A dream is a microscope through which we look at the hidden occurrences in our soul. Erich Fromm
Every night when we fall asleep we enter a state known as “Rapid Eye Movement” or REM sleep. It’s called this because your eyes are darting around behind your eyelids.
Subjects who have undergone dream research report that when they are awakened during this REM state they are dreaming. They are able to tell in great detail what it was they were just dreaming about.
On average we have three to four periods of REM sleep per night. You often hear people who claim that they seldom, if ever, dream.
This simply isn’t true.
What is happening is that these people don’t recall the dreams they are having. We all dream.
In fact, researchers estimate that we spend six years of our lives dreaming.
It’s astonishing to think back six years ago and realize that you will spend that much time in this surreal, wondrous and sometimes frightening world.
That alone should compel you to at least want to remember your dreams.
Six years of your life is spent in this theater of the mind. Who would want to miss out on that show?
What if I told you that you can take control of that show and turn it into something a blockbuster movie, or even a dream, could never hope to match?
This is the world of lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming is a state where you are dreaming and suddenly realize that you are dreaming. You could be wandering around your house and suddenly realize that this is not your house.
You think it’s your house but it looks nothing like it? How can this be? Then the idea hits you “I’m dreaming. This is a dream and I’m aware of it.”
The ability to consciously realize you are dreaming and continue to dream is lucid dreaming.
To become a lucid dreamer you must become a lucid waker ‒ if there is such a word.
In other words, to realize that you are dreaming, you must question moments of your day by asking, “Is this real? Am I awake or is this a dream?”
I encourage you to explore and research lucid dreaming. The internet is a wonderful source.
There are many excellent books out there. The two by Stephen LeBerge and one by Robert Waggoner should be on your shelf.
What you will find is that pretty much all of what you read will be variations and explanations on how to train yourself to question specific moments during the ordinary and the extra-ordinary moments of your daily life ‒ are they real or are they a dream?
What will happen will be that at some point you will ask yourself this question and suddenly realize that those moments are not real ‒ you are dreaming and you are aware of it.
What Can You Do in a Lucid Dream? [Flying & Sex]
Many people have had a lucid dream. Perhaps it was a time or two when you just realized you were dreaming and that’s as far as it got.
Lucid dreams are most often noted by people having a nightmare.
A dreamer will encounter a potentially horrific situation. A crazed maniac armed with a knife is kicking down your front door.
Perhaps a fire breathing monster is swooping down on you. It may be that you are falling and are coming ever closer to the ground.
Whatever the situation, this moment kicks in where you either realize you’re dreaming or you have this response that you just want to get away from it as fast as you can.
The ground is rapidly approaching and you’re terrified but you just say “No!” and your body feels like it’s going through a vortex that lifts you out of your sleep.
You open your eyes, take a breath or two and think “Oh, thank goodness. That was just a dream.”
It could be a moment of a nightmare that you realize it’s a dream and make yourself wake up.
If this has ever happened to you, then in that nick of a moment you were lucidly dreaming.
Lucid dreaming is so much more than this “nick of a moment.”
When you learn how to have lucid dreams you can do fantastical, magical things.
You can lift yourself into the air and soar over mountains, and oceans. You can visit magical cities made of crystal and light. Have encounters with creatures of stories and myth.
You can visit dark and mysterious places. You may have a dream that you’ve just found a trap door in your basement floor, a door you’ve never noticed before. Then you realize you’re dreaming.
At that point you open the trap door and notice an ill lit staircase winding down into the darkness.
While you’re terrified of what you might find, because you know you’re dreaming you cautiously begin your descent into the darkness.
You can fly through outer space and visit distant planets. You visit loved ones who have passed on. You could have a night of exotic passion with the person of your dreams.
What makes this interesting is that while you know you are dreaming, you don’t feel like you’re dreaming.
The world of the lucid dream is a tangible one.
You can touch it, hear it, see it, feel it, smell and taste it.
You are in a world as real as the world around you at this moment.
Lucid dreams can be so tangible that your ordinary reality might seem a bit bland by comparison.
Nowhere on earth will you find vast cities of crystal and gold, meadows saturated in plants more vibrantly colored then any you’ve ever seen.
You can meet people; real people, even loved ones who have passed on. You can hug them and talk with them.
When you awake you’re convinced the experience must have been real; it was so vivid that somehow you’ve entered a reality that actually exists but our ordinary, everyday consciousness cannot access it.
How else, you’ll wonder, is it possible to feel an embrace the way you did?
When you hug someone you can smell the perfume or shampoo they always used.
Two experiences, above all others, dominate lucid dreams: Flying and sex.
Sex is fairly obvious but why the urge to fly?
Indeed it is often when you are flying that you realize you are in a dream.
Something in us compels us to want to soar, to leave the earth and roam.
Sex is our most basic instinct and it too frequently occurs in lucid dreams.
Here again, you know that you’re dreaming. You know that this isn’t real.
But what is astonishing is just how real it feels.
Once you learn the techniques of lucid dreaming and begin to employ them, you will quickly have lucid dreams of such vivid reality that you’ll feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a great secret.
You will want to dream, you will look forward to going to bed and falling asleep.
When you consider that you spend six years of your life dreaming and you’ve now found a way to enter into and make your way around this world, your life will forever be changed.
Life changing is a big part of dreaming and lucid dreams.
What are Shared Dreams?
What are dreams? The fact is we just don’t know for sure. Dreams elude the microscope and the laboratory.
They are mysterious things that don’t take kindly to being pinned down.
What can be said about dreams is that they are a call from some place.
Perhaps it is just your unconscious.
Perhaps dreams are nothing more than synapses firing and chemicals surging through your brain.
Perhaps dreams are an alternative reality…
People can have shared dreams – a very interesting work has been done on the subject.
One famous dream occurred aboard a cruise ship at sea. The person reported that he had a dream that his wife came to him in his cabin and hugged and caressed him.
When he awoke his bunkmate asked who the lady was who came into the room during the night. He teased him about being quite the ladies’ man as women were coming into their cabin to give him a hug.
When he told his wife about this she reported that she too had a dream about coming into his room and hugging and caressing him, telling him that she couldn’t wait till he returned home.
Other laboratory experiments have been conducted on experienced lucid dreamers to see if they can consciously will themselves into a shared dream.
It has been confirmed that this has happened.
With enough practice and proficiency, two, or more, people can encounter themselves while dreaming and upon awakening, tell their dream and realize they were the same dream with each person acting their part like an actor performing a role.
To someone who has never had a lucid dream, this must sound like the sort of things people in mental hospitals talk about. Perhaps it is.
What can be said is that once you begin to lucidly dream the thought will cross your mind once or twice that this is too real, too vivid to be something your brain alone cooked up.
You know your mind; it’s the thing that’s absorbing what you’re reading. It’s the thing that will get distracted by a telephone call. It’s the thing that will cause you to put this down for the time being so that you can run errands and go about your daily business.
You will ask yourself how it is possible that this thing that is as familiar to you as breathing can be the cause of such astonishing, surreal and vivid images.
Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung
Sigmund Freud wrote the first book devoted to dream analysis.
For Freud, dreams were a way of allowing your subconscious mind to entertain matters your waking mind could not.
These were often matters of trauma from childhood, matters that had not been brought into the light of consciousness and dealt with.
These traumas were too difficult for even your dreaming mind to deal with directly.
Because of this the real meaning of the dream was to uncover the hidden meaning of the dream.
This was done by listening to patients dreams.
As he listened he would look for similar themes.
The famous example and the one used to mock him was that of a cigar. What if cigar kept showing in a person’s dreams, or a snake?
For Freud, dream images where not what they literally were.
A cigar was not a cigar and a snake was not a snake. Rather they were symbols, representations of something else.
Perhaps these examples were phallic symbols. Perhaps the person had experienced sexual abuse at an early age but managed to repress it and forget about it.
The unconscious doesn’t forget. Neither does it show you the literal thing you are afraid of.
Dream symbols take the place of what you dare not think and present them in a hidden, symbolic manner.
It was by cracking the code of the symbols that Freud was able to discover the reality of the unconscious and bring to light matters that had been repressed and causing a neurosis.
By understanding dreams in this manner, Freud was able to bring the repressed material to light.
The truth will set you free and once repressed matters were brought into the conscious, they could be dealt with and the patient was no longer tormented by a vague something.
It’s been noted that all great advances in science are the result of scientist’s standing on the shoulders of scientists. Such is true of Freud.
Much of what he said now seems antiquated and naive, but by studying his own dreams and the dreams of his patients, he was able to map out the outlines of the terrain of the unconscious and note the fact that larger meaning lies in seemingly humble dreams.
The key is to learn how to read them.
It was one of Freud’s students, the Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung, who brought dream interpretation into the modern age.
This is an article about lucid dreaming and not dream interpretation, but a short bit on Jung’s thoughts on dream symbolism will be of some help to those dedicated to learning how to have lucid dreams.
Jung noticed that the dreams of his patients, while sometimes played out exactly as Freud said they did, often took on a larger importance.
He noticed that there are common elements and themes of individual dreamers that correlate to those found in the world’s mythology.
What the poet thought up and wrote about was very similar to what the individual dreamed about.
Not in a literal way but in a symbolic way.
For Jung, dreams were also symbols. Where they come from is what he called the “collective unconscious.”
The collective unconscious is an universal datum, that is, every human being is endowed with this psychic archetype-layer since his/her birth. One can not acquire this strata by education or other conscious effort because it is innate. Via www.carl-jung.net
All humans are similar in that we have two arms, stand upright and walk and talk the way we do. But we share similarities in our brain’s structure as well.
When a sperm and an egg unite an extraordinary thing happens.
The zygote will begin to develop into an infant. At each step along the way the developing zygote then infant mirrors the evolution of human beings.
At first we look like tadpoles. Later a tail will begin to develop. The structure of our brain shows a similar development.
At the top of the spine is a little node. This is where the automatic functions occur such as a beating heart, breathing and the instinct of ‘flight or fight’ in the face of danger.
The brain becomes similarly more complex as it develops with each new part taking on higher and more complex functions. Exactly like our bodies, our brains remember where they come from.
We have collectively evolved and our brains contain memories of this collective evolution.
This is why myths are so enduring. They come from the unconscious of the poet and resonate in the reader of the tale: A message from the collective unconscious speaks to an individual’s unconscious.
Jung even went so far as to suggest that our unconscious is not only a repository of our evolution, it retains imprints of the evolution of the universe.
If this is true, it not only means that somewhere deep in the distant brain, a whisper remains from that primordial ooze from which life arose, there is a whisper from farther back, before that was life, back past when we were just dust from stars wandering the vastness of space.
If this is true, it means that all of us have something somewhere in our unconscious that remembers the creation of the universe.
For Jung, and now for us, this is important because dreams are a call from another place.
The process of getting to that place is what Jung called “individuation.”
Individuation is when you develop your full potential. You become the unique being you were intended to be.
What is of utmost importance here is to keep in mind that an individuated person is a person who has re-united with the source of being.
This source of being goes by many names. All religions aim at it. It is the endgame of spiritual fulfillment.
In all ages, and at all times, people have been different in most every way.
The technologically sophisticated person of the 21st century is living a life that would have been science fiction to people twenty years ago.
What you cannot do is throw a template over people and say ‘this is what you will be as an individuated person.’
Times and circumstances change and we must adapt to them.
If you are going to use your lucid dreams as a way of self-development, you should do so in the context of the time and place you find yourself in.
You will have found your full and unique potential and become the autonomous individual living the life you were intended to.
You will not start wearing funny clothes, take up an alternative lifestyle, quit your job and become someone your friends don’t recognize.
You will still be you. Only now you will have this powerful tool for self-realization.
One last bit on dream interpretation that must be repeated is that dream symbols are unique to the dreamer.
If I have a dream of a tree and you have a dream of a tree, those trees don’t mean the same thing.
You cannot buy a book on dream symbolism and look up the word “tree” to see ‘what it means.’
Many books are out there that claim to do just this, but that is impossible.
One person may jump a hundred feet in the air when a snake slithers across their path while another will enthusiastically run up to it, grab it and marvel at how beautiful it is.
In their individual dreams, snakes will mean vastly different things. So it is with every dream.
You are the only person who has experienced what you’ve experienced.
Because of this, what you see in your dreams and what they may or may not mean are unique to you and you alone.
Stephen LaBerge, Yoga and the True Masters of Dreams
Lucid dreaming has been on the scientific radar for only a short period of time.
The first book about the subject came out in 1968.
From a scientific point of view, lucid dreaming gained recognition when Stephen LaBerge‘s dissertation was granted acceptance at Stanford University.
It was LaBerge’s book ‘Lucid Dreaming’ that brought the subject of lucid dreaming to the attention of the general public.
His next book, co-authored with Howard Rheingold, ‘Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming,’ has continued to remain popular and is the go-to book on the subject.
While LaBerge brought the subject of lucid dreaming to the attention of the general public, it was Aristotle who first wrote about it.
In a work titled ‘On Dreams’ he wrote, “(O)ften when we are dreaming, our conscious mind will realize that what it sees is but a dream.”
It was the Dutch psychiatrist Fredrick van Eeden who, in the late 1800’s, named this phenomenon “Lucid Dreams.”
In the East things are a bit different.
Indian philosophy is even deeper and more complex than that of the West.
Well before the onset of the Common Era 2000 years ago, the great sages and seers of India transmitted their thoughts to their students and to writing.
Taken together these writings are known as the “Vedas.”
A large chunk of Indian philosophy is known as “Vedanta.” Vedanta means “end of the Vedas.”
What most schools of Indian philosophy try to do is either prove or disprove the authenticity and authority of the Vedas.
In the Vedas it is written that our true nature is exactly that as the true nature of Being itself.
When we come into conscious existence we are separated from who we really are.
The analogy is often made that we are like raindrops.
While we’re here we may delude ourselves into thinking we are something separate and apart from everything else when, in fact, we are a flicker of the larger ocean which gave us birth.
We come from the ocean, exist as a raindrop and return to the ocean. As a rain drop we were still the ocean.
Among the schools found in Vedanta is Yoga.
Yoga and our word “yoke” come from the same root word. Both mean to yoke, unite or bind something together.
For yoga, consciousness is not something that exists inside the brain alone. Consciousness is all around us.
The universe is made of consciousness.
We are not bodies that have a conscious brain; we are consciousness that is temporarily stored in a body.
To think of our individual conscious, that thing that says “I am, me, you”, the thing that only sees differences, is an illusion.
For example, you might think of the screen you’re reading this on as something different from you.
“I am me and that is a computer and we are two very different things,” is an illusion for yoga.
Yoga claims that behind the illusion of seeming difference, we are, in fact one and the same thing.
This oneness you can call Being with a large B.
In their way, all religions refer to this notion. They call it God, Allah, Buddha Nature or Universal Consciousness.
What yoga aims to do is to get you to see that you are not this individual who is alone and separate from reality.
Meditation, and dream meditation, is a way of opening you up to the fact that your individual conscious and the universal conscious are one and the same thing.
The way to get beyond the illusion of our everyday waking consciousness and unite with the universal consciousness is by meditating.
Early on it was noted that by training the mind, extraordinary things happen.
Among these was the ability to control your dreams.
Yogis are masters of lucid dreaming.
Mastering their dreams plays an integral part in their development and enlightenment.
The literature of Vedanta is large and mostly un-translated but strewn throughout are instructions on how to meditate in such a way as to bring on lucid dreams.
While yoga is large, it takes a distant back seat to the importance placed on lucid dreaming that is found in the Buddhism of Tibet.
Tibetan Buddhists are the true masters of dreams.
Much of what we know about lucid dreaming and many of the techniques for achieving it that will be discussed shortly, are found in Tibetan Buddhism.
Buddhism itself is a part of Indian philosophy.
The Buddha was an Indian prince who became a holy man in search of enlightenment.
Failing to find it, he developed his own school. Buddhism all but died out in India but it raced across Asia like a wildfire.
It grafted on to the traditions it encountered. In Tibet this was a form of shamanism known as Bon.
Shamanism is very much about taking flight from the body.
Shamanism places great emphases on out-of-body experiences and dream visions.
When Buddhism met Bon the two merged and became the unique hybrid found today.
At the front and center of Tibetan Buddhist meditation is the willful control of your dreams.
As you become more advanced in your practice, you will want to read up on Tibetan dream meditation.
What Can You Use Lucid Dreaming For?
Much has been made about the spiritual aspect of lucid dreaming.
I’ll elaborate on that later, but for now it should be noted that lucid dreaming can be used for a wide variety of things.
The first and most simple reason is that it’s fun. When you learn how to lucid dream, you are a front row witness of the wildest show on Earth.
Dreams are fun and if you want to spend six years of your life having the sort of fun that’s not possible in waking life then lucid dreaming is for you.
Dreams can also be used to solve problems.
The problems can be of a personal nature, but they can also be problems you have been grinding your mind over and just can’t get the answer that seems within your grasp.
On the boards for NASA are plans to build a permanent space station on the moon.
The difficulty was getting it started. If you’re going to build on the moon you need to build a place to stay where the builders can stay for a while.
Yet if you had a place to stay you don’t need to build a place to stay.
One of NASA’s scientists working on the project was a lucid dreamer. He decided to see if he could solve this problem in his sleep.
One night he had a dream about robots doing the initial construction.
By being able to manipulate the dream he was able to see exactly how robots would do the job.
When he awoke he realized that his dream showed him the answer to a problem he had been working on for years.
When we get back to the moon, the moon base will be constructed by the visions he had in his dream.
Dreams can also be used to treat nightmares.
If you are haunted by nightmares and recurring dreams that wake you up in a cold sweat, you can combat these dreams with lucid dreaming.
All manner of muggers, murderers and monsters that terrorize us can be confronted in a lucid dream.
If you constantly dream that you fall into the water and a Great White shark comes at you with its jaws wide open, you can learn how to get to the point where you say, “I’m dreaming. I don’t need to fear this. I’ll just stay here or punch the beast in the nose but I don’t have to wake up in a cold sweat so terrorized that I can’t get back to sleep.”
There is an endless variety of things that can happen when you learn how to dream lucidly.
From the entertaining, to the therapeutic, to the spiritual when you learn how to consciously move around while dreaming, literally anything is possible.
Learn How to Remember Your Dreams
So how do you learn how to bring about lucid dreams?
The first thing you have to do is learn how to remember your dreams.
Most of us don’t think much about dreaming and our inability to recall our dreams reflects this.
Remember, you will have three or four periods each night where you dream. Dreams can last for seconds or they can last for as long as an hour. But dream you do.
Even people who claim to not dream are dreaming the night away. The trick is to catch yourself dreaming.
The easiest way to go about this is to get yourself into the habit of recalling your dreams the instant you wake up.
The most vivid of our dreams occur just before we awake. Dreams are funny things though.
If you awake, look around your room, mull over what you’re going to do today, you may have a storehouse of dreams on the tip of your mind.
If you get up however and go about your morning routine, the dreams will fade back into the unconscious never to be seen again.
The first thing you have to do is recall your dreams and recall them consistently. At first this will not be easy.
You may read this and resolve to recall your dreams the instant you wake only to find that it took a while after you awoke before you remembered your resolve and you forgot them.
But be persistent.
Don’t be discouraged if the first night, or the first week you awake and remember nothing.
With time and patience you will learn how to recall at least a snippet of something.
One trick you can use is to do something to your room. Stick a note on your alarm clock that reads, “What did I dream?”
You can put similar items on your walls or around your room.
Whatever it is, it must be a break in the chain of routine.
It must be something you notice instantly, something that will cause you to say, “What the heck… Oh yeah, I put that there to remember to ask myself ‘what did I dream?’”
Take some time to mull around your mind to see if anything comes up.
It’s not uncommon to ask yourself what you dreamed and when you come up with nothing you forget all about it. Give it some thought.
If you get into the habit of immediately asking yourself what your dreams were and you take some time to think about it, you will find in a short period of time that you do recall a snapshot of something. You’ll see a frame from a movie.
You might see yourself in a courthouse. As you think it over it may come to you that the judge was your wife’s brother. The movie is starting to advance forward.
Once this happens it will be a short while before you are waking every morning and remember two or three dreams in great detail.
Dreams often are variations on something that actually happened to you during the previous 24-48 hours.
Again, they will be symbolic and look different from what actually happened. Keep your mind open to your recent past.
That really strange dream about the courthouse and your brother-in-law dressed as a judge may be something you saw on television.
It may be that you dreamt you were on trial for a crime nobody is telling you about and your brother-in-law is a judge who is looking to hang you.
At some point during the day, your mind will trip over that really great show you watched the night before.
Suddenly it dawns on you; in the show two of the main characters were on a collision course with one another.
In the show, the judge gets a phone call and is told his brother-in-law has committed a crime. He knows that the trial will be held in the courthouse where he sits.
When he hangs up he tells his wife what has happened and mentions that he can’t take the case because it would be a conflict of interest.
As you go about your day, the thought will pop into your head, “What a great show that was. And the scene where the judge tells his wife…” Bing!
That’s it, you suddenly remember that you had a dream in which your brother-in-law was a judge and you were on trial in a Kafkaesque nightmare.
You will have established why you saw your brother-in-law in a dream.
When you begin to apply your mind to force yourself to remember your dreams, you will start remembering them.
Once you are able to recall some dreams, you are just a step away from recalling more and more of them.
Again, don’t get discouraged if your early efforts fail. Persistence is the key.
There are also a few tricks you can play.
Earlier it was mentioned that we fall into these REM states a few times a night.
It is during these periods of REM sleep that researchers studying dreams will wake their subjects up and ask them what they were dreaming.
Obviously we don’t have the luxury of wiring our eyeballs to a machine that will wake us when they start rapidly moving about.
You can, however, try and catch yourself in the act of dreaming.
To do this you will need to wake yourself in the middle of the night.
You could set an alarm clock to go off at three in the morning. Here again, you instantly try to recall any dreams.
By doing this you will eventually catch yourself dreaming.
Another twist to add to this would be to stay awake for half an hour. We dream most abundantly in the hours just before rising.
It’s been found that people who wake themselves, stay awake for half an hour then go back to sleep, have a treasure trove of dreams.
The thought of waking yourself up at two or three in the morning may strike you as about as pleasant as sawing your hand off.
It is a tried and true method that has been proven to facilitate dream recall.
Lucid dreaming is such an amazing experience that if you’re having difficulty remembering dreams, this is a method for you.
When it works you will be glad you tried.
All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream. Edgar Allan Poe
The next step is to become a proficient dreamer
If at present you do not remember your dreams on a consistent basis you will want to up your effort to use the techniques to improve your dream recall.
You will be able to remember dreams sooner rather than later.
What you must now do is write your dreams down.
Keep a notebook by your bed. When you awake and think, “Ah hah, that was an interesting dream!” Write it down immediately.
Write down as much detail as you can. What did you encounter? What did you do? How did the dream progress?
In particular write down how you felt. What were the emotions and feelings you felt? What seemed to be the overall tenor of the dream?
This is not an attempt to analyze or make sense of a dream. It is the first step in the process that will enable you to make sense of a dream.
By writing your dreams down in as much detail as possible will get you in the habit of stepping away and seeing the larger picture.
It will also be something that you can refer to as the days and weeks pass.
Eventually you will notice similar themes appearing. It may be the same object that keeps reappearing.
Put a notebook and pen by your bed so you can write your dream as soon as you awake.
It would be helpful to have a tape recorder you can use if you wake in the middle of the night.
It is not uncommon for people who write down their dreams to realize that they have so many and such detailed dreams that there is not enough time in the day to write out every little detail.
If you find this happening, begin to write in a sort of shorthand.
Get the big things, the things that stand out. What happened and what did you do.
Most important is that you write down how the dream made you feel.
Once you dream frequently and are in the habit of writing down your dreams, you are now ready to practice the techniques that will enable you to become a lucid dreamer.
The various techniques of learning lucid dreaming I will elaborate on in just a bit.
For now it is enough to say that what you do during the day will determine what happens at night.
The brain that’s reading this, the brain that wants to learn how to lucid dream, the brain that just saw the cat walk by and let you remember you forgot to fill his bowl, is your conscious brain. It is your tool.
Dreams are a theater of the unconscious. To get your ticket for the show, you have to fight your way in.
In a nutshell, you have to train your mind to observe the ordinary.
This lies at the heart of Buddhist mindfulness training. In a sense, it is what the Tibetan Buddhists aim at becoming masters of.
Start Doing Reality Checks Every Day
Right now you divide your world in half.
There is your real world and your dream world.
Lucid dreaming teaches you how to become aware of your dream world. To do this you must first become aware of your real world.
The day to day business of going about life becomes a routine.
You are a rare person indeed if your world is a rare and exotic new adventure.
We have what we tend to do during most days of the week, be it work, school or what have you.
Occasionally things out-of-the-ordinary will happen.
There will be a wreck down the street. You may see a celebrity at the airport. You go on a weekend fishing trip.
Things sometimes break the routine but, for the most part we are mired, in the routine.
At the heart of learning lucid dreaming is making your waking life a preparation for lucid dreaming.
Things change in dreams where they do not change in waking life.
Read this sentence then look away for a moment before looking back. Are the words the same?
They wouldn’t be in a dream. If you’re dreaming that you’re at a store reading the back of a cereal box, then say, “Okay, I’ll look away,” When you look back at the box the words will be different.
It is then you have that “Ah hah!” moment. “The words are different,” you think, “I must be dreaming.”
Things change in dreams. By taking note of your waking life and noticing that things don’t change just because you looked away from them, you get into a habit.
At some point you will look away from something be it a city skyline or a watch or whatever.
When you look back at it what you see will not be the same.
That is how you will first catch yourself. That is the moment when you first realize you are dreaming, but you’re conscious as well.
You must commit yourself to learning how to lucidly dream. Reading a book or a website is not going to help you.
To think you can have lucid dreams just by reading endless books and websites is a bit like thinking your muscles will grow by reading about weight lifting.
You must make an active commitment and devote yourself to the task of learning this.
You will do this by making moments in your waking, ordinary day, pop out.
You will force yourself to question the reality of a situation when it is extraordinary and when it is ordinary.
To learn how to lucidly dream means you must commit yourself to the process of doing so. And don’t be frightened by all this.
I’m not preparing you for an ordeal. There will be no lifestyle changes, no hour long meditation sessions, no missed appointments and commitments.
When I say that you must make moments pop out, I mean exactly that.
Learning how to dream lucidly is a commitment of moments.
When you learn to make a habit of testing moments to see if you are awake or dreaming one of those “Ah hah!’ moments will occur in a dream. That’s how it begins.
The first and most obvious place to start is by asking yourself if you are awake or dreaming. Do it now.
We know when we’re awake. There is just that feeling that you have that you are sure you’re not dreaming and that the world around you is the real, tangible world.
The Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu wrote: “I dreamed I was a butterfly. Now I don’t know if I’m a man dreaming about a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming I’m a man.”
It makes for interesting philosophical consideration but is not something that happens in real life. We can and do separate dream from reality.
People will sometimes ask about committing a crime lucidly dreaming.
You’re armed with a knife and you want to kill somebody. In real life you would figuratively say, “I’d love to kill that so and so” but don’t mean it literally.
You’re a person who would never harm a fly but here you are dreaming. “What the heck. I’m dreaming and this isn’t real. Why don’t I go ahead and kill him?”
I can’t cavalierly say, “Go ahead and do it” as you might be that one person reading this who doesn’t know dream from reality.
I will say this: There is a psychological disorder known as “depersonalization.”
This is a very unpleasant state in which world seems unreal and that somehow you are detached from your body.
This sense of being grounded in reality and knowing you are not dreaming is an indicator that you are of sound mind.
One of the indicators of psychosis is that you cannot separate fact from reality.
So if you are of sound mind and have that maniacal dream, my suggestion is that you… Well, I’ll leave that up to you.
Again I ask you, are you awake or dreaming? You’re awake you say? And you’re quite convinced of this?
Great, now we’re on to something. Try to ask yourself this question throughout the day.
This is the commitment I talked about. Make it a habit to question your state of mind at no specific moment in particular.
Do it a few times a day if not many more. Commit yourself to questioning moments.
Are you awake now or are you dreaming?
As you begin to catch those moments, you will proceed to do so during a wide variety of predetermined circumstances.
Lucid dreaming includes the whole of your sensual and emotional life.
You will feel, see, taste, touch, smell and hear things.
Commit your senses to the process of learning lucid dreaming.
In the afternoon during your lunch break, question the reality of that taste of food.
Notice aromas. They can be the cologne your lover wears, garbage piled on a street corner, the smell of a rainstorm moving in.
When you hug someone ask yourself is it a dream.
If you feel the ground beneath your feet, see if you can will yourself to fly.
Our ears are bombarded by all kinds of noises.
It may be the wind rustling through the leaves of a tree or a jet screaming overhead.
Now and again, let a sound be the spark that drives you to ask if you’re dreaming or not.
By far and away our eyes process the most information of all the senses.
Take a few moments throughout the day to notice the extraordinary, the ordinary and all points in between.
By making it a habit to question ordinary and extraordinary moments, you will, at some point, pose a question during a dream.
The answer will not be what you expected. You have just had your first lucid dream.
As always, your emotions are of equal importance. If you just want to lucidly dream and nothing else, that’s fine.
Many people feel they want to delve deeper into lucid dreaming as a way of developing potential, insight and spirituality.
Enormous personal growth can occur by noticing your reactions and emotions to events occurring in a dream.
By questioning your emotions you bring on that same habit that will carry over into a dream.
How do you feel? How do you feel right now? Is there a story currently in the news that horrifies you or makes you laugh?
When you notice yourself responding emotionally to something, ask that question.
When your boss came into your office, how did you feel?
What are you feeling as you’re overhearing a conversation?
Emotions are to dreams what colored paint is to painters.
They are the background, the foreground, and the landscape.
That something happened is like the blank canvass. What happened, how you felt and how you reacted.
Along with the habit of questioning moments throughout the day you will want to establish specific triggers that will force you to ask if you are dreaming or not.
At this very moment think of a sound you are likely to hear before you go to bed.
Perhaps it’s a dog barking or a plane flying overhead. When you hear that sound, ask the question “Is this real or am I dreaming?”
Tomorrow and in the following days, set realistic but specific goals.
Think of three things you are likely to hear at some point during the day and three things you will hear throughout the day.
In some places it’s a guarantee that you are going to hear a siren. When you hear a siren ask yourself if you are dreaming or not?
If you live in an area where you are sure to hear planes flying overhead, use the sound of the aircraft to trigger the questions.
At first this will be awkward and difficult.
You may suddenly realize that a police car drove by five minutes ago with its sirens blaring and you didn’t give it a thought.
Perhaps the first two or three planes you remembered to ask the question, but soon they became white noise.
In each case, make an effort to atone for your lapses.
Make a resolution that tomorrow you will notice the siren or you will notice all of the aircrafts.
This is a very common technique used in mindfulness meditation.
The ultimate purpose of mindfulness meditation is that you are fully aware and engaged in every moment of the day and that nothing escapes you.
That’s a well-intentioned and lofty goal but way beyond what we’re trying to achieve here. Here you are selecting moments and bringing mindfulness to them.
I’ve read this technique explained in many different ways. Each time there is a set of instruction on how to get from here to there as if you were building a machine.
I’m not big on rules and have never seen the point of applying rules here.
While there may be no rules, there is a rule: Variety is the spice of learning lucid dreaming.
At first get comfortable with noticing a few things on a regular basis.
When you’re able to do this you should vary the routine.
When you get to the point where you are saying, “Yep, I hear the siren and I hear the planes,” add something else.
Resolve that tomorrow you will pause to ask yourself if you’re dreaming or not when you hear a siren, a plane and a baby crying.
Once you become proficient at noticing three, four, or five things a day, start a new list.
Once you are able to master your lists with relative ease, play games with yourself.
Add something new for tomorrow and tomorrow only.
Tomorrow resolve to hear a siren, plane, baby crying and running water and use these as the trigger to question, “Is this a dream or reality?”
As I said, I’ve explained this in many ways with the rules and formalities laid out with all the charms of a sergeant barking orders.
I think you get the general idea of where this is going.
It’s not necessary for you to say, “I must do A, B, C, then D.” Play games and have fun.
Become proficient at noticing a few things for a few days then vary the routine.
The point of this exercise is that you are learning to be as on your toes as possible.
You are casting as wide a net as you can.
I’ll get you started: Before too long you are going to brush your teeth.
For the next few days, whenever you brush your teeth, ask yourself if you are dreaming or not.
Look around the room. Does it remain the same?
Look away from the tube of toothpaste then look back at it. Is it the same?
Your job is to add two other things to the list. Get into the habit of questioning when those three things happen.
Once you do, vary the routine. Try another three things. Try to ask yourself to notice an increasing number of things.
Make the list as long as you like. Make the things that trigger your questioning as varied as possible.
At the heart of learning how to have lucid dreams is to make a habit of questioning your conscious reality.
Earlier I said that the dream world does not operate by the rules of the conscious world.
Lucid dreamers are capable of remarkable feats. Try to change the reality around you.
Will yourself to fly. Command doors to fly open. The next time you see a dog sauntering down the street, look away from it and demand that it vanish.
If you look back and the dog is still sauntering down the street then you are wide awake.
It might seem a bit silly to get yourself into the habit of thinking, “Be gone, you foul cur” when every dog passes by, but there is a purpose behind this exercise of interrogating the world.
Once you are in the lucid dream world you can manipulate it.
Just as important as it is to distinguish the everyday world from the dream world, it is important that you get into the habit of interrogating or manipulating the dream world.
You cannot will a situation to happen in a dream.
Dreams bubble up from somewhere deep and mysterious.
What comes up is out of your hands but you can do change the dream as it is going on.
It is highly likely that when you have your first lucid dream you will suddenly say, “Hey, I’m having a lucid dream,” and promptly wake up.
This is a common occurrence for most of your first lucid dreams.
Over time you will learn how to remain asleep. Dreams often last only a few minutes. Some dreams can go on for up to an hour.
Another technique is to be your own coach.
Think of lucid dreaming as the Big Game and you’re getting the team fired up to win.
Fire yourself up to succeed at lucid dreaming. Give yourself kudos for remembering that the sound of a baby crying was your time to ask the question.
Think of it as your team is just scoring a point.
The game’s not even half over but you just scored a point.
Cheer yourself on as if you scored that point. Tell yourself that you are doing exactly what is needed to learn how to have lucid dreams.
You scored; you’re winning the game.
Once you prepare to go to bed, use this time to give yourself a pep-talk.
By your efforts you will succeed. When you’re lying in bed, take some time away from mulling over what happened today or what might happen tomorrow and concentrate on lucid dreaming.
As best you can, try to fall asleep with the resolve on your mind that you will have a lucid dream that night.
One technique that some people have found effective is a takeoff on the old ‘counting sheep’ routine.
Lying in bed say, “One lucid dream. Two lucid dream. Three lucid dream” and so forth.
If you fall asleep while counting lucid dreaming, you’re more likely to have a lucid dream.
Along these lines is the technique of “Wake-Initiated Lucid Dreams’ or WILD.
Here you want to remain as conscious as possible as you fall asleep.
What you concentrate on is not important.
What is important is that you are concentrating on something as you fall asleep.
For example, you could concentrate on your breathing, or you could concentrate on a religious symbol.
By concentrating on something you are bringing your conscious self along with you into the dream world.
You are ushering yourself into the theater of the mind.
By using this form of concentration, you will suddenly notice a world around you and you will instantly know that you are in a dream.
External Techniques to Induce Lucid Dreaming
There are a couple of external techniques you can use to induce lucid dreaming.
One is wearing a dream mask while you sleep.
If you look around the internet you will find that there are a few varieties of these masks.
The quality of them varies.
Some are said to be as expensive as they are worthless.
Let “Buyer Beware” be your motto if you are going to purchase a dream mask.
The idea behind them is simple.
Remember that dreams occur during these REM periods.
Throughout the night the dream mask will blink a little blip of light.
This light is strong enough to be picked up by your retinas but not cause you to awake.
If you are in the middle of a dream and suddenly your world explodes with a flash of light, that is your cue to say, “What was that?”
By practicing the techniques above, the oddity of what just happened will cause you to realize that such a thing does not happen in real life so this must be a dream.
Dream masks are a way of making an event intrude on a dream and getting you to ask those questions while you are having the dream.
The other way of inducing lucid dreams is by taking substances.
This is a large subject in itself and worthy of a book.
To go into it in any great detail is beyond the scope of what is afforded here.
Suffice it to say that certain substances found in nature or by prescription can really amp up the dreams.
You dream more vividly and with greater intensity.
My advice is that you look around the internet to become a student of the subject.
You can do this by typing ‘Lucid dream supplements’ or ‘Nootropics’ into a search engine.
What you will find is that there are a number of substances bandied about that claim to enhance dreaming.
The reports of how people responded to these substances vary wildly.
One person will claim their dreams became so intense as to be almost scary while another will experience nothing at all.
It is a subject that is a bit like alchemy and you have to mix and match and find what works for you.
Of course it’s important that you first check to make sure that what you are about to purchase is legal where you live.
By and large, most of these substances are found either in nature or are created to mimic naturally occurring substances found in your body.
This isn’t a walk on the shady side but at the same time it is not for everybody.
If you are interested in delving deeper into lucid dreaming, this is a subject well worth looking into.
Once you start lucid dreaming, what comes next?
Now you’re free to explore. Have some fun.
If you find yourself in a city, go for a walk.
If you look over and see a beautiful woman, go over and talk to her.
What you will find in a lucid dream is that things are at least as real as reality.
Often times everything will seem brighter, more vivid. It is not uncommon to find yourself in a world of the surreal.
The surrealist painter Salvador Dali said that his paintings were snapshots of a dream.
If you’ve never seen a Salvador Dali painting, type in his name into a search engine to get a look at what you are in for.
At its most basic level, a lucid dream is a dream in which you know you are dreaming.
Now that you’re dreaming, remind yourself of this.
Tell yourself “I’m dreaming. This isn’t real.”
What is important here is for you to become comfortable with lucid dreaming.
Continue your practice until you are comfortable within a lucid dream and you are not so struck by the oddity of the fact that you are up.
With this skill you can explore the deeper aspects of lucid dreaming.
It’s important to go over a few matters.
First, you can wake yourself up from a lucid dream; you’re not trapped.
You can do this by doing something physical and dramatic.
One technique that is often taught is that you start to spin yourself rapidly around.
By doing this you will spin yourself out of the dream and return to reality.
You can start to leap wildly about like an insane person.
What you do is not as important as it is that you do something that in waking life would require a lot of effort, not difficult or physically demanding mind you, but dramatic!
Make a karate chop, pump your fist in the air, dance. Don’t try to shout or make noise.
Instead make your mind, your thoughts, scream, “Wake up!!!”
Almost always this will be sufficient to wake you.
It is possible that you could awake from a lucid dream only to find yourself in another lucid dream.
Should this ever happen do what you just did.
It’s nearly impossible not to wake up on the second attempt.
You will not be lost in the dream world, forever plunging through realities of increasing terror.
However… When you are in REM sleep, your spinal cord has shut your body down.
Blood is surging through your skull and your brain has shifted into hyper drive, but your body is locked and frozen in place.
When your body is in REM sleep you cannot move.
It is possible to awake from a dream and find you’re paralyzed and unable to move.
This is called sleep paralysis.
This can be a terrifying experience.
Undoubtedly, many of the stories are those of people suddenly awaking from a nightmare frozen with terror as they feel like they’re being taunted by demons and ghosts.
The dream is carrying over and the body is still locked due to sleep paralysis.
I’m not suggesting there are not such things as ghosts and demonic presences, but you can bet the house that a large portion are due to a dreamer awakening and experiencing sleep paralysis.
If it ever happens, remember that it is temporary. Once your mind awakes, your body will soon follow.
And now it’s time to put to rest an ugly rumor about lucid dreaming.
You cannot die during a lucid dream.
It is impossible to experience your death in a lucid dream and actually die. You are quite safe.
You can will yourself to role play.
By using the same techniques that enabled you to remain asleep while dreaming, you can become any character you want to be.
The hero, the warrior, the damsel in distress, your alter ego, whatever it is learn to become that character and make your way through the dream in that role.
If you wish to use your dreams for therapeutic use, this is where your dream journal becomes invaluable.
Dream interpretation is its own subject. What you need to know is that in some things Freud was spot on.
The unconscious exists, it is separate from conscious and dreams come from it.
It was noted earlier that you will notice themes cropping up.
Now that you’ve become a lucid dreamer you will quickly see how various themes, characters and emotions often appear.
There may be a cluster of them.
They all swirl around something.
What that something is only you can determine.
Look around the internet to find information on how to interpret your dreams.
If you’re in counseling or thinking about seeing someone to deal with emotional issues, incorporating lucid dreaming into your therapy will be as valuable a tool in your tool kit as you can have.
People suffering from PTSD often are tortured by recurring nightmares.
While lucid dreaming is not a cure for PTSD, it can be used as a tool to help alleviate recurring nightmares.
By this time, you know that you can make yourself fully aware in a dream.
You know that you will be fully aware that everything that’s happening is not real: it’s a dream.
You can confront what it is that tortures you in your sleep.
It may not be easy at first, but with practice you can diminish the influence nightmares have over you.
The trick is to learn to confront your fears.
If your nightmare is something tangible, something you always see, you can stand up to it.
Tell yourself it has no sway, no power, it is not real and that you are in control of the dream.
Tell yourself that this is a dream and you will not be harmed.
Indeed, you can confront and triumph over your nightmares.
People often use lucid dreaming as a way to become more spiritual.
Dreams do not exist to fragment you; they are calls from your unconscious to become who you really are.
In their way they are telling you what’s broken and how to fix it.
When using lucid dreaming for therapy and development, your dreams will point the way to wholeness and self-actualization.
If you are of a spiritual nature, you will straight away be struck by the oddity and the profundity of lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreams can be so vivid, detailed and real that you will think it’s impossible that this mind you’ve spent your whole life with is capable of creating such images.
At some point in every lucid dreamer the question will arise about the nature of reality.
One morning you will awake from a vivid and stunning lucid dream and wonder if you visited a place that was, in fact, real.
Invariably experienced lucid dreamers will seriously ponder whether or not they had an out-of-body experience.
For those inclined to look for meaning in life and the nature of reality, you will find lucid dreaming to be a stunning portal into a reality, or realities, that exist all around us but are not accessible to our conscious mind.
If you’ve never heard about lucid dreaming, I hope I created an interest in you that will make you want to try it for yourself.
If you’re considering lucid dreaming and want to know how to do it, this article should serve as a handy guide.
Now that you have read it, you have scanned over the outlines and have a feel for lucid dreaming.
Many books and websites exist that are devoted to lucid dreaming, how to bring it about.
If you explore what is written about lucid dreaming, I think you will look back upon this article and realize that the basics were covered and that much everything you read are but variations on a theme.
There is no magic to learning how to dream lucidly, no guru or wise man who can pass on arcane secrets known only to a select few.
Remembering your dreams then making it a habit to question and interrogate reality is the key.
I’ll guarantee you that if you commit yourself to this, you will have a lucid dream in less than a month.
If this happens this article on how to lucid dream has served its purpose. Happy dreaming.