Electric Dreams

An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange
Lucy Gillis, Editor

Wake Induced Lucid Dreams Helped Me Deal With My Fear Of Death

Ralf Penderak

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Penderak, Ralf (2004 November). Wake Induced Lucid Dreams Helped Me Deal With My Fear Of Death. (An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange, Lucy Gillis, Editor.) Electric Dreams 11(11).

In LDE 32 Ralf Penderak discusses how WILDs (wake initiated lucid dreams) helped him to deal with a fear of death.

Nur der kann mit Bewutsein leben, dessen Leben zu(m) Grunde gegangen ist, er den 'Tod' erlitten hat; nur derjenige kennt seine Erfahrung und seine Lebensform, der über ihre Grenzen 'hinausgeflogen' ist.

Merely that may live with consciousness, who's life went under, who suffered 'death'; only he knows his experience and his form of life, who did 'fly' beyond its borders.

Hans Peter Dürr, Traumzeit, 1985

How I come to deal with dreaming and dying

When it dawned on me, that I wouldn't only volunteer for, but also present at this conference, it was clear to me from the beginning to join Cynthia Pearson's long term journaling panel. I kept a journal of day and night dreams ever since I was sixteen, with changing intensity, and guess I did profit by doing so.

The topic of my presentation was also clear to me, I didn't have to search long, because I felt sure that my dreams, especially those called wake induced lucid dreams, helped me cope with situations of suffering and dying in my nursing work. What is wake induced lucid dreaming? Wake induced lucid dreaming means entering the dreamstate consciously. It means preserving awareness, while the body falls asleep and then to dream lucid right from the start of the dream. Lucid dreaming means dreaming, while I know that I'm dreaming. It means being aware I am in the dreamstate, while I'm dreaming.

As a child and youngster...

... encountering death makes me compassionate

So, how come the subject of death and dying touches me so deeply? As a child, I well remember that I felt deep compassion with all living things. I recall a scene, as a 10 year old boy when I spent more than an hour saving hundreds of midges from apparently drowning in a ditch. Today I know, they were just "dying" as larva, but being "born" as midges. This example might serve as an illustration of my emotions.

... encountering death wakes curiosity and fears

As a teenager I was fond of philosophy and everything challenging common worldview, like telepathy, reincarnation, near death experiences. I was fascinated, but this was in my head. In my guts I feared ghosts and darkness. There are among the first dreams I wrote down at the age of sixteen, one or two dreams similar to lucid dreams. Ever since, I tried to fall asleep consciously and to have lucid dreams, sometimes successfully, but only since 1999, the age of 35 did I systematically learn to dream lucid.

... encountering death makes me angry and feel guilty

As I mentioned, I'm a nurse. I started my nursing work at the age of nineteen, after school had finished, doing alternative civilian service in an old people's home instead of going to the army. Here the confrontation with suffering and dying hit me like a hammer. At first I couldn't bear the whole situation there, working with the people like in a production line, due to sparse staff. I couldn't bear any one of the old folks getting worse, being ill, even dying. My first reaction was anger, in a way I accused the system, I even accused my colleagues of being guilty of the situation. I felt guilty myself. I felt the old people so close to me.

All in all I wasn't ready to accept death, not ready to let go and to separate myself from the suffering of the old people. But I found ways to channel my emotions into action, I learned the basic nursing techniques and learned to mobilise the old people, do gymnastic, sing with them. So at least something had been done with all that energy.

As an adult ...
... I begin learning to cope with my fears of death

After alternative service I decided to become a registered nurse. I began apprenticeship in 1987. Following is an example of falling asleep consciously from that time:

July, 1st, 1987: "On The Way Into Sleep"

... a faint dream image: I'm pushing a hospital bed into a room, it is hovering, everything is quiet, the bandage around the upper leg of the patient lying in bed is loosening, he gets more naked. I get aware I'm dreaming, the image is gone, just as I wanted to hold it, it was been there just a moment ago. Strange. I feel myself lying below. The other Ralf - my dreambody - is lying below me. I try to open up to this strange thought, this strange feeling. The dream - image is rising again.

This dream shows, how much I identify with the suffering, but the special feeling about this dream is the tranquility, an air of all this being sacred somehow.

I didn't know much about lucid dreaming at that time. I wasn't acquainted with that state of mind. But I began to discover the conscious way into sleep, which later turned out to lead to experiencing my own "small" death and learning to let go and accept dying.

... the link of dreaming and dying comes to my mind

After the apprenticeship I worked on a ward with patients suffering from cancer. Here we had psychological supervision in a group setting. That was very helpful and I guess I made the best of it, because I was already into caring for my dreams and emotions. After one year on that ward I began some years of studying human medicine. From the time of this transition stems the following nearly lucid dream:

July, 2nd, 1991, no title

I am dead. As a ghost I'm hovering around. The physics, I mean the quality of substance, is confusing. I'm fearful. I'm hovering around some landscape. Could be Badendorf (where I grew up) but is different. A view from another dimension. I wonder, why I'm dead. I'm afraid, I can't return (to life). The answer: I'm dealing so intensely with flying and lucid dreams, that it is haunting me in my sleep, too. I think: So, that is the tribute on the way of advancement, of the evolution of my consciousness. I'm flying to a human being. I don't know who it is. He isn't material. Our bodies are overlapping and there is a force field pushing us apart, like homonymous magnetic poles. It is confusing.

This dream was incubated, I set my intention to fly and visit someone. This intention was set by the exploring, fascinated researcher-self part of me. But it unexpectedly lead me to face my fear of death. Only later did I discover the link of my personal fear of death to my difficulties in coping with dying of patients. But both are about accepting and letting go. And so, more and more consciously and deliberately, I learned to let go, I went through little personal deaths many times while trying to cross the border to the land of dreams consciously. I feel this means learning to die for me. It means letting go of my form of life, it means "flying" beyond its borders in the sense of Dürr, whom I quoted at the beginning of this article.

... I deliberately face my "death" in wake induced lucid dreams

 Following is an example of a wake induced lucid dream I experienced after two years of systematically learning lucid dreaming. Please in the following report pay particular attention to the shifting of my forms of life, to the transition from perceiving my physical body to perceiving my dreambody in different forms. Consciously going through these transitions is what I feel is essential for me in my learning to die, in my learning to let go and accept whatever there is.

Some explanations of upcoming terms:

"Hypnagogic imaginary", "hypnagogia" is what everybody sees on the way to sleep, just these more or less fragmentary pictures occurring during onset of sleep. "Sleep paralysis" is a word for our normal, every night inability to move physical body during the sleep cycle. We are rarely conscious of being in sleep paralysis, we normally experience our dreams in that time of paralysis.

July, 24th, 2002, Dream: "Brachiating" into and Through a Dream:

I shift in and out hypnagogic imaginary. Sometimes I feel, as if I were in sleep paralysis. I try to rub my hands to create/stabilize the dreambody. One time I fail, I rub physical hands. I open my eyes, confirm it, but soon am into deep relaxation again. Two times I succeed in rubbing my dream-hands, but can't enter the dreamstate totally. Then I have enough of lying on my back and turn onto my right side. I shift in and out of hypnagogia again, until I am able to simply watch a picture:

An attractive woman stands in front of a green waste bin, turning her back on me. The picture is fuzzy, but I watch it for maybe one or two seconds, focusing on holding it in my mind, feeling detached, calm, observing. Then I reach out (with my dreambody hands) for the bin (the lady had disappeared). I actually feel the rim of the dream-bin in my dream-hands. I keep on holding it, feel a rush of sexual arousal. For an instant pondering, I decide to let it happen, although I think, I have better things to do. All that actually happens is, that my dreambody rubs the bin briefly. Then, cooled down, I have a look inside the bin: Empty.

I turn to focus on the dream-environment: Still looks fuzzy. I concentrate on my hands, my mouth and tongue and my feet to set an anchor in the dreamworld. At least it works for stabilising the dreambody. The visuals stay blurry. But I can see cars, I touch them and "brachiate" from car to car, I mean I'm pulling my dream-body forward with my arms, this seems to be the only possibility at this time to move in any way. I am in a backyard of a mansion, surrounded by tall grey walls. I find a passage, continue brachiating through. As if my whole back were lame and weighs a ton. I can only move my legs and arms to somehow push and pull my heavy body forward. I ask myself, why it has to be this hard. Suddenly all the visuals fade, and the dreambody, too. Only the right hand is still there and the point of observation. I am now, circles around the hand through the grey void, as if I am a satellite. I focus on the hand, feel it, suddenly there is a puddle, there is water close to the hand, mirroring blue skies. From this "seed" the new dreamscene grows: I am standing in a floor, heading towards another room, where a window shows a mansion on the other side of the road. There are some objects on a shelf on my left side. I touch them, but make my way towards the window. A window pane on the other side of the road reflects very bright sunlight. That is amazing to me, as I've rarely (or never) seen such intense sources of light in dreams. ...

I want to know more and stare into the light. The circle of the sun gains substance and I see blue skies now, too. The light isn't that intense anymore. I remember, that staring at one point too long often causes (premature) awakening. And so it is: I am immediately "back" in my physical body, satisfied, nonetheless: I have finally made my way in and out of a fully blown up dream with full awareness, without a gap of consciousness.

Now I hope you understand, why wake induced lucid dreaming means facing a "little" personal death for me.

I learn to accept death applying my dreaming experience If there is some effect of crossing the border to sleeping and dreaming consciously time and again, it is loosing fear of the greater sleep and dream, we are all facing: Our own death.

You may all know the wording: "Sleep is the little brother of death." Today, when I'm with the dying patient, when all our efforts of preserving life have failed, or when the patient declines to artificially prolong dying, when all these questions are settled, I can simply be there. I don't feel guilty, I'm not angry. I'm just there and accept and let go. And I believe, that the dying is now experiencing a quest similar to mine, when I'm falling asleep consciously.

Today I transfer from my dreaming experience, the knowledge that my way into the unknown of death will be similar: A transition into a new form of life.

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