why we "sleep" through our dreams

Of all the times when we might most want our consciousness, when we are in the fabulous dreamscape, we find that it is almost categorically denied us! Each night we enter the dreamscape once again, yet each night we enter blind. Without consciousness we are unable to recognize our dreams. We are unable to see where we are, unable to be where we are.

Psychologically, the absence of consciousness from dream sleep makes no sense. We are all blessed with a fantastic, natural mechanism for inner illumination, for healing and mental health, yet we are never permitted access to it? To add insult to injury, not only are we unable to interact with our dreams consciously, but our memory of the experience is radically impaired. Unconsciously experienced sensation is very difficult to recall; we routinely forget the overwhelming majority of our dreams. So why do we dream at all?

The need for dampening of the reflective ability during dreams is curious. As chapter six explains, sustained experience with lucid dreams shows that consciousness is compatible with the dreamscape, albeit a rare guest. When we observe that the immediate result of gaining consciousness in a dream typically is that we awaken ourselves, then we can see why consciousness generally is an undesirable accompaniment to dream experience. Most often when we perceive we are dreaming, the realization startles us and we disturb the physiologic balance of dream sleep, causing us to awaken shortly thereafter. Put simply, we notice we are dreaming, and then we wake ourselves up. First our mind wakes up in the dreamscape, then our body wakes up, and we make that quick transition from dream sleep to being awake again, with the dreamscape but a memory. This is the famous “Oh, shoot!” of lucid dreaming. In attempting to prolong periods of consciousness in the dreamscape, all lucid dreamers first learn not to startle their bodies out of dream sleep once they recognize they are dreaming.

So, we arrive at a perplexing juncture in our search. The dreamscape is very nearly categorically denied us. But enjoy, for a moment, the paradox that attends this grail: It is ours, but we are not permitted access to it. We are responsible for its creation, but we know not whence it comes. We spend an hour and a half a day, ten hours a week, twenty-one days a year in the dreamscape, but we rarely get a chance to visit. We walk in it, we talk in it, we feel it, we touch it, and we ask it questions. It touches us, it holds us, we are enveloped wholly within it. Every night we walk the corridors of our mind. Feel and touch the walls!

Consciousness: We exist without it; we do not exist without it.

©1995 Charles McPhee. Excerpted from Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams: A Guide to Awakening Consciousness During Dream Sleep published by Henry Holt and Company, Inc.

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