"You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That's where I'll always love you. That's where I'll be waiting."
- Tinker Bell to Peter Pan in the movie version of J.M. Barrie's story.
The Parade of Faces is a frequent phenomenon in this state. You may feel you are among a crowd of people, with faces and figures rushing by. Sometimes one may turn to look at you, which can be an interesting opportunity to enter a shared experience with another dream traveler you may or may not know in ordinary reality.
Sometimes the images rising and falling before you look like a child's sketches, or cartoons.
A frequent sighting for me, in this in-between state, is of what initially looks like the weave of a carpet or the mesh of a net. I have come to recognize this as a kind of border between states of reality and consciousness. With intention, I can part the strands and find myself in another order or reality.
The liminal state of hypnagogia, which I often call the Twilight Zone, is a good place to become aware of your ability to travel beyond the body. I often find myself lifting out of the body quite effortlessly in this state, without bumps and grinds. Sometimes, when tired, I simply rest half in, half out, of my physical form. Sometimes I float up to the ceiling. Quite often I go flying, like a bird, over my sleeping city and to places far away.
As Tinker Bell counseled, the Place Between Sleep and Awake is, above all, a wonderful place to rendezvous with other beings and other intelligences. It is a state in which we often become away of the psychic activity around us.
Often, I find different casts of characters waiting or popping up as I hover on the edge of sleep or linger in the twilight zone of hypnagogia. Sometimes, they appear to be quite literally on stage, or in the wings, waiting for me to show up in order to start or resume a play. More often, they seem to be characters in life dramas that are being played out in other times or in parallel worlds, dramas in which I have a lead role from which I may have been absent while attending to things in my default reality.
I frequently have inner dialogues in the Place Between Sleep and Awake, with sources of knowledge I have come to trust. This is a time when I can often receive streams of counsel and information from inner guides. In Dreamgates, I record some of my conversations with the intelligence I decided to call "G2". He carried the vocabulary and knowledge of a great Western Mystery order. I felt he was a transpersonal figure, though in no way alien to me. Many others have come to me in this liminal state. The most important of these inner guides is certainly no stranger; he is a self who observes and operates on a level of reality above the one I inhabit while living on this Earth in a physical body.
In the history of creative breakthroughs in every field, including science and technology, the hypnagogic state has been of vital importance. In this liminal zone it is easy to make creative connections, which often involves linking things that seem to the routine mind to be unconnected. Many inventions and discoveries attributed to dreams by over-hasty writers - like Kekule's discovery of the benzene ring - are actually gifts brought through from hypnagogia, to such an extent that I call this zone of consciousness "the solution state" in The Secret History of Dreaming.
It is surprising that so little has been written about the nature and manifold possibilities of this liminal state in the literature of sleep and dreams. Greek Cypriot author Andreas Mavromatis wrote the only book I know entirely devoted to this liminal state of consciousness, marrying scientific data to rich accounts of creative and visionary accomplishments in this zone. In Hypnagogia: The Unique State of Consciousness Between Wakefulness and Sleep, originally published in 1987, Mavromatis writes that
“Hypnagogia…facilitates the emergence into consciousness of material that might otherwise remain unconscious. It might, thus, also constitute the platform onto which is periodically raised the substratum of continuous but not always conscious mental activities taking place throughout life. As such, it opens great vistas of psychological exploration. Its introspective study may furnish the individual not only with the benefits of an integrated personality but also with the means of discovering new or little known modes of experiencing which will undoubtedly enrich him/her as a psychological entity.”
The Place between Sleep and Awake is the best place to develop the continuity of consciousness prized by advanced practitioners of the yoga of sleep and dreams. I am talking about growing your ability to maintain awareness and witness perspective as you move back and forth between sleep, half-sleep, dream, lucid dreaming, what Sri Aurobindo called “the sleep of experiences” and the dream of everyday life.
Art: "The Victory" by René Magritte (1939)