The Hypnagogic and Hypnopompic States of Consciousness
The greatest tools for accessing extended awareness
As human beings, the limits of our capacity for extended awareness are functions of our own convictions and beliefs. Although there are no rules that say we absolutely MUST limit our superficial conscious awareness to our immediate physical environment, from personal experience, there may in fact be very good reasons for doing so. Just like the balloon that has been stretched too far, too fast, our capacity to integrate multiple environments simultaneously can be overwhelmingly taxing, and sometimes even dangerous. That is why it is the job of certain aspects of our unconscious to process this information and present it to our conscious mind in an efficient and personally relatable manner (this being a primary function of dreams).
Nevertheless, in order to ease our transition into states of expanded awareness, it is pertinent to take a “pulsed” approach. Metaphorically speaking, by intermittently blowing small amounts of air into our balloon, we can achieve a surprising increase in volume, with minimal effort. Of course, there are times that we can push ourselves beyond our comfort zone, but unless we are willing to deal with the results of our boldness, it is seldom a constructive venture. That is why there is great wisdom in taking advantage of certain key transitional states of awareness that occur naturally in our daily lives. These states allow us brief glimpses of other “stations” on the radio dial that we can access in the absence of immediate physical duress.
The terms hypnagogic and hypnopompic refer to the periods of time immediately prior to and following restful sleep, respectively. Although both states are very similar, the key difference between the two is the amount of latent relaxation. While in the hypnagogic state, we are “descending” or “falling” into sleep and must therefore submit or allow our waking awareness to relax, usually by suspending active thought. This can be very difficult, especially after a busy day. In the hypnopompic state however, we are already relaxed and void of thought, allowing us to venture more deeply into areas of non-ordinary consciousness. This is why I have found the hypnopompic state to be far more useful in achieving an out-of-body state, once I learned how to familiarize myself with the sensations.
Let’s imagine for a minute that you are preparing yourself to go to sleep. It has been a relatively ordinary day, and you relish the opportunity to temporarily purge yourself of any worries or concerns. As you close your eyes, you begin the “allowing” process, and ignore most of the “echoes” that thoughts with considerable momentum tend to carry. If you are like most people, then the next thing you know, you are waking up without any memory of falling asleep. However, if you are as curious as myself, you may have taken the time to internally explore the hypnagogic state before no longer being able to sustain conscious awareness. To do this, here is a simple technique that I call “dipping.”
With your eyes closed and resting in your favourite or most comfortable position in bed, pretend that you cannot move your body. This intention will free up all of your conscious awareness for you to use in the exercise. Now, in your mind, establish that you (that is to say, your conscious mind) are present. A simple internal dialogue of “Ok, I’m here” will suffice. Once this has been done, agree upon a set period of time (usually between 1-2 minutes) that you will check-in with yourself to make sure that you are still conscious. Now begins the fun (and difficult) part. Imagining that your conscious mind is a proverbial “fly on the wall” observing your progress, allow yourself to fall asleep naturally, checking-in with your conscious mind periodically during your established intervals. The trick here is not to fall asleep, but to “watch” yourself descend progressively into the alpha and theta rhythms, while maintaining your conscious (beta) awareness.
Since all bands of the brainwave spectrum are present at all times, the purpose of this exercise is to amplify the alpha and theta frequencies, while “syncing” them with the beta band through (harmonic) resonance. Unfortunately, the difficulty lies in the “dipping” interval that we use to do this. If the interval is not periodic (that is to say, variant), then you will most likely fall asleep, forgetting to check-in. If your check-in dialogue is too active, or aggressive, your physiology will reflect your level of attention, effectively “waking up” or “rev-ing” your body. Once this happens (and believe me, it’s an obvious sensation), it may become more and more difficult to allow yourself to fall asleep naturally, hence the appropriation of the term “passive attention.”
Eventually, with enough practice, you will be able to “dip” your conscious mind into deeper and deeper levels of awareness, accessing memories of events you didn’t even know you still had access to. After that, you may reach a boundless “void” where there is a complete absence of boundaries or time. Deeper still, you can access (physical) reality domains that exist in different “layers” of thought (this is a long discussion in itself). In the past, these have been labelled as “astral” dimensions. Deeper still (assuming you can maintain your awareness), you can shed all notions of separateness and return to your awareness as a sort of “quantum” of light. Personally, I haven’t been allowed to venture any further than that, so where you go from there is still a mystery to me.
Fortunately, dipping may not even be necessary if you choose to utilize the hypnopompic state. For example, after waking up a little earlier than normal (say, 3 hours before) and getting up to go to the bathroom, you can simply return to your bed and lie in the same comfortable position. From there, it is simply a matter of watching yourself fall back asleep. Since you have already been asleep for several hours, an active conscious mind is usually not an issue. Allow yourself to be a “fly on the wall” and observe the sensations that your body is having as you quickly descend. If you have difficulty in maintaining conscious awareness, simply place your body in a slightly less comfortable position, and then fall sleep. Enjoy the experiences that result from your efforts.
After a few weeks of successfully performing these exercises, you may experience significant changes in your resting awareness. Dream recall may become effortless (since dreams are occurring on different wavelengths all the time) and spontaneously “para-normal” events may become ordinary. This is hardly a guarantee since there are innumerable variables in our lives that may prevent us from achieving too much, too fast. Nevertheless, it is important that we not only recognize that we have conscious influence over the direction of our awareness, but that our efforts can have tangible effects on our physical lives as well as the lives of those around us. By using the hypnagogic and hypnopompic states of consciousness as tools to increase our familiarity with our abilities as human “be-ings”, we can help build a more unified relationship with all life and ultimately support a more sustainable future.
Copyright (c) 2014 Eric Hul. All rights reserved.