Dreamwork (Part 3) – Perception bubbles

If you ask me, Perception Bubbles is one of the best features – if not even the best – of (being a) Dream eXplorer. I know this sounds far-fetched, to say the least, but let me try and explain.

Back in 2008 I came across some information on the internet about a group of Russian dream researchers, called Dreamhackers. I was intrigued by the name itself but after I began to research what they were all about, I discovered that they actually are true “hackers”. 🙂 Their (hi)story reads like a sci-fi novel and is full of the most unusual twists and turns but since this is neither place nor time, let’s get back to the point.

If you’re familiar with the ideas and concepts of Carlos Castaneda, then you probably remember the gates of dreaming. A quick reminder:

“Don Juan explained that there are entrances and exits in the energy flow of the universe and that, in the specific case of dreaming, there are seven entrances, experienced as obstacles, which sorcerers call seven gates of dreaming.” (1)

And further:

“There are seven gates, … and dreamers have to open all seven of them, one at the time. …” (1)

To simplify – the gates of dreaming are the barriers of perception that we must overcome in order to submerge deeper into dreaming practices.

Castaneda defined the first gate of dreaming as follows:

“The first gate is a threshold we must cross by becoming aware of a particular sensation before deep sleep… A sensation which is like a pleasant heaviness that doesn’t let us open our eyes. We reach that gate the instant we become aware that we’re falling asleep, suspended in darkness and heaviness.” (2)

The task don Juan suggested to Castaneda in order to cross the first gate is to search for his hands in dreaming. This is a relatively simple task but on the other hand, it’s far from easy – in dreaming we mostly operate unconsciously, automatically (to be honest, we operate in a similar manner in waking life as well, but let’s leave that be…).

Castaneda’s quest to find his hands in dreaming is actually nothing else than one of the reality checks. And as we know, we perform reality checks throughout the day, while awake. The repetition of the intent and the activity itself (in this case, to find our hands in dreaming) eventually causes that its application transfers into dreaming as well. But…

When I was performing this dreaming maneuver, I came across two problems:

1. To start with, it took quite a long time, before the maneuver transferred into dreaming. The first problem, with which most of the dreamers face (according to their experience shared over the internet), is the duration of the process itself. And that exactly is the reason why most of the people give up and quit the dreaming practice.

2. It seems that the double (dream body) operates on similar principles as the physical body does. What I mean is that the first thing that we see in waking life as a baby is our limbs – our hands and legs. When using the maneuver of searching for our hands in dreaming, the similar logic applies – first thing that we see once aware within a dream (using this maneuver, of course), are our hands. It seems that the maneuver has a flaw – our perception of our hands is distorted, they appear different than in waking life (i.e. we have too much or not enough fingers, fingers are interwoven or grown together, hands are abnormal by shape etc.). With some practice we can take advantage of these anomalies to become aware within a dream. Nevertheless, after some time another problem appears – our perception of ourselves in dreaming is created by our expectations. That means that the perception of the double becomes so stable/clear that we only have five fingers in dreaming as well, which causes the maneuver to become useless for testing reality. And this happens as soon as our dreaming attention develops to a certain level.

This is where one of Dreamhackers techniques comes in. They have discovered an alternative way of submerging into dreaming – not through the gate(s) (meaning not to search for hands and after that gazing at objects in order to train our dreaming attention), but rather by using a shortcuta tunnel under the gate. And this tunnel is called cartography of dreams (dream mapping).

Dreamhackers suggest that each dream can be viewed as a perception bubble – usually a rather limited space with certain attributes – dream projections (dream characters), activities and background environment and so on. The idea behind dream mapping is that we don’t focus on “dream story” (in terms of what happened in the dream) but rather on the locations (where did the dream happen). We draw the locations in our dream journal and after we gather several locations we try to place them on a blank sheet of paper, trying to determine where they appear according to one another.

After researching this technology for a while and giving it a try myself I came across a couple of problems:

1. I was never particularly skilled in drawing.

2. When I had to “reduce” a complex and concrete 3-D imagery (actual dream location) into a simple-as-possible 2-D image/symbol to put on a map, it became next to impossible.

But that didn’t stop me – I took Dreamhackers’ maps as the basis and did my best to describe the perception bubbles as detailed as possible. My persistence eventually paid off – I believe that I have achieved the same (or at least similar) results with the modified approach as Dreamhackers did with theirs. 🙂

We could go on and on about dream cartography but I believe that it’s enough to give you a taste. The rest is up to you. 😉

Until next time – happy dreaming!


(1) Castaneda, Carlos. The Art of Dreaming. London: Element, 2004. Page 22.

(2) Castaneda, Carlos. The Art of Dreaming. London: Element, 2004. Page 23.

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