I am on a new regimen — attempting to eat less in the evening so that I will lose weight. Thus I go to sleep hungry. The other night I had a dream: I was in my old apartment in the East Village of Manhattan, which I left seven years ago. There was a bowl of sesame noodles on the table, and I began to eat them standing up. (My meditation group discourages eating while standing, so I never do so in real life.) The noodles were excellent. I woke up no longer hungry.
The next day, while recounting the dream to my wife, I realized I had discovered the perfect diet, one that allows the dieter to feast on any food and never gain weight. The secret is to eat in your dreams.
The Value Of Dreams
The first step, of course, is to remember your dreams. And how do you do that? By considering them worthy!
In this culture dreams are not valued. Why? Because they are supposedly not “real.” But consider movies: You might spend $12.50 (in New York City) to sit in a dark room for two hours. When you emerge, what do you have to show for it? Nothing (unless, for some reason, you carry out your popcorn box). You don’t even receive a program. Yet you consider this experience to be worth the price of admission.
Meanwhile, when you lie in a dark room and watch movies for five to eight hours — movies starring yourself — you consider these experiences worthless.
In 1971 the soft-rock band Bread sang, in the song “(I Want to) Make It with You,” “Dreams are for those who sleep / Life is for us to keep.” This is a typical American antidreaming statement.
I say: Defy Bread! Admit that you’re one of “those who sleep”! There is no shame in sleeping, or in the nectarean romance of dreams!
How To Remember Your Dreams
Let us consider the nature of our nightly narratives. For one thing dreams are shy. Like visitors who too easily feel unwelcome, they will quickly find an excuse to leave. You must show your dreams that they are appreciated.
One way is to have a dream friend: someone you tell your dreams to every day — or as often as you recall them. You may also write to your dream friend by e-mail, postcard, or on velvet-edged stationery.
A dream friend is not always easy to find. You must test all your acquaintances to learn who is dream sympathetic. You may be surprised. Your friend Edna, the potter, may despise dreams, while Frank, the investment banker, may have a juicy, multilayered dream life.
Quit Your Job
Work is the enemy of dreams. When you wake up and must rush to work, your dreams quickly vanish. One solution is to abandon your job. Simply walk into your boss’s office (you need not knock) and shout, “Ms. Fenlap, [or “Mr. Fenlap”] I must announce my resignation! I need more time in the morning to recall my dreams.”
If your boss seems sympathetic, you may go on to explain that you are following a groundbreaking new diet.
Wake Up Earlier
Another option is simply to wake up earlier. Give yourself an hour in the morning to cultivate dream recollections.
One advantage of this plan is that you will keep your job.
A Dream Wall
For some people the best way to remember dreams is on a Dream Wall. Choose one wall of your house on which to transcribe your dreams. (Use colored pens!) You may also wish to draw salient images. The visually oriented will enjoy watching a mural of their night tales emerge.
Last night I dreamed I was in a natural-foods store buying tamari (soy sauce) in bulk. For some reason I placed an old beer bottle under the spout. As I filled the bottle, I smelled the combination of stale beer and soy sauce.
This slightly nauseating smell was still vivid in my mind as I awoke. I lost my appetite for half an hour.
Thus we need not eat in dreams to receive help dieting.
A Dream Club
Another way to remember dreams is to begin a dream club. Invite a number of friends to gather every two weeks and narrate their dreams. Everyone will keep a dream journal — or perhaps a dream sketchbook — and take turns reading from it.
Here is an interesting assignment for your dream club: write a fake dream. At the next meeting read both real and counterfeit dreams to see if people can guess which is which. For example, below are one true and one false dream. Can you distinguish them?
I must catch a plane to Paris. I am already late, and now I await a subway to take me to the airport, perhaps in New York City. A large number of people lounge on the platform. A train pulls into the station. I run toward the open doors and realize — I have no shoes! I took my shoes off while sitting and forgot them. Looking down at a shelf below the platform, I see numerous shoes and boots in rows. Should I reach down and grab a pair of boots? What if they don’t fit? And isn’t that stealing? What about my shoes? Should I abandon them forever?
I am in the Crusades, fighting in an army of Christians just north of Jerusalem. I peer through an iron visor, wear chain mail, and carry a halberd (a weapon with an axlike blade and a steel spike). A large, angry Turkish man lunges at me. I duck, then strike back. Suddenly someone calls out: “Break!” It is 3 P.M., time for tea. My enemy and I stop fighting and sit down to cups of Earl Grey.
Last night I dreamed I was in a convenience store where a woman had just baked numerous small pizza pies. They were laid out on the counter, which was reddish orange.
She told me that her boss had just called to cancel all pizza baking. These were the last pizzas she would ever prepare. She was distraught.
As we spoke, I began to eat one of the pizzas. It was not particularly tasty — doughy and generic. But she didn’t charge me. (All dream food is free, but this food was free even within the dream.)
A bed is a shrine to the unconscious. Like a sailboat, it can propel you to Madagascar. If you take special care of your bed, it will reward you with memorable dreams.
When you make your bed, bow or kneel reverently. Offer your bed kind words or prayers. Once or twice a day walk into your bedroom and thank your bed.
Notice if this improves your dreams.
Get Paid For Dreaming
In our culture value is expressed through money. Tom Cruise receives $20 million for a movie: therefore he is important. A fiddler receives $14 for a performance: thus he is unimportant.
Dreams are unpaid. For this reason we assume they are worthless.
There is a simple solution to this: Send a hundred dollars to a close friend (or perhaps your mother). Arrange that each time you successfully remember a dream, your friend (or mother) will mail you a five-dollar bill. Though this is a small sum — and your own money — you will be subconsciously convinced that dreams are valuable.
Sleeping On Cookbooks
Now that we have grown more skilled at remembering our dreams, another question arises: “How am I going to arrange for food to appear in my sleeping consciousness?”
One answer is to place a cookbook under your pillow before you bed down for the night, allowing the recipes to seep into your dreams.
Begin with basic cookbooks; then move on to more exotic fare, such as Victorian Picnic Salads. If, one Thursday, you are in the mood for Mexican, place Viva Mexico!, by Juan Saloso, under your pillow. If there is a particular food you’d like — for example, tacos — place a bookmark at that page.
Be adventurous. Try new foods in your dreams. Dishes you may not enjoy in real life can taste wonderful while you’re asleep.
If cookbooks don’t work, use takeout menus or even business cards from restaurants. Or simply cut out photographs of recipes from Family Circle or Gourmet.
Warning: You may not always receive the food you want in your dream life. Despite sleeping on top of Szechuan Holiday, you may find yourself eating spaghetti with olives. Dream eating is not an exact science — at least, not yet!
A Table Setting
For some the best way to induce meal dreams is to lay out a dinner setting next to the bed. On a tray or small table place a plate, fork, knife, spoon, and napkin in the proper positions. (See The Etiquette of Dining, by Gail A. Florence, for help.) If you have the habit of blessing a meal, you may perform your benediction. (For some reason it is extremely unusual to say grace in a dream.)
Last night in my dream I was eating cake mixed with Jell-O. The cake was brown and tasted of cinnamon. The Jell-O was red — probably strawberry. I ate quickly, compulsively, barely noticing the taste of my dessert. Nonetheless I woke up satiated.
In real life Jell-O is forbidden to me for two reasons: it is made from animal byproducts, and it contains sugar. But I may eat any dessert in my dreams.
I fast every week, from Thursday evening to Friday evening. I have been doing this since 1975. I also fast every two weeks, on the third day before the new moon and the third day before the full moon. (This latter practice is suggested by my yoga group, the Ananda Marga Society.) Fasting becomes easy, I have found, if one pursues it regularly. Your body begins to “think forward” to the next fast.
When I fast, I am more likely to eat in my subsequent dream. Nonetheless I cannot legally recommend fasting to you. You must make this decision on your own with the aid of trusted medical advisors.
What Is Food?
When I was a boy, people ate out of duty. Science had decreed that certain foods — say, lima beans or carrots boiled in a pot — contained the vital elements necessary for life. We solemnly ingested these nutrients while gathered with our family around a table.
Today we eat for pleasure. Food must be enjoyable, lively, and fun! We sit in front of the flat-screen TV and watch our favorite show — Lost — while munching ranch-flavored Doritos. We cannot imagine eating boring food on purpose.
What is enjoyment if not a mental reflex, an interior condition of the mind? Food happiness is not found within the molecules of potato chips. It is found within the self. One day you eat shrimp lo mein and are almost furious with delight. Two days later you order it again at the same restaurant, and it tastes bland and oily. It’s the same dish. The difference is one of mental attitude.
If pleasure derives from the mind, dream food is just as pleasurable as waking food.
The Conservation Of Pleasure
We have too many pleasures in the U.S. We’ve become bored and irritable. You may call me a total conservative, but I say, “Limit your pleasures!”
Luckily there is Sparrow’s Law of Conservation of Pleasure. It is based on the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed.
Sparrow’s Law says you are destined to have a certain amount of pleasure in life. You may use it all up during the day, or you may avoid many pleasures while awake and enjoy them at night in your dreams.
After you awaken from an eating dream, lie in bed as long as possible, remembering the texture and flavor of your dream food. In particular, observe the subtle tastes beneath the main taste. You will need this information for your dream-recipe journal.
Try to recreate the preparation of the food. Write down each step and ingredient — even ones you are uncertain of.
Eventually you will have an entire cookbook composed by your Dream Chef.
Soon after I became a vegetarian, I began dreaming about eating meat. I would almost always eat chicken, usually fried. This forbidden food was succulent and tasty. Sometimes within the dream I would rationalize to myself, “It’s OK, because it’s a dream.”
To create a dream delight, simply give up a food — especially one you enjoy greatly — and wait. Within a month you will be devouring the proscribed dish in your dreams.
The laws of ordinary reality do not have to apply to dreams. In a dream you can eat bricks, sandals, or a manhole cover. You might, for example, prepare this recipe:
Light Bulb au Parfait
Pour 1/4 inch of water in a shallow pan. Add 1/8 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp sage. Gently place a 75-watt light bulb in the pan. Simmer for 12 minutes. Serve with 3 caramelized mushrooms on a bed of lettuce.
The Nature Of Dreams
Dreams are stories one cannot tell. True, in this guide I “tell” my dreams, but I am actually telling stories about my dreams; I am rendering my dreams into words. The real dreams are much more alive than my stories.
For example, last night I dreamed I was doing yoga on the floor of an insurance office. The office manager and I were conversing. She accidentally dropped her cigarette — which was lit — and I caught it while maintaining my yoga position. I didn’t burn my hand! I felt for a moment like an Olympic medalist.
But none of this happened in words. When I write “insurance office” and “office manager,” I am applying words to the wordless. I knew it was some kind of office, and the smoking woman seemed to have some authority, but in the dream I didn’t know what business was conducted there. It was a dream office. The carpet was vivid — a flat blue-green — but the purpose of the office was irrelevant. When telling a story, however, “insurance office” sounds better than “some kind of office.” Stories are about facts, while dreams are about the gesture of catching a cigarette.
Only A Dream Chicken
Last night I dreamed I was sitting at a table, eating with friends. There was a long conversation, but I can’t remember the topic. The history of Russia? A crossword puzzle? Had my house burned down, and we were discussing that?
I remember the soup clearly, however. I knew it was from a can or mix. The broth was thin — thinner than Campbell’s soup. There were vegetables in it, tiny segments of celery, and I suspected there was chicken, but I wasn’t too worried about it.
Then, to my horror, I saw several fragments of chicken floating in my bowl. I couldn’t deny that I was eating chicken soup. I was no longer a vegetarian!
Awakening, I discovered it was a dream: only a dream-chicken had died to satisfy my hunger.
Drink Your Dreams
This morning I was lying in bed, and the phrase “drink your dreams” entered my mind. What can this mean? I wondered.
Then I realized: this guide has far greater implications than I imagined. Alcoholics can simply choose to drink while dreaming. They need to abstain from alcohol only sixteen hours a day, while the other eight hours will be an intoxicating spree! Similarly, compulsive gamblers may stop betting by day and visit the swankiest casinos of Monte Carlo at night. Drug addicts may abstain by daylight and wildly overindulge in bed, with their eyes closed.
Drink your dreams! Gamble your dreams! Snort your dreams!
Dreams Are Free
Dreams are inexpensive. In fact, dreams are cheaper than inexpensive — they are free.
If you travel by private jet to the finest restaurant in Thailand — which is not in Bangkok but in the village of Nakhui, twenty miles away — and order the best dish on the menu (quo hok trai), then spend the night in a suite of Bangkok’s premier hotel, the Imperial Grove, you could easily spend $14,000 on a meal.
And yet the same repast — or an even more lavish one — may be dreamed for the price of $0.00.
Growing Your Own Dream Food
Today we are alienated from our food. No one hoes his or her own field as a thrush sings from above, then plants barley, waters it, harvests it, grinds it into meal, and bakes barley cakes — and later milks a cow, churns butter, and spreads the butter on the barley cakes. We have no time, with our crucial computer jobs, to grow each fruit, vegetable, and grain we eat.
But in your dreams you have enormous reserves of time. And you don’t need to eat three times a day in dream life; you may eat once every seventy-eight days, and your meal may be nurtured and harvested with boundless devotion. So tonight begin planting wheat, parsley, and lettuce — and feeding chickens — to produce your next dream egg-salad sandwich!
Have you ever murdered someone in your dreams? If so, you remember the admixture of emotions the moment you awoke: shock, self-loathing, and relief. That dark-haired man you killed is still alive, you realize with sudden happiness. In fact, he never lived at all! Your conscience is pristine. Yet you have experienced the grimy, complex terror of murder.
Every day around the world men and women die in wars. Many more suffer — even dogs and cats — and lose limbs. If armies could fight dream wars, all this death would be unnecessary. Every night soldiers could fight each other — and both sides could win! Dreams would replace warfare! Peace would bless humankind!
Last night, in my dream, I worked in a food warehouse. Discovering an open bag on a high shelf, I looked inside: broken cashew nuts. I scooped out a handful and ate them. They were crisp, chalky, and proteinaceous.
When I looked up, two other warehouse workers gave me suspicious looks. Perhaps I was forbidden to eat these nutritious nuts! Worried, I awoke.
Dream food may be free, but you can still steal it.
Last night I made popcorn in a dream, then poured water all over it. Popcorn will taste terrible covered with water! I thought. So I made another batch. But once more I was compelled to pour water on it.
Again and again I made popcorn and converted it to soup.
What does this mean? I worried when I awoke. I consulted Sigmund Freud’s explanation of dreams: “a dream is the [disguised] fulfillment of a [repressed] wish” [italics his]. But why do I have a subconscious urge to ruin the crunchiness of popcorn?
Dreams are mostly visual. Perhaps popcorn in water is visually engaging. I have a repressed desire to ruin the taste of popcorn by making it beautiful.
Anyway, that’s my theory.
The Golden Pear
In a dream last night I was practicing my magical powers. I walked up to a row of fruits (which happened to be floating in the air) and attempted to turn them into gold. I touched the fruits — there were six or seven of them — and willed them to transform. After several attempts, they did. Then I remembered: Damn, I wanted to eat that pear. It was perfectly ripe! (Apparently I didn’t know the “spell” for returning the fruits to their original form.)
Thus I learned: gold is less valuable than succulent fruit.