You often hear spiritual teachers talk about "waking up." This would imply that what we think of as our conscious experience of the real world is really just a dream. Once we have "woken up" to true reality, according to these awakened masters, we can experience the perfection inherent in the dream-like spacetime world that most of us would call "real." If true, would this suggest that our body's sleep state could be a model for this phenomenon? Does it suggest that we can consciously inhabit our sleeping selves (aka "lucid dream")?
Brain regions activated more strongly during lucid
dreaming than in a normal dream. © MPI of Psychiatry
It turns out that lucid dreaming isn't the fantasy as I assumed it was. No longer the
purview of mystics and hippies, it is now being affirmed as possible and formally investigated in labs around the world. For those interested in recent scientific research into this subject, I would encourage you to look up the work of the following researchers:
Michael Czisch at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. This lab has performed studies employing magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) showing that specific areas of the brain (pictured) are activated when this lucid consciousness while sleeping is attained. All these regions are associated with self-reflective functions. Part of their motivation for studying it is that they believe it could give them insight into the neural basis of human consciousness. Perhaps our own "real" world wake state could serve as a model for understanding human superconsciousness?
Psychiatrist and dream researcher Dr. Allan Hobson at Harvard Medical School (Division of Sleep Medicine) focuses on quantifying mental events and correlating them with quantified brain events, with special reference to waking, sleeping and dreaming. He is an avid researcher of lucid dreams (reportedly accumulating over 100 volumes of personal dream journals). Another one of the themes they are investigating in his lab is the purpose of dreams perhaps being a means of stabilizing the information and ideas learned in waking consciousness to less computationally complex ones through synaptic pruning. In the same way, perhaps our waking state (in the so-called "real" world) could be an opportunity to slow things down enough so we can comprehend and experience the perfection of the truly awakened state?
Stanford trained psychophysiologist and dream researcher Dr. Stephen LaBerge popularized the technique of signalling to a collaborator monitoring his EEG with agreed-upon eye movements during REM. This one seems a little less reliable but the video is interesting nonetheless.
Perhaps the same ideas he describes in the embedded video clip to enable lucid sleep dreaming could be used to hack our experience of this dream-like spacetime existence we call "real?"