Hypnagogia, Between Waking and Sleeping

I hear coyote 2

Last night was one of those nights I woke at my witching hour and drifted between being wake and asleep.   At one point I got the urge to get up and draw, and when I finally did, I remembered the image that came to me at some point while laying in bed.  It was a girl with her arms out stretched a smaller figure tumbling off her hand to the ground.   Her other hand reached up to the sky as if to touch the stars.  When I drew it, I naturally put the tree around her, although I don’t specifically remember seeing a tree.  It was more of a feeling than a visual.

Once again, I’m not quite sure of the meaning of this visual.  Although it seems to me to be the end of one thing and the beginning of another. Perhaps the death of a self.

Nicole left a comment on my blog about the state between waking and sleeping that it’s called hypnagogia.  19th Century French Psychologist Alfred Maury came up with word meaning sleep and guide or leader.  Apparently philosophers, artists, musicians, writers and occultists  have been aware of the state and have used it creatively, to solve problems and form new ideas.  People such as Aristotle, William Blake, Beethoven and  Poe have referred to it. In this state, people see visions, hear sounds  or music or words. It’s different than dreaming in that there is no narrative.

Nicole also mentioned the word Shoshin.  A Zen idea meaning “beginners mind”, a place of openness without preconceived notions.  This seems to be the state a person is in during hypnagogia.  There’s a loss of ego, a sense of being an innocent observer or receiver.

I’ve been interested in the idea of tapping into the unconscious in my work for some time.  I’ve had experiences with visions during Shamanic work, meditation and energy work.  But this is a way for me to access that place by myself.  I realize now that occupying that space and seeing “visions”  between being awake and asleep is very natural to me.  There are times where it’s like I’m watching a movie in my mind of disconnected images that just appear before me.  I just never thought of it much before.  Being aware of what’s happening I can use it creatively in my work.  And I think, like most things, the more I do it, the more easily it will come.  It’s a wonderful new creative tool that comes from inside of me.   I’m curious to see where it will go.

7 thoughts on “Hypnagogia, Between Waking and Sleeping

  1. It’s interesting that the word hypnogogia is derived from the God ‘Hypnos.’ Who is often depicted with a branch that looks like a rod – just like your girl. I love the way art myth and dreams live together. It’s a secret language. So fascinating.

    1. It is a secret language Nicole. That’s really interesting about the rod shape. Thanks for all your good information, it’s helping to set me on a new path.

  2. When I was doing Shamanic journeying, I knew there was lots of potential there for creativity, in my case, writing. I never really did pursue any serious writing except for journaling a few of the journeys.

    1. I think there is so much there Debbie, didn’t know you did Shamanic Journeying. I think so many more people do this type of thing than I’m aware of .

  3. when looking at this image
    i see the tree & the person mirrored in/as a tree
    and i see the people falling like seeds
    seeds from a tree
    like a maple, with their spinners
    or a spruce, with the slow snow-like drifting of their spinners
    abundant sprinkling
    abundant offerings of creativity & ideas
    possibility & seeding
    Wood energy – in 5-element theory
    we all have the five elements in each of us
    one or two often are stronger in each person
    this is what i saw when i first looked at the image before reading your post
    wishing you all good things

    1. Oh Marney, That’s so different than what I was thinking. Your interpretation is mystical. It’s much deeper and comes from such a different place than I’m aware of. Your interpretation is poetry. Thank you. I’m going to be thinking about it.

  4. I kept looking at your drawing of you in the tree. It reminded me of the YA Fantasy novel Summerland and the Lodgepole, a giant tree connecting all worlds. If you ever get the chance read that book. I had the audio version read by the author Michael Chabon, he was really quite fabulous. Baseball is the central theme in the novel, besides coyote legends, inter-dimensional travel via branches of the Lodgepole in a process called “scampering.” Young children save the world by playing baseball. The main character Ethan Feld is a terrible baseball player from Clam Island, a small Washington State town. He encounters a gracious werefox, Cutbelly, who explains the Lodgepole and that Coyote is planning to destroy the Lodgepole, an event called “Ragged Rock”, by destroying Murmury Well. He takes Ethan to the Summerlands where they meet the ferishers (actually they are fairies). Coyote captures Ethan’s father and forces him to create another batch of ‘picofiber’ to poison Murmury Well. Ethan enters the Summerlands with fellow baseball team members Thor and Jennifer T. Rideout, in pursuit of his father and to prevent Ragged Rock. Thor, as it turns out can scamper between the worlds.

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