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    Experiment with Kava Kava (notes) / Creating a Cat (DILD)

    by , 04-26-2015 at 11:02 PM (801 Views)
    Ritual: Last night I experimented for the first time with kava kava root (Piper methysticum). I had read many anecdotal reports that it instigated vivid dreams and perhaps even lucidity, so I thought it was worth trying out. I ordered some dried powdered root from an online herb and spice supplier that I trust. I don't have any doubts about the freshness and quality, as the package confirms that it was packed earlier this month and sourced from Vanuatu. I had read many reports of people complaining about the taste, describing it as "muddy," so I was surprised when I opened the package and encountered the most extraordinary and delightful fragrance. The plant is related to pepper, so it made sense that the scent would be peppery, but there was also something delicately floral about it and even a hint of wintergreen.

    I had abstained from alcohol all day, since the two should not be consumed together, and my plan was to drink the kava before bed. I had a late dinner, ending at 11pm, so my plan was to give myself two hours to digest, then start drinking the kava at 1am and go to bed a few hours afterward (unless it made me too sleepy before that, which seemed like a distinct possibility). I don't like cold drinks late at night, but I read that you could warm kava gently without destroying its properties, so I adapted a recipe for "Mexican Hot Cocokavachocolate," blending two tablespoons of powdered kava kava (half what the recipe calls for, as I didn't want to overdo it my first time), two tablespoons of cocoa powder, agave syrup, a spoonful of cinnamon, and a generous pinch of cayenne with about two cups of almond milk (I skipped the vanilla extract suggested by the recipe because I didn't want to use even a tiny amount of alcohol). I blended this until it was frothy and then separated it into two mugs, putting one in the fridge—I planned to start with a minimal dose, and work up from there if it felt warranted. The other mug I heated briefly in the microwave, just enough to warm it, and then topped it with a dusting of grated Himalayan salt and freshly made whipped cream.

    Okay, I'll admit I have a slightly weird palate (for instance, I *love* the taste of wormwood), but this was one of the most delicious dessert drinks I have ever tried in my life! It was so much better than regular hot chocolate; the spices and kava gave it exceptional depth of flavor and an unusual aftertaste. I didn't even need to strain it: I don't know if my powder was ground unusually finely or if the almond milk held it in suspension better than plain water, but it only added body, not grit, to the concoction.

    I'm glad that I had done enough research to anticipate the curiously numbing, analgesic sensation that spread from my mouth all the down my esophagus, because that's the kind of thing that would really worry you if you didn't know it was supposed to happen! I sipped the kava very slowly over the next hour or so, to make sure my stomach didn't have any problems with this new experience. Everything was fine, and the onset of bodily relaxation came quickly, though my mind remained clear. After the first mug I felt like it would be fine to drink the second one I had reserved, so I slowly consumed that too. Despite the heavy feeling in my body, it never did make me drowsy, so I played SWTOR until 3:30am and then read DV and some LD books to prep for bed, retiring at 4:30am. I should note that I never felt any trace of euphoria, either, an effect that some had noted. That didn't bother me, though: my only interest was in enhancing my dreams.

    Unfortunately, in that respect, the kava kava was a total bust. It was no different from any ordinary night of crappy dreaming: I was vaguely aware of dreaming most of the night, but my recall was terrible and what details I could specify were mostly mundane day residue. There was no sense of complex overarching plots, just lots of little random scenarios. Lots of people have written that kava helped them sleep more deeply and wake refreshed, but I didn't experience that either: I woke three times in the first several hours of sleep, which is typical, except that I felt much groggier than usual during those brief wakeful periods. At 9:00am I woke up and felt so unpleasantly lethargic, mentally as well as phsyically, and the dreaming had been so disappointing, that I decided to try to clear my head with an ample dose of piracetam. That stuff is amazing: to preserve its efficacy I save it for special occasions, but it always works really well to clear up any "brain fog."

    Within fifteen minutes I was feeling complete mental clarity, so I decided to turn it into a proper WBTB. I added some L-theanine, alpha-GPC and bacopa and returned to bed using WILD technique. My focus was still subpar and I couldn't count effectively, so I initially fell into non-lucid sleep, but gradually became more aware of the dream as it progressed. There was no "aha" moment of lucidity, but I was definitely lucid by the end.

    In conclusion, the kava kava didn't seem to improve my dreaming in the slightest, but at least it didn't suppress it either. If anything helped me get lucid, I believe it was the piracetam and other supplements I took at WBTB, because those I've had success with many times before. My recall was poor for most of the night, and even after waking up from the LD only the last scene was initially clear; recollection of the earlier incidents revived only after I started tracing back the course of events.


    DILD, "Creating a Cat": I was hanging out with a friend, JM, and her young son. [DR: yesterday I had seen a picture of this kid that she had posted on Facebook.] The little boy was telling us a story about a butterfly who took care of him in the place he used to be. It sounded like he was talking about before he was born, and this reminded me of a book I had learned about last night, about a project to compile and investigate accounts of young children who claim to have memories of past lives. [DR: Jim B. Tucker, Return to Life, 2015.] After I mentioned the book to my friend, she told me about the time she took her son to an island off the coast of Wales (the named started with a 'T', something like "Tirnagal" or "Tiriagal") and he had started talking about how he used to live there. As she describes this, suddenly we both turn and stare as we hear the boy start speaking another language with the somber intonations of an adult. I have no idea what Welsh sounds like, but what the boy is saying definitely has the structures of a formal language—it is not just childish babble. The experience is so uncanny that I feel the hairs on my arms rise. Before I leave, I say to my friend, "The only thing I regret about not having a kid is the way it can sometimes provide unexpected insights into the human experience." [DR: This comment might also have been inspired by something I was reading last night, on p.163 of The Ego Tunnel, by Thomas Metzinger (2009), where he describes a toddler who falls and looks to his mother for social cues about how to emotionally react.]

    I leave my friend's apartment and go outside. Now I'm on a beach. This is one of my most distinctive and common dream signs, despite the fact that I have little interest in beaches in WL and rarely visit them. I think it is related to the tide, a phenomenon that has always unsettled me. Despite the frequency and distinctiveness of this dream sign, for some reason it is one that I always have trouble recognizing as such. On this occasion I already have some degree of dream-awareness, but I lack awareness of that awareness, the metacognition that is characteristic of true lucidity.

    As I'm walking along the beach, the sand looks soft and warm and comfortable, and I can't resist the temptation to lie down in it. Initially I am lying on my stomach, but then I roll onto my back, and feel as cozy as a kid making snow angels. I pause to reflect, why do you never hear of kids making sand angels? My comfort is soon disturbed by rippling in the sand... I notice that the whole beach is now billowing and subsiding, the dunes rolling like great waves. "Is it supposed to do that?" I vaguely wonder, and then a particularly large dune threatens to bury me, forcing me back on my feet to keep my balance. Though not quite lucid at this point, I have instinctive awareness of my mastery and control in this environment: I find it easy to "surf" these sand waves as they roll by underfoot. But they are getting even bigger, and I have the impression that the water is now rising rapidly as well, so I decide to find higher ground.

    At the edge of the beach I find a stairwell leading up into a building. Getting into it takes some creative climbing, as there are various panels of transparent plexiglass serving as barriers, but I manage to circumvent them and get inside. The stairs emerge into the center of a dim, semi-industrial space, with narrow walkways on all four sides surrounding the wide pit formed by the stairwell in the middle of the room. No sooner have I gotten my bearings than a round hatch covering the end of a large pipe poking through the wall opens, and a humanoid creature crawls out. It is gollum-like, with huge bulging eyes. I don't want to be spotted, so I hold still and focus on being invisible. I feel a moment of relief as the creature initially descends the stairs, but it comes back promptly joined by a second person, a male human. As they approach the spot where I'm standing, I retreat into a corner to avoid them: even if they can't see me, they might blunder into me by accident if I'm not careful. On the bright side, having to strategize in this tense situation is improving my lucid awareness.

    I reflect that my "invisibility" is just a mind trick: I am willing the DCs not to see me, and from their lack of reaction I assume it is working, but I can still see my own body plainly. This bothers me—at this point I'm a fairly experienced dreamer, so shouldn't I be able to dispense with a body? I've had no dearth of NLDs where I'm just a disembodied perspective, so surely I should be able to accomplish the same thing in my LDs. I decide to try to eliminate my dream body.

    My body does obediently disappear from my field of vision, but the trouble is I still *feel* like I'm in a human body, with two legs, two arms, and two eyes located frontally in my head. If I have really transcended the body, I should no longer feel like I am mapped onto a human being. I conclude that I should begin subverting the pattern, and my first attempt is to try to shift my visual apparatus to floor level. This seems like it should be a fairly easy, basic task, but I find that I have trouble with it, maybe because I get caught up in questions like, well, if I'm not seeing out of physical eyes, then shouldn't my vision be even more radically different—unconstrained by frontality, for instance?

    Meanwhile the man and gollum-like creature disappear into a side door, still apparently oblivious to my presence. I retrace my steps to the top of the stairs and examine the hatch that the latter had crawled out of. I consider going in there to explore, but decide that from the look of the creature and the size of the hatch, it will probably just be a cramped and uncomfortable network of tunnels. Instead I decide to follow the two through the side door.

    I find myself in a large, open exhibition space with various vendors and booths. I pause for a moment to wonder why spaces like this are so common in my dreams. I don't know if this was a product of false memory or else better access to dream memory than I have in waking life, because at the time I was under the impression that I encountered such rooms on a regular basis; now that I'm awake I don't feel like they're especially common. At first I was just wandering around with no specific purpose, when it occurred to me that I shouldn't waste this opportunity to work on some tasks. There are a ton of things on my docket, but nothing especially pressing, so I thought over a few possibilities and decided to work on my Ars Magica forms and techniques—the other day I printed out the whole list of combinations and decided I should make it a long-term goal to try out all of them eventually.

    I recalled that "creo animál" was the first one on my list that I had not tried, so I started intoning, "Creo animál!" I lengthened the syllables in a resonant voice, putting emphasis on the first syllable of "creo" and the last syllable of "animál." I repeated the invocation a few times in this manner, staring at an empty patch of floor. I didn't have a clear idea in mind of what kind of animal I wanted to create, but I thought I could leave that open for the dream to surprise me. However, nothing was happening. I thought perhaps I needed some raw materials, so I telekinetically lifted a nearby booth (hoping this wouldn't be too much inconvenience to the vendor) and pulled it into the space where I was working, then focused on compacting its form and shape into something suitable to my purpose. It folded itself up obediently until it was much smaller. However, I felt like I needed to impose a pattern on it since the dream wasn't responding with anything, so I arbitrarily chose the form of a cat. People started gathering around to watch the show as the booth finished its transformation, and now there was a short-haired black and white cat sitting stiffly on the floor. [In retrospect, the technique was closer to "muto" than "creo," since I adapted existing material rather than conjuring it from thin air.]

    The newly-created cat was not moving, and did not seem capable of movement; it was like an empty shell of a cat, a living doll. This made sense, since I had created the body but not endowed it with sentience: I concluded that this would require a separate effect. Luckily this concurred with another task I needed to work on. "Creo mentem," I said, directing my words at the cat, and this time the effect resolved quickly: now the cat seemed to be capable of moving and perceiving its environment.

    I wondered if "mentem" alone was sufficient: wouldn't that create something with the bland mental workings of a robot? Wouldn't I need to add "imáginem" to endow it with emotions and imagination, the "spark of life"? I wasn't sure, but I thought I'd better throw that in for good measure, so I intoned "Creo imáginem," focusing on giving the creature the capacity for emotions and inner life. Immediately I had doubts about whether this was wise. I don't know if my doubts were caused by the cat's behavior or if the cat's behavior was conditioned by my doubts, but whichever it was, the creature did not look pleased. It was lashing its tail in the way cats do when they're annoyed, and its face was contorted into a savage snarl. I wondered if throwing in "imáginem" had been overkill—emotions are not always pleasant, after all, and a creature so unexpectedly brought into existence might well be feeling upset and disoriented. Plus, I didn't even know if "imáginem," was necessary for a complete being; perhaps sentience was sufficiently specified by "mentem." [Consulting the Ars Magica rulebook now, I see that I misremembered the scope of of the Form: "imáginem" deals with sensations and illusions, not emotions and imagination. Though actually that makes the whole Form seem superfluous to the dreamstate, where there is no obvious difference between creating a thing and creating an illusion of that thing.]

    I knelt down to have a closer look at my creation, and felt even more disturbed. There was something awful and abject about its face, a wound or rot-like distortion of its jaw that left the teeth clearly visible through its cheek. [DR: I realize this might also be day residue, because recently I was reading articles about the so-called "zombie cat" which came with graphic pictures of a similarly disfigured animal.] I decided that I should try to understand what this cat was experiencing, so I said, "Intéllego animál." I felt impressions of fear and rage coming from the poor creature, and guiltily realized that I must have screwed up somehow. It made it even worse that it was a cat, a kind of animal for which I feel a great love and sympathy.

    blogs/verre/attachments/8386-experiment-kava-kava-notes-creating-cat-dild-zombiecat.jpg

    With a sweeping gesture I willed all the effects I had invoked to disperse, effectively uncreating the cat. I didn't have a clear visual sense of the result (did the body simply disappear or did the vendor's booth revert to its former shape? I'm not sure), but at least I felt that the spell had ended. I looked up at the spectators who had been watching the whole event and sheepishly apologized: "It didn't want to be a cat. I'm sorry. It just didn't work out."

    One woman spoke up in reply. Her words were uttered very calmly and slowly, emphasizing each of the adjectives, and I felt like she was subtly criticizing my actions: "People want to be fair, and dominating, and controlling, and diverting."

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    Updated 04-26-2015 at 11:20 PM by 34973

    Categories
    lucid , side notes

    Comments

    1. Xanous's Avatar
      Interesting experiment. Perhaps isolate the Kava alone and try for a more normal bed time unless this is normal for you. Maybe try Kava as a WBTB supplement only? I'm super interested in new herbs. Are you planning to try again?
      Verre likes this.
    2. Verre's Avatar
      I'm definitely planning on trying again, with variations on bedtime, dosage, and when I drink it. Last night I mixed a tablespoon of the powder in eight ounces of cold water and put it in my fridge to play with. I tried mixing just one ounce of that solution into a mug of chai and even that was enough to feel mild effects. One of the more noticeable effects with this microdose was that my breathing became slower and deeper, in the same way that it does when I'm meditating regularly (which I haven't done in a few months). I definitely dreamed all night, but again it was most day residue with poor recall. I'm just hoping the latter is not a consequence of the kava!
      Xanous likes this.