G. Scott Sparrow, EdD, LPC, LMFT

Counseling and Mentoring Services

Galantamine Study Results Soon to be Published

I have been working with my colleagues Ryan Hurd (John F. Kennedy University and founder of www.dreamstudies.org and Dr. Ralph Carlson (my stats guru at UTRGV) on writing up the results of our study testing the impact of combining meditation and dream reliving (M/DR) with the ingestion of galantamine. 73 people volunteered for the ambitious eight-night study that involved getting up around 3 am and spending 40 minutes doing a variety of activities. While it would take too long to summarize the entire data, suffice to say that the integrated protocol (M/DR+galantamine) performed better overall than galantamine alone, but wasn't significantly better than galantamine alone. The two galantamine conditions (with and without meditation and dream reliving) blew away the baseline and placebo conditions on six measures--lucidity, reflectiveness (regardless of lucidity), interaction, role/status changes, constructive action, and the presence of fear/threat--showing us just how effective galantamine is.  M/DR+G was especially high on reflectiveness and fear/threat.

What was surprising is that fear/threat in dreams was higher, not lower, in the galantamine conditions. In our earlier study, based entirely on participants' recollection of their prior use of galantamine, they recalled that their dreams were lower, not higher on the presence of fear, threat and violence (we measured them separately in that study).

Our thinking is that using galantamine has a global positive impact, but that the actual content of dreams, when assessed immediately afterward, shows more fear/threat. The M/DR+G condition showed the greatest elevation of fear/threat, which makes sense in that dream reliving involves reliving a nightmare in fantasy as if one is lucid, and seeing it unfold in a more positive way. By itself, M/DR should increase nightmare content, but in a way that facilitates resolution. So the quantitive measures don't tell us the whole story, by any means. We will need to look at the specific phenomenology of the dreams to see if, indeed, the dreamers are working through the outwardly distressing dream content.

You might not know it, but all of the effective cognitive interventions for trauma resolution involve re-exposure to the original trauma or nightmare, and the reprocessing of the memory so that the level of distress is reduced. Our hope is that M/DR+G may create an optimal dream state for the re-engagement and resolution of unfinished business in general, and trauma in particular. It's an exciting research agenda, and I will be updating you as we find out more.

Visit to Another Star System?

I haven't posted in a while, but I have been continuing my personal exploration of lucid dreaming/out of body experiences. I have had to start recording them on my recorder, since some of them are too long to writ out  Here's one that was particularly memorable and in the spirit of the last posting:

I meditate and return to bed, and begin to hear the gift waves after a while. I roll out, and move up into the darkness. It takes quite a while before I see anything, but a dome of stars appears. Below me I can see a valley and lights, but the scenery is still fairly dark. Suddenly I emerge into an outdoor scene where people are singing a rousing, primitive-sounding song. It’s still fairly hard as I walk through the crowd. A man comes up to me, takes my hands to greet me, and then rubs them, saying, ‘You must be cold from your travel.’

I leave there, and fly upward into the darkness again, this time emerging in another outdoor scene, more brightly lit. People are everywhere, going about their lives. I see stores, and greenery and the scene seems quite peaceful. But I don’t feel that I’ve arrived at where I need to be. So I fly upward again, passing into darkness until I emerge in a beautiful, brightly lit world, which I understand to be another planet in another star system. A young man greets me and gives me a tour of various displays that depicts aspects of his world. Finally, I ask him if anyone has been able to solve the problem of interstellar travel, by working around the limit imposed by Einstein’s theory of relativity. He said that a race of people—the Talens—had solved the problem. He began to describe the solution mathematically, but I laughed and told him that his efforts would be futile. 

Then I asked him if he knew of earth. He paused and look thoughtful. Then he said, “Yes, but it’s very far away.” He went on the add, “Someone should be going there before long.”


Journeys to Proxima Centauri

I’d like to share with you some OOBE experiences I have had over the past couple of years. I hadn’t put them together, but during one of them a couple of weeks ago, I was saying goodbye to a man who I was ostensibly visiting on another planet. I asked him if he knew of Earth, and he said yes, that he’d been there. I then asked him how far away it was from his star system. He said, “52 lunar circles.” When I woke up, I realized that he could have been telling me how far, in terms of light years, which meant 52 lunar cycles, or exactly four light years. I remembered reading that a possibly inhabitable planet had been discovered, so I researched it to find that Proxima B, in the star system of Proxima Centauri, is about 4 light years away. 

There were two other OOBEs from earlier—both over an hour long, and ostensibly on another planet where I spent time with various humanoid beings in an earth like environment, but I never considered the experiences literal in any way. In one, I stood on a hillside with an old woman and a boy at the end, and looked up at their sky, where I saw three suns. When it was over, I thought, “That’s got to be symbolic,” and I dismissed the literal possibilities. Then, in another very long experience in which I spent a long time with a woman and her daughter on another planet (both of whom looked human, but had a feathery-like, retractable organ above their heads that permitted them to "read me." The daughter then asked me if I would be her teacher, but I explained that I was from a different world (which she seemed to know). After saying goodbye to them, a man accompanied me to a place from which I could return to my body and planet. I asked him what it was like to live on his planet. He said, “The seasons are very stable, and the sun never sets.”

What blew my mind was finding out later from my research, that if one were to stand on the surface of Proxima B, he would see the double star of Alpha Centauri, as well as Proxima Centauri—three suns! And what’s more, astronomers believe that Proxima B always faces Proxima Centauri—it circles the star very 11 days, and (similar to our moon) has a light and dark side.

What are the chances that all of these things could be literally true of an actual star and planet? I thought you’d get a kick out of this. Stay tuned to more (apparent) excursions beyond the body!

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Out-of-Body Journeys

I haven't written about my recent explorations of the out-of-body realms, because there is so much to write down that I don't have time to do it. Last night was a representative experience, and might be of interest to you. I awoke at 4:30 after going to bed around 11, which was the "sweet spot" for meditation in the middle of the night--4-5 hours after going to bed. I took galantamine--8 mg--and meditated for a while before drifting off. It wasn't long before I was lucid and flying low over an unfamiliar terrain. It was difficult at first to remain buoyant, and as I flew across a highway, I was too low to avoid an oncoming car. The driver stopped as I touched down and then lifted off again. I moved upward into the sky, and all imagery disappeared for a while. As I traveled through a gray emptiness, I meditated and prayed, waiting. Then, finally, the gray began to give way to vivid sky and lush terrain below me. A young man flew up to me and greeted me. He said that he was my guide. So we held hands and proceeded to fly further south. He advised me to breathe deeply in order to overcome the gravity and sluggishness. Soon we were speeding through the sky.

We came down eventually amid crowds of people, and went inside a large building. As I stood beside him, I decided to ask him his name. I said, "Who are you?" I leaned closer so I could hear his answer. He said nothing, but rather blew air in my ear, as if to say, that's a silly question. My name does not matter. I got it, and turned my attention to the people around me. I met up with a family who showed interest in me, and seemed to understand that I was from another realm. They were very warm toward me, and the daughter, who seemed around 40, felt familiar and soulfully connected with me. We spent time in a crowd who were gathered around a gourmet cook who was preparing a special meal, and who gave out samples. I was aware that I could not eat, though, so it was awkward to pretend to do so. When I said goodbye to the family, it was with some sadness, because I knew that we would probably never see each other again. The woman and I looked at each other, and bid farewell with a certain existential recognition that such meetings are fleeting and impermanent, but richly rewarding.

At some point, I was with another woman, and said, "You know, don't you, that I am not from this realm, that my body is a projection into your world." She seemed puzzled, and dazed by the disclosure, so I backed off and enjoyed the fellowship.

I came back to bed for a while, because my back was hurting. After turning over, I relaxed and soon found myself fully conscious and back in the same realm. I spent some time with another woman who introduced me to a female teacher/friend, who looked Indian, and who had a charismatic presence. She greeted me with enthusiasm, and then we parted after a brief visit. Finally, I turned to a large picture window and floated toward it. I saw the family with whom I had spent time earlier, but I did not look their way, knowing that we'd already said goodbye, and that it would hurt too much. I passed through a picture window, and floated above a crowd of people. I started to breathe deeply, and rise up into the sky, until finally I returned to my body intentionally.

In many ways, this experience was unremarkable. But I have had so many spiritual encounters in the lucid dream/out-of-body state that I am always interested in making myself available to it. One never knows when an opportunity to bless another soul, or to receive a blessing, will arise during these inexplicable, and yet natural-feeling states of awareness. They break up the tension of ordinary life, and remind me that there's much more than the latest news, the most familiar worry, or the ever-present sense of mortality.

Through Darkness to Your Soul's Sincere Desire

Last  year, I had to opportunity to travel to the Seychelles off the east coast of Africa to flyfish. While my group was sequestered on the main island of Mahi, we sat together on the evening before the final leg of our journey, sharing dreams, of all things. They had learned that I was a dream analyst, and so the conversation shifted to the "universal language" of dream sharing. As we talked, we discovered that all four of us had experienced the same nighttime phenomenon--awakening around 2-3 am in a state of intense worry. We were astounded that each of us, without exception, had frequently spent a good part of the time weathering the unique bleakness that seems to descend on the human psyche in the middle of the night. One of the men asked, "What is it about 2 am?" That question became a topic of conversation not only that evening, but at various times during our week together.

Oddly enough, when I was a young man, fresh with hope and visions of a glorious future, the same period of the night was a time of deep peace and spiritual centering. It was then that I began to follow the advice of the late, great psychic Edgar Caye when he urged people to meditate during of the middle of the night in order to discover "a peace you've never known." For almost 45 years, the middle of the night meditation has been a wellspring of inspiration and mystical experience. Indeed, it probably accounts for the lucid dreams that gave rise to my book, Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light, as well as my other four books, all of which are filled with experiences that came to me at that darkest hour of the night.

Despite the worry that sometimes afflicts me during that period of the night, the "peace you've never known" is still available if I'm willing to persist in my meditation, and get through the ordeal that often awaits me. Just this last night, in fact, I woke up at 3:30, and decided to meditate, even though I felt the weight of the world, and my own demons hammering at me. I sat up, and commenced praying and meditating for over half an hour before experiencing the relief that comes when my greater self asserts itself once again.

In contrast to the sheer darkness of mood that confronted me upon awakening, the dream that ensued upon my return to sleep was simply glorious. It was a lucid dream that lasted about an hour. During the experience, I found myself in a luminous realm, full of kind people and resplendent scenes. It is too much to recount here, but to give you and example of what transpired there, I encountered an artisan who had created a sculpture made from crystal and stone and precious gems that had the image of the Sphinx on one side of it. I picked it up and held it up to the light, and the colors were iridescent and lit from within. Everywhere around me I could see similar creations, fashioned by master artisans. So much more happened that I cannot adequately describe. But suffice to say that if you want to get through the darkness of your life, consider committing yourself to this kind of practice. I feel confident that if you persist, you will be amply rewarded by your "soul's sincere desire," whatever that may be.

A Two-Hour Lucid Dream/Out of Body Experience

I awoke at 3:45 and instead of meditating as I often do. I took 8 mg. of galantamine, and went back to bed. I laid on my back and meditated for a while, and before falling asleep I felt the energy that comes just before separating from the body. It was mild at first, so I meditated on it, which is very pleasant, and felt it building. I sat up at one point, but felt my physical body still holding on, so I meditated a bit longer, and then rolled over and I was free. I stood at the foot of my bed in the darkness, at first, then turned and flew threw the wall toward the west.

It remained entirely dark, and I could see nothing of color, light, or form. So I meditated, knowing that my visual field would eventually "light up" and I'd find myself in a new place. After a while, I saw slivers of blue sky, then suddenly I was out of the darkness, flying above a wilderness area. It seemed I was over a river valley, heading south. I went down to the ground and walked along the edge a meadow. I heard crashing in the woods off to my left, so I stopped and waited. I wasn't sure if they were bears, or what. Then I saw two large dark shapes appear through the trees. I felt that they knew me from some earlier time--I wasn't afraid--so I approached. As I got closer, I could see that they weren't bears at all, but beings whom I recognized and knew from some past experience. They were avocado green, four-legged animals with a shiny, smooth, but tough and weathered skin. The closest one was a dear old friend, and I went up to him (I knew it be to a male) and greeted him like a long lost friend. I put my arms around his head and held him for a long time. We loved each other deeply. His wife and child came up, as well. The child, which was about the size of a large dog, did not know me, but was curious and playful. I reflected silently on how one would describe these beings.  I thought they were probably live-bearing mammals with no hair, which I knew to be a contradiction.

Either they morphed into humanoids, or there was a segment that I forgot. But the rest of the interpersonally rich and intimate experience took place in a village of humans, with whom I was similarly connected through some kind of past association. I was welcomed into one man's home, where I visited with him, his wife, and several other friends. We hiked onto a nearby mountain at one point, and walked along a high ridge, overlooking another valley. The scenery was exquisitely beautiful, and there did not seem to be much settlement in the area. As we walked along the high ridge, one of my companions cautioned me because were near a cliff. I laughed and told him I could fly. To show him, I sailed down a slope, barely above the ground, and then whirled and spun around just above the ground all around the group. They were delighted.

At one point, I was taking a nap (of all things), and a group of children came to visit. I was unclothed beneath the covers, so I asked for my clothes so I could get up with exposing myself. I dressed beneath the covers and joined the group.

The experience lasted so long that I was able to accompany the father on a hike to a place where an older man, who fixed boats, could assist him in repairing his motor. The man accompanied us back to the house, and there was a moment where I actually gave the old man a stick of gum I was carrying.

Although the experiences sound rather pedestrian, the experience was filled with interpersonal richness, and deep love between us. Toward the end, the father and a couple of younger men and I were walking to a lake where we intended to take two boats out fishing. But as we approached the water's edge, I worried that I'd been out of my body for so long that it was possible (but not likely) that Julie could be unable to revive me. I was also thinking that it could be late in the morning. So I told them it was time for me to leave. I hugged each of them, and telling them each that I loved them. They responded with such affection! They were sad to see me go. At that point, I just bowed my head and closed my eyes. It was hard at first to leave, but finally I could feel my body lying in the bed facing Julie. I was back, and 2 hours and 15 minutes had passes since I'd closed my eyes (and never gone unconscious).

Freeing the Mockingbird

I got up at 3 am last night, and went into the den with a cup of hot coffee and sat in the dark. No phone, not laptop, nothing but my own presence and my mug of steaming coffee. I planned to meditate and go back to sleep, hoping for a deep dream. But for a while, I just sat there, feeling the comforting darkness. I thought of how invisible I was to everyone, even to those who love me. They were asleep, unaware of my middle-of-the-night vigil. I thought of all of the people with whom I had some sort of relationship--old friends, students, counseling and flyfishing clients, and Facebook friends. And my thoughts settled on the people who had friended me on Facebook, most of whom I really do not know. I thought of how we share slivers of ourselves with virtual strangers, hoping to connect in some meaningful way, and I marveled at the energy behind this immense effort, which from one standpoint is a rather feeble and pointless effort at relating. What do we really know of each other, anyway? But then I reflected on the dreams that I'd shared recently, and how people came out of the silence to make comment on one or more of them. The dreams provoked a conversation that the mere posting of a quote or a photo had not done.

Mark Blagrove, one of the presenters at the upcoming first Online Dream Research Conference (www.iasdreamresearch.org) will be reporting on an empirical study that supports the idea that sharing dreams differs from ordinary sharing--that something is activated in dream sharing that produces an altogether different level of connection with oneself and others. Similarly, Montague Ullman used to say that he believed that dream sharing had evolved to forge interpersonal connections, to build community in a way that bypassed the barriers and pretense of ego-to-ego exchanges.

As I sat in the darkness, I realized that dream sharing is one road to our salvation; that is, a way to heal the deep divisions between us. I then meditated for half an hour, then went back to sleep and had two dreams, both of which provide additional perspective that dreams may save us from ourselves.

In one, I am with several members of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. We are at a conference, and it seems that we are all shedding our clothing in some kind of ritual. As we strip down to our nakedness, I feel exhilarated. I say, "Now I know what people become nudists!" It was as if we have reached a level of sharing heretofore unachieved. It was deeply fulfilling to be there at home and revealed to my friends. 

In another, I see a paper plane, with a rectangular fuselage. It has a mocking bird imprisoned within it. The plane can fly, but the bird within it has been imprisoned, and is near death. Its wings are pinned to its body. I begin to carefully dismantle the fuselage, removing a harness from the bird's head and beak, and then lifting its body from a pool of feces and water. I hold up a container of clear water for it to drink from, and it plunges its beak into the clear water and drinks deeply. I know that the bird will survive with some additional care.

Of course, these dreams are about me. But they also provide a metaphorical perspective on what we do to ourselves. We remain closed off, parcelling out slivers of ourselves to virtual strangers without taking the leap of sharing our souls. And we imprison our natural soulfulness inside artificial structures that are supposed to take its place. If we're going to connect deeply, we need a way to reveal natural selves. And if we are going to soar to our destined heights, we must release ourselves from the artificial prisons that have become substitutes for true flight.

But will we be safe in doing so? Certainly there are always risks in sharing who we really are. And who can define what that looks like? I suggest to you that our dreams can be our emissaries of truth, capable of bringing soulfulness into relationship without artifice and pretense. They are shrouded sufficiently in metaphorical language to protect our lives from direct exposure, but they are rooted in our depths sufficiently to circumvent the ego's constant cleverness and aim to impress.

So let's share dreams with strangers and with our friends alike. Doing so could save us from shallow conversations about our differences, and introduce a surprising sense of what unites us.

Confrontation with the Shadow

In an hour-long lucid dream after meditating at 4:30 am, I was exploring a beautiful realm and had met and said goodbye to some interesting people before flying to the next place. I then came upon a group of men who were doing something terrible. It was not clear to me exactly what, but they didn't like the fact that I knew they were up to no good, and so they got their weapons out to kill me. I wasn't afraid, of course, knowing I could return to my own world at will. As they circled me, I looked at one of them in the eye, and said "I know the one who rules this place. I know the one who has dominion here. And I can see the fear in your eyes." I turned to the next one, and said again, "I can see the fear in your eyes." One of them retorted, "What do you mean? What can you see?" Then I realized that the best thing I could do to "wake them up" would be for me to leave. So I forced myself out of the dream. It was hard, because I was in so deep. But finally I was back in bed. A few minutes, later, however, I returned to where I'd been, and I saw the men walking down the street as a group, sober, clean shaven, and making efforts to help others. I could see worry in their faces, as if they were intent on doing good now. Maybe they were just unruly parts of myself that I was waking up, which is a sobering reminder of the power of unconscious forces, if not also the divisions between us.

Flying with the Shadow

Like everyone I know, I am deeply concerned about what is happening in the world, in Nice, Orlando, Paris, and wherever there is violence. It is hard to know what one person can do about it, other than work on myself to understand my own shadow side, wherein lies my own capacity for destructiveness and anger over real or perceived wrongs. Sometimes I think my focus on dream work may seem a bit indulgent in such a world. But then again, I know how important it is for us to tame our own inner demons. Just yesterday morning, I was in a long lucid dream when a group of young men approached me and threatened me. I knew I could leave the dream, or defeat them, but instead I approached the nearest one, and asked him, "Would you like to go flying?" I took him by the arm, and began to lift him in the air. His buddies grabbed hold, one by one, until there was a line of guys rising into the sky. Their faces were rapt with surprise and delight lit up by the morning sun. I took them back to the ground, and our relationship was transformed. They laughed and ran to tell others. Were they actual people or parts of myself, or some combination thereof? Who can ever know? But it's something we can do and feel good about.

Sojourns Beyond the Body

I stopped writing about my lucid dreams/OOBE's last fall, mainly because real life became so demanding that my nighttime practice fell off somewhat. But recently, I have returned to a fairly regular practice of middle-of-the-night meditation as a supplement to my early morning meditation. As a part of this middle-of-the-night regimen, I usually take 8 mg. of galantamine (an over-the-counter supplement derived from various lilies, including the snow drop lily) immediately upon awakening so that by the time I return to sleep, it's doing its job of increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in my brain. I still marvel that a slight increase in a neurotransmitter involved in cognitive processing can have such dramatic effects on my dreams--as well as my performance at the bridge table! But then again, it rarely induces lucid dream without the meditation beforehand. Not for me, at least.

This morning was pretty typical. I got up at 5:30, meditated for about half an hour til I got sleepy, and then laid back down. Within a few minutes, I was suddenly flying up through blackness. I meditated as I flew upward, and waited for imagery to appear. The last time I did this, a few days ago, the same thing happened, and I expected to see the earth below me at some point. But I suddenly found myself swimming in an expanse of luminous water before I emerged into a terrestrial setting.

This morning, however, I did not find myself in water, but rather in a beautiful woodland scene with people all around. I went from place to place--usually flying as I went--and speaking with people I encountered. One woman even prepared food for me even though she knew I was "from another place" and would soon be leaving and obviously could not eat with her. At another point, I took off and a little girl grabbed my foot; so I flew up in the air with her before taking her gently back to the ground. So much happened over the course of almost an hour (I intentionally brought myself back at about 7 am) that I don't have enough time to share all of it.

Throughout the experience, however, I would look for the Light in all of its various forms--bright light fixtures, the sun, the moon, and other sources of radiance. As I have found for the past 40 years, the Light tends to become dim, or retreat, once I gaze upon it. It's not always been true, but it's been a recurrent theme throughout countless lucid dreams--that when I stare at the Light, it will usually fade.

(Interestingly, the times when the Light has intensified and taken me into a state of ecstasy has been those occasions when the Light appeared and overwhelmed me before I could have any agenda--I was its object, not the other way around!)

In one frustrating dream 30 years ago, I was growing frustrated by the way that the light seemed to "collapse" into an object without any luster. A woman walked up and told me one of the most significant things that anyone has ever said to me: "You must first learn to love the form before you can see the Light within it." So, ever since then, I've been "coming down from the mountain," endeavoring to embrace a more embodied experience, and learning to value everyday life. But throughout, my mystical yearning has persisted alongside this commitment. And lately, the opportunities to gaze upon the Light has occurred with regularity in the often-hour-long lucid dreams that I've been experiencing almost every time I use the meditation/galantamine combination.

This morning, in fact, was something of a new phase. For the first several encounters with the Light, I noticed the dimming effect, and thus started to work with my subjective state as I gazed upon the radiance. Finally, in the last scene, a brilliant white sun appeared overhead, and I looked upon it. At first, it started to fade a bit, so I looked away and smiled inwardly, feeling gratitude to be in the presence of it. I looked back, and it became more intense again. I continued to contemplate with gratitude, rather than with desire, and it maintained its immense white corona.

The issue of yearning or desire is at the center of the spiritual life, especially in Buddhism where desire is at the root of all suffering. And in Christianity, it was Peter's material desire to capitalize on Jesus's transfiguration that made Jesus say, "Get thee behind me, Satan." However, desire is also what takes us beyond the status quo. While it can never grasp the object of its dreams, it can take us to the threshold of attainment where in the end we are called upon to surrender it. This thought came to me when thinking of the role of desire: Desire leads to practice, and practice leads to mastery, and mastery allows us to let go of desire. So to fault someone for desiring this or that may be to commit one of two errors: the error of someone who either has suppressed desire out of fear or judgment, or someone who has grown beyond it and forgotten the necessary and imperfect role that it once served. There is a saying in the East, "To the one who has arrived, the way is foreign." I think this addresses the problem of judging a lower stage of development from a higher perspective.

When I was four, my best friend and I nailed a piece of bamboo to the end of a 2x4 to make a propeller for an airplane. I said to him with absolute conviction that we would fly together on that plane. I was fortunate that no one was there to tell me that I was deluded, because I still desire impossible things.
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