Adventures in Lucid Dreaming

Before I begin my article I need to give serious props to the film Waking Life. For it was a scene in this movie that first introduced me to the concept of lucid dreaming, which in turn, has profoundly affected the way that I’ve slept ever since.

Below is a brief introduction to Lucid dreaming as well as some techniques you can follow to start having them in a few weeks (if not days). For more comprehensive information regarding lucid dreaming (specifically that of a scientific nature), I suggest you check out Stephen Laberge’s ‘Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming’, as it’s a pretty good read with a substantial amount of information. In your quest for lucid dream mastery do be weary of anything regarding “Astral Projection”-  from reading a book and several websites dedicated to the topic I can assure you that it’s chiefly New-Age bullshit, though I do admit the idea of floating around in the astral plane is vastly entertaining.

What is Lucid Dreaming?

Simply put, lucid dreaming is the act of dreaming while remaining in a conscious state.

A lucid dream is NOT a “regular dream”-

In a regular dream you aren’t knowingly engaged in the dreaming process. You awaken from your slumber with a vague recollection of the dream, but it feels more like a distant memory rather than an actual experience.

In tangent, a lucid dream allows you to take an active and deliberate roll in how your dream plays out. This state of consciousness, while rather bizarre, does not restrict you to the rigid rules of our traditional ‘waking state’. Feel free to defy gravity, warp to far-away places, and converse with your own subconscious. The entire experience is quite surreal and it happens, of course, in real-time. I still recall the first time I carefully floated off my “dream balcony” and then briskly flew through a moonlit sky with the grace of an eagle. The only limits as to what you can do in a lucid dream are those set by your imagination. It sounds corny, but it’s entirely true.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, lucid dreaming has failed to permeate into present day popular culture. The practice however, has been around for centuries. Perhaps the most widely documented cultural embrace of lucid dreaming is that of the Tibetan Buddhists monks. They’ve been exploring this form of consciousness for as long as the eighth century in order to better prepare for death. Thankfully you don’t have to be a Buddhist monk to realize this state of consciousness. For all intensive purposes the average Joe-the-Plumber type can experience lucid dreaming within the first couple of weeks by simply following the techniques below.

Lucid Dreaming 101:

I’m now going to overview the 2 basic techniques for achieving lucidity. There are more methods, but essentially these are all you will ever really need to successfully have lucid dreams. And yes, both of these techniques work!

1. Wake-Initiation of Lucid Dreams or (WILD)

With this technique your goal is to fall asleep consciously. I have read that this is one of the more difficult techniques, but for me it’s been the easiest. In fact, I was able to have a lucid dream on my very first attempt.

  • Awaken from a sleep period of 4-7 hours (perhaps set an alarm clock)
  • Lay still and concentrate on going back to sleep, you should still be very tired
  • Focus on the hypnagogic imagery (colors and images) that flash across your mind’s eye
  • Keep your mind focused on your goal, envision yourself in the perfect dream scene
  • DO NOT LET YOUR THOUGHTS WANDER, you must stay awake!

Into the dream!

Disclaimer: Often times when using this technique you will first enter into a state of what’s known as sleep paralysis. You will feel rapid vibrations and experience auditory hallucinations (such as weird voices). You will also feel paralyzed and it may be impossible to move. DON’T PANIC! You’re body does this every night naturally to keep you from thrashing about too much in your sleep; you were just never awake to realize it. If you stay relaxed you should soon enter a lucid dream.

2. Mnemonic Induced Lucid Dream or (MILD)

This is probably the most widely used technique, but it’s going to take a little bit of training to achieve lucidity. You must first TRAIN your mind to recognize when you’re dreaming, then, when you’re actually in a dream, something will cue your brain into what’s really going on, and voila… the world is yours!

  • Think about lucid dreaming in your down time. Seriously, just think about it – a lot.
  • Think about it ever more as you drift to bed. Program it into your mind that you’re going to recognize when you’re in a dream tonight.
  • Start keeping a “dream diary”, every morning jot down brief memories of your dreams. This will help get your mind acquainted with thinking about lucid dreams.
  • Develop your dream recall. The more you remember about your dreams, the more likely you’ll be able to recognize when you’re actually dreaming. Start doing “reality checks” throughout the day. (I’ve never actually done this, but it’s supposed to work). This means counting fingers on the people that you run into throughout the day, looking at digital clocks etc. The idea is that in the dream state your conscious mind will become aware when one of your dream characters wanders in with ten fingers and the digital clock in the room is incomprehensible.
  • Be diligent! If you’re too lazy to think about dreaming a few times during your waking hours then you’re quite simply not going to have lucid dreams.

Final Thoughts:

Admittedly, the novelty of lucid dreaming has for the most part worn-off. I still enjoy entering the lucid state from time to time but I’m generally too lazy and exhausted from the days activates to partake in any lucid adventures. In my prime I was getting dozens of lucid dreams per month and I’ve had some really amusing experiences- Such as getting totally owned by Scott Backula (the main character from the early 90’s show Quantum Leap). It was strange, because I hadn’t seen that show since I was an adolescent, and there he was, sloshed-off-his-ass at a dream bar totally kicking my butt in a match of wits. With that being said, if you have any question about lucid dreaming in general feel free to post a comment and I’ll do my best to help you. Sweet dreams…

Po is a contributing writer and the founder of projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.

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8 Comments

Filed under lucid dreaming, science

8 responses to “Adventures in Lucid Dreaming

  1. Soahki

    This was a really interesting post! I’m very into dreams and their interpretation, and often find myself wishing I could take greater control of my dreams, to go where I want to go. However, I have never attempted lucid dreaming for the following reason: I tend to be what I call a “sleepy” person. I like to get quite a lot of sleep each night, and tend to feel sleep deprived and groggy in the morning. Do you feel that the state of consciousness required for lucid dreaming detracts from the amount of mental rest you get each night? After lucid dreaming, do you feel well rested?

    As for the idea of doing “reality checks”, is the purpose so that you will recognize when you’re in a dream, if you observe some kind of anomaly such as too many fingers on a person?

  2. soahki

    I apparently can’t edit my last post, but I just realized that the purpose of the “reality check” is probably to trigger your mind to consciousness while dreaming when the cues present themselves (fingers or clock). Sorry for the double post.

  3. Soahki, this may be the cliche grad student response, but: COFFEE.

    I’ve achieved lucidity before, but not in awhile. Flying, as Po said, is amazing, as is the sense of taste which I usually find absent from dream phenomenology.

    Often, I experience dreams wherein I find myself lucid, but lacking the control that should come with it – the dream analogue to taking just enough shrooms to leave the prime material but not to actually go anywhere else. Any advice?

  4. soahki

    Unfortunately, coffee makes me extremely sick, and I can’t drink it. Thus, I have to actually rest my body and mind each day.

    Neo, I think that I, too, may have had the type of experience you mentioned- feeling aware of your dream (thus probably lucid?), but lacking control over the experience. Once recently, I had a dream in which I was about to be invited to enter another world. I kept getting up and hitting the Snooze button on my clock to return to the dream, where I hoped I would be able to visit this world, but apparently there was some sort of quest I was supposed to finish beforehand, and thus the dream could not fast- forward.

  5. Po

    Soahki – I tend to awaken right after having a lucid dream so it’s possible that one could feel less rested. However, you’re still in the REM cycle when you are lucid and you should still be getting quality sleep, at least according to Dr. Laberge’s book (it’s actually filled with testimonials about people proclaiming to feel MORE rested after having lucid dreams). I can’t attest to that however.

    Redpillneo – Partially lucid dreams are pretty common for me too. It can be pretty difficult to gain 100% lucidity, but I really can’t stress practice enough. If you really want to start having quality lucid dreams you’re going to have to start thinking about having them quite often during your day. For you, I may suggest attempting to do a WILD right after awakening. That way, you’ll be 100% conscious when you go into the dream, as apposed to a MILD where you might only be partially aware of what’s going on.

  6. Po

    It should also be said that WILD’s are more of a meditative practice, which is why I recommend them. I don’t have to think about having lucid dreams all day, yet I can still have them when I want, simply by concentrating on having them and relaxing my body enough to fall asleep while slipping back into a REM state after first awakening.

  7. eelliso1

    I have had several lucid dreams. Its an exciting experience, one in particular I remember in stark detail. The entire dream I went around telling everyone else in the ream that they were of course in my dream. When no one would believe me I would perform some odd task.

    Actually, since I have said that much, let me just share the “awakening” moment in the lucid dream. I was roller skating down the halls of James A. High when to my astonishment I realized, everyone else was in class. What would I be doing not in class? That was the point when I realized it was a dream. Sounds ridiculously lame I will admit. Obviously I was not one for skippin class too often.

    I still remember throwing a paper airplane and making a rainbow trail behind it. Damn the rest of the dream bystanders–they still did not believe me that it was a dream. Why I wasted my time at the high school trying to convince my peers they were in a dream I could manipulate is beyond me…but blowing up a teachers car and putting it back together in warp speed was awesome….

    I always find it strange when individuals say they do not dream. I dream nightly, vividly, in color. Often times small aspects of the dreams manifest in waking life in the following days….

    While I realize there are techniques to tapping into this frontier, I am not entirely sure I want the ability to harness it. Seems I might know more than I care to at that point.

  8. Soahki

    I was glad to hear this: “However, you’re still in the REM cycle when you are lucid and you should still be getting quality sleep, at least according to Dr. Laberge’s book (it’s actually filled with testimonials about people proclaiming to feel MORE rested after having lucid dreams).”

    I really do feel there’s much of value to be found in dreams. I tend to see dreams as a transmission of the subconscious self, encrypted yet rich with insights. It occurred to me today that lucid dreaming has a lot in common with my experience of the shamanic journey. Both are, it seems, largely an encounter between the conscious and subconscious minds, in a world of imagery that is the domain of the subconscious. (At least, that is what shamanic journeying has been for me- an entry into a world of archetypal figures and imagery which reside in my own mind.) Also, both states are reached through a trance of sorts, though the “trance” that occurs with sleeping is a bit different than one that is self- induced.

    It’s an interesting parallel, I thought.

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