Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why Keeping A Dream Journal Helps OBEs

Why Keeping A Dream Journal Helps OBEs

By Robert Peterson

"Why should I keep a dream journal? I usually don't dream, but when I do, my dreams are nonsense anyway."

I know keeping a dream journal is a pain in the ass. It takes a lot of time and effort, and some mornings you just don't want to mess with it. However, it does help your ability to Lucid dream and have OBEs. Many people don't understand the connection, so let me explain it. It's complex, so bear with me.

It all has to do with memory and the way humans compartmentalize information. Think about it: our brains are constantly bombarded with gigabytes (if not terabytes or petabytes) of information: visual data, audio data, tactile data, as well as taste and smell, plus feedback from our own body on its current state: hunger, thirst, oxygen levels, pain levels, etc. All this sensory data arrives simultaneously to the brain. But if it all got through to your "conscious self" at once, it would be overwhelming. You couldn't function normally. So your brain has very complex "data filters" (for lack of a better word) to make sure the only data passed from subconscious to conscious is the "important stuff." One of the reasons why drugs like LSD are so overwhelming is that they temporarily tear down your brain's natural data filters.

One of the ways our brains keep this barrage of information manageable is to compartmentalize it. It's like a computer's file system, broken down into many levels of subdirectories. All the information is automatically filed into different categories.

Sometimes our brains need to process this information as quickly as possible. For example, if there's a sound, you need to be able to instantly judge whether the sound is a threat, and often that involves memory. You can only identify the sound of a pistol being cocked based on your memory of that sound. So each category is assigned a priority, and each memory is also assigned a priority based on the likelihood of needing that information.

What does science know about this memory sorting? A 2011 article in Scientific American magazine talks about the "doorway effect". It explains a phenomenon known to many, especially when you get older: You walk into a room, then pause and ask yourself, "Now why did I come in here?" The article is based on the work of a team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame who published a paper titled:  “Walking through doorways causes forgetting.” The article explains:
"The doorway effect suggests that there's more to the remembering than just what you paid attention to, when it happened, and how hard you tried. Instead, some forms of memory seem to be optimized to keep information ready-to-hand until its shelf life expires, and then purge that information in favor of new stuff."
Well, it's not purged; it's just archived into deep "hard-to-fetch" storage. Our brains automatically prioritize or set aside memory based on perceived need. When you walk from room A to room B, it's less likely that you'll need to recall the information from room A, so room A's memories are filed away to longer-term storage, then dumped from short-term memory, making it harder to access. Only room B's information is important now, so you forget why you came.

If you walk back into room A, those memories are given a higher priority again and you can often remember your original goal.

This shuffling of information and memory is all done automatically by the subconscious, but the good news is: you can program your subconscious. You have control over the priority. You can reinforce the importance of carrying the information over, and you can practice it over and over to reinforce the programming, making it easier. If you tell yourself, "Now when I get to room B, I'm going to remember that I need to do this" your subconscious will learn to comply and give room A's memories easier access.

Why does this have anything to do with OBEs and Lucid Dreams?

It's because it's not just doorways. Although the magazine article doesn't say it, I believe there are many types of barriers used by the subconscious to compartmentalize. The biggest and most glaring is: your subconscious does the same thing when transitioning from a waking to a sleeping state, and from sleeping to waking. The information from our dreams and other non-local states of consciousness are automatically shuffled to the bottom of the heap as "unimportant nonsense." (Because we've reinforced that all our lives, but that's another topic.) So trying to consciously remember your dreams is a struggle, if not impossible. Conversely, trying to remember your waking life during a dream is also a struggle.

By keeping a dream journal, you are forcing your subconscious to carry memories and information from your body's sleeping state forward to your conscious self. The information is carried through the proverbial doorway.

In order to consciously recall a dream, you need a certain fragment of awareness in the dream: You need enough "conscious you" to pay attention to what's happening, in order to be able to recall it in the morning. You need a tiny connection from the sleep state to the conscious self. So basically, a dream journal trains your subconscious to allow more conscious awareness on the other side of the sleep barrier. And "conscious awareness" is exactly what you need for out-of-body experiences and lucid dreams.

So why bother with a dream journal if the contents of your dreams are (usually) not important? It's because your dream journaling programs your subconscious to carry the information across the threshold of waking/sleeping. It tells your subconscious to keep an open connection to the conscious self into sleep.

"But I don't dream. How can I keep a dream journal?"

Science has proven that everyone dreams, multiple times every night. It's just that you don't remember.

"Okay. How can I keep a dream journal if I can't remember my dreams?"

You've got to make it a habit. Here are some things to jump-start the process:
  1. Take vitamin B-6 before bed. Don't take more than 100mg per day. Don't take it every day. Take it for a few days, then stop for a few days. For some reason, this seems to help with dream recall.
  2. Before you go to sleep, tell yourself, "Tomorrow morning, I'm going to remember my dreams."
  3. After that, imagine yourself in the morning. You wake up. You sit up in bed and recall the dreams you just had.
  4. Tell yourself, "Yes, that's exactly what I'm going to do."
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 a few times. Then go to sleep.
  6. In the morning, sit up, close your eyes and try to remember anything you can about the dreams you just had. Focus on any little fragment that comes in. "It had something to do with a man" Then follow it where it takes you. "The man was trying to take me somewhere..." And so forth.
  7. Once you're up, write down your dream. If you're too busy, just write down some keywords that will trigger your memory later.
  8. Perform these steps every day so that keeping a dream journal becomes a habit.

Bob Peterson
18 August 2015

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