One of the many things I get really interested in is the nature of "reality" or at least the conscious parts of it (e.g. my perception of reality). The mind is such a curious and powerful thing -- like how none of us has ever actually 'seen' Objective Reality, because our brains are trapped in our dark skulls and all we really get are electrical signals sent by our eyes and other sensors. The brain then makes up all the stuff you see and call reality: a multimedia simulation based on what your brain thinks is going on out there in the world. We've all heard questions like "is my green, your red?" and how you'll never know for sure what somebody else sees in their reality.
In recent years I have been getting into meditation and really paying attention, really studying the way my mind works and I have found a few interesting things that I haven't seen talked about much online. I am currently suspicious that there is a connection between lucid dreaming, closed-eye visuals during wakeful consciousness, and the place in between the two: psychedelic visuals, which you can apparently just meditate your way into seeing, no entheogens required.
Let's start with the easy one. When I close my eyes and look into the darkness of my eyelids, I frequently will see some shapes and colors. From what I've heard from other people, this seems fairly common - you might see these too.
My regular closed-eye visuals tend to just be vague, formless blobs of color, maybe a blue blob here and a green one there. All kind of meandering around on their own, but very low resolution. Maybe they might vaguely form a face or some recognizable shape, but just loosely -- like seeing shapes in the clouds -- nothing very exciting.
But spoiler alert: they can get much more exciting.
One night, I woke up from dreaming at maybe 3:00 in the morning (who knows), to get up and use the bathroom as one does. When I got back in bed I closed my eyes and I decided to look for my closed eye visuals (often if I'm not deliberately trying to see them, they go unnoticed by me and I think I just "see" blackness with my eyes closed).
I was expecting to see the usual amorphous blobs, but what I instead saw blew me away: my closed eye visuals (henceforth called CEVs) were breathtakingly sharp, vivid, colorful and crisp. I was seeing a colleidoscope of random images flashing before my eyes. It reminded me a lot of the Marvel movie opening logo. But every image I saw was just so crystal clear, with sharp lines and edges and vivid colors -- a far cry from the usual vague shapes my CEVs take on during the daytime.
I attribute this to the fact I had woken up from dreaming (REM sleep) and my brain was still close to that dream state. I have a suspicion that CEVs have a whole spectrum of forms they take: the vague blobbies is on one end of the spectrum, and full-color life-like hallucinations that we call "dreams" are at the opposite end.
And in between those two poles are other states that some people are familiar with.
A couple of years ago, quite by accident, I managed to meditate my way into seeing psychedelic visuals over top of reality. And you can probably learn to do this, too. I will save you the long story (I had written about it before if curious) and cut straight to the chase -- here is how I've been able to consistently pull this off on command.
The trick is to just lock your eyes onto as fine a point as you can manage, and resist the urge to twitch your eyes even as your vision begins to play tricks on you. Many of you have probably experienced this much already: you know if you stare at a thing for too long, your vision plays tricks and things start disappearing or acting weird because of the sensory satiation, and darting your eyes will "reset" your vision to normal. But try and resist the urge to dart your eyes and just let your visuals do what they shall.
What happens next for me is: I will begin to see my closed eye visuals project themselves over top of reality, with my eyes open. The blobby, amorphous shapes I see with my eyes closed appear while they're open. But then my CEVs will begin to "play off of" or interact with my reality: where the border of one of the blobs touched a ridge on my ceiling that I was staring at, the ridge would wiggle or bounce back, as if my CEVs are interacting with it.
These visuals slowly ramp up and I'll begin seeing geometric patterns, fractals, lots of colors, and as these fractals interact with the scene I am staring at, they get everything to start wiggling and dancing. It can take me about 30 minutes into my meditation before I am seeing fully, 100% authentic, height of the strongest acid or mushroom trip I'd ever been on, visuals projected out onto whatever I was staring at during my meditation.
And when I've decided I had enough: I just look somewhere else and snap! everything is back in its place, in much the same way that darting your eyes during the earliest part of all of that "resets" your vision to normal.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: when I was a kid I would sometimes be woken up from a really good dream and wished I could have stayed in my dream a little bit longer to see how it ended. I could try and "make up" the ending myself, daydream how I think it might have gone, but it never felt right -- when you're in a dream, it's like your subconscious is telling you a story, and you can't quite predict what's going to come next. There's something magical about dreams that when I try and make up the ending myself, it doesn't come out right.
Well -- and I don't know exactly when this started, but it was in recent months at least -- I have somehow gained the ability to let my imagination wander freely and I can actually let my dreams finish themselves out, autonomously, after I wake up and I'll be fully aware I'm awake (and feel my body in bed, be able to hear my surroundings) but still visually see and hear the dream at the same time.
I attribute this to my practice with meditation -- I don't know of concrete steps that someone could try (not like my previous section) but I suspect the ability to "let go" of your mind, or to just watch it and not mess with it, was a feature here. I'll give you an example of what I mean.
A couple years ago I was reading some of Carl Jung and he talked about "active imagination" where he was able to visualize a scene in his head with characters in it, and then set his imagination free, and he could interrogate the characters and ask them questions and he would get responses from them that he couldn't predict (in very much the same way as dream characters). It's different to regular conscious daydreaming where you are controlling the dialogue of all the characters. It's more like when you are dreaming, and your dream characters talk to you and you can't quite predict what they're going to say because it's a different part of your mind that controls them: your subconscious.
After reading this I was trying, and failing, to do active imagination myself. I could set up the scene, and ask my characters a question, but I always felt like it was I who was dictating their responses -- I was just daydreaming consciously with myself. I haven't yet tried active imagination again, but this ability to let my subconscious wander and finish my dreams out seems to be very close to what I was thinking here.
There's already a lot of literature out there about lucid dreaming so I won't go too deep here.
Lucid dreaming is basically when you become aware that you're dreaming. You may be having some crazy dream about something nonsensical happening and have the epiphany: "oh shit, this is a dream!" and you can have a lot of fun with it. You can decide to change anything you want about the dream, or fly through the air like Superman, or summon specific dream characters that you want to talk to. I've had a good handful of lucid dreams in my life, but never very consistently. In many cases I'll realize I'm dreaming, and then just let my dream tell its story without meddling with it too much. I've found that if I meddle too much, my dream "gives up" on its story and just gives me all the controls, and it becomes a little bit less fun for me. I have "god mode" control but much less of the dream is unpredictable or surprising then (though my dream characters are still unpredictable in what they say).
From talking to my dream characters and asking them deep and personal questions about myself, and getting surprising answers back from them, I am suspicious that talking to a dream character is the same as talking directly to my inner subconscious, in plain English.
Just thought I'd jot down some of my latest findings. I have told some friends about these and some of them have experienced similar things, if not to the same extent I have yet. I hope this may have sparked your curiosity and if others may be able to reproduce some of my findings themselves.
I have more posts like this on my #42 blog tag where I write about life, the universe, and everything. It's a lot of stuff about consciousness and occasionally spiritual stuff (the two have many likes alike, and all the characters and archetypes that Jung says are in our consciousness have mirrors in religious figures from all cultures which I also find very fascinating!)
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