Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Songs from the place between sleep and awake


Tinker Bell advised Peter Pan to look for her in "the place between sleep and awake." It is amazing how little attention is given to this highly creative space in the work of most sleep and dream researchers, and how it is sorely neglected in many modern lives.
    Andreas Mavromatis published an excellent scholarly introduction to what is possible in Hypnagogia:The Unique State of Consciousness between Wakefulness in Sleep in 1991, but his example has not fired up the academic community. In my own book The Secret History of Dreaming, I recount how so many scientific and creative breakthroughs have been made in this liminal space that it can be called the "solution state". In my book Dreamgates I offer a vigorous invitation to would-be lucid dreamers and spiritual adventurers to spend much more time in this twilight state and to use it as the launch pad for conscious dream travel. In my memoir The Boy Who Died and Came Back I describe how, in this state, I have often had access to greater minds and been treated to ongoing tutorials with intelligences I feel to be beyond this world.
    I have been reviewing some fascinating fieldwork by Australian educators that illustrates how the liminal state is viewed in Aboriginal tradition as a privileged place of encounter with ancestral spirits and co-creation.
    The Yanyuwa, an Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory, prize "dream state songs". These are given to them during encounters with the spirits in a state of consciousness beyond both ordinary dreams and prophetic dreams (which they recognize as separate categories). Their word for this third and higher state of dreaming is 
mawurrangantharra. It is entered in the liminal space between wakefulness and sleep.
    A person who enters mawurrangantharra finds that boundaries between humans and spirit realms are fluid. The Yanyuwa say that a person in this state has “left the world” and is “deaf” to it. Through contact with ancestral spirits in this state, new songs are created. They are regarded as exceptionally powerful. A mermaid song may rise from the deep in this way, and become part of sacred ceremony. Through dream songs, the relationship between humans and the spirit world is maintained and refreshed.


Source: Elizabeth Mackinlay and J.J. Bradley, “Many songs, many voices, and many dialogues: A conversation about Yanyuwa performance practice in a remote Aboriginal community” (2003) in  Rural Society, vol. 13, pp. 228– 243.

Image: Yanyuwa Body Art by John Veeken.

4 comments:

June Fish said...

Is there any information about seeing "visions" or "hallucinations" for about 6-10 seconds before they disappear when just waking up? They can be anything from flowers, faces, even people and identifiable objects to abstract swirls, etc., with vivid, clear colors. On occasion the same one will repeat later upon awakening as if to prove itself.

Robert Moss said...

This is a common experiences for those of us who spend time in the liminal space before or after sleep. I very often see a "parade of faces", a fast-shuffled series of childlike sketches or crowd scenes or objects or landscapes as I drift around sleep. Sometimes I make i my game to slow down a sequence, stay with one of the images and explore it. This has sometimes given me a portal for a lucid dream adventure. On another occasion, it drew me into a crowd scene that proved to be a quite literal sighting of a busy subway station in Manhattan; I found myself at that corner a couple of hours later and realized that I had been previewing the day's activities. You may to read chapter 2 of my book "Dreamgates" for much guidance on how to operate in the 'tween states between sleep and awake.

June Fish said...

Thank you for this reply! This is the first time I have ever heard any explanation or information about these brief occurrences I have experienced for years.

Live In Peace with ALL living things said...

The irony is I find the liminal space the most lucid space. I can hold the liminal space upon waking until I engage in conversion then I return to a typical multi-tasking cognizant space. I now understand the reason for monastic silence.