Electric Dreams

An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange
Lucy Gillis, Editor

An Interview with
Keelin, a Lucid Dreamer

Robert Waggoner

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Waggoner, Robert  (2004 December). DreamSpeak: An Interview with Keelin, a Lucid Dreamer.
(An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange, Lucy Gillis, Editor.)  Electric Dreams 11(12).

This month we feature Robert Waggoner's DreamSpeak interview with long-time lucid dreamer Keelin.

by Robert Waggoner

Without knowing the proper term for it, Keelin began lucid dreaming spontaneously during those childhood years, relishing the unlimited freedom it offered. Then, when her beloved father passed away at an early age, she embraced dreaming even more fully as it proved a way to keep the tender feelings of connection alive.

Many years later, Stephen LaBerge's writings put a name to her favorite nocturnal adventures and introduced her to the astonishing concept of dreaming lucidly at will. Over the past several years, she's shared her endless enthusiasm for lucid dreaming by offering occasional workshops, facilitating at The Lucidity Institute's Dreaming and Awakening retreats, a bit of writing on the topic here and there, participating in research experiments and volunteering as a lab subject.

Currently, Keelin lives the waking version of a sweet dream with the love of her life in Northern California. And while she spends much of her day as a graphic cartographer mapping the external world, her nights are dedicated to navigating by a different compass, exploring and charting an inner world of wonders.

Robert: Keelin, you have been a long time lucid dreamer and contributor to the LDE from the beginning. Tell us, how did you first become interested in lucid dreaming?

Keelin: Some of my early childhood dreams included spontaneous lucidity, but if I were to choose the most memorable moment, it would be during the first dream I had about my father after he died. Although the awareness was only of a tacit level, the experience had a huge impact and drew me wholeheartedly into a passion for dreaming. My father was just forty-nine years old when he died of a sudden heart attack. In the all-too-brief eleven years I'd known him, he'd been confined to a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis. I had never seen my father walk in waking life, but when I saw him in the dream, he was walking with ease!

Completely astonished, I quiz him shyly, "I thought you were supposed to be dead." He assures me that he is, then quickly adds, "but it's really okay." "So...where's your wheelchair?", I ask. He gives me a huge grin and replies, "Well, honey, I don't need it anymore!"

I can't tell you how elated I was at his newly found freedom, and concluded in a childlike, matter-of-fact sort of way that Death has its advantages! Dreams of my father came fairly often in the first few years after his passing, and it was during this time that I began to recognize Dreamland as the special place that allowed me to feel the sweet and eternal connection with him that I so cherish.

So in a way, I kind of slipped in the backdoor on lucid dreaming when I was just a child. I knew the dreams weren't taking place in reality, but it didn't matter. It wasn't until decades later when I read LaBerge's first book, that I learned the term "lucid dreaming". And what really sparked my interest further was that he claimed one could dream this way at will!

Robert: What methods did you use to become aware that you were dreaming? And did that change over the years?

Keelin: Before reading LaBerge's book, I understood how catching anomalies within the dream worked to cue lucidity as I'd had some experience with that type of onset. But reading about different categories of "dreamsigns" helped expand that understanding. Eventually, I began to look at how I responded to oddities in waking life, figuring that I'd most likely respond the same way while dreaming.

Everyone probably has a favorite phrase they use when encountering bizarre situations. Mine happens to be, "How odd!" And for awhile, I was simply trying to pay attention to whenever I said that phrase or heard it in my head. Finally, I realized a simple acknowledgement wasn't enough. What worked much more effectively was to add the qualifier, "How odd is it?" In other words, is it odd enough to mean this is a dream? So now I've trained myself to take advantage of those moments when something has snagged my awareness antenna and stay in the moment long enough to reflect and ask that simple question. It makes all the difference! And if it's not a dream? Then it's still an opportunity to practice for the next time that it might be. So the exercise, regardless of the answer, is not without benefit.

Other methods I've found highly effective are the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming (MILD) and the Morning Nap. The Lucidity Institute's experiments that led to the discovery of the nap technique demonstrated a definite advantage to injecting an interlude of wakefulness during the later hours of the sleep cycle. The promise of a lucid dream is so high with this approach, especially when combined with MILD, that it's been incorporated into the Dreaming and Awakening Retreat program. Yes, I know, it's a rough schedule, starting out each day in Hawaii with a morning nap! (Anyone interested in the reading the research report on the Nap Technique experiments can find it at: http://lucidity.com/NL63.RU.Naps.html)

And, of course, there's the NovaDreamer, which can be fun no matter what level of experience one has reached. There's an article on TLI's website titled Adventures with the NovaDreamer that chronicles some of my early experiences with this clever device. Catching the cue that induces lucidity is a thrill, but I came to enjoy even some of the missed cues. For example, in one dream, when the cue did not incorporate into the dream scene in a disguised fashion, but simply appeared as soft, red pulsing lights, I thought: Ah! Someone very nearby is dreaming right now!

One of my favorite induction techniques has to do with the imagined somatic sensation of my body rocking side-to-side as if I were lying in a canoe. I find this technique a highly pleasurable way to launch into a WILD (wake initiated lucid dream). As an example, one night I imagined rocking until it became fantastically vivid. I knew that my physical body was as still as could be, yet the sense of movement was thoroughly convincing. Mental associations led to the blossoming of the dream as a rowboat formed around my emerging dream body, and I thought: If I can get this boat rocking extremely enough, I'll roll right out. Which I did -- and right into the surreal dream Sea. What also works, even though it's not exactly a standard method, is participating in experiments for The Lucidity Institute. Knowing that the data will be useful for furthering research in the field adds incentive, and I'm always curious to see what will happen.

As experienced lucid dreamers know, having a well-defined, strongly intended goal can make a big difference when you're wanting to lucid dream at will.

Robert: Often in your lucid dream reports, I have noticed your interest in the ocean. If you would, share a couple of these experiences, and what they mean to you?

Keelin: Ah, yes. What is it with the Sea? While reviewing my journals recently, I came across this brief dream account; a reminder of how even a few moments of lucid dreaming can fall into the category of extraordinary moments in a lifetime.

While quietly awaiting the onset of dreaming, the expanse of my visual field is suddenly filled with the seductive, rhythmic motion of foam-capped peaks atop endless mountains of clear, liquid turquoise.

This hypnagogic episode brought a most exquisite feeling of being "one with the Sea", with no distinct or separate physical body, only a sense of endless, easy rhythm beyond time, of purpose with no agenda, of natural serenity. Now, when I visit the Sea in waking life, the memory of this feeling returns. Gazing past the crashing waves, I lose myself again in the undulating beauty beyond and know that because of those few moments of lucidity on the shores of Dreamland, I am forever changed.

And another favorite from the archives:

... And in the still dark hours of the morning, I slip into a WILD that blossoms out of an imagined living at seawater's edge. Using a small, hand-held rake, I comb steps of wet sand into various patterns, my favorite design resembling multiple brainwaves. I turn and enter a sea of deep teal, slightly thicker than water of the waking world, and more translucent than transparent. This adds a mysterious quality as depth increases. Were it not for the gift of lucidity, anxiety as to what might possibly swim 'neath the surface would surely toss me quickly ashore. Instead, I linger, gliding deliriously through a luscious, liquid dream world...

Robert: What other experiences do you find yourself seeking in the lucid dream environment?

Keelin: Dreams that deal with Death captivate me. Perhaps because the early dreams about my father were so positive, they hold more fascination than fear. Years ago, when a very dear friend died suddenly, I had a wonderful dream about him that sparked my curiosity about other people's experiences in this area. So I began collecting dream reports, placing ads in various journals with the intention of publishing an anthology. To make a long story short, I ended up offering a collection of nearly 200 dream accounts to Dr. Patty Garfield, which she graciously accepted and was then able to use for her excellent book The Dream Messenger: How Dreams of the Departed Bring Healing Gifts. Unfortunately, since I'd forgotten to insert copies of my own dreams into the collection, those dreams that had inspired my initial endeavor were not included in Garfield's book, but the bigger goal was certainly accomplished.

There are times when I head to bed with a very specific goal in mind, and other times when the intent is to go with the flow and just be open or to spontaneously choose a goal that fits the present scenario. For example, at the end of a very long lucid dream, I suddenly decided to reflect on my parents love for each other. Over the past couple of years, my mother who is still living but not in good health, has repeatedly expressed her desire to die. This is never easy for me to hear, but this dream helped me hear her feelings with better understanding:

....I reflect on my mother's yearning to reunite with my father and experience a strong surge of empathy. I wonder if staying with this feeling, regardless of the emotional pain, might somehow nurture compassion or bring an understanding of her desire to die. The lyrics of a familiar song begin to echo in my head: "The shadow in the mist could have been anyone, but I saw you, I saw you, coming back to me." I am filled with a deep and profound sorrow and even though I know I can change this scene, I feel there is something truly meaningful and auspicious here, so choose willingly to remain and open my heart fully to it. After a few moments in which the song lyrics repeat several times, allow myself to wake, crying, but deeply pleased to have had this experience.

While dreams of the deceased hold a particular fascination for me, I've also had a longtime interest in lucid dreams that employ specifically directed healing imagery. When you consider that, as far as the brain is concerned, dreaming of doing something is actually equivalent to doing it, there is tremendous potential there. I've used my ability to have lucid dreams at will several times over the years to promote healing, and always, these experiences have left me feeling self-empowered and calmed.

Robert: Using lucid dreams as a means to create physical healing has been explored by lucid dreamers like Ed Kellogg and others. Have you ever used lucid dreaming to improve your health?

Keelin: Last year, I was having a serious health concern with out-of-control menstrual bleeding. My doctor had hoped that the d&c which had finally been unavoidable would carry me through till menopause, but alas, the problem recurred and hysterectomy was on the horizon. I'd been having amazing non-dreams about the issue (e.g., trying to keep my balance on bright red motorbike with the fuel gage reading empty; a tsunami of bruised blood with wind-ripped, ragged pieces lofting above my head). When the final decision was imminent, I had the following dream:

Sitting on the couch in the living room of my home, I'm braiding the left half of my hair, which I suddenly notice is longer and thicker than it is in waking reality. This cues lucidity and I feel the familiar, chilly vibrations that often accompany the onset of dream awareness. I remain calm, thinking I can always spin to prolong the dream state, but I'd rather not risk the possibility of landing in a new scene, and I don't want to become distracted from my pre-intended goal of directing healing energy to my body. I decide that continuing to braid my hair will keep me well enough engaged in the dream, so complete the left side and begin with the right. When I'm almost finished braiding my hair, the dream feels stable enough to get on with my goal.

Touching my face with both hands, I marvel at the realistic sensation, the lack of distortion. Lightly I stroke the tip of my nose where I'd found an area of concern recently (referring to skin cancer), feel it smooth and healthy. This is a spontaneous gesture (not part of my original plan) as is my next action. Gently I insert my fingers directly into the center of my chest. There is no pain or blood, only the sensation of the pressure of my fingers moving slowly into my body without resistance. I touch my heart while holding in mind thoughts of healing and serenity. After a few moments, I remove my fingers and then insert them into my uterus (the original plan). Again, there is no uncomfortable sensation, no resistance, just an awareness of an extraordinary freedom to perform this feat so easily in a dream. While placing my fingers and palms against the uterine wall, I hold a thought I've had on several occasions both in and out of dreamland -- there is healing in my hands! Other than this exact phrase, I have no other word thoughts, but instead, a spreading becalming sense that accompanies my touch. I wake peacefully, in rapt wonder.

Without scientific data, there's no way to prove that this dream had any physical effect, however, the bleeding did stop, and it's not gotten out of hand since then. As I once wrote to Stephen LaBerge, "...and so I'm left to wonder. Or am I right to wonder?" To which he promptly replied, "It's a wonder we don't wonder all the time!"

Robert: For the last few years, you have teamed up with Dr. Stephen LaBerge at his Dreaming and Awakening Retreats in Hawaii. How did you get involved in that?

Keelin: In June 1988, I was very fortunate to participate in a workshop offered by Dr. Fariba Bogzaran who, at that time, was exploring the topic of seeking the divine through lucid dreaming. She invited the class to contribute to her research, requesting that we ask a question of our own wording regarding the divine during a lucid dream. The dream I had in response to her instruction happened to occur on the night before she Dr. Stephen LaBerge appeared as a guest speaker in the class. So not only was the lucid dream profoundly moving for me (it begins chapter twelve in Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming), it also led to my meeting Stephen, to my subsequent involvement with The Lucidity Institute, and eventually to teaching workshops. (Thanks, Fariba!)

Coming to know Stephen has been one of the greatest joys of my life. His wit and humor never cease to amaze me, and I am forever grateful for his deep and caring friendship and for his sage advice. When he invited me as a guest to attend the first "DreamCamp" (as we called it in the early days), I was overjoyed. I'd moved to Portland, Oregon and felt every mile between the Bay Area and my new home in the Pacific North Wet, especially missing TLI's Oneironaut Research Group and the Bay Area Dreamworkers with whom I'd been so actively engaged. Soon afterward, Stephen me hooked up to the Internet, we launched the Forum discussion site, and one thing just seemed to lead to another. The Dreaming and Awakening retreats are the highlight of my current involvement in the lucid dream community. We've been offering them once or twice a year since 1995 and so far, I've only missed one retreat -- but I dreamt about being there!

I am alone, hurrying towards the interior stairway of a small building that leads to the first floor when my clothes snag on the wooden banister and I am flung abruptly into a horizontal position. There I remain as if frozen in flight, hoping some of the participants of the Dreaming and Awakening retreat will pass by. I plan to ask them if I am offering a good opportunity for a reality check. Stephen peeks around a corner and smiles at my antics, apparently not finding my behavior odd in the least. But when no one else ventures by, I attempt to untangle myself. That's when I notice the extra set of legs. (Thank Odd!) I'm delighted and amused as the situation suddenly becomes clear -- This is a dream! I wander into a room around the corner which turns out to be filled with curiosities. A few moments later, I awaken.

Robert: Any interesting lucid dreams about the retreats that you'd like to share?

Keelin: Often, prior to the retreats, I'll have a series of anxiety dreams. Since I handle a lot of the organizational tasks in preparation for the program, there's a lot of room for little daytime worries to sprout into nightmares. I'm always grateful when I become lucid in these dreams, but sometimes they catch me off-guard. In one dream, I absolutely panicked when people just kept arriving -- a huge crowd of oneironauts -- where would they all sleep? But more often, the dreams feature me explaining how to do a reality check:

"Do you see how that clock's numbers are all odd?" I ask them. "How odd?" my dream characters chime in . . . .

Robert: At the lucid dreaming camp, I imagine that you have all levels of dreamers from those who are experienced lucid dreamers to those who have had maybe one or two. Does that seem difficult to deal with? Which group do you prefer?

Keelin: What matters more than experience is attitude. Most people who are willing to take the time and make the financial effort to be there, usually have a high degree of motivation and come with an openness toward the whole experience. They come to learn new skills or to refine the ones they've been developing, to gain a broader understanding of all things lucid from science to self-integration. They come to share their personal dream experiences, to learn from each other, for moral support, and for practical lessons in navigation. Stephen is a dynamic and animated presenter -- that's no surprise. But what they can never anticipate is the effect of the group experience. There is truly something magical about spending several days and nights with people who share your passion for lucid dreaming! Each group is different, of course. Each participant is like a unique spice. Blended together, they create a delicious "oneironautical soup" that is never the same twice.

It's not surprising to find that most of the people who attend these programs are introverts. And therein lies the challenge for us as presenters and facilitators. Some groups do better at opening up and sharing their dreams, and these are the ones that seem to have the most fun. In only a couple of days, they begin to dream about their fellow participants in the program and that's when the dream sharing in the morning sessions can become absolutely hilarious and form the lasting memories that keep us wanting to stay connected.

Robert: When you look back over your life, how has lucid dreaming affected it? Has it altered your perspective? Given you a viewpoint that you might have otherwise ignored?

Keelin: I feel deeply that one of the greatest benefits that learning to lucid dream offers is a better understanding about self-potential. If we learn to recognize how emotionally provocative situations (as frustrating, infuriating or confounding as they may be) actually provide opportunities to practice lucid living, we stand to gain much in the way of personal growth and flexibility in problem solving skills. In the mood of the moment, it's all too easy to get swept up in the drama of circumstance, which can result in feelings of overwhelm, awkwardness, and powerlessness.

The key to remember is that lucidity is simply awareness, and that regardless of whether we are awake or a-dream, we can never have complete control over our environment or the "characters" around us. What we can control, however, is how we respond to that environment and to our companions. In other words, when it comes to response, we never lose our power to choose!

Realization of this fact can be very empowering as it leads to understanding that we have the choice of contributing either serenity or chaos to any given situation. And when we live with this type of awareness, we can't help but acknowledge our participation and responsibility as co-creators of this dream we call waking life.

It's also easy to see how this philosophy can have a direct and profound effect on our sense of compassion. Consider what might happen if we all learned to say, "This situation is disturbing to me, so what is the most mindful, heartful, and facilitating response I can make at this point?" Easier said than done, of course, and I'll admit I find myself, more often than not, a common creature of mindless habit. Yet in those rare moments when I've managed to free myself from the unconscious undertow of habitual reaction, I feel the same sweet rush as I've experienced at the onset of lucidity in a dream - because that's what I'm experiencing: Awareness!

Robert: How true. Becoming more "aware" or "lucid" about our waking situation really enables us to feel the range of possible creative responses. But how do you use lucid dreaming in a practical way to move towards lucid living?

Keelin: In a lucid dream, knowing that what we're experiencing is but a mental model of the world allows us to see, in dramatic fashion, how desires, fears and expectation manifest immediately to form the scene and the characters with whom "we" interact. And when I view my dream companions as aspects of my Self (after all, who's mind is conjuring them?), I tend to treat them with more compassion and a greater sense of humor than if I label them as "others". I'm sure you can imagine the effect of this attitude if carried over into waking life, where again what we desire, fear and expect has a strong influence on the waking dream as it unfolds around us.

Situations that push our emotional buttons are common in both waking and dreaming, which means we have lots of opportunities to feel the nudge to "go lucid". And even when we miss or ignore those nudges (in either realm), it's still possible to learn from the experience. By reviewing these situations in a becalmed mood, we can mentally rehearse how we'd prefer to handle the next challenging occasion.

Robert: So Keelin, are there any new challenges ahead for you in lucid dreaming?

Keelin: When I first began working on developing my ability to lucid dream at will, I adopted the usual mantra: Am I dreaming? Now, I find that I'm less concerned with which realm I happen to be in, and the question has shifted to: Am I aware?

I could go on, but I am putting myself to sleep! Let me just say in closing, that I am grateful beyond words for the lucid dreams I've experienced, for their heart-expanding power and their incredible ability to move me to such depths of sorrow and such heights of joy, and for the countless moments of light and laughter that knowing I am dancing in the Land of Odd has brought.

And I'm grateful to you as well, Robert and Lucy, for this opportunity to share some of these treasured experiences with your readers. I send a wish for blissful dreams to all!

Robert: Thanks Keelin! Get some sleep, shift your awareness and return to the Land of Odd!

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