The Real Alternative

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A Little End of Summer Arts and Culture

Last night I had two scary dreams. One was that some burly stooges posing as workers for a home security company came to my childhood home to physically abduct me. I awoke startled.

The second dream had me back in university. My dorm room had been changed from a distant, satellite dorm at the edge of town to another room more central within the university village. All the books and items in the room looked vaguely familiar but not quite right. Next thing I knew, some creepy people came in, began to set up a portable operating table, and told me I was scheduled for an operation. When I asked an attendant “What operation?” she replied “I don’t know.”

Sensing serious danger, I asked to make a call and woke up, thinking I would have had to be like that guy in The Fugitive to escape something horrible.

Truly scary dreams. I hope they just mean slow down and take it easy for a while, which is what I intend to do today. Everyone else gets summer holidays and, although I’m not going anywhere physically different, I think I’ll just take in some arts and culture for a while, and post my discoveries here.

The most recent discovery is tweeted at the top of the page. I like this painting. Notice how the more important guy has better, more ostentatious clothing and bigger, more expressive eyes. What really struck me, however, was the larger globe in the picture. Fascinating how mythological creatures are intertwined with the scientific mapping (zoom in to see). We’ve lost that mythic connection to science, although some writers like James Hillman suggest that we’re just fooling ourselves. The mythic is still present and even science is a kind of mythic pattern.

I guess that’s in line with what I’ve been arguing all along here at and But as I said, it’s my holiday, of sorts, and I don’t feel like going into it any further right now!

Drawing of Mozart in silverpoint, made by Dora...

Drawing of Mozart in silverpoint, made by Dora Stock during Mozart’s visit to Dresden, April 1789 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other discovery, made last night, is something I’m listening to right now: Venice Classical Radio. I almost feel like I’m living in some little flat in Venice while listening to this excellent station. The selections are accessible but relatively uncommon. I’ve only heard one Mozart staple, which I enjoyed anyhow (pretty hard not to like Mozart).


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Seekers’ reality check – We all need one

Looking back on my life I see a funny dynamic. Many times I thought I’d found “the answer,” either through a partner, a job, a scholarship, a religious affiliation. And usually when I have found the apparent “answer” I’ve become a bit full of myself and maybe overly enthusiastic about my new path. God and life, however, have this way of auto-correcting. Stuff happens… and what a great way to regain humility.

Deep thought

Deep thought (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m thinking it’s nice that I don’t take myself as seriously as I once did. Yes, if someone steps on my toes I will still let them know. I don’t believe God wants us to be doormats.

But at the same time, getting older means that I can appreciate all the twists and turns my life has taken, and just as importantly, how everyone else is just as “valid” as me. Are just as valid as me? Whatever. I don’t feel like checking out Grammar Girl right now.🙂

The tweeted article spells out some of the reflections I’ve had over the past few years in this area. I think it does a good job.

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Do we REALLY create our own reality?

The Alchemist and the Sacredness of Following Your Dreams

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is an inspirational fable about a Spanish shepherd, Santiago, who sets out on a quixotic quest to find a treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. Along the way he learns various spiritual lessons.

Read More: The Alchemist and the Sacredness of Following Your Dreams

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Can listening to music help you sleep?


Sleep (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joseph F Chandler, Birmingham-Southern College

By now, you’ve surely heard that Americans aren’t getting enough sleep.

In our always-on society, a solid chunk of nightly rest seems, well, like a dream. We shave the edges of sleep to keep up, exchanging extra waking hours for compromised health, productivity and safety.

Despite this, we actually know how to sleep better; the list of empirically supported, low-cost, simple behavioral tweaks is extensive, whether it’s avoiding alcohol as bedtime approaches or just going to sleep at a regular hour. Though changing habitual behavior is easier said than done, one of these tweaks may be as simple as putting in your earphones and pressing play.

Recently, British composer Max Richter released an eight-hour-long composition titled Sleep, which he has described as a lullaby, meant to be listened to while sleeping.

The composition ranges from sweeping, airy selections called Dream to the heavy, trance-inducing Space sequence. Indeed, it is an ambitious, impressive piece of conceptual art. But could it actually improve your sleep?

Conflicting results

Research on improving sleep with music is filled with methodological mistakes.

Self-reported sleep quality – the metric of choice for many music studies – often doesn’t correlate with objective measures of sleep: people will often think they’ve gotten a good night’s sleep (best defined as an unmedicated, uninterrupted night somewhere between seven and ten hours). But in many cases, they haven’t.

On the other hand, when objective measures are used (like the industry standard Polysomnography), true control groups (like a placebo group in a drug trial) are often left out.

With these drawbacks in mind, it’s easy to understand why the literature reads as equivocal. Some studies claim music can have a positive effect on sleep quality, while others cite no objective benefit.

A recent, methodologically sound meta-analysis reported an overall positive effect of music for improving sleep in those with a sleep disorder. This is promising, but even the article’s authors admit that more precise work is needed to reach a clear conclusion.

A carefully choreographed cycle

Perhaps the answer is hidden in a more basic question. Given the way sleep is structured, can music even influence it to begin with?

The answer is yes and no.

Sleep is not a gentle slide into unconsciousness. Rather, it’s a complicated ride into an alternate conscious state, where reality is actively created from internal information, rather than external sensation.

That transition from “outside” to “inside” happens in four distinct steps. The sleep process manifests as a non-REM (NREM) phase (which is divided into three parts: NREM 1, 2 and 3) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM).

Imagine you’ve turned on Richter’s full Sleep composition and have just gotten into bed. As your eyes get heavy and your attention wanders, you are entering early NREM 1 sleep. You are deeply relaxed. This lasts for a few minutes.

A selection from Sleep’s Dream sequence.

At this point, the research suggests that Richter’s work may be having an effect; anything that contributes to your relaxation will help induce NREM 1 sleep. Richter’s Sleep certainly has relaxing qualities, like many of the classical pieces often used in music and sleep research.

As you continue to relax, your brain begins to exhibit what are called “organized theta waves,” which slowly switch attention channels from the outside environment to internal cues. At this point, you may feel as if you’re floating or lightly dreaming; if someone says your name insistently enough you may still respond. This lasts about 10 minutes, after which K-complexes and sleep spindles appear in your brain wave pattern.

This is where it gets tricky. K-complexes and sleep spindles – brief bursts of high activity on an otherwise slowing brain wave pattern – actively shield external stimuli. That is, during this stage your brain purposefully blocks the reception of and response to outside sensory information.

This hallmark of NREM 2 sleep means that, for all intents and purposes, you are no longer hearing Richter’s work. The auditory cortex is still receiving the sounds, but the thalamus – essentially the call center of the brain – stops the signal before any memories or sense can be made of the music.

NREM 2 lasts for about 20 minutes. Then your brain waves become very slow and very organized. These are called delta waves, and they indicate NREM 3: a state of near-complete nonresponsiveness to the external world. After 30 minutes of NREM 3, you briefly travel back up into the lighter stages of sleep, at which point you may again hear the composition. In fact, if it’s loud enough, unusual ambient noises at this point may actual wake you up, disturbing the carefully choreographed cycle.

With time, all external stimuli slip away, and you recede into your dreams.

If you remain asleep, however, you quickly slip into the REM portion of the cycle: your body becomes paralyzed, and your external senses get rewired to pay exclusive attention to your memories. You are essentially awake, but feeding off an internally derived reality to create the crazy dreams associated with REM. At this point I could walk into your room, call your name loudly and leave without you even knowing I was there. In other words, the external world – including what is being piped through your headphones – doesn’t matter for those amazing few minutes of REM sleep.

As the night goes on, the cycle will repeat itself many times, and each time the proportion of REM will become greater. By the end of the night, you are spending most of your time in your own internally created universe, for which the current external world has no bearing. For a grand total of 60 minutes of the eight-hour period, you will be able to hear Mr Richter’s beautiful work. The rest of the time, only your memories matter.

So for all its merits, can Max Richter’s Sleep help you sleep? The answer is probably yes: it could make falling asleep easier. But you’ll be missing most of the show.

The Conversation

Joseph F Chandler, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Birmingham-Southern College

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Dreams about sex and sexual activities and how to interpret their meaning

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Dreams containing sex with all its elements and exciting details may seem as a fun and enjoyable story telling when you try to find the meaning of sex dreams. Many dream interpretation sites offer descriptions and interpretations which are promises of finding a sex partner, having flirtatious and uncomplicated sex life and your popularity when it comes to sex and pleasure seeking. The important difference with our approach to your sexual dreams is finding keywords for circumstances surrounding your particular sex dream visions and experiences.

A long-established approach in interpretation of dreams containing sexual activities has been in uncovering the sexual underpinnings and hidden meanings in what a sex dream was about. This has been practiced extensively by such famous psychologists as Sigmund Freud, Loff and Miller. However, when applied to finding an answer to what your specific dream containing sex may mean to you, can at times become a tedious and complicated search. There are apparent differences in how males and females dream (and react to dreams) based on psychological research and dream interpretation theory.

According to surveys, 12 of male and 4 of female dreams are related to sexual activities and experiences. This finding correlates with real-life tendencies among the two genders, men are more often preoccupied with sex-related behavioral patterns than women. According to the famous psychologist William Domhoff, (‘Finding Meaning in Dreams’), males exhibit 93 response rate in engaging in sexual activities and 7 of watching other perform sexual act, while women tend to have 68 and 32 of the corresponding response trends.

This finding proves that women, while sex-dreaming, tend to alienate themselves from participating in sexual activities, while men most definitely want to see themselves actively participating in this experience. This can also be explained by the fact, that men experience orgasmic relief during their sleep (especially younger males) than women. It can also point to the common taboo placed on women overall regarding their expression of sexual desires by society.

English: Lubok-style cover of a Russian dream ...

Lubok-style cover of a Russian dream book. The book is solemnly named The Dream-Book, or an Interpretation of Dreams by Sundry Egyptian and Indian Savants and Astronomers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another important factor related to analyzing sex-related dreams is in significance of images and symbols appearing in our sex-containing dreams. We intentionally hide our sexual desires and behavioral tendencies, especially when at a younger age, and our subconscious tries to make these feelings and emotions more visible and apparent to us. This is exactly what Freudian theory about has been tirelessly trying to propagate as applied to personality characteristics.

Sexual symbolism in Freud’s theory is a predominant component to explain motivations and desires that may be an outcome of a particular dream that a person had and wants to know what it could mean relative to their life. Dreams containing sex symbols are not necessarily the way to experience or be involved in physical sexual activities on subconscious level. These dreams can also be a reflection of how you treat other people around you and how others perceive you when you communicate with them. To find a perfect dream interpretation answer for your sex dreams is to identify the details and specifics hidden inside you sex-related dream.

Some sex-containing dreams are plainly romantic in nature. The scenarios for these kinds of dreams can vary, but the most common features are a very attractive sexual partner, mostly fantasy-based individuals, close to you or those unattainable kinds, but still the affection and desire to be with this person fully manifest themselves.

Other dreams containing sex are not as romantic and pleasant. These can include visions which the dreamer becomes very uncomfortable with, hurt by or worried about: rape, incest, loss of virginity and so on. These kinds of dreams need more detailed approach and usually require a survey answered by the person to isolate cause of this dream and analyze dream symbols in more detail, this feature will become available on our site shortly.

When you are trying to analyze you sex-related dream on your own, try to determine the true cause of discomfort or unpleasantness; who is the person you are engaged in a sexual contact with? Is it a friend, a colleague or some fictional personality? Is the act of having sex forced on you, is it consensual? Where did it take place? Was it a public place or in your own bed? Maybe the sexual partner in your dream reminds you of some of your friends or people you know?

Museum of Modern Art Henri Rousseau. The Dream...

Museum of Modern Art Henri Rousseau. The Dream, 1910 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many sex-related dreams are manifestation of our ambiguous nature and indecisiveness when we long for things we cannot have in real life and by dreaming about these things we subconsciously express our dissatisfaction about our current situation. Dreams about sex an also tell us about the way we treat people around us, depending on circumstances we face in our everyday life.

Sex-related dreams can represent the beginning of self-discovery and uncovering hidden aspects of your psychological profile and pave the way to a better understanding of you traits and behavior you may exhibit without even knowing it.

About the Author

Alex B – Looking for instant interpretation of your dreams? Try our Instant Dream Interpretation engine with thousands of descriptions of what your…


Simple Ideas for Daily Happiness

Image via Tumblr

By Lee Neale

There is nothing particularly new or exciting about the following list. In fact, it’s little more than the mental laundry list that I stick on my refrigerator somewhere between the electricity bill and the pizza menus. Much of this is age-old wisdom, some reworked for the tech age. I’m sure most of it will be quite familiar. However, it’s always good to give ourselves a little reminder that happiness doesn’t just grow on trees; that it needs to be nourished with a little reflective day to day self-awareness.

1. Count your blessings daily. Focusing your energy on the good things in life brings more of them to you.

2. Learn to love yourself as you are. Perfection is an illusion. At every level of being we are in ceaseless flow and change. Embrace a lack of perfection and even revel in some occasional chaos. Crisis is Mother Nature’s way of saying hi!

3. Connect more deeply with your five senses. For example, when you are eating a meal forget everything and be right there with the meal: soak in the colours, savour the tastes, smells and textures. Feel the energy, warmth and nutrition as the food becomes one with your body. Thank the Earth for sharing this blessing.

4. Remember that true power lies within and not over others.

5. Compliment people on their positive qualities. Kindness shared is kindness received.

6. Happiness is a choice: seek out positive alternative opinions to balance out your worldview. There are an abundance of positively oriented news sites popping up all over the web.

7. Reflect critically on the true level of danger you are experiencing. Look out your window. Unless you’re living in a war zone, it’s likely you’ll see a pretty peaceful scene. That peace in the present moment is your reality: work with that, not the latest crime statistics.

8. The thoughts you go to sleep with have a big influence on your waking life. Visualising images of success, prosperity, happiness, generosity, love and kindness as you drift off into sleep, can have a profound effect on improving the quality of your day to day experience. Over an extended period, this practice can be a major life-changer.

9. Forgiveness: do you really want to keep carrying around the luggage of other people’s mistakes in your head? … NO, SO LET IT GO!

10. If you want to see more of something in the world, take responsibility for expressing it to others first. Want to see more tenderness then be kinder, more generosity then give more, more love then be loving. When you connect with these things within yourself, then you will naturally find them present in what is around you.

11. Make a habit of going out of your way for somebody. Even one small act of mindfulness can work wonders. The universe has an endearing habit of repaying you in unexpected and useful ways.

12. Time is the most precious gift you can ever give. Spend less time shopping for people and actually share that time with the person instead. Give them a laugh, a massage, a hug, an ear, cook with them or share one of their hobbies. No amount of luxury items can replace your presence in the eyes of a friend or loved one.

13. Praise and reward people for their effort and not for the success or failure of that effort. Especially children!

14. Social media is designed to enhance social life, not replace it. Balance social media time with real face to face interactions. Turn off the tech for a little while each day and be fully present with friends and family, especially at shared meal times.

15. Feng Shui your PC: shed psychological baggage by clearing your cyberspaces. How much mental clutter is lingering on your computer devices in the form of old emails, cached data, temporary downloads and unused files. Deep cleaning removes blockages from your online expression, which can stimulate more clarity, purpose and creativity in life.

16. Set aside time each day for just being instead of doing. Stop chasing the world. Sit still, relax, forgive, let it all go, be still and breathe deeply!

17. Spend time with animals, nature and children: they are treasure troves of wisdom on the art of being human.

18. Try to see life less as a problem to be solved, exploited or overcome and more of a mystery to be creatively enjoyed, explored and shared. In a word: PLAY!

19. Randomize aspects of your life to open up new energy and creativity. Do things that are out of character: take a different direction to or from work, explore different artistic tastes or food, try to consider different points of view.

20. If you can’t get to nature, bring it to you. Let more fresh air and sunshine into your living or working spaces. Bring in plants, play soothing music and spread delicious aromas.

21. Write a list of your very own happiness tips and stick them somewhere you can see them every day! Share them with your friends.

About the Author

Lee Neale is the founder of Shama Gaia. He’s an Australian-born sociologist, language teacher and Shamanic healer living in Japan.