Lesson 8) Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
Professor Cattercorn is waiting in the Divination lounge when the earliest students arrive. She doesn't seem to notice them as she pours over a particular piece of parchment. Tapping a quill against the desk with a twist of her mouth, she throws the quill down on the parchment before straightening up. Turning to the gathering students, she shakes her head free of outside thoughts and clasps her hands behind her back, ready to begin.
Welcome back, students! I hope you all brought your notebooks with you. I see some of you already have them out. Ah, Ms. Cresswell, you must have been busy this week. I see quite a bit of writing there! To those of you who may have been experiencing difficulty filling your own notebooks, this is the lesson for you. As we have alluded to, we will be covering various strategies to help you recall your dreams as well as recollect more detail from those dreams. In the second half of class today, we will also touch on assorted methods of encouraging true dreams, though you will see it is not as clear-cut as it sounds, as well as cover one particular method in detail.
Things I Almost Remember
As I’m sure you all know from experience, you cannot document your dreams if you cannot first recall them. Therefore, let’s start with how to remember your dreams if this is something you struggle with. If you already typically remember your dreams, never fear, this is still useful to you. These practices will help you remember your dreams in more detail. Which, as we know, is a good thing if you are hoping to document a “true dream”. To begin, the first place to start is simply to exert a conscious effort to remember them. Often, those who do not remember their dreams do not put much time or mental energy into thinking specifically about their dreams. Instead, they just get up in the morning without giving a thought to their nocturnal experiences, and because nothing stands out to them, they believe they either do not have dreams (which we know is unlikely) or that they are just incapable of remembering them.
Taking a moment to try to think of your dreams should be the first thing you do when you wake up, even if you wake up in the middle of the night. In the moments right after waking, your connection with and memory of your dreams will be the strongest. The longer you wait after waking, the more likely it is for you to forget the content of your dreams. Remembering a dream after it has “fled” has often been described as trying to “catch smoke” or keep water from running out of your hands. The next time you awake, do not concern yourself with the alarm, or what day it is, or what classes you have that morning. Instead, attempt to stay in the dream a bit longer. If it helps, stay in your bed and even keep your eyes closed. Attempt to recall what was just happening. Of course, we all know that nothing was happening to you a second ago: you were asleep in your bed! Your brain will be stuck between waking and sleeping, however, and will attempt to recall your most recent memory, which usually will be from your dream.
Once you are able to latch onto even one tiny detail, the hardest part is done. From there, it is a matter of trying to flesh out the thought more. Think of it similar to “retracing your steps” when you have lost something. Once you remember your last “memory”, see if you can remember what happened before that, and so on. Additionally, try to fill in more details. Where were you? Why were you there? Who were you with? Who were you?1 More, you should also try to remember any sensory details. Was there a smell in this place? A color that stuck out? A feeling you were experiencing such as hunger, fear, or exhaustion? With these details falling into place, don’t forget to write! Just with episodes that are possibly clairvoyant, you do not know what detail will be important later. The more often you do this, the more it will become a habit to you, resulting in much easier recall.
Finally, while it may seem incredibly obvious, the final recommendation I give you for remembering your dreams is to get good sleep. I do not mean naps, either! The closer you can get to the recommended eight hours of sleep, the better. In fact, going over that eight hours is preferable! We mentioned in Lesson Five that dreams only occur within specific cycles of your sleep pattern known as REM sleep. During the first four to six hours of sleep, REM sleep only occurs briefly in short bursts. The closer you get to eight hours of sleep and every hour thereafter, the more often your periods of REM occur, which increases the likelihood of remembering, as you are most likely to remember a dream if you wake during a period of REM. Now no one can fault you for sleeping in on a lazy Saturday morning!
True Dreaming Tricks
This next portion of the lesson is significantly less clear-cut. There exist many methods to increase the likelihood of true dreams, but many of them are likely just superstition, as there are few studies conducted in this area due to the difficulty of proving a true dream before it has been fulfilled (if the true dream is of the past, these are even harder to prove, near to the point of impossibility). However, the good news is, it does not really matter. Even if it is all just a load of superstitious nonsense, the placebo effect can be quite useful. If doing X, Y, or Z puts you into a state of mind that is more receptive to true dreams, don’t ruin a bad thing! Keep doing it! The most important thing is that you put yourself in a state of mind where you believe true dreams are likely to come. This is similar to our discussion in your Second and Third Years of how belief in your abilities is key, it is like the willpower in casting a spell.
With that in mind, there are a few commonly-held useful strategies which we will go over. Meditating before bed -- a practice which I am aware your Defense Against the Dark Arts and Alchemy professors also recommend -- can be useful. Other seers recommend trying to fall into a trance similar to those which you experience during clairvoyant episodes and slowly drifting off to sleep, but this practice requires a lot of effort and mental focus, which does not make it very approachable for beginners. I myself ascribe to the belief that drinking warm Thestral milk has its benefits, though others swear by the milk of the Demiguise, or simply consuming various herbs and non habit-forming potions. Finally, another technique that certainly won’t hurt anything is practicing other divinatory methods, like ESP activities such as using Zener cards, or reading the tarot before laying down for bed. Even should it not truly influence your probability of true dreaming, it has the double benefit of practicing your skills as well as tiring you out!
Those are certainly not the only ways that seers of any age attempt to encourage true dreams, and, often, seers will select a combination of these methods to get them in the right frame of mind. Some are more agreed-upon or more widespread, while other methods have small but dedicated “cult” followings. This last technique, which I refrained from mentioning earlier on purpose is one of the former. While it is rarely anyone’s sole method, it is often combined with others and enjoys a fairly common popularity.
Let us start off by saying that lucid dreams, our topic for the moment, are not an inherently magical experience. They also do not necessarily have anything to do with divination, at their most basic definition. However, the experience of lucid dreaming certainly does have benefits that can be applied to divination, which we will detail later. First, though, I should explain exactly what lucid dreams are.
The simplest definition of lucid dreaming is characterized by the sleeper’s awareness that the current events and situations are, in fact, not real life and, instead, a dream. This is often accompanied by memories, realizations, or the awareness of your real life as a way of comparison. This realization is also often (though not always) followed by manipulation of the dream, depending on your goal or level of lucidity. The trick is to find a happy medium in between allowing yourself to lose awareness and control of the dream, and accidentally coming awake completely. During the extent of a lucid dream, you are in control, or at least, more in control than usual, and that control may falter if your awareness falters.
On its surface, the manipulation of lucid dreams seems quite frivolous, though certainly an enjoyable way to pass the midnight hours. You may conjure up tubs upon tubs of your favorite ice cream without worrying about your health (or the Five Principal Exceptions)! Or, you may have an adventurous side and dive down impossibly tall waterfalls without consequence. Others believe you can also teach yourself skills (or practice them) during lucid dreams, though I did once read an entire treatise on the use of Kabbalah alongside the modern tarot and forgot it all upon waking, so I do not necessarily recommend this… particularly if you are relying on it to pass your O.W.L.s!
Now, you may still be wondering what all this has to do with my class. The answer is fairly simple. While lucid dreams are no guarantee -- just as the earlier mentioned methods are not either -- there are certain benefits. Firstly, it is a commonly-held belief that because lucid dreams are an altered state of consciousness (similar to that trance-like state you need to best focus on remote readings, prophetic visions, or any other clairvoyant episodes) you are more likely to have your regular dreams be interrupted by a true dream, almost as if that state of altered consciousness invited it. Additionally, there is the much more concrete benefit that lucid dreams strengthen your mental clarity during your dreaming and improve your ability to recall your nocturnal escapades and their details. I see that some of you have thoughtful looks on your faces. Some of you may have already experienced these sorts of dreams, or at least segments of them. If so, congratulations, attempting to do so in the future will be much easier for you. However, due to time constraints, if you are interested in developing this skill to use either alone or in conjunction with other strategies, you can read more about it and instructions to achieving it here.
Close Your Eyes
That marks the end of this week’s lesson! The next time we meet will be the last time we do so for this year and coincidentally the last time before your O.W.L. exams. I have every confidence in your abilities, so trust your intuition! To wrap up your understanding of true dreaming, we will be looking at a sample dream to analyze. Additionally, I will give a quick lecture on how to differentiate between dreams and reality before concluding with a brief review of the concepts learned throughout your years in the Divination lounge.
1. This phenomena varies from person to person, but it is not uncommon to have dreams where you are not “yourself”. This difference can range from something as simple to not looking like you, to not having the same “self” or the same opinions, abilities, goals, or beliefs. In the most extreme cases, you may even become a different thing entirely, whether that takes the form of being a little boy, an old woman, a centaur, a disembodied omniscient spirit, and more. In these circumstances, you may feel as though you are simply “watching” things occur from that person’s body. Though, at other times, you will be as emotionally invested as if it were happening to you. As you might suspect, some argue that these may be manifestations of past lives or future lives, though naturally, this cannot be proven.