Paving Paradise

The phrase “you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone” comes from a Counting Crows song called “Big Yellow Taxi.”  The refrain goes, “The paved paradise / And put up a parking lot.”  For my dreaming life, this adage holds more than one nugget of truth.

It’s been almost three years since my last post.  Ironically it is labeled the Power of Intention.  My intention towards cultivating my dream life has been diminished.  Why?  They paved paradise and putting up a parking lot.  The parking lot that replaced my rich lucid dreaming life are productive waking hours.  In January 2016 I became a polyphasic sleeper.  I slept for 3.5 hours at night followed by three twenty minute naps.  I did this consistently for eight months.  It was amazing.  And it wasn’t all at the same time.

With this extra time, I read over a dozen books on a subject I wasn’t familiar with and never would have invested the precious four hours of discretionary time a week.  However, with about four extra hours per day, I was able to indulge my curiosity into Buddhism.   But I didn’t read for 28 hours a week.  I also took up drums, wrote a novel, audited MIT classes online and ensured that my wife was happy with clean dishes, bills paid and enough bananas on the table every morning.  What’s the catch?

There are a few catches, but they are not what you might think.  Was I tired all the time?  Only until I learned how to nap on demand anytime, anywhere.  This took about 3 weeks.  Most people don’t last the 21 day adaptation period.  However, I had motivation.  I wanted to start a company.  Interestingly enough, a company that would leverage my knowledge about sleep and dreams, lucid dreaming in particular.  So I formed and learned how to use wire-framing software, spec’d out a user interface and worked diligently in the middle of the night with one of my tech co-founders.  I will write a separate post on polyphasic sleep to give you all the tips.  For now, I want to talk about what it did and didn’t do and the price I have paid.  Perhaps in laying this all out I will find the holy of holies, a middle way for my own sleep and dream practices.

Many people asked me why I stopped after eight months.  I had just come back from Burning Man where the polyphasic schedule held up surprisingly well.  I realized I missed one critical aspect of my nightlife – dreams.  In the polyphasic sleep I experienced, I had few high quality dreams and even fewer lucid ones.  You can read that polyphasic sleep encourages lucid dreams.  However, the schedule I followed did not lend itself to them.  I could nap during the day and fall straight into REM.  When I discussed with a prominent sleep medicine specialists he told me this was a sure sign of sleep deprivation.  One of the classic diagnostics for narcolepsy is heading straight to REM during the daytime.

Starting in September of 2016, I went back to a regular sleep schedule.  I slept between 7 – 8 hours a night.  How did it feel to sleep that much after such a radically different schedule?  Actually, the differences were minor and they favored the short sleep schedule.  I was as shocked as anyone.  What I missed more than the extra time each day was the incredible feeling of having woken from a 10 – 15 minute nap and feeling great.  I am a morning person and when I was doing the polyphasic schedule I felt like I had 4 mornings every 24 hours.  I had more zip to my step and my mind seemed sharper (debatable whether it actually was according to researchers I trust) when I slept less in total sleep time but more in episodes of sleep.  However, one day of long slept led to another and several months later I was back into my old routine.  However, I had lost the intention to lucid dream, even though that was the whole point!

This gets me to a fascinating point about lucid dreaming.  Despite how amazing it is, despite how many times I’ve had a powerful lucid dream, it is way too easy to pave over the experience with something that seems more valuable, more productive.  Why is that?  Honestly, I don’t know.  Maybe because lucid dreaming falls into a spiritual discipline category.  Spiritual disciplines are hard by their very nature but lead to wonderful fruit in one’s life.  Perhaps it is because lucid dreams are not stored in memory the same way as consensus reality conscious experiences.  Thus, we don’t have the same strength of recall of them and over time they fade.  For me, every few years I meet someone who sparks my imagination a fresh about lucid dreaming.  Recently, I met such an individual and his passion for lucid dreaming has reignited my own.  Hearing him describe his lucid dreams reminds me of what I have lost over the last few years.

There is another thing I took for granted.  I never sought out with any ambitions to be a blogger.  I thought keeping a blog of my thoughts might be helpful if I ever wanted to write a book on lucid dreaming.  Thus, when I saw users subscribing every day I never paid much attention to it.  In fact, I suspected it was spam accounts since my comments are full of advertisements for this drug or that supplement.  All of this started in 2016 when I put up the lucidreality website and posted a link to the blog.  A few months ago, I was convinced the company wouldn’t need my help so I took down the website I had put up as a placeholder.  As soon as I did, the new subscribers to the blog dried up.  Earlier this week I checked to see how many people had subscribed in the last eighteen months.  Five thousand.  For professional bloggers or even non-professionals that number might mean nothing.  For me, it was an eye-opener.  Seriously?  I hadn’t even updated the blog in almost three years and people still thought it worth getting notifications when I had?  OK.  Another paradise lost.  I recently put the website back up  and of course the stream of new subscribers has not come back yet.  Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone.

I haven’t gotten to all the “catches” of polyphasic sleeping, nor have I described my sleep schedule now.  All in due time, my fellow sojourners.  Until then, I will leave you with this question: What paradise have you lost because of paving your own parking lot?  I hope you will stay with me as I try to regain that which was very precious to me.