|"Many Dream Screens" by RM|
I am asked, Can I be in two dreams at the same time? My instant response is, “Absolutely! You can be in two dreams or multiple dreams simultaneously, and be actor and observer at the same time..”
This may happen every night. However, even the most ardent and prolific dream recallers may fail to notice what is going on. This is because, as we leave the dreamlands, our editing mind tends to shunt our memories onto a single track, giving us some kind of linear narrative. Stories are great, and so this can be a highly creative endeavor, giving us a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end, even if there are puzzling scene shifts and gaps.
It is fascinating to pause and look again at those sudden jumps and changes of scene and ask, Did I jump from one dream into another? And then, Is it possible that I was actually in two or more dreams at the same time?
By my experience and observation, just as consciousness is not confined to the body and brain, it is not restricted to one location in any reality. You can see this in ordinary life. On a warm afternoon, you are trying to follow a zoom conference while part of you has drifted off to a Caribbean island. You are not so far out there that you can’t cope when someone on the call speaks to you, and you may be aware, watching yourself, that your mind is in two places at once, or actually three, since that observing self comes into play as well.
In dreams, whether during sleep or in the fertile state of hypnagogia, we may find ourselves in several places at once, while looking over it all from a witness perspective. This can provide a marvelous opportunity -once we understand that dreaming can be horizontal meditation – to grow continuity of consciousness and our understanding of multidimensional reality.
Let’s look through the menu of multiple dreaming, starting with cases that may not be recognized and those in which experiences that may have happened simultaneously are pushed into a linear template.
How did I get here?
You are somewhere in a dream, and then you are somewhere quite different, with no recollection of how you got there. You open a door and you are on the ocean floor or out among the stars. You get in your car and suddenly you are on a mountain top with or without the car. You go to a party and then you are on a Viking longboat on a fjor where bearded Northmen are singing their way to Valhalla. These sudden jumps mauy lead you toask “How did I get here?” inside the dream – which may wake you up to the fact that you are in a dream reality. Or that question may come later,when you are trying to make sense of the content of the dream. Either way, these scene shifts may indicate that you moved from one dream (and even one world) to another.
You have probably had one, or many, of these. You think you have woken from a dream, only to find, when you wake back in your body on the bed later on, that you woke from one dream inside another dream. You may also recall nights when you fell asleep inside a dream and woke up in another dream. These are clear transitions between different levels of dreaming. Those who make a practice of keeping a dream journal often report, ruefully, that they were sure they had written down a dream only to find, on waking back in physical reality, that they did this in a dream state.
As you grow your dream practice and your awareness of the multiplicity of dreams, you will notice more of these, and you will have a simple structure for catching and recording more of went on during the night. You now recognize that dreams may be nested inside each other like those Russian dolls. You go from an outer dream to an inner dream, and may return the same way. Sometimes the inner dreams seem to be deeper experiences. When I led a program on dreams for a local school district, a sixth grader told us, with absolute clarity as well as high excitement, how she traveled through seven dreams, nested inside each other, to a thrilling adventure in the time of the American Revolution, and then returned the same way.
You are pulled back and forth between different dream situations. You may be participant or observer, or both, in each of these scenarios. You may have the impression that the action is playing simultaneously, in two or more locations. Seesaw dreams may evolve into split screen or side by side dreaming, and lead you to develop simultaneous perception. On the way to describing these modalities, let me share a personal experience of seesaw dreams that led to much more. I titled my journal report
MYSTERIES OF ULAN BATOR
|RM journal drawing "Mongolian shaman warrior"|
I am teaching at the Esalen Institute in California, and I
have been given a bedroom overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As I lie in bed, I
enjoy the sound of the breakers on the rocks below. I slip into a dream in
which I am arriving at Ulan Bator in Mongolia. I have been invited to speak at
a conference on shamanism, and members of a welcoming committee are thereto
greet me with warm smiles.
I rouse from the dream, delighting again in the sound of the waves. I briefly reflect that my dream could be a glimpse of a possible future, since I have received invitations to shamanic conferences in Mongolia in the past. My breathing follows the rhythms of the waves. I am back in the sea of dreams. I am in Mongolia again, but out in a wild landscape in an earlier era, the 1930s. I am involved in a grand Indiana Jones-style adventure involving a magical object the Nazis are seeking.
I stir from this dream, and again hear the waves. Was I watching a movie just then? No. I am pulled back into 1930s Mongolia by a force that seems as strong as a Pacific undertow. I am there,in a bitter winter, where mounted soldiers are drinking blood from their horse’s necks to survive. I am in a different body, and have dual consciousness within it, as Robert and as the man wh is trying to stop the Nazi tomb robbers. I know now what they are seeking. It is the spirit lance of Genghis Khan. People believe that this object has immense power, like a shamanic weapon of mass destruction.
While I am fully engaged in this drama,I am also aware of what is going on at the airport in a possible future. And I can hear, distinctly, the ocean sounds on a warm evening in California. The seesaw effect has changed. I am now aware of all three situations simultaneously, and have an overview of all of them. My focus on one situation will blur a little as I give full attention to one of the scenes, but my perception is never altogether lost.
I spent the whole night like this,
with pauses to record details.
Clearly the night had given me research assignments. I had never heard if the spirit lance of Genghis Khan. I found Jack Weatherford’s biography of Genghis Khan, and there it was, on page one. I read that Genghis Khan is a godlike figure for some shamanic lineages in Mongolia and that his power was held to have been preserved in his spirit lance, adorned with black horsehair. The burial place of this magical object was kept secret in a forbidden zone in Inner Mongolia. In the 1930s, there was a race to find it. It vanished, reportedly after being carried to Ulan Bator by armed monks – it vanished.
Oh yes. On my return home from California I received an invitation to a shamanic conference in Mongolia. I had too much going n in my calendar to accept, in ordinary realty. But since my dream self went, maybe a parallel Robert did also.
Side by Side Dreams
You are involved with two dream situations and you can watch and participate in both at the same time. Sometimes this seems like you are walking on one side of a road or a wall, aware that a second self is on the other side. You have continuing perception of both, though your primary attention is likely to be with one or the other and may shift back and forth.
Split Screen Dreams
Now you and your dream producers are getting truly organized. You are looking a a divided screen, able two watch two dream movies simultaneously -or jump in and become the star of one or both productions. With practice, you may be able to use multiple screens. One night I found myself seated in front of multiple screens reminiscent of the array in a NASA control room. I observed six dreams playing on six screens, in each of which a dream Robert – perhaps also a parallel self -was doing different things. As remote observer, I could monitor the overall pattern and choose whether and when to engage more of my attention and energy. When I engaged as participant in a dream scenario, my senses came vividly alive. In the simultaneous dreams, I was mostly doing things that are ordinary for me like connecting with power animals or making a group journey on a magical school bus to an Imaginal City.
While we seek to make linear narratives out of our dreams it is possible that many of them are organized by superposition. In quantum mechanics this means that "whenever the system is definitely in one state we can consider it as being partly in each of two or more states" (Paul Dirac).
|RM journal drawing, "Superposition"|
For example: in the dream from which I made this sketch I was both (a) dressed in safari shirt and cream chinos and (b) looking for the same clothes on a bed while (a) I had the room to myself but (b) there were other people coming and going, leaving signs of much activity - a burning candle, a weird collection of Icelandic elves and trolls, both humorous and sorcerous, on a wide windowsill. The parallel states converged when a young man - one of a gay couple that had been using the room without intruding on me - showed me a strange cabinet carved with runes and magic sigils. Definitely some magic afoot.
I can’t resist including this note on a type of dream experience that involves dual awareness and may be triggered by a call from another time or place:
Quantum Leap Dreaming
You may remember the old television show "Quantum
Leap", in which a scientist played by Scott Bakula cannons from one body
to another in different situations because of an experiment in time travel gone
awry. The episodes typically begin with him looking in a mirror and gasping
"Oh boy" as he looks at a different face. He has to fix something in
each situation in hopes of getting back to his own body in his own time - but
is then shot into yet another person's situation. He has an erratic
cigar-puffing guide, Al, who appears as a hologram visible only to him and
consults an artificial intelligence, Ziggy, that gives the odds on the probable
outcome of any move he makes in the bodies he occupies.
I quite often experience a call to dream into another time or life situation, on some kind of assignment, as I was called to that adventure in 1930s Mongolia. The circumstances may be far less dramatic. In my story ”The Silent Lovers” in Mysterious Realities I seem to have been assigned to help a man who has just died and is lost and confused about his circumstances, back in the 1950s. I don't have Al or Ziggy available to help explain all these scenarios, though I do have another cigar-smoking humorist who turns up from time to time to remind me "It's about entertainment, kid."
Growing Simultaneous Perception and Comprehension
This, perhaps, becomes the heart of the practice I am sketching here. Dreaming is a great training ground. However, there are related fields of practice. Some of my own best workouts have come when leading and drumming for shamanic circles. I have to remain sufficiently in control of my physical body to sustain the steady beat of the drum. At the same time I must watch over the physical and psychic space. I will simultaneously make a shamanic journey of my own which may take me far away in the Lower, Upper or Middle Worlds. I may also look in on the journeys of individual members of the group to see whether they need support. And while all of this is going on, my witness self maintains an overview of the whole scene. On a really good day, this can feel like observing the scene from every point within the circumference of a sphere that encloses us all.