Saturday, December 7, 2013
How you know you're not in Kansas any more
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. We must be over the rainbow!"
- Dorothy, in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz
I am thinking about the moments, in the midst of a dream adventure, when we wake up to the fact that we are not in ordinary reality.
You look in a bathroom mirror and you see a very different face.
You are with people and suddenly remember that in the regular world they are dead.
Fish start flying through the air.
A horse jumps out of a painting on the wall and thunders across the room.
Such moments are prompts to dream lucidity. You say to yourself, I'm dreaming. Sometimes this startles you into leaving the scene and dropping back into your body in the bed. With practice, you may learn to use these awakenings, inside the dream state, to carry on with the adventure, now fully aware that you have the power to navigate, making conscious choices - and powers you don't have when you are in physical reality.
The prompt may not only help you to become a lucid dreamer; it may awaken you to the fact that you are in a different world. In one of the great Celtic voyage tales (immrama), known as the Voyage of Maeldun, the travelers n their skin boat awaken to the fact that they are no longer on the Irish Sea when they reach an island where the ants are as big as horses. A radical change in the apparent scale of things is a well-recognized indicator that we have gone beyond the bounds of the familiar everyday world.
I found the following experience thrilling and instructive:
I am bouncing along in a yellow cab in a part of New York City I don't know well. It's run down. The road is potholed. Some of the stores are shuttered, some of the buildings look abandoned. The street seems very wide because there is little traffic.
The driver is tearing along, much too fast, veering all over the road. I ask him to slow down. He either does not hear me, or has decided to ignore me. I lean forward to speak to him through the gap in the security screen. I notice for the first time that the taxi driver is a dead man. He is yoked to the steering column by a rope tied round his neck like a noose.
I realize that I am not in any regular city. I must be dreaming. So now I am lucid, yes?
Yes and no. As this thought rises, the driver slams on the brakes and the taxi stops so violently that I am bounced off the broken springs in the back seat towards the ceiling. I grab the door handle. As I move to get out, the kind of voice you hear in recordings in New York City cabs says, very distinctly,
"This is not a dream. You are in the afterlife."
This opens out into a grand adventure in which I entered several different afterlife locales, none of them especially elevated, and learned a good deal about lifestyle choices and dramas on the Other Side.
At a certain point, I became concerned that I had gone so far and deep that I was uncertain how to get back. Since I was lucid, I was aware that I could simply will myself to go back to my body. Yet I was troubled by the thought that if I tried a quick exit - Back to the body! - I might leave some vital part of myself behind in the Underworld I had discovered.
I could use a little help, I signaled.
This inner cry produced an immediate response. An elegant figure, dressed in black and red as if for a costume ball, appeared, with a yellow car that was not a yellow cab, something more like a Mini Cooper. With a dashing gesture, he invited me to hop in and drove me back at amazing speed, up through many levels of the realm I had been in.
What do I have to say about this? Thank you - for the experience, and the roadside assistance.
Paris postscript, Sunday December 8
In this blog I suggested "Fish start flying through the air" as the kind of anomaly that might lead you to ask whether you are dreaming - and what world you are in.
How about fish swimming under your feet as you walk on water?
This was my experience after my plane landed at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on Sunday morning, on my way to the baggage claim.
It is a marvelous trompe l'oeuil on the marbled floor of the airport.
You really do feel the fish are gliding right under you, and you may not be able to resist the temptation to check whether your shoes are wet.