Saturday, February 20, 2010

Signs of Spring!

My little garden is budding! It may be the middle of February and our groundhog friend says we have another 4 weeks of winter, the first signs of spring are popping the little green heads up out of the browness of dead leaves and the remains of last year's annuals.

Finally, a day that feels a little bit warm! For weeks (months) I have to bundle up with a wool hat, scarf, warm coat and gloves just to go outside. But today, with no wind and a sun that's feeling "almost springlike" I could throw off the hat, scarf and gloves and do a little work in the garden. After I removed some of the leaf litter, there were the little green buds.

Sometime in the middle to end of March, todays' little buds will become a sunny yellow bed of jonquils (March's birth flower - see their happy faces in the photo on the right and my post from last year) and daffodils are popping up. I can't wait, as I love spring!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Alien Abductions, Sleep Paralysis and Other Scary Night Things

So, what about those reports of alien abduc-tions? Many people around the world have claimed to be abducted by aliens. Usually, they are lying in bed, often on their back. They feel like they are awake, but paralyzed, and shadowy creatures come and take them to a strange place where they are probed and studied.

I’ve always suspected there’s a simple explanation for these experiences. Now I know it’s called sleep paralysis. (Kristof, Nicholas D., "Alien Abduction? Science Calls It Sleep Paralysis," New York Times, July 6, 1999.)

Sleep paralysis is a natural phenomenon. While we sleep our body paralyzes our limbs so we don’t react violently to our dreams.

But sometimes the mind can awake before the body does. In these states, we seem to be seeing as though we were awake, but we just can’t move our body. This is a fringe state between sleep and awake.

In this state, many have reported seeing shadowy figures around them. I recall this once happening to me, with the lights on in the hall and figures passing by in the hall, but I couldn’t identify them.

A blogger, Steven Aitchison,in his blog Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life, reported that these figures tend to congregate at the foot or side of his bed. He theorizes (and I agree) that these shadowy figures are dreamlike projections of the brain that is partially awake and partially asleep. In his post “Sleep Paralysis,” he wrote:

“The shadow figures, as I called them, usually congregated around the bottom or at the side of my bed. I was terrified of them as I hadn’t a clue what they were and why I would be getting them. I presumed, rightly or wrongly, that they were dreamlike figures manifested from a partially sleeping brain. There is no other way to describe it. My mind was awake, my body was sleeping, and another part of my mind was partially asleep.

"What I couldn’t figure out was why the figures only appeared during sleep paralysis episodes.”

What I found especially interesting are the many comments from others who have experienced sleep paralysis. Some have visions; some just have auditory hallucination; some dream about creatures moving their bodies around. Some see monsters, some see “the old hag,” some a devil, one saw spiders, or others are held paralyzed by an unknown creature or force.

Here’s what I like about this explanation. When people have studied manifestations of night visions over the centuries, the nature of these shadowy figures reflects the culture of the day. Back in the middle ages, this phenomenon was characterized by figures identified as devils. Today, they may be monsters, devils, the old hag, or space aliens. But in each case, what they see is very reflective of what they know about - their times, their culture, images in the popular media. For example, there were no cases of seeing space aliens in the middle ages.

But, while I find this a fascinating topic, I also know that it can be intensely frightening for those afflicted by hallucinations during sleep paralysis. This is evident by reading comments on the blog post. But, also interesting, are a few writers who enjoy the visions during sleep paralysis. And some who are able to take control of the dream, what is called lucid dreaming.

Now, this rational explanation of alien abductions has not convinced many who still claim an encounter of the forth kind. But it makes sense to me. With all our instruments and satellites, how could all these alien ships approach earth and hang around long enough to carry out these abductions, probing, and then return their captives?

Still, thinking about this does unnerve me a bit, especially now that it’s bed time!