The concept for Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band came to Paul McCartney when he was dosing off to sleep. In another time, Einstein’s theory of relativity came to him as he was waking up. Mary Leader’s novel Triad, which later inspired Stevie Nicks to write the song, “Rhiannon,” came to her in its entirety during an afternoon nap. What makes this period between sleeping and waking so powerful?
Hypnagogia (the state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep) has long been fertile ground for religious and mystical experiences, creativity and intuition. Plus a variety of psychic experiences, including telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience and out-of-body sensations are also attributed to this period. And the best part of this phenomenon is that you can use it to tap into your own creativity and psychic ability.
How Hypnagogia Works and What it Feels Like
During hypnagogia, the normal activity of the left side of your brain (the side that dictates logic) is inhibited, allowing imagery in your right brain (the creative side) to bounce around using free-association that your fully conscious mind would classify as illogical or nonsensical. Unlike dreams during the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep phase, hypnagogic imagery lacks a story plot. Hence, flashes of shapes and colors might morph into faces or landscapes.
One person reported the image of a bird’s beak changing into the barrel of a gun. Some people report hearing bizarre sentences, such as one woman who clearly heard a voice say, “Rick sleeps with the babysitter” (when she didn’t even know anyone named Rick—perhaps it was from a past life). Others report a sense of floating on the ceiling, looking down at their bodies in bed.
Tap Into Happiness
One study in Hawaii found that willful use of hypnagogia increases flexibility in thinking, which leaves you open to more creativity and psychic experiences. And (even better) it may increase your overall feeling of well-being. Participants in the study also reported increased stress reduction and heightened self-awareness. And who doesn’t want to be less stressed out and more in tune with their true selves?
It sounds so simple and according to the book Hypnagogia: The Unique State of Consciousness Between Wakefulness and Sleep, you can just “wish” for hypnagogia and it will truly happen. It claims that hypnagogic imagery “is achieved not so much by willing but by wishing.” Most people who reported psychic experiences during hypnagogia say it involves patiently waiting and expecting that a picture will appear. One way to distinguish between a truly clairvoyant vision and an image created by your imagination is that with imagination you think of the image first—then you see it. Yet with psychic hypnagogia, there is an element of surprise because you see the image first and then you think of it.
What to Do
- Go to bed earlier than usual, so you aren’t exhausted.
- Wake up without an alarm clock in the morning.
- Take cat naps during the day.
- Listen to brain wave CDs or downloads.
- Request an answer to a question or the solution to a problem before you fall asleep.
When images appear, allow them to flow—without analyzing them. When you go back to wakefulness, encourage your mind to interpret the images symbolically, rather than logically.
One woman was puzzled when she saw a portrait of her mother’s face on a white, porcelain drinking cup. But the next day, seemingly out of nowhere while she was cooking dinner, the song lyric, “my cup runneth over with love” popped into her head. She realized that her intuitive mind was prompting her to contemplate the bond between her and her mother, as well as the love she felt (as a mother) for her son. A feeling of well-being ensued.
“The function of a psychic ability is not to tell us what is going to happen next, but to shine a light on the truth.”
Even though you might never receive the inspiration for a landmark music album or a scientific discovery, cultivating hypnagogia can lead you to greater self-awareness, contentment and deeper levels of spirituality. And who knows—you might even have a psychic experience or two!