For the first two or three weeks after I moved into my apartment, I had vivid dreams every night for almost three weeks. I would wake up and remember all kinds of things, as though my dream had just been my experiences the day before, only more random. One of my dreams, I wrote about last week, it was kind of the culmination of the previous couple weeks dreams, I think, because of how intense it was and because my dreams have been pretty much back to normal since them. The actual dreams aside, I have been more aware of entering into the dream state since then.
I usually fall asleep quickly. There are nights when I've got something on my mind, but I'm aware than I'm getting myself off on a tangent when I let my brain spin it's cogs working on whatever. There is a point, kind of a cusp, where I become aware of the dream mind. I can really only describe it as a feeling I have. For a moment, or a minute, I'll loose myself along a strand of thought that feels like a dream, and then I become aware of that feeling. Perhaps it's when the theta waves in the first stage of dreaming are kicking in.
The feeling is like pure thought, only abstraction, without words... thoughts that are like words, to me, are those that are very familiar to me. They are like the language I use to think about things. When I'm working on an abstract idea in my head, that idea is something I can only describe as a form that I'm molding. It hasn't yet become a part of the tool-set, or vocabulary, which I use to build the forms.
When I become aware of the feeling, it is like trying to remember something complicated that I had just thought about. Like looking at a cloud, then looking away, and not being able to see the cloud any more. What's left is an abstraction which isn't as detailed as, for example, the experience of actually looking at the cloud. Thinking about that abstraction, I can say to myself, "it was that thought." Then if I focus on it, I become aware of that thought's details, and if I look back at the cloud I can see that it is the same cloud. There don't have to be details though. I can simply think of it as that thought, without giving it any meaning, and it's there, only a feeling.
I'm reaching a bit, but hopefully painting an okay picture. When I realize that I'm in the dream state, I am aware of the feeling of that state. I can think about other things and begin to wake back up, or I can immerse myself in the feeling and I'll be asleep in moments.
I had an experience a year or two ago that was interesting. For a couple nights in a row, I became aware of myself entering the dream state, but my awareness didn't fade as I began to dream. I was able to watch as I began to dream. One of those nights, I remember, I decided to prove that I was dreaming. I was in a living room and, random as it is and as random is appropriate for a dream, I decided that I would play a Simpsons episode backwards on the television front of me. In what seems like a couple moments, and entire episode appeared to flash across the screen in reverse, from the closing scene to the intro to the show. In retrospect, I doubt it was really a complete show in reverse, but only a representation of what I thought it might be like to watch a show in reverse in a dream. :-)
I've read about Yogis who, through years of intense practice of meditation, were able to maintain conscious awareness all night long as their body and brain slept. Very interesting. At this point, I only wish to be able to remember more of my dreams when I wake. Really, if I can remember my dreams, it means that I was consciously aware of them. Each day, I know that I was consciously aware during the day because I can remember what happened. To often have recollections of one's dreams probably means that one is maintaining conscious awareness through them. How interesting, to heighten that awareness.
I should try to differentiate between awareness and conscious awareness. The meanings of the words are fuzzy to begin with; there is no clear definition of awareness and consciousness is often synonymous with awareness. Even when I wake and can't clearly remember my dreams, I still have a recollection of having experienced dreams during the night. I believe I am always aware at some level. When I am consciously aware, I probably use more of my normal language for thought, and my experience of the dream is recorded in my long term memory in a way that I can recall it. When I remember it after waking, I can understand it on some level.
When I remember a dream, the dream experiences resonate with waking life experiences, and in the contrast between those I find meaning. It is akin to riding a bicycle for the first time in a few years, and then remembering all the times you rode one growing up, all the places you went, the feeling of the wind against your skin. One might only be riding in a circle in a parking lot now, a pointless thing to do, but meaning arises between the present experience and the past memories. So when I am able to remember and make sense of a dream it is because I can contrast that dream experience with those of waking life. The same tool-set I use for consciously thinking about my waking life experiences can be used to understand those dream experiences.
Purpose in meditation or even just focused, collected, thought... When meditating, I pay attention to nuance in thought. I don't just bounce from thought-word to thought-word. I notice the abstraction that makes up the words. With practice, I learn new thought-words to describe those abstractions, and the process continues. I wonder if that practice develops the language I would need to remember and understand more of my dreams. Those abstractions which I try to understand feel like the abstract thought of the dream mind. When I'm falling asleep and feel myself drifting into the dream mind, that feeling I experience is like that abstract thought that I don't yet have words for.
Blar, time for bed, for dreams.
Just now, I am so focused. I miss this feeling. When I was in High School, I would stay up all night working on stuff on the computer. I would get in the zone, so to speak, where all of my awareness would be consumed by my interactions with the computer. The only sensory input I am aware of I that of the text on the screen, the feeling of the keyboard under my fingers. I can see other stuff in the background, but I think nothing about it, beyond acknowledging it's presence in order to make note of it now. I don't have a spatial awareness of my body. Normally, I have a sense of place in my environment; where I am in the room, where my arms and legs are relative to the rest of me. Now, I lack a sense of spatial proportion. It can feel like floating, or as though my head is just above the floor where I'm sitting. It is of no consequence. If I stop my eye-twitch, everything in my field of view fades to gray, to black. ... Deep breath, stretching now, and all is as normal as I want it to be, once again.
I really need to take a shower and go to bed now. I hate getting up in the morning when I've stayed up too late.