A Continuum of Consciousness in Sleep
What is Meditation? An Technique to Access Pure Consciousness.
Hunt (1989) warns that lucid dreams are not reducible to only a mental waking up unique to the sleep state. First the “conscious” faculties brought forth are only partial. Second although spontaneously occurring lucid dreams in normal populations are quite realistic relative to nonlucid dreams, in more sophisticated experients, such as long term meditators, bizarreness reasserts in unique ways. According to Hunt, “lucid dreaming is not merely (or even primarily) the intellectual awareness that one is dreaming (‘Am I? Oh well, I guess so. Isn’t that quaint?’)”. The “realism” often spoken of as associated with lucidity is not only of the real to true life type but also “real, clear and somehow present” reminiscent, according to Hunt, of the peak experiences described by Maslow (1962).
The facility for self-reflectiveness, of recognizing self in the midst of a dream says Hunt (1989), is strikingly similar to the development of self-reflective consciousness in “mindfulness” or “insight” meditative traditions such as Zen, Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism. Furthermore, according to Alexander (1987) it is developmentally prior to obtaining the witness set sought in Transcendental Meditation. In especially meditation and lucid dreaming once a detached but receptive attitude has been integrated into the waking or dreaming consciousness strong feelings of exhilaration, freedom and release occur. There is, Hunt explains, “an unusually broad sense of context and perspective, a ‘balance’ of normally contradictory attitudes, and the felt sense of one’s own existence (that special ‘I am’ or ‘being’ experience…).”
Without this heightened sense most of us become consumed by everyday living, untouched by the “awe” of life and the stark inevitability of death. This, explains Hunt, is “the full human context to which on rare occasions we spontaneously ‘wake up’ “. In the same way we remain unaware that we are dreaming, until the moment we turn lucid. Both moments of awareness “can have quite an impact”, Hunt says. But both are also frequently short-lived.
This association of lucid dreaming to the practice of meditation was first identified by Hunt (1989) and has recently been further developed my forthcoming book (Gackenbach & Bosveld, in press). From virtually every level of analysis parallels, and in some cases potential causal agents, can be identified supporting the association of dream lucidity to the practice of meditation and thus on to the experience of pure consciousness. There are also now several studies of meditators and lucid dreamers which reveal important psychological and physiological parallels.