Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Remember your Dreams & Tap into Creativity: Tips from a Lithuanian Surrealist

Dreams are a bottomless well of inspiration. We surrealists have tapped into this well for nearly a hundred years, ever since André Breton founded the Bureau of Surrealist Enquiries (Centrale Surréaliste) in 1924 in order to "gather all the information possible related to forms that might express the unconscious activity of the mind". On October 15, 1924, Breton published the first Surrealist Manifesto thus founding the basis for the surrealist movement, which continues to thrive internationally through various Surrealist groups such as, Prague Surrealist Group, Paris Surrealist group, London Surrealist Group, and the Chicago Surrealist Group. Prominent members include: author, activist & doyenne of American Surrealist Movement, Penelope Rosemont (Chicago); filmmaker Jan Svankmajer  (Prague); filmmaker Václav Svankmajer (Prague); zoologist, author, painter,  Desmond Morris (Oxford), and many others.

If you ever wondered what it's like down the rabbit-hole of your subconscious, 

this is a step-by-step guide on how to get there.

Work inspired by my dreams "Pandora's Stage" and Medieval illuminated manuscript style dream book

I've been a lucid dreamer since childhood. I have my step-grandfather to thank for getting me in the habit of recalling my dreams for him every morning. As a teen, I was inspired to create my medieval illuminated dream manuscript Inspired by Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts which pre-dated Guttenberg's printed Bibles, this work is meditative in its undertaking. I received a lovely fountain pen as a Christmas present. That, in turn, inspired me to experiment with a wide spectrum of calligraphic styles. I decided to use Gothic Blackletter calligraphy (12th c. forward) throughout much of the book.

 This example contains illustrations and letterheads of my designs. Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman's illustrator of "Sandman" drew the anthropomorthic human face (lower right center), and Neil Gaiman signed above it. The Alice in Wonderland illustration is enlarged and coloured in pencil by me.

How to remember Dreams:

What you will need:
1. eyemask
2. earplugs
3. handheld digital recorder

An eyemask blocks out light as you wake up. This is important because the hypnopompic state, which is the transitional stage of consciousness leading out of sleep (as opposed to the hypnagogic state, which is the transition into sleep), is very sensitive and propels you into wakefulness if you don't buffer reality. Therefore, it's best to block as much out as possible (sound, sight, etc).
(The hypnagogic state is rational waking cognition trying to make sense of non-linear images and associations; the hypnopompic state is emotional and credulous dreaming cognition trying to make sense of real world stolidity.) 

What to do:
1. Don't set a sound alarm. Instead, set something, like a phone, to vibrate you into wakefulness. Sound will only erode a dream.

2. Practice being mindful of the exact moment when you awaken. Once you are concious of the fact that you just woke up, don't move. Stay in place. You may be tempted to roll over, get up to go to the bathroom, etc. Don't move at all.

3. Recall one small detail of your dream. Remembering anything, no matter how minor, will help you "grasp the tail of your dream." Dreams are like a creature trying to run away from you. Grab one detail and don't let it go. Focus on that one detail. Practice concentrating on that one aspect and you will notice that, over time, everything else surrounding that detail will come into focus. From that point, you will recall whole chunks, then the entire dream. This process takes time and practice. It may be weeks before you can pull an entire dream up from your subconscious.

4. Think of your dream as a film which you can rewind and play over. Once you have the details, you can go back to the earliest memory you have of it and press "play." This part I call "recapping." During this stage, you can speak out what you remember. Saying it out load will enhance your memory of it. Pay extremely close attention to the surroundings and details in the dream. Think of yourself as Sherlock Holmes. Leave no detail out (describe colours, sensations, smells, tastes, sounds, feelings, texture of fabrics, layout of rooms, etc).

5. Once you're done recapping, grab your handheld digital recorder, press "record" and recap out load again. You can always feel free to add details at the end which you overlooked/forgot. Remember what the King in "Alice in Wonderland" says, "Begin at the beginning, and go on until you come to the end; then stop."

I have been a member of the Chicago Surrealist Group since 1998. I met Penelope and Franklin Rosemont at the Printer's Row Book Fair that year. I attended various group meetings and had too much fun playing surrealist games such as An Exquisite Corpse, and Time Traveler's Potlatch (both of which are on the Chicago Surrealist Group website and published in the book Surrealist Subversions: Rants, Writings & Images by the Surrealist Movement in the United States.

I do illustration, experimental self-portraits (think Claude Cahun, but with lots of reflections), Zeitgeist Costuming, and music (singling in English, Russian, German, Lithaunian, and French). See my youtube: DainaSurrealism (see video below).

STRANGE INTERLUDE: My Dream, Time-Travel inspired band, "Hypnagogic Telegram" is going VIRAL on Youtube. I play a literal personification of a Time Ghost (Zeitgeist) that inhabits the wardrobe closet in the TARDIS. I come out in costumes from various eras to dance & sing in styles from those eras. If Doctor Who would have a band, it might sound like this. Timelord Rock. Trock. 
<---- View YOUTUBE VIDEO here.

Check out my Time Travel, Dream, surreal artwork, performance art, costuming & photography on the other blog pages!

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