“Am I awake or dreaming?”

This questions becomes something of a mantra for people who are attempting to increase their powers of lucid dreaming. In order to be awake—that is aware—in a dream, one needs to have enough consciousness to question whether they are in fact dreaming. By asking the question while awake, we prepare our minds to ask the question while we’re asleep.

But I’ve begun to take an interest in the flip side of this interrogation. Rather than focusing on whether I’m in a dream when I’m asleep, I like to ask myself whether I’m awake while I’m—well—awake!

In other words, when I finish my meal then realize I barely tasted my supper, then I know I dreamed away the entire repast. If I’ve just blurted out a bit of gossip I had no intention of passing along, then I know I just sleep-talked, even though my eyes were open and I was awake.

Awake, of course, means conscious. I’ve gotten pretty adept at the art of being conscious in my dreams. Just the other night, in fact, I was able to recognize that the alien spacecraft flying just above my head as I sauntered down a country road indicated that I was asleep and dreaming. As it turns out, the harder job is to be aware and conscious after the alarm rings and I’m going about my day. Lately I realize that I need to wake myself up countless times every day. It’s worth it, that way I don’t sleep away the precious days when the azaleas and daffodils are blooming, or even the alive gray energy of yesterday’s rainstorm.

How about you—are you awake or dreaming?