Hooray holiday time!!! A chance to walk, swim, sit, sleep.
I was reading about the life of the artist Salvador Dali; he had an interesting idea about sleep…And spoons. If you’ve ever wondered how he came up with the surreal images he created, then an examination of his sleeping techniques may provide an answer.
He would sit in a chair, holding a spoon between his finger and thumb, with a plate underneath on the floor. He would then doze, and inevitably the spoon would fall from his fingers, crashing onto the plate and waking him up. This helped him to remember the dreams and images from the dozing state he had been in, which scientists call the hypnogogic state.
It’s between wakefulness and deep sleep, and is a period of high creativity, that we often miss, simply because we don’t remember what happened in that time. The scientist Thomas Edison was similarly committed to this hypnogogic state as a way of thinking creatively. He would hold not a spoon but a steel ball in his hands to the same effect.
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a device has been developed which does the same thing as the spoon and the ball but with high tech innovation, in a hand -worn device called Dormio.
It’s using technology to access the poetic, metaphorical side of our thoughts. Unsurprisingly it’s been nicknamed the dreamcatcher.
We spend so much of our time just concentrating on what’s in front of us: dealing with the everyday - family stuff, sorting out childcare, keeping a hospital appointment, working out our money, travelling to and from work. When is it that we get this kind of in-between time? To go deeper into the endlessly creative dreaming that every one of us is capable of.
We can see ourselves too easily as only useful when we are achieving things. But sometimes, a surprising way through an insoluble situation or an intractable problem can be found by spending even a short time in our creative hinterland.
A flourishing spiritual life knows the essential value of this kind of time. In the Bible, Jacob was dozing at twilight when he dreamed of a ladder leading to heaven.
Joseph dreamed about the death of his family and had the courage to tell them. He saved Mary and Jesus from danger by understanding in a dream that Herod was a threat to all of them.
One of the essential assumptions of the spiritual life is that we are a mystery even to ourselves; and that the journey inwards is as creative and vital as any physical journey. And daring to explore this hinterland makes us spiritual adventurers of the bravest kind.
So, if in the days to come, find yourself becoming sleepy, and slipping into a hypnogogic state, just enjoy it.