FEATURE: Get Into…Dreams. With Charlie Dearnley | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Artist and creative Charlie Dearnley brings his new show The Skeleton Maze to Alpbabetti Theatre in Newcastle on Wednesday 31st October for Halloween. The twisting journey through an underworld takes in stories, dance and music and a host of beings. We let Charlie guide you through the world of dreams to whet your appetite for the show, which you can find out more about here.

“The cliffs of dreams are slippery, because they are a reflection.” – voice in my head as if spoken into my ear. This is an inadequate statement as there is no declaring entirely what it is that dreams are made of (unless you are Lizzie McGuire posing as a strikingly indifferent alter-ego), as that would require a concrete definition of consciousness. At the time of hearing these words whispered on the edge of sleep it was important for me to realise that I – as the vehicle of my perspective – was an active part of my own dreams, and with this I awoke to them.

I’m Charlie Dearnley, an artist working in performance, dance, music, text and illustration, and I am going to talk briefly about dreaming as a magical act and a transformative practice. I do not by any means claim to be an authority or an expert on the topic, but rather have read a pile of books on and around the subject of dreams, whilst engaged in research into western esotericism. Similarly, soft (and I suppose some more challenging) research into psychedelics, psychoanalysis, trance states and a shamanic journeying practice all feed my own imaginative explorations.

It is important at this juncture to state that I will now speak solely from personal experience, and that there are a huge variety of cultural models of dream and spirit interaction, and that each is valid in being lived and felt. This is the lived truth of different perspectives. Everything wants to be understood within proper context, so as to be spoken of and approached with respect and without appropriation. For example, I believe that it would be irresponsible for me to claim a shamanic role, as a Shaman holds a particular community role within a specific cultural context, in which I have not lived.

With this said, I think that simply, the way into a dreaming practice is to do it – easy! Go to sleep and engage in your own experiences, integrating them into a waking life so as to live a transformation, and around this, do your own research to nourish you and feed your curiosity.

To begin with, dream-recall is an important skill to build. Classic methods are so because they work: keep a dream journal. This needn’t be as laborious as handwriting every morning (though this is what I do as a pencil feels like a more intimate extension of arm than a keyboard). These notes can be helpful to return to if you want to look back at a dream, but it is often just about bringing the dream through into waking, and so there it breathes. This can be done by simply speaking the dream out loud to a partner, a dictaphone or an empty room. I find that dreams will often come back to me in the shower as the pouring water lets the mind wander. Similarly and unsurprisingly a meditation practice is also helpful.

Dream recall is more common when we wake from REM sleep. Our sleep moves in cycles with REM sleep taking up 20-25% of the time, these cycles lengthening the longer that we sleep for.

It is my experience that the more you recall the easier it becomes, as you become more familiar with your imagination’s language of symbol by reflecting on how certain dream experiences and images make you feel. See this as a process of tuning in. If you hit spells of zero recall, also don’t worry, it will come back. We all dream, every night, and sleep shouldn’t consume energy.

I then choose to illustrate dreams that feel particularly potent so as to learn something of their meaning. Once this has been gleamed, this awareness impacts upon waking life. It could be that we realise that something is making us uncomfortable, or we begin to pay attention to our desires and our drives, coming closer to ourselves. Much can be gleamed from the manner in which you compose a drawing; the architecture, tone, scale, symbol and narrative, and how it all makes you feel. The same can be said for creating a song from the dream. Do what you enjoy, but do it and express it. Give it out to the world.

If you then want to practice lucidity, go for it. There are a few ways in and a number of tricks you can do to check whether or not you’re dreaming. I’ve ran out of words now so maybe there will be another article specifically on lucidity as it is really where the world opens.

Lastly I think it’s worth saying that I believe that dreaming is not self-indulgent, as if you can better understand and know yourself, this will ultimately have a positive effect on all of your relations with others, and so also benefit a community of people around you.

I’m performing a new solo show – The Skeleton Maze – which has been built in and out of dream, whilst engaging in and referencing a wider magical practice. The show is appropriately premiering on Halloween at Alphabetti Theatre at 7.30pm. Come down.

Here’s a trailer (made by myself and Adam Goodwin), and a few dream drawings to get you going.

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