One of my favourite topics! Once you learn this technique you can have full control over your dreams. Why not live your sleeping life to the fullest with unlimited boundaries?! Imagine flying over the world of your dreams, diving into its oceans, swimming with the creatures that live below, facing up to the fears in your nightmares, conquering your own subconscious! Lucid dreaming can be an incredible tool for healing and an overwhelmingly fun adventure. By the end of this article you will have the tools to begin to induce your own lucid dream tonight!
What is Lucid Dreaming?
Lucid dreaming is a dreaming state where you become aware that you are dreaming, giving you the ability to have full control over your dreams. You are able to consciously control what happens and all of your senses are as real as they are in waking life. You can see, touch, taste, hear and even smell your dreams!
Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D., claims that lucid dreaming is:
“a priceless treasure that belongs to each of us. This treasure, the ability to dream lucidly, gives us the opportunity to experience anything imaginable — to overcome limitations, fears, and nightmares, to explore our minds, to enjoy incredible adventure, and to discover transcendent consciousness.
Ordinary dreams give a hint of these possibilities, through their regular violation of the rules of waking life, and their occasional offering of insights into our lives. The art of dreaming is a learnable skill, and I believe the highest level of that skill is found in lucid dreaming. Lucid dreams are dreams in which you know that you are dreaming, and are aware that the dream is your own creation.
With lucidity comes an astonishing, exhilarating feeling of freedom — the knowledge that you can do anything, unbound by any laws of physics or society. One of the first joys of many lucid dreamers is flying: soaring like a bird, freed from the restraints of gravity. From there, people can go on to discover the vast power of lucid dreaming for transforming their lives.“
There are two main types of lucid dreams:
1. Dream-initiated lucid dreams (DILD). This starts as a regular dream and eventually the dreamer becomes aware that he/she is dreaming.
2. Wake-initiated lucid dreams (WILD). This is when the dreamer goes from wakefulness directly into Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM sleep) without losing self awareness from the waking state ie. there is no apparent lapse in consciousness. This is considered the most powerful lucid dreaming technique as you can become lucid on demand and because there is no break between waking & dreaming life the lucidity is much more vivid.
Is Lucid Dreaming Real?
Many people are skeptical when it comes to lucid dreaming and the question “is lucid dreaming real?” is often posed. I have had the pleasure of having many lucid dreams myself and the call for skepticism seems superfluous to me, but I feel that it is important to address such matters.
The skeptics suggest that lucid dreaming is not a state of sleep, but of brief wakefulness. Lucid Dreaming occurs during REM Sleep where frequent transitory arousals are common and it was proposed these “micro-awakenings” were the physiological basis for reports on lucid dreams. This was popular belief until recently when more research began.
Lucid dreaming has been researched scientifically, with participants performing pre-determined physical responses while experiencing a lucid dream. Stephen LaBerge is a psychophysiologist and leader in the scientific study of lucid dreaming. You can read all about his research here.
We must understand that there is no way to prove the truth of lucid dreaming other than to ask the dreamer! We know the truth about what happens in our sleepy noggins and no one will tell us otherwise!
Now I’m going to tell you:
How to Have a Lucid Dream!
Firstly, you must have two essential things…motivation and effort! Sometimes lucid dreams can occur spontaneously (for example, I watched the movie Waking Life by Richard Linklater, the first I had heard of lucid dreams, and that night, to my surprise, I was able to control my dream), however it is more common for lucid dreaming to be induced when you are committed to experiencing one…or intending the lucid dream to happen.
Tips on How to Lucid Dream
I recommend starting with developing your ability to recall your dreams. Start a dream diary. Write down everything you can remember about your dream as soon as you wake up, no matter how full your sentences are with confusing dream logic, no matter how blurry, just get it down! Draw pictures if you express yourself better this way.
If you keep practising you should see that within a couple of months the number of dreams you can recall will have increased significantly. When you are able to recall your dreams you will start to become familiar with your dream patterns and features (dream signs), which will help you recognise that you are dreaming! It is advised to build your dream recall to at least one dream per night before proceeding with lucid dreaming induction techniques.
Reality testing is a good step for beginners. There are a couple of tests you can do to help induce lucid dreaming:
If you wear a watch keep checking it throughout the day to see if the numbers are normal or if they have mashed up into some kind of indistinguishable hieroglyph. In dreams, letters and numbers can change 75% of the time if read once, and 95% of the time if read twice. So double check your watch throughout the day. If you are dreaming you won’t be able to make sense of the numbers and you will realise you are dreaming! Have fun!! 🙂
You can also imagine that your surroundings are a dream. Look around and ask yourself what the world would look like if you were dreaming. Visualise as vividly as possible (with all of your motivation an effort!) that you are dreaming. Even imagine the weird happenings in a dream – the text changing, you levitating, peoples faces changing, the landscape morphing. Then you can visualise yourself doing a dream activity, like flying for instance, or exploring. Imagine yourself enjoying your chosen activity.
I mentioned dream signs before. Once you are familiar with your dream signs you will be able to recognise them when you are dreaming and thus, become lucid.
Napping is a technique you can use to lucid dream fast! Wonderful, isn’t it?!
When I was working two jobs, I would start one job at 5:30 in the morning and finish at 2pm. My next job would start at 3pm or 5pm and finish at 1 or 2am, so I had to change my sleeping patterns. Those couple of hours in the afternoon were perfect and necessary for sleep, and I found that my I was having lucid dreams more often then not. At this time I was practicing the WILD’s, and this napping technique worked marvellously!
How to Induce a Lucid Dream (WILD)
Napping is one technique that is helpful to induce a lucid dream, but if you haven’t the time to nap, you can also set an alarm after 4-6 hours of sleep in the night, when your body is nice and relaxed. Both of these techniques send you directly into REM sleep. You can try this technique which will teach you how to have a lucid dream tonight.
Please keep in mind that the speed in which you develop the skill to lucid dream depends on many different factors including how well you recall your dreams, how well developed your critical thinking faculty is, how much time you give to practising mental exercises etc. It may take a long time for some and no time at all for others.
What we must do is replicate the process of how your body falls asleep each night. Basically – trick your body into thinking you are asleep…while keeping your mind awake…sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But I assure you it is possible, and its a lot of fun once you get used to it! It gets easier with practice and you’ll be surprised how natural it feels…you slip right into a dream with full awareness!!
Lay on your back with your hands by your side and relax as much as possible. Empty your mind and check out the back of your eyelids…gaze into the vast blackness behind them. Observe your thoughts – try not to react to them…just let them go into the blackness. Do not move. Every time you move it makes it harder for the dream to take hold. If you have a persistent itch, scratch it, but mostly those itches will end up going away as it is the body’s way of testing whether you are falling asleep or not…we have to trick it by not giving in to these tests!
If you find it difficult to clear your mind there are hundreds of tracks (like this one) on youtube that will help you relax and make it easier to slip into the dream world. You can also use Lucid Dreaming Guided Meditation Videos such as this one:
Once relaxed, you can lead your mind into the hypnagogic state (the transitional state between wakefulness and dreaming). You will start to see a plethora of colours and shapes swirling around.
Let the hypnagogia go deeper, allowing the colours and shapes to hypnotise you and your awareness of the outside world will begin to fade away. You may also hear sounds, like high frequencies, music or voices, or experience physical sensations such as sinking through the bed, floating, tipping or vibrating. There’s no need to be afraid…this is the process of sleep, you are now able to observe yourself doing so! Accept all of the sensations as your internal dreamscape starts to take shape. Pictures may start peering at your through ‘curtains’ in the swirling colours before you’re fully dreaming.
At this point you may enter into a scene, blissfully aware, in which case you are free to explore and create to your hearts content! Or you may like to create your own landscape using your own inner imagination;
As the scene starts to become more vivid, put yourself right in the middle of the happenings, and explore your surroundings as calmly and peacefully as possible. Keep reminding yourself “I’m dreaming” throughout the whole process, even if you’re not fully dreaming yet. You soon will be – and these reminders will help you stay lucid and not fall asleep and lapse into a regular dream state.
When your mind is completely absorbed in the half dream, place your mind in your dream body and allow yourself to fall asleep completely. Your sleeping body will be a distant dream and your dream will seem like reality! You are now lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming can be a very overwhelming experience, and the excitement of it all may thrust you back into waking life. Try to remain peaceful and observe and accept what is happening around you without reacting too emotionally.
Another way you may enter the dream world using WILD technique is through the Out of Body Experience (OBE) Exit. This topic is covered in detail in the article on Astral Projection. You can read this article (soon) here.
Is Lucid Dreaming Dangerous?
You may be thinking about death…oh dear, morbid alert! Death in a dream to be more specific. Nightmare on Elm Street style…if you die in a dream will you die in real life? Will you be stuck in dream limbo land for years like in Inception? Is lucid dreaming dangerous?
Overwhelmingly, lucid dreaming is a positive and rewarding experience where the dreamer can often combat his/her worst fears in nightmares, connect to a deeper level of consciousness, heal their own body and tap into a deeply creative side of the brain. Even just being lucid is enough to elevate the mood of a dreamer in a nightmare. In regards to dying in a dream causing death in reality – if it were true there is no way to know…! How could we know? Many people however, have woken after dying in a dream, have recalled the dream and have not been harmed at all.
Dreams of death can be enlightening experiences and have often been said to be linked with the death of a negative side of oneself, rather than actual death. They can also offer insight into life, rebirth and transcendence.
Lucid dreaming is so wonderful and pleasurable that people can become addicted. They then worry that they may become trapped in dream limbo…this is impossible as we have a limited amount of REM sleep each night. So if you do become addicted, there is no need to sleep excessively as there will be no result. Just enjoy sleep and your lucid dreams when you need to!
More importantly, according to Stephen LaBerge’s research: “While dreaming, our bodies are paralyzed and our brain builds a world model based on a secondary source; namely, our assumptions, motivations, and expectations. These biases are difficult to identify while awake, so a world based entirely on such biases, the world of dreams, can help us to recognize them. Thus, dreams are not messages, but are more like clues into the inner workings of our minds. The conscious and critical awareness that accompanies lucid dreams allows dreamers to thoughtfully interpret their dreams while they happen.”
Lucid Dreaming Stories
My first flying experience happened after I had become lucid in a dream. I had been talking to a friend a couple of nights before about how i had never flown in a dream (I’m 27 years old and was beginning to feel like I was missing out on something incredible!) and when I had this dream I was deeply grateful!
I was at work, making coffees as I usually do, cleaning and running around after customers. The shop was a perfect replication of real life…It was extremely vivid. After some time, my brother, whom I hadn’t seen in a very long time walked in. I screamed and ran up to him and hugged him dearly. I heard a voice and turned around and my other brother was there smiling at me. Hugs all round. I was so happy to see them.
Suddenly my consciousness kicked in and I realised that I was of course in Darwin…3000km away from my family in the Sunshine Coast. This scene was impossible! I then noticed that all of the cakes in the cabinet were different, the pictures of the wall were skewed. I knew I was dreaming. Because of my conversation with my friend in reality a couple of nights before, I then realised that being in the dream world…well, this means I can fly!! My dream brothers faded away into the background – flying was my priority!
Not knowing how on the astral plane to do such a thing (as I was a flying virgin and my feet were firmly on the ground at sea level) I started to tilt on one leg, like the balancing stick pose in Bikram, and then quickly tried to lift my other leg so I would be levitating. I fell a few times but eventually realised if I just imagined myself floating…I would float! It was as easy as that. So there I was, floating around the shop…my excitement levels were rising, so my vision was getting a little burry. I managed to stay lucid for a while longer where I was lost in the kitchen and the store room, running into dead ends and thinking “Oh my god, I’m flying and this is what I’m exploring?! Create something Elyse! Anything!” Then I saw a door…with a beautiful meadow full of flowers and birds and sunshine…the outside world! I flew towards it, and as the sun hit my eyes I woke up.
It’s tricky to stay in the lucid dreaming state when you’re doing something as exciting as flying with full awareness. We must remember to remain calm and not let the ego get in the way!
Even though my first experience was somewhat ordinary in surroundings, I was still overwhelmed that I had achieved flight. It is a feeling I will never forger! Since that experience I have managed to fly a few more times…once over the ocean and diving into the water, feeling the connectedness and oneness of all things. It is such an incredible experience and I wish you all the best of luck at obtaining your own lucid dreaming experience!
Here are a few more videos of other people’s lucid dreaming stories. I also highly recommend the movie Waking Life. Prepare your mind for a psychedelic, warped, phantasmagorical and also highly informative journey!