Play It Backwards – Look at a memory with new (imaginal) eyes

All sorts of details pop out at you when you: go into the imaginal mind-state, call up a memory, and let it re-run in your mind’s eye. Suddenly, up comes all sorts of important details, and then there is an “aha” about something unseen and unrealized at the time of the real event.  What we thought we knew about what happened, previously all tucked away in our memory, now looks brand new: “Yikes, why didn’t I see all of this when it was happening? I thought I was seeing everything but compared to this view, it was like I was wearing foggy glasses and half out of it.”

Why Do We See More on Replay? The Power of Normal Replay and the Power of Dream Theater

Of course there are the normal factors of taking a few more looks. We are bound to discover a few fresh details just through repetition. Next, we might be viewing the event with a different perspective. Perhaps the event was charged with a lot of emotion, such as frustration or anger. After the fact we can watch it from greater distance and see other details.

We can use a bit of free-editing with imagination to reshuffle the memory event. Instead of taking things in order we can move the ending to the beginning and the beginning to the middle, etc. We can play it in slow motion or high speed. Or we can step into the shoes of the other people, animals, things, etc. and see things from their perspective. Objects and locations can be swapped out and replaced with others.

But if we go deeper, that is, move into the imaginal mind-set which is more closely related to dreaming than being our normal wakeful selves, something else comes about.  If we spend enough time in imaginal space (and have practiced these techniques), the target memory will become more vivid. We will know this at the attentional level because we will loose more and more awareness of things happening outside of our minds. As we focus more and more inward, the more we are drawn inward.  We really start to feel, at least to some degree, that we are in the memory and not just standing outside of it looking at it. If we are in the memory, then our regular senses are there too. We find ourselves engaging our bodies as we engage them to navigate our everyday external world. We can feel the effects of weight and texture as well as hear sounds unique to the memory location. We start to pick up on the details of light, color, and shade.

On top of these mind-state changes, when working in the imagination, we usually move to a greater wholeness of awareness than is normally available to us.  C.G. Jung gives us a good inventory of the major functions of awareness that could be available to us if we were whole. His functions are: thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation. As noted above, our sensation function (our senses) become engaged when we step out of looking at a memory and step into the memory. Our thinking, feeling, and intuition functions can operate in two ways: as part of how we look at the memory during the replaying and as a participant in the memory itself. When that happens, we have all four functions operating, generating information about the memory. This is far different from when we were in the real event; then we probably only had one or two of our functions that we tend to rely upon operative. The other one or two functions got shuffled to the background. Not the case here, as we replay it in our dream theater.

Our dream theater is our maximal way of memory replay, but it also is highly important to exploring philosophy, mythology, literature, symbols, our dreams, and our lives as they play across the stage of life. Turning inward and bringing so many resources online to look again or to look at what we have never carefully examined before, will, without fail, show us much that is new and surprising.

The Naps of Thomas Edison

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

Edison worked his tail off every day searching for market-worthy inventions. One of the areas of his research included how to maximize his productivity and his thinking. One way to accomplish both was to nap: “I enjoy working about 18 hours a day. Besides the short catnaps I take each day, I average about four to five hours of sleep per night,” stated Edison.

During some of his nap sessions he did more than recharge his internal batteries, he used his imagination to work on creative problems. Working naps required sitting upright in a chair.  Sitting up made it harder for him to fully sleep and made it possible to stay lightly conscious during these sessions. To further assure that he would not lapse into sleep, he would hold a steel ball bearing in each hand. On the floor, placed directly below his closed hand would be a metal saucer. If he should fall completely asleep, his hands would relax and each ball bearing would fall to the floor, striking the metal saucer, making a noise loud enough to wake Edison.

What was he doing?
Edison was utilizing what was named hypnagogia. Hypnagogia is the state (actually a variety of states) that can be experienced as we hang onto consciousness while moving towards sleep. It involves bodily relaxation and the easing of the grip of cognitive/emotive focus. In hypnagogia we get the benefit of a sort of emotional and cognitive wandering. This wandering can be gently guided, as Edison did, or left open to go where it wants to go. Guided wandering has the benefit of keeping a topic of our interest in mind so we can observe it from new angles to learn new things. Edison meant business by setting up conditions so he could stay in this state for long periods.

Instead of steel balls
Edison’s approach works perfectly fine but here are two more ways which don’t require steel balls.

Approach 1 – Lie down on a bed, on your back and rest your upper arm (from shoulder to elbow) elbow flat on the bed. Bend your elbow and keep your lower arm (from your elbow to your finger tips) pointed straight up to the ceiling.  When you fall asleep, your arm will flop down on the bed and catch your attention. Wake up a bit and then cost back to hypnagogic wandering.

Approach 2 – Use a slightly modified wake-up alarm – Get a car doze-alerting alarm for a few dollars (see www.napzapper.com). Cover over the little speaker that screams an alarm when it detects the downward flop of the head of  dozing off. This will make the sound tolerable since you don’t need it screaming, just making enough noise to wake you up. Put the device over your ear and sit up in a chair like Edison. Keep your head level. Relax physically and mentally and let your mind wander.

What you will discover
In hypnagogia everything can swirl together—visions, thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and who knows what else. There will be so much going on that you can’t possibly remember it all so you will need some way to remember what is most important to you. Try making some notes during the process or shortly after you end the session. Use notes on paper or on a recorder.

All of this takes practice, but you will be shocked how quickly you can master entry into hypnagogia. Pleasant and fruitful wandering await you.