Am I Dreaming?

There's a house that I have dreamt about for as long as I can remember; it methodically appears in different places and contexts while I sleep. At times, it feels so real that I am sure I've been there; I keep a blueprint in my dream journal.

In addition to the vivid dreams, I have been a sleepwalker for as long as I can remember. I was never sure if the two were related, but the uncertainty and lack of control I had was often frightening. For a while, I was caught in a sub-reality where I couldn't be sure whether that woman who had complimented my ring was a real memory or a sleeping one.

Eventually, I started to write it all down. Before bed, I would journal about what was going on in my life; my job, my friends and family were all well documented. Throughout the night I would, and still do, suddenly awaken multiple times. I would immediately reach for the journal to jot down every flash of dream I could remember before they faded away. It became so fascinating to see the pattern between waking emotion and dream. It allowed me to explore such an honest side of myself that I truly don't believe I could have achieved while awake. However, the sleepwalking hadn't stopped, and the dreams became even more out of control.

Lucid dreaming. I had heard of it, but it all sounded a bit fantastical. This was well before Inception was released, but the idea of controlling one's own dream had the same cinematic quality at the time. Every lucid dreamer needs their own "trigger." I needed a gentle reminder that would make me realize that I was dreaming, but nothing too startling to jolt me awake. Looking at my hands proved to be effective; if you look at your hands while dreaming they never appear to be your own. You have to train yourself to perform your trigger often while awake, so that you remember to do it while in the dream. Eventually, the practice became repetitive and the structure of my dreams was transformed.

We have all had that dream, the one where we are trying to scream or run, but for some reason we are stuck in slow motion while whatever is pursuing us travels at warped speed. I have been reliving the same dream for years. I am chased up a flight of stairs, and just before my pursuer reaches me, I fall from the top of the building. I always wake with such an uncomfortable and inexplicable level of fear. When the dream is explained out loud or in writing, it seems almost typical, but that innate dread can never be untangled. When I am able to achieve lucidity in this particular dream, I remember to look at my hands just as I reach the top of the stairs. For me, I usually look down to unfamiliar lines across hands that aren't mine. Before I reach the edge of the roof, I jump into the air and fly away. The greys and blacks of the nightmare fade into oranges and yellows.

The phenomenon of lucid dreaming has become more than a hobby, it has revolutionized my thoughts and curbed my sleepwalking. Our own personal dream world is the only place where our boundaries come down and we can express ourselves in the purest way possible.

While I still have a great deal left to explore, lucid dreaming and journaling have helped me achieve a deeper understanding of myself. Everyday I look at my hands often, because you never really can be sure.