the founder of the first line of study on lucid dreams, although his discoveries were put into doubt by many researchers afterward.
In lucid dreams we are conscious that we are dreaming.
The sensation that time has passed, in a normal dream, is due to the sudden change of setting. In a lucid dream, however, the critical sense of the dreamer makes them question passing of time they did not live. Much more systematic and objective than Saint Denys, was the English psychologist Mary-Arnold Forster (1861–1951). In her book, Studies in Dreams (1921), she describes techniques of lucidity and control over dreams she herself experienced. The researcher was especially interested in “learning to fly” in lucid dreams, a practice which she had done since childhood.
Another very important aspect of her work was her nightmare therapy. She learned to recognize that her terrifying dreams were “just dreams.” So she helped many children overcome their nightmares through lucid dreaming, teaching them techniques to change an unpleasant dream to a pleasant one. The fact that she criticized many Freudian theories, especially those about pretending and censorship, relegated her brilliance to obscurity. It wasn’t until many years later that the true value of her discoveries was recognized.
Meditation is a good resource to stimulate lucidity in dreams.
Through the techniques of lucid dreaming, we can overcome nightmares by transforming them into pleasant and agreeable dreams.
The lucid dream, today
Modern research on lucidity has advanced a lot in the last fifty years and has come to dismiss old theories. Traditionally, it was thought that dreams happen in a moment, although long stories occurred within them. However, after studying in a lab the subjective experience of the dreamer, in all cases the estimated time of the lucid dream was very close to the real time (LaBerge, 1980–1985). The sensation that more time has passed is due to the sudden changes of scenery during dreams. In 1982, a study by psychologist Stephen LaBerge and William Dement demonstrated that, in the lucid dream, respiration was controlled voluntarily. They confirmed it with three lucid dreamers, who could breathe rapidly or hold their breath during the experiment without suffering any alteration of the dream.
On the other side, one of the most common themes of lucid dreams is sexual activity. LaBerge, Greenleaf, and Kedzierski (1983) completed a pilot experiment on the physiological response in lucid dreams of a sexual nature. The experimental protocol required the lucid dreamer to make ocular signals at the following moments: when he entered lucidity, when the sexual activity of the dream began, and when he experienced orgasm. The investigators discovered that the body reacts the same sexually during a lucid dream as it does while awake.
The situations, characters, or objects that are present in dreams but impossible in real life are precisely those that awaken the dreamer’s critical sense and brings them to lucidity. “The Meaning of Life,” Hipgnosis.
Meditation is also a good resource to stimulate lucidity in dreams. Before going to bed, find a quiet place and sit in a straight chair or on the floor with your legs crossed. Close your eyelids until only a faint fringe of light enters your eyes, or close them entirely if it won’t make you sleepy. Then, try to relax for five minutes (as you practice, you can lengthen the sessions). Concentrate in a single stimulus, focusing your attention on a specific spot. When you finish the exercise, go directly to bed, trying not to lose the relaxation you attained. Meditation will help you concentrate as you sleep, allowing you to recognize the incongruencies in your oneiric thoughts. This is the starting point of lucid dreaming.
Another method for inducing this type of dreams consists of proposing to complete some sort of assignment while you sleep. When dreaming, you will try to finish this job, something that will remind you that the activity you are doing (if you do in fact dream about what you proposed to) is nothing more than a dream.
A variation of this technique (also implies taking on a task) consists of leaving a glass of water in the bathroom and eating something very salty before going to bed. If you follow this method, you are likely to be thirsty but, given that your body is reluctant to get up and go to the bathroom, the displacement will end up incorporated in your dream. The coincidence will make you realize you are dreaming.
When in daily life, if a person, feeling, or thought appears repetitively, there is a greater chance you will dream of it. The content of dreams is always influenced by the content of your day. The more often you do a certain task, the more likely it is to appear in dreams. Therefore, if you ask yourself “am I dreaming?” frequently, you will end up asking this question in dreams. The problem comes when the sensation of reality in dreams is so strong that it tricks you. It is necessary to repeat the reality test we show later on.
Dr. Consuelo Barea notes that there are two primary techniques to induce lucid dreaming at night. It has to do with self suggestion and direct entry into dreams without losing consciousness, which comes from Tibetan yoga.
The number of times that stimuli repeat in a dream has a great impact on the content. However, the same happens with the quality of these stimuli. An event that impresses you, that hits you hard, that causes a big impact, is much more susceptible to appearing in your dreams, even if it only happened once. The way in which people talk to you or in which you receive information can be very suggestive and enter directly into your unconscious.
The prospective memory is a variation of this ability. It consists of giving yourself an order, forgetting it, and then completing it when the opportune moment arrives. We see an example of this memory in people who are able to wake up without an alarm at the hour they want. When the order of oneiric lucidity is given intensely and with force, it can directly reach the unconscious. Some people are able to have a lucid dream just by hearing about it for the first time; this seems interesting, but it’s more useful to educate one’s prospective memory, so that one knows how to give the order effectively.
The process of training in lucid dreaming requires a gradual increase in oneiric experience. It is possible to advance suddenly to a much higher level of lucidity and control but, if this happens by chance, without having worked for it, you will not be able to maintain this achievement. Advances remain fixed when you work for lucidity, persisting with the techniques for induction. Then, the accomplishments are incorporated with your normal oneiric repertoire. In this way, you can reach a point where, in non-lucid dreams, you still act spontaneously, following the lessons learned from lucidity. For example, if you train yourself in lucid dreams to confront an oneiric character that terrorizes you, you will end up responding bravely to this person automatically, even if you are not having a lucid dream.
When in daily life, if a person, feeling, or thought appears repetitively, there is a greater chance we will dream of it; this happens because the content of dreams is very influenced by the content of our waking day. “El voyeur” (The voyeur) (Carles Baró, 1996).
This practice will give you the keys to discover all that worries you in waking life and ends up represented in worry dreams and nightmares. Upon practicing with oneiric lucidity, you will learn to reap maximum benefit from this source of inspiration and creativity.
In the box we show the steps to follow to train yourself in lucid dreaming. The information comes from the studies of Dr. Consuelo Barea that appear in her book El Sueño Lúcido, (The Lucid Dream), published by this same editorial.
Practicing lucidity gives us the keys to discovering everything that worries us and stalks us in nightmares.1. Development of induction techniques. Practice some of the techniques described earlier with the intention of having a lucid dream (for example, self-suggestion). You can practice it during the day, before going to sleep at night, or in the morning before a morning nap.
2. Gradually increase the level of oneiric astonishment.
The objective is to reach Level 3 through practice of the prior techniques.
3. Reality test. Once you’ve reached at least Level 1, you must get used to practicing the reality test in a dream. This can be visual, of laws of physics, or temporal. To do so, question for a moment the reality or coherence of that which you are seeing or what is happening, according to your notion of time and space. If you find something strange in the evaluation of one of these factors, it will set off an alarm for you.
4. Prolongation of lucidity. Once you’ve reached lucidity, you must extend the time as much as possible to better obtain more information. The way to do this is by internal dialogue with the people in the oneiric scene, and with the thoughts you have during the dream.
5. Control. When you’ve achieved lucidity for a while and it seems like it will continue, you can begin to practice control:
The Kabbalists associate dreams with the central symbol of their tradition: the Tree of Life. “Tree of Life” (Gustav Klimt, 1909).... The Big Dictionary of Dreams