Archive for the ‘Meaning’ Category

October 16th, 2010 No Comments

Three Easy Steps for Remembering Your Dreams and Improving Dream Recall

Remembering Your Dreams

Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions.

-Edgar Cayce

Upon waking, people typically forget more than 50 percent of their dream content within five minutes. Within ten minutes, 90% is gone. But with practice, many people have learned how to remember their dreams every day. Most of these dreamers would say that remembering their dreams gives them insight that they did not have before. It helps them learn more about themselves, and adapt to changes in their waking life.

“Practice makes perfect” has definitely been the case for me. I used to rarely remember my dreams. Shortly after I started practicing the steps below, I was remembering one dream per night. Now I usually remember 3-4 dreams per night.

Why Remember Your Dreams?

Your brain takes in a lot of information during the day. Your conscious mind is not able to process all of this information while you are awake. When you go to sleep, your dreaming mind has access to this information that was not available to you while you were awake. Your dreams might reveal new insights, desires, or help you solve a problem creatively. If you remember your dreams, you will have access to more self knowledge and might learn more about your true thoughts and feelings.

Famous Dream Inspirations

These famous individuals used their dreams to help them with inspiration:

  • Albert Einstein: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
  • Paul McCartney: The Beatles song “Yesterday”
  • Mary Shelly: The monster Frankenstein
  • Elias Howe: The Sewing Machine

Preparation for Improving Your Dream Recall

  • Go to your local bookstore and buy a nice journal which you will devote solely to capturing your dreams. Also purchase a book light which you can clip on to this journal, and a nice pen.
  • Place your dream journal, pen, and book light close to your bed or under your pillow
  • Tell yourself that when you wake up the next morning, you will remember your dreams

Step 1) Make a conscious effort to remember dreams before you go to sleep

As you’re falling asleep, suggest to yourself that you will wake up remembering your dreams. You can use a mantra (such as “I will remember my dreams”). Instead of putting intentional effort into the suggestion, try to genuinely expect to remember your dreams. Just be careful not to put too much intentional effort into the mantra. Instead, try to genuinely expect to remember your dreams.

Step 2) Upon awakening, stay in bed as long as possible and replay the dream in your mind

It is generally accepted by dream researchers that dreams are not remembered unless the dreamer awakens during a dream. Even after awaking during the dream, it is usually not remembered for long. Therefore, every time you wake up in the night, and the next morning, ask yourself, “What was I just dreaming?”

Stay in the same position and think your dreams over before jumping out of bed. After you have remembered your dream, move to a different position (with your eyes still closed) that you normally sleep in, and try and remember other dreams. The position that you are in may help your brain remember what dream you had while sleeping in that position.

Dream Journal

Step 3) Write about the dream in a dream journal

Capture as much detail as possible, including the estimated time of the dream. If you are too groggy when you awake, just jot down a summary, and try to fill in the gaps the next morning.

Your dream recall will improve with time. Before I started capturing my dreams in a dream journal, I rarely remembered them. After using a dream journal for several weeks, I was remembering at least one dream per night, often 3-4.

Other Tips for Dream Recall

  • You need at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Most of your dreams will occur during the end of your sleep cycle (REM phase), so you need to ensure you are getting enough sleep to begin this phase.
  • Keep your Dream Journal or a notepad with you at all times. It is likely your daily activities may remind you of something in your dream. As you remember these details, write them down immediately.
  • Try to go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time each day to increase the quality of your sleep

This post is part of the Dream Evolver Series

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October 16th, 2010 No Comments

Dream Evolver Series

Dreams are real while they last — can we say more of life?

-Havelock Ellis

Vivid Dreamscape
I have been researching and experimenting with dreams for the last decade. I have focused primarily on lucid dreaming (being aware you are dreaming while dreaming), dream recall, and dream interpretation. I have also tried many supplements to improve my sleep quality, dream recall, and dream vividness. I am excited to share my explorations on Life Evolver. Over the next several months, the majority of my posts will focus on dreaming.

Why should you be interested in the dreaming world?

Life is short. And on average, you will spend over one third of your already-short life asleep. Can your sleep time be tapped in to and put to better use? Or are you better off not tampering with it? After all, maybe we aren’t supposed to remember our dreams.

Growing up in Western culture, I never learned to put much value on my dreams. Unless I had a bad nightmare or extremely weird dream, I rarely thought or talked about my dreams. When I first began experimenting with dreams, I wasn’t sure if I could make better use of my sleep time. But after experimenting for a while I became convinced of it. Dreams have offered me new insight, opportunities for personal growth, and fun. This has led to a positive impact on my waking life.

Dream Evolver Series Posts

Three Easy Steps for Remembering Your Dreams and Improving Dream Recall

Dream Interpretation, and The #1 Reason People Fail to Interpret Their Dreams Correctly

Launched My New eBook: Free Lucid Dreaming Starter Handbook

Launched My New Course: The Two Week Lucid Dreamer

The Most Common Mistake Made by Lucid Dreaming Beginners

How to Turn Inception-Style False Awakenings (Dreams within dreams) into Lucid Dreams

Review of Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer’s Guide eBook by Ryan Hurd

Are You Sleepwalking Through Life? How Lucid Dreaming Can Lead to Living in the Present

Wake-Initiated Lucid Dream (WILD): What to Expect During Your Transition to The Dream World

Don’t Drink and Dream? Benefits and Drawbacks of Drinking Alcohol the Night Before Lucid Dreaming

The Effect of Lucid Dreaming on Sleep Quality

Three Easy Steps to Start Lucid Dreaming and Three Common Beginner Mistakes

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September 29th, 2008 3 Comments

How to Stop Your Thoughts from Stealing the Present Moment

Warning: Do! try this at home
All we have is the present moment. Too often, we let our thoughts steal the present by thinking about the past or future:

As it is, I would say about 80 to 90 percent of most people’s thinking is not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful. Observe your mind and you will find this to be true. It causes a serious leakage of vital energy.

-Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Reflect on the most enjoyable moment of your life. Did this moment involve thinking, or were you completely focused on an activity? Chances are, you were completely focused on an activity. When you become intensely conscious of the present moment, you create a gap in thinking, in which you are highly alert and aware. Those who have meditated have experienced this enjoyable state of consciousness.

There is no off switch for your mind

Our minds are always running automatically, and we are addicted to thinking. So how can we experience this more enjoyable state of consciousness more often, in which we are truly living in the moment? To do this, we must give our normal daily activities the fullest attention, so that they become an end in themselves.

For example, yesterday I was shining my shoes, which is typically a mundane activity for me. But this time, I purposefully focused my attention completely on the activity, ensuring I didn’t miss a single spot and applying the right amount of shoe shine. To my surprise, the activity became highly enjoyable. It had become an end in itself, while in the past, it had been a means to an end.

Stopping your thoughts from stealing the present moment

Your past and future have no reality- your only reality is the present. As you focus on the past or future, your present moment becomes stolen. The more you focus in the present, the more alive and conscious you become.

When you are walking through your house or place of work, notice every step you make, every movement, and your breathing. Focus completely on the activity without thinking. Do this for all of your daily activities. You will begin to feel a level of inner peace that you had never felt before.

Negative emotions come from thinking too much about the past or future

Fear, stress and worry come from too much focus on the future. Guilt, sadness and regret come from too much focus on the past. When your focus is on the present, you free yourself from these negative emotions.

Three tips for living in the present

1)      Focus on your daily activities as an end in themselves, without thinking about the past or future

2)       Do not judge yourself when you drift between living in the present and the past or future. Do become aware of the times when you are not focused on the present

3)       Continue practicing and choosing to focus your consciousness in the present. You will become better at this, until focus on the present moment becomes your predominate state

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September 24th, 2008 5 Comments

Sustainable Happiness: How to Become Happier and Stay that Way

Albuquerque '06 087
We humans adapt quickly to new circumstances. Take the lottery for example- do you think you would become permanently happier if you won it today? Studies have found that recent lottery winners are in fact temporarily happier, but soon after, they adjust and are no happier than others. If we are constantly adapting to positive change in our lives, then how can we sustain an increased level of happiness over the long-term? To answer this question, we must first understand what determines our happiness.

There are three major determinants of happiness

1)       Your genetic baseline / range of potential happiness

2)       Your current circumstances (e.g. health, income, region where you live)

3)       Your current intentional activities (e.g. exercising regularly, writing a book, attending college)

Pessimists might read this list and argue that you can never raise your genetic baseline level of happiness. They might say that even with circumstance or activity changes, you will always revert to a genetically-determined level of happiness. This is a fair argument, especially considering the lottery example, but one study completed by Kennon Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky has come to very a different conclusion.

You can sustain happiness above your genetic baseline level

According to the study, activity changes lead to sustainable increased levels of happiness, above your genetic baseline level. Circumstantial changes, by contrast, do not lead to sustainable increased levels of happiness. What does this mean? Winning the lottery or securing a raise (circumstantial changes) will increase your happiness temporarily. Starting to exercise or initiating a new goal (activity changes), will increase your happiness permanently.

This means that as long as you continue introducing intentional positive activity changes into your life, you can sustain higher levels of happiness. To use this knowledge effectively, you must be aware that activity-based changes are those that involve continual effort and engagement in some intentional process. Circumstance-based changes are one-time changes that tend to occur independently of effort and engagement.

Three habits you can start today to become happier and sustain it

1)       Stop falsely believing that changes in your current circumstances will lead to sustained increased happiness

2)       Start introducing positive activity changes into your life

3)       Practice virtues of gratitude, thankfulness, and thoughtful self-reflection

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August 15th, 2008 3 Comments

Be Miserable or Motivate Yourself- It’s Your Choice

Be miserable or motivate yourself. Be helpless or in control. Blame someone or take responsibility. These are examples of two ways you can see your life. One way leads to happiness, the other to dissatisfaction.

Have to work this weekend complete an approaching deadline? You could see this as “This isn’t fair, my free time is being used to benefit the company I work for.” Or, you could take responsibility and see it as “This is a rewarding opportunity to push my limits, learn and grow.” There is no reason to cope in your career (or anything else)- either change your mindset about it, or change it.

Optimism versus Pessimism

What this really comes down to is optimism versus pessimism. When you see your life pessimistically, this leads to helplessness. When you see your life optimistically, this leads to control. Optimism can be learned, but it isn’t an easy path for those accustomed to a pessimistic mindset. The easy path is to quit at the first sign of failure or negative feedback. The less-traveled path is to see negative events as temporary setbacks, or learning experiences. You will gain much more from life taking the optimist’s path versus quitting at the first sign of failure or coping.

It’s Your Choice

All you have is the now. You can spoil it by being miserable and feeling helpless- or enjoy it by motivating yourself and taking control. It’s your choice.

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August 13th, 2008 5 Comments

Breaking Free from Social Programming

Be Yourself!

What does it benefit to man if he gains the entire world, but loses himself?

-Jesus Christ

Social programming is the set of instructions each of us learned to fit in with society. Our family members, school teachers, and peer groups were all part of the socialization process. The long-term affect of this socialization is that we seek external approval and external goals in our lives. If we are to take control of our consciousness and pursue our own goals, we must learn to break free from social programming:

Caught in a treadmill of social controls, that person keeps reaching for a prize that always dissolves in his hands. In a complex society, many powerful groups are involved in socializing, sometimes to seemingly contradictory goals . . . Schools, churches, and banks try to turn us into responsible citizens willing to work hard and save . . . merchants, manufacturers, and advertisers to spend our earnings on products that will produce the most profits for them . . . gamblers, pimps, and drug dealers . . . promise rewards for easy dissipation- provided we pay. The messages are very different, but their outcome is essentially the same: they make us dependent on a social system that exploits our energies for its own purposes.

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

Society tries bribing us at every opportunity. People who submit completely to social programming, and mistakenly believe that their happiness is obtained only by achieving external goals, are “rat racers” who never enjoy the present moments of life.

Do you constantly delay gratification to the future? Are you always looking to others for approval, and setting external goals? If so, your social programming is being used against you:

Ways Your Social Programming Can Be Used Against You

Money– “I want to be rich”

  • Falsely believing that you will be happy when you make more money
  • Becoming a workaholic to make more money

Status– “I want to be popular”

  • Falsely believing that “once I obtain status, people will like and respect me”
  • Trying to “keep up with the Joneses”
  • Becoming popular with lots of people, but not building close relationships with individuals

Approval– “I want to be liked”

  • Working at a job you hate to pay for your family’s high consumption
  • Pursuing a career path that Mom or Dad told you to go after
  • Not speaking up at work when you have a good idea, for fear of getting shot down

Power– “I want to dominate”

  • Using others only as a means to achieve your goals
  • Trying to one-up others, dominate conversations
  • Pinpoint other people’s weaknesses and failures

How to Break Free from Social Programming

The key to breaking free from social programming is not to eliminate all external goals. Instead, it is to create goals that are meaningful to you personally, and then enjoy the day to day process of realizing those goals. Here are some tips for breaking free-

1) Choose your own values, principles, and goals

To assume responsibility for choosing our values, principles, and goals, relying solely upon our own reason and understanding- to honor our internal signals to that extent- is to practice the ultimate form of intellectual independence, the one most difficult for the overwhelming majority of human beings and for which their upbringing has least prepared them.

-Nathaniel Branden, Honoring the Self

It’s easy to adopt external goals that society gives you- after all, those are the goals you were programmed to adopt. It’s more difficult to create your own set of values- this requires intellectual independence and aloneness from society.

2) Follow your own vision

You follow your own vision by moving forward with your own personally selected goals, and not letting any external circumstances circumvent who you are. Following your own vision can leave you feeling alone in the world, and requires courage. But the more you are able to become independent and think for yourself, the higher your own self-esteem will be.

3) Accept your aloneness

You must accept your aloneness in order to truly be free of social programming:

We can learn from one another, but we cannot share the act of being conscious or of thinking. We can share the results- namely, our thoughts and perceptions- but consciousness, awareness, thinking, reasoning is, ultimately, an individual, solitary process, not a social one. And many people dread independent thought and judgment precisely because of this factor of inescapable aloneness; it makes them aware of their own separateness as living entities; it makes them aware of the responsibility they must bear for their own existence.

-Nathaniel Branden, Honoring the Self

4) Be honest with yourself

Here is a poem which emphasizes being honest with yourself:

The Guy in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.

-Dale Wimbrow

Note: The word pelf in the first line means “wealth.”

Breaking Free is a Life-Long Process

Your genes instruct you on what feels good and bad, and society bribes you on how to expend your energy. To take control of your consciousness, you must be fully aware of social and genetic programming, and make yourself independent of it as much as possible. By taking control of your consciousness, and following your own vision, you will become better at thinking for yourself and more independent of others.

Breaking free is a life-long process, not a one-time effort. But I promise you, based on my own personal experience- the quality of your own life will improve drastically when you begin the process of breaking free.

Part of the Breaking Free Series

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August 12th, 2008 No Comments

Breaking Free from Genetic Programming

Genetic programming is the set of instructions each of us was born with. It gives us instinctual drives such as fight-or-flight that are meant to motivate us toward activities which ensure our survival. In modern day society, if we are to take control of our consciousness and pursue our own goals, we must learn to break free from genetic programming:

Submission to genetic programming can become quite disastrous, because it leaves us helpless. A person who cannot override genetic instructions when necessary is always vulnerable. Instead of deciding how to act in terms of personal goals, he has to surrender to the things that his body has been programmed (or misprogrammed) to do. One must particularly achieve control over instinctual drives to achieve a healthy independence of society, for as long as we respond predictably to what feels good and what feels bad, it is easy for others to exploit our preferences for their own ends.

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

People who submit completely to their genetic programming, and mistakenly believe that anything which feels good equates to happiness, live by the maxim “seek pleasure and avoid pain.” They are constantly trying to fill their genetic drives in the present, while ignoring the long-term consequences. They are also easier targets for societal organizations that take advantage of an individual’s instinctual drives.

Do you respond predictably to what instinctually makes you feels good and bad? Are you constantly seeking pleasure and avoiding pain? If so, your genetic programming is being used against you:

Ways Your Genetic Programming Can Be Used Against You

Fight-or-Flight– “React to perceived threats”

  • Getting stuck in “survival mode” due to excessive stress at work
  • Having an argument with your spouse, resulting in stress

Food- “It tastes good”

  • Overeating
  • Using food as a form of self-medication due to being unhappy with your life

Sex- “It feels good”

  • Constantly being preoccupied with sex, distracting you from your personal goals
  • Using pornography, strip clubs, or prostitution as a form of self-medication due to being unhappy with your life

Drugs and Alcohol- “It feels good”

  • Needing alcohol to let loose and have fun at social events
  • Using drugs as a form of self-medication due to being unhappy with your life
  • Getting your fix by frequenting bars, liquor stores, or drug dealers

How to Break Free from Genetic Programming

If you cannot resist what feels good, tastes good, or control the way you react to perceived threats, you are not free to direct your consciousness towards the path you choose. You are living your life without taking conscious control of it. But there are some easy habits you can adopt to change the way you respond to genetic programming-

1) Use mental rehearsal to practice taking control of your consciousness

Spend 20-30 minutes a day mentally rehearsing situations in which instinctual drive is taking control- this is when you are reacting to things that taste good, feel good, or responding to perceived threats. In your mind’s eye, take conscious control of the situation, and respond in a positive manner.

For example, if you tend to overeat during meals, mentally rehearse yourself at a restaurant, eating a reasonable portion of food, and leaving the rest, or getting a to-go box. But don’t stop there- mentally rehearse every possible situation in which you need to take control. Visualize yourself responding positively to all sorts of possible scenarios, such as friends bringing snacks to work, or going to a buffet restaurant. You are practicing your self control, the same way a sports player would practice before a game.

You may start to think your time is being wasted, but give this a try for at least a week and you will be surprised. This is because you are tricking your mind- you will begin to notice that it will be easier for you to take control of yourself when the actual situation occurs. Your brain cannot actually tell the difference between mental rehearsal and reality. Keep this up for 21 days and you’ll find yourself much closer towards having complete control of your genetic programming.

2) Create a mantra to use whenever you lose control

Repeat a phrase to yourself every time your genetic programming would typically take control. For example, if you normally get stressed out when you have a lot on your plate at work, you can use the mantra “I’ll handle it.” Then, whenever you feel your muscles get tense and feel yourself slipping into survival mode, repeat the mantra to yourself “I’ll handle it.” Like mental rehearsal, this is a way of tricking your mind. On a subconscious level, your mind will believe your mantra, and you will distract yourself from the typical stress response.

3) Stay in control by staying accountable to yourself and close friends/family members

Find a way to track your progress, such as a daily log showing how many times you took conscious control over your genetic programming. After a month of progress, reward yourself in some way. For example, if you made progress by no longer using alcohol to self-medicate for a month, reward yourself with a nice dinner (note: if you are an alcoholic, I recommend you begin attending AA meetings as a support group).

Tell close friends and family members about your goal of taking control. Make sure you only tell those friends and family members which have been supportive of your personal growth in the past. Otherwise, instead of keeping you accountable, they may hold you back. After you’ve told your supportive friends/family members, ask for their help in keeping you accountable.

Breaking Free is a Life-Long Process

Your genes instruct you on what feels good and bad, and society bribes you on how to expend your energy. To take control of your consciousness, you must be fully aware of social and genetic programming, and make yourself independent of it as much as possible. By taking control of your consciousness, and resisting instinctual drives, you will be free to direct your energy towards the path you choose.

Breaking free is a life-long process, not a one-time effort. But I promise you, based on my own personal experience- the quality of your own life will improve drastically when you begin the process of breaking free.

Part of the Breaking Free Series

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