Monday, July 11, 2016

Sojourns Beyond the Body

I stopped writing about my lucid dreams/OOBE's last fall, mainly because real life became so demanding that my nighttime practice fell off somewhat. But recently, I have returned to a fairly regular practice of middle-of-the-night meditation as a supplement to my early morning meditation. As a part of this middle-of-the-night regimen, I usually take 8 mg. of galantamine (an over-the-counter supplement derived from various lilies, including the snow drop lily) immediately upon awakening so that by the time I return to sleep, it's doing its job of increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in my brain. I still marvel that a slight increase in a neurotransmitter involved in cognitive processing can have such dramatic effects on my dreams--as well as my performance at the bridge table! But then again, it rarely induces lucid dream without the meditation beforehand. Not for me, at least.

This morning was pretty typical. I got up at 5:30, meditated for about half an hour til I got sleepy, and then laid back down. Within a few minutes, I was suddenly flying up through blackness. I meditated as I flew upward, and waited for imagery to appear. The last time I did this, a few days ago, the same thing happened, and I expected to see the earth below me at some point. But I suddenly found myself swimming in an expanse of luminous water before I emerged into a terrestrial setting.


This morning, however, I did not find myself in water, but rather in a beautiful woodland scene with people all around. I went from place to place--usually flying as I went--and speaking with people I encountered. One woman even prepared food for me even though she knew I was "from another place" and would soon be leaving and obviously could not eat with her. At another point, I took off and a little girl grabbed my foot; so I flew up in the air with her before taking her gently back to the ground. So much happened over the course of almost an hour (I intentionally brought myself back at about 7 am) that I don't have enough time to share all of it.


Throughout the experience, however, I would look for the Light in all of its various forms--bright light fixtures, the sun, the moon, and other sources of radiance. As I have found for the past 40 years, the Light tends to become dim, or retreat, once I gaze upon it. It's not always been true, but it's been a recurrent theme throughout countless lucid dreams--that when I stare at the Light, it will usually fade.


(Interestingly, the times when the Light has intensified and taken me into a state of ecstasy has been those occasions when the Light appeared and overwhelmed me before I could have any agenda--I was its object, not the other way around!)


In one frustrating dream 30 years ago, I was growing frustrated by the way that the light seemed to "collapse" into an object without any luster. A woman walked up and told me one of the most significant things that anyone has ever said to me: "You must first learn to love the form before you can see the Light within it." So, ever since then, I've been "coming down from the mountain," endeavoring to embrace a more embodied experience, and learning to value everyday life. But throughout, my mystical yearning has persisted alongside this commitment. And lately, the opportunities to gaze upon the Light has occurred with regularity in the often-hour-long lucid dreams that I've been experiencing almost every time I use the meditation/galantamine combination.


This morning, in fact, was something of a new phase. For the first several encounters with the Light, I noticed the dimming effect, and thus started to work with my subjective state as I gazed upon the radiance. Finally, in the last scene, a brilliant white sun appeared overhead, and I looked upon it. At first, it started to fade a bit, so I looked away and smiled inwardly, feeling gratitude to be in the presence of it. I looked back, and it became more intense again. I continued to contemplate with gratitude, rather than with desire, and it maintained its immense white corona.


The issue of yearning or desire is at the center of the spiritual life, especially in Buddhism where desire is at the root of all suffering. And in Christianity, it was Peter's material desire to capitalize on Jesus's transfiguration that made Jesus say, "Get thee behind me, Satan." However, desire is also what takes us beyond the status quo. While it can never grasp the object of its dreams, it can take us to the threshold of attainment where in the end we are called upon to surrender it. This thought came to me when thinking of the role of desire: Desire leads to practice, and practice leads to mastery, and mastery allows us to let go of desire. So to fault someone for desiring this or that may be to commit one of two errors: the error of someone who either has suppressed desire out of fear or judgment, or someone who has grown beyond it and forgotten the necessary and imperfect role that it once served. There is a saying in the East, "To the one who has arrived, the way is foreign." I think this addresses the problem of judging a lower stage of development from a higher perspective.


When I was four, my best friend and I nailed a piece of bamboo to the end of a 2x4 to make a propeller for an airplane. I said to him with absolute conviction that we would fly together on that plane. I was fortunate that no one was there to tell me that I was deluded, because I still desire impossible things.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Interview with Dr. Clare Johnson

Dr. Clare Johnson, who writes a column in DreamTime Magazine (published by IASD for its members), has recently interviewed me for an upcoming issue. It was an opportunity for me to share a dream was truly life changing, which inspired me to move back to Texas and to pursue a more natural lifestyle. Here's the dream, which appears in my book, Healing the Fisher King: A Flyfisher's Grail Quest. I will save the comments for the interview, so look for it if you're an IASD member. Or consider joining by going to www.iasdreams.org for information about the benefits of membership. 


I become aware that a group of hunters, of which my stepfather and father are members, have come upon a Native American man in the woods. Thinking of him as no more than an animal, they have killed him and beheaded him, keeping his head as a trophy. I am horrified and convinced that the crime has to be reported. While most of the hunters express no remorse whatsoever, my father wears a pained, confused look about what they have done. As I talk to him about our need to take action, it is as if he slowly awakens from a deep sleep and finally acknowledges the truth. Then I call the authorities and tell them what has happened. 
As I hang up, I become aware that a cougar is making its way into deep South Texas — passing through the King Ranch, skirting the U.S. Border Patrol check point at the little town of Sarita, and moving into the area near the Mexican border where I grew up. I am hopeful that it will thrive there.
Then, I look up to see a red plane doing aerobatics. I know that the young pilot is saluting me for my courage. His aerial display is so prodigious that I find the display physically impossible. Suddenly, I am aware that I am dreaming. I walk south through a meadow and look up to see a beautiful, dew-covered red hibiscus hanging over my head. I take a few more steps and affirm that when I look up the next time, I will see the Holy Light. I lift my eyes and behold a huge orb of white light surrounded by a delicate, lattice-like corona that takes up the entire southern sky. I know that it is the Light of Christ. 
Then an elderly woman approaches from behind me. Her eyes tell me that she loves me. I reach out, put my arm around her, and kiss her forehead, knowing that she is Mary, the mother of Jesus. We turn back toward the Light and see that a second light had appeared to the left, slightly below the white orb. The new light is bluish-violet and—with delicate, hairlike filaments of light—resembling the blossom of a passionflower vine. I turn to Mary and ask, “Is that your light?” She nods.
I turn back and look again, only to see that a third light has joined the other two. It appears to the right, slightly below the white orb. It shines from the window of a tower whose base now stands only a few feet away from us. 
“Whose light is that?” I ask.
Mary replies, “It is Mary Magdalene’s light.”
Then I ask, “Do you want to go there?” Again she nods, so we walk forward together and begin to climb the tower’s circular stairs.

If you have a big dream, consider sharing it here. If you have trouble posting it as a comment, please send it to me at gscotspar@gmail.com, and I will post it with any comments you might want to add.

Galantamine Study to be Launched Soon

Good news! I have been given the green light from the UTRGV Institutional Review Board to conduct a study that will test the impact of galantamine paired with meditation and dream reliving on dreaming. Ryan Hurd, with Dreamstudies.org and Dr. Ralph Carlson with UTRGV will join forces to conduct this first-of-its kind study. Our plan is to work with "normal" participants in the first phase in order to ascertain if the combination of treatments creates a more effective intervention than any of the components alone. And then, if so, we hope to apply the treatment protocol in a clinical setting with patients who suffer from PTSD, with the assistance of Dr. Fructuoso Irigoyen, a psychiatrist whom I work with in my private practice.

We will be posting the formal announcement soon on this site, Ryan's dreamstudies.org site, and the IASD Facebook pages. The announcement will include a link to a preliminary questionnaire and consent form, and then we will be providing instructions along with galantamine and placebo capsules.

I am also working on a paper that, I believe, provide the best explanation to date of why the dreaming process uses metaphorical imagery, in particular. It's a heavy lift, and I have been struggling with it for several months. But it will be done soon, and I will be posting the preliminary draft here in hopes that it will stimulate your own thinking about the construction and purpose of dreaming.


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