Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Hypnagogic State

When you're right on the border between being asleep and awake, directly before plunging into full sleep, you're mind is hypnagogic. Different people experience it differently. Some experience a very brief period of full on hallucinations, both visual and auditory. Most simply find their mind straying into strange and unusual thought patterns with brief visual flashes. That's my experience, and I think that very brief period is a gift.

It's not that I ever take a lot from the experience. You usually can't. While hypnagogic there are only two things that can happen to you. Either you fall asleep or you wake up again, quickly forgetting whatever it was you were thinking or experiencing seconds earlier. For me though, this lack of permanence is exactly what I like. I'm always struck by how ephemeral brain processes can be. One moment, enlightenment. Next moment, nothing. Profound understanding gives way to complete ignorance with the flick of a switch. Awakening from a hynagogic experience gives me that sort of profound, eerie feeling of knowing without knowing. As if I'd just worked out some deep riddle, and then wiped it from my memory.

My guess is, even if we could remember what we were thinking about, we'd discover it was just nonsense. That's the sense I get, from the little tidbits I can hold on to. It's total randomness, jumbled up and served up as illumination. Which I think is really cool, too. It shows that profundity is a feeling...a state of mind, something not necessarily tied to any particular content.

I love that.

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