The following is excerpted from “The Art of Dreaming”, by Carlos Castaneda:
“I am going to teach you the first step to power,” don Juan said, beginning his instruction in the art of dreaming. “I’m going to teach you how to set up dreaming.”
“What does it mean to set up dreaming?”
“To set up dreaming means to have a precise and practical command over the general situation of a dream. For example, you may dream that you are in your classroom. To set up dreaming means that you don’t let the dream slip into some thing else. You don’t jump from the classroom to the mountains, for instance. In other words, you control the view of the classroom and don’t let it go until you want to.” “But is it possible to do that?” “Of course it’s possible. This control is no different from the control we have over any situation in our daily lives. Sorcerers are used to it and get it every time they want or need to. In order to get used to it yourself, you must start by doing some thing very simple. Tonight, in your dreams, you must look at your hands.” Not much more was said about this in the awareness of our daily world. In my recollection of my experiences in the second attention, however, I found out that we had a more extensive exchange. For instance, I expressed my feelings about the absurdity of the task, and don Juan suggested that I should face it in terms of a quest that was entertaining, instead of solemn and morbid. “Get as heavy as you want when we talk about dreaming,”
he said. “Explanations always call for deep thought. But when you actually dream, be as light as a feather. Dreaming has to be performed with integrity and seriousness, but in the midst of laughter and with the confidence of someone who doesn’t have a worry in the world. Only under these conditions can our dreams actually be turned into dreaming.” Don Juan assured me that he had selected my hands arbitrarily as something to look for in my dreams and that looking for anything else was just as valid. The goal of the exercise was not finding a specific thing but engaging my dreaming attention. Don Juan described the dreaming attention as the control one acquires over one’s dreams upon fixating the assemblage point on any new position to which it has been displaced during dreams. In more general terms, he called the dreaming attention an incomprehensible facet of awareness that exists by itself, waiting for a moment when we would entice it, a moment when we would give it purpose; it is a veiled faculty that every one of us has in reserve but never has the opportunity to use in everyday life.
“To ask a dreamer to find a determined item in his dreams is a subterfuge,” he said. “The real issue is to become aware that one is falling asleep. And, strange as it may seem, that doesn’t happen by commanding oneself to be aware that one is falling asleep but by sustaining the sight of whatever one is looking at in a dream.”
He told me that dreamers take quick, deliberate glances at everything present in a dream. If they focus their dreaming attention on something specific, it is only as a point of departure. From there, dreamers move on to look at other items in the dream’s content, returning to the point of departure as many times as possible.
Dreaming has to be a very sober affair. No false movement can be afforded. Dreaming is a process of awakening, of gaining control. Our dreaming attention must be systematically exercised, for it is the door to the second attention.”
“What’s the difference between the dreaming attention and the second attention?”
“The second attention is like an ocean, and the dreaming attention is like a river feeding into it. The second attention is the condition of being aware of total worlds, total like our world is total, while the dreaming attention is the condition of being aware of the items of our dreams.” He heavily stressed that the dreaming attention is the key to every movement in the sorcerers’ world. He said that among the multitude of items in our dreams, there exist real energetic interferences, things that have been put in our dreams extraneously, by an alien force. To be able to find them and follow them is sorcery.
“I’m going to repeat what you must do in your dreams in order to pass the first gate of dreaming. First you must focus your gaze on anything of your choice as the starting point. Then shift your gaze to other items and look at them in brief glances. Focus your gaze on as many things as you can. Remember that if you glance only briefly, the images don’t shift. Then go back to the item you first looked at.”
“What does it mean to pass the first gate of dreaming?”
“We reach the first gate of dreaming by becoming aware that we are falling asleep, or by having, like you did, a gigantically real dream. Once we reach the gate, we must cross it by being able to sustain the sight of any item of our dreams.”
“I can almost look steadily at the items of my dreams, but they dissipate too quickly.” “This is precisely what I am trying to tell you. In order to off set the evanescent quality of dreams, sorcerers have devised the use of the starting point item. Every time you isolate it and look at it, you get a surge of energy, so at the beginning don’t look at too many things in your dreams. Four items will suffice. Later on, you may enlarge the scope until you can cover all you
want, but as soon as the images begin to shift and you feel you are losing control, go back to your starting point item and start all over again.”
“Do you believe that I really reached the first gate of dreaming, don Juan?”
“You did, and that’s a lot. You’ll find out, as you go along, how easy it’ll be to do dreaming now.” I thought don Juan was either exaggerating or giving me incentive. But he assured me he was being on the level. “The most astounding thing that happens to dreamers,” he said, “is that, on reaching the first gate, they also reach the energy body.”
As I continued my dreaming practices, I gained the capability of being thoroughly aware that I was falling asleep as well as the capability of stopping in a dream to examine at will anything that was part of that dream’s content. To experience this was for me no less than miraculous. Don Juan stated that as we tighten the control over our dreams, we tighten the mastery over our dreaming attention.
He was right in saying that the dreaming attention comes into play when it is called, when it is given a purpose. Its coming into play is not really a process, as one would normally understand a process: an ongoing system of operations or a series of actions or functions that bring about an end result. It is rather an awakening. Something dormant becomes suddenly functional.
An Important Reminder about Setting Up Dreaming from “Magical Passes,” by Carlos Castaneda:
“….Without the emergence of dreaming attention, practitioners could aspire, at best, to have lucid dreams about phantasmagorical worlds. They could perhaps have views of worlds that generate energy, but these would make no sense to them whatsoever in the absence of an all-inclusive rationale that would properly categorize them.”