Medford, Oregon, November 8, 2015 — Last night something happened that I’ve wanted for nearly forty years.
Because back in that time, in my studio apartment just off Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, as I studied magic and meditation for a year while living frugally on unemployment money from the gubbamint …
Grateful, with my bicycle and a monthly bus pass, I wandered the city, scouting out the cheapest Chinese restaurants, mastering chopsticks, and learning meditation, magical ceremonies, and something called astral projection.
With a book from Robert Monroe and another from a fellow named Ophiel, who had weird sentences and clear how-to instructions, along with Patricia Garfield’s “Lucid Dreaming,” because astral projection seems very similar to lucid dreaming, to me. That is, engaging in a dream-like state which seems real and solid as dreams do, and yet while still conscious.
Once there, having left your stuporous body behind, you might wander around your neighborhood, or visit Detroit, or Antarctica. Or you might wander through magical realms of Faery, or where there be dragons and magic and fabulous beasts, cannibals, captains of pirate ships, or horrifying school boards.
Back in those days, I attempted it a number of times. Occasionally it worked briefly. You can enter it by holding onto tenuous conscious as you relax down toward sleep, or you can pre-program yourself to do something in the dream, like, look at your hand, and somehow become conscious in that moment, inside the dream-like state. I attained momentary success, finding myself conscious but somewhere else: walking a sidewalk where the leaves of a large bush were outlined in glowing gold, or suddenly peering out from the window of a bus to see the shops and people of Chinatown outside. And once visiting a house across the street. But for me it always lasted only a minute, maybe less.
Some think this process magical. I’m not certain where our own unconscious mind ends and external magic begins. If indeed any boundary does exist.
So back to last night …
As I’ve grown older, I don’t sleep solid through the night. Often in the dead of dark, the need to pee awakens me, so I rise and trundle off to the bathroom. And though this is not an exciting activity, for mysterious reasons — perhaps truculent hormone shifts from growing older — I sometimes return to my warm bedclothes, but now find myself sleepless.
What works, most of the time, is to go to the front room, sit semi-upright in a reclinable chair, and go through some meditation exercises. These clear away any skittish worries that have started bouncing around my skull, and calm my system, so I drift into a mild and focused state with no thought, and somehow sleep comes creeping on little cat feet like a comfortable fog.
Last night, as I then stumbled back to climb into bed, I shifted and jiggled the covers to find just the right spot.
And last night as I drifted down further into a dream, I was conscious.
I saw and heard and felt the things in my dream, and I knew I was in a dream. I could see the dream unfolding around me as I watched in amazement. At the same time I knew I lay in my bed, and yet could clearly see the fluctuating images, which mutated even as I watched, even as I chose to walk down the landscape, even as I spoke with others I found wandering there along the solid pathways, among the solid trees, beneath the sky so high above.
A fellow passed me on a path, travelling the other way, wearing a short-sleeved plaid shirt, and his head vanished as he walked by, though the shirt remained crisp and bright as he kept on walking. Some scenes were grand — an endless meadow where the plants were growing even as I watched. Then I entered a grubby and cluttered garage, and met a large man snapping open a switchblade knife.
But somehow he did not attack me. Another fellow with a crewcut watched me pass, though he was only a head resting on the ground.
I flew through the trees. I walked a mile-long abandoned city street between tall and empty, flat-faced buildings, and even as I glanced toward the buildings on the left these became a greening stony cliff whose top vanished in the clouds.
On and on and on I wandered there, quietly marveling in calm acceptance that I walked the dream.
From about 3:30 until 6:30 I traveled this dreamscape, as if walking from dimension to dimension to dimension, as they swirled and reshaped themselves around me.
And then I had to scratch my nose.
Sated from my wondrous vacation, I let the magical lands tumble away like smoke in the evening, and I was awake.
I’ll try it again tonight. Maybe it will work again. Maybe not.
I don’t know where these images, these places, these people, come from. I know they’re not from memory, at least not MY memory.
But I do know one new thing. One valuable thing.
I now know the distance between the two worlds.
The truth is: they are only an itch apart.