Lucid Dreaming

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We all know how real dreams can seem. Lucid dreams are even more real - and have the advantage that you are in control. They are the ultimate "virtual reality".

What Are Lucid Dreams?

A lucid dream is as vivid and real as the "real" waking life. Yet you know you're dreaming; you can control the dream. In a lucid dream you can go anywhere, meet anyone, do anything. Anything you can imagine, you can experience as real.

Life's too short, we need to live every minute to the full. Lucid dreaming is a technique that allows us to make use of some of those hours otherwise wasted in sleep. In our lucid dreams we can put our dreams to some purpose: analyse our dream symbols, face our challenges and have fun!

People have been having lucid dreams for as long as the human mind has been dreaming. The first known use of the actual term "lucid dreaming" was by Frederik van Eeden in his work "A Study of Dreams" which was published in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research in 1913. (Van Eeden also wrote the novel The Bride of Dreams)

Since then the term has become part of mainstream popular culture. Lucid Dreams have recently been popularized by a number of books and films (including the brilliant Waking Life) along with the work of people such as Stephen LaBerge.

It's important to recognize that lucid dreaming - lucidity - occurs in the middle of true sleep. The imagery you experience on the edges of sleep - the hypnagogic & hypnopompic states - is not lucid dreaming.

Those states, fun as they are, are more akin to daydreaming. Imagine that but a hundred times sharper, more detailed and more real - that's the lucid dream experience. In a lucid dream you are totally conscious yet still asleep. You'll know it when you experience it.

This article will discuss some of the relevant facts and basics of lucid dreaming and introduce a few simple induction techniques to guide you through the process of achieving lucidity. Unless you're one of the lucky few you won't be able to have lucid dreams immediately. It will probably takes weeks or even months of work to learn lucid dreaming. Don't give up - the experience is worth the wait.

If you have any concerns that lucid dreams might not be right for you, or if you suffer from any medical condition, please consult your doctor.


Why Have Lucid Dreams?

Some people are instantly "wowed" by the idea of lucid dreaming. Others don't immediately understand the appeal: "It's just a dream".

Hopefully this article in general will go some way to dispel the idea of "just a dream". However what is the specific value of lucid dreams?

Well, first and foremost lucid dreams are great fun! However for those who want more serious motives, here are a few possible uses of lucid dreaming:

1. Rehearsal

Just about every self-help programme ever devised stresses the power of visualization. Lucid dreaming is visualization taken to the next step.

In a lucid dream you can experience any scenario you want, any challenge you might be facing. Then you can rehearse it - not simply visualizing but actually experiencing your success. This helps to boost your confidence when you face the real situation.

2. Inspiration

Many creative people know that their best ideas come in dreams. Unfortunately ordinary dreams are often fleeting and don't come "on demand".

In a lucid dream you can summon up the dreams you want. You can play with ideas, combining some elements consciously then letting the subconscious take over.

3. Relaxation

Many people today are constantly on the go. The alarm clock jars them awake in the morning, they experience the stress of commuting to get to the office where they work late dealing with awkward colleagues and customers.

When they finally get home they grab a bite to eat, do a few chores and fall into bed - ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Sleep is physically relaxing, lucid dreaming can make it more so. After a hard day like this just being able to spend a few minutes in a lucid dream sitting on a warm beach watching the waves can leave you feeling so much better the next day.

4. Closure

We all have aspects of our life that need "closure". Sometimes these involve grief, perhaps due to break up or bereavement. No dream can undo what's been done, however in lucid dreaming at least you get a chance to explore alternative endings to a situation and to articulate the things you never said.

On a lighter note, it can also be a good opportunity to vent our feelings on those people who have annoyed us during the day!


How to Lucid Dream

People have been having lucid dreams since long before the name was coined. Some lucky people seem to know how to have lucid dreams without even trying.

Most of us have to learn lucid dreaming like any other skill.

You can buy various commercial devices to assist lucid dream induction. Some of these are designed to trigger a stimulus during REM sleep (when we do most of our dreaming). Whilst such devices can be an effective aid, most people can learn to dream lucidly without them.

The techniques for lucid dream skills are actually quite simple although they might take weeks or even months to get results. The key is simply to realize that you are dreaming. Then you become "lucid" whilst still asleep. You are conscious yet not awake.

There are essentially two aspects to this induction process:

  1. Learning to recognize your dreams
  2. Habitually questioning your state of consciousness

I've broken these two steps down into a few simple elements on the pages that follow, these should guide you through the process.

It doesn't work for everybody, but don't give up too soon. Some people learn lucid dream skills in a week, others take months before they first achieve lucidity. It's worth persevering.

The 4 Steps to Lucid Dreaming

Step 1: Question Your State

Step 2: Recording Your Dreams

Step 3: Dream Signs

Step 4: Noticing Dream Signs

Best Lucid Dreaming Techniques

1. Wake Induced Lucid Dreams

Most lucid dreams come during the depths of sleep, in the middle of REM sleep. However some people have lucid dreams where the switch from waking to sleeping appears almost instantaneous. Rather than "waking up" in the middle of a dream and becoming lucid, they go into the dream already conscious.

Such lucid dreams are called WILDS - Wake Induced Lucid Dreams - as opposed to the more common DILDs - Dream Induced Lucid Dreams.

Very often WILDs first occur spontaneously. After waking up, the sleeper will suddenly find themselves "back" in the dream world with no break in consciousness.

Some people can induce WILDs at will - others find it impossible. Some experience of "normal" (DILD) lucid dreams is certainly desirable before attempting to consciously initiate WILDs.

The basic method for WILD induction is to relax in a dark, quiet room and simply will yourself into the dream state. The process is in some ways akin to deep meditation or self-hypnosis. Some people have reported success using one of the various light / sound machines you can buy.

Out of Body Experiences (OOBE)

Moving into the WILD state is often associated with a feeling of leaving one's body. For this reason WILDs are frequently associated with Out Of Body (OOB) Experiences and are sought out by those who take a psychic approach to lucid dreaming.

At least one technique for inducing OBEs has also been reported as useful for inducing WILDs: whilst relaxed, close your eyes and visualize the room you are in. Visualize yourself, sitting or laying down. Make sure that you can really see every detail. Open your eyes, check the accuracy of your visualization, then close your eyes again and repeat. Once you have the room fixed, visualize yourself moving out of your body, out of the room and into the desired dream.


2. Mnemonic Induced Lucid Dreams (MILD)

The MILD technique is a system originally developed by Stephen LaBerge to assist in dream recall and in having lucid dreams. Unlike WILDs, the MILD technique is solely intended for use when sleeping.

There are now many slightly different modifications to the technique around, what follows is the one I use. As always, do whatever works best for you.

MILD stands for Mnemonic Induced Lucid Dream, which is rather a mouthful. All it really means is conditioning your mind to make it more likely that you will become lucid. It's a little like self-hypnosis or affirmations.

The MILD technique is usually used when going to bed and reinforced if you awake during the night. Some people have used it during the day before a nap - though there is a danger here of confusing true lucid dreaming with hypnagogic/hypnopompic imagery.

To start, prepare for bed and get yourself comfortable and ready for sleep. Now simply relax. Let your mind drift away, peaceful and comfortable.

Think about dreaming, feel that warm, peaceful sensation.

Now start to tell yourself that you will become lucid in your dreams. Tell yourself that when you awaken you will remember your dreams. You don't have to do anything, it will just happen, it is the way it will be.

Imagine yourself dreaming, see yourself in a dream, move into the dream. If you have any established dream signs, imagine them in your dream. Fully associate with being in the dream, with recognizing your dream signs, with becoming lucid. And know that you will remember your dreams when you awaken. It will just happen.

Let yourself dream about dreaming and dream about waking and drift gently into a peaceful, relaxing sleep.

If you're lucky you might become lucid in your next dream cycle. If you wake during the night, try to remember the dream you had, recreate it in your mind and step back into it. Imagine yourself recognizing the dream and becoming lucid as you slip back into sleep.

That's the basic principle, obviously you need to adjust the details to suit you.

Good luck!


Frequently Asked Questions About Lucid Dreaming

1

Can I Get Stuck in the Dream World?

Many people worry that they might become "stuck" in a lucid dream. This fear is probably fuelled by the number of stories and TV shows that have used this device.


In fact it's far more likely that the shock of becoming lucid will wake you too early.


Experiments have shown that time in dreams seems to flow at the same rate as time in the "real" world. If that's so then how come some of our dreams seem to last hours, days or even longer?

The answer seems to be that dreams are "cinematic".


A Broken Arrow

Cinematic? That just means that - like a film - our dreams tend to concentrate on the interesting bits of the story and leave out most of the boring, mundane stuff. Films almost always cover a period of time longer than the two hours you spend in the cinema.


Imagine you're watching a movie and the main character wants to drive from home to the office. You'd probably see a shot of them getting into the car, maybe a couple of shots of the journey with scenery or traffic jams to set the mood, then a shot of the car pulling up in front of the office. A trip of half an hour or more would probably be reduced to around fifteen seconds screen time.


Dreams work the same way.


This can cause problems for some lucid dreamers. Imagine you are dreaming that you are in your apartment. You look out of the window and see a party in the street below. You want to join in.

Many people would automatically walk out of the room into the hallway, to the front door, open it, walk down the stairs, out into the street... By which time they might have woken up!

The way round this is to practice having your lucid dreams work in the same cinematic fashion as ordinary dreams. Get into the habit of just saying to your mind "make it so"!


Simply will yourself to be out of your apartment and in the middle of the party, without all that tedious mucking about in normal space in between. If you really have trouble with this then you could try imagining some form of teleportation effect.

Life is short. Dreams are shorter. Don't waste them.

2

What are False Awakenings?

False awakenings are often confused with lucid dreams, perhaps because learning lucid dream techniques seem to make one more prone to false awakenings.


A false awakening is very simple: it occurs when you believe that you have woken up but in fact are still asleep. You in effect dream about having woken up.


Literature and the movies have used the concept of false awakenings to great dramatic effect. Often in a film someone will wake from a nightmare situation and believe themselves safely in bed. Then, a few seconds later, the monster will leap out of the cupboard or whatever.


The reality is often more prosaic. Certainly in my case false awakenings just see me going through my normal waking routine. A cup of tea, breakfast, possibly even travelling to work - and then I wake up for real.


For me at least false awakenings are more common when I have something in the day ahead that I am either strongly looking forward to - or really dreading!


Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of false awakenings is that they often seem to repeat themselves.


In such multiple false awakenings, you believe yourself to be awake, go about your routine, then find yourself back in bed. You think "Oh, I was still dreaming", get up and go about your routine... then find yourself back in bed. This can repeat several times and the concept of being trapped in an infinite set of false awakenings has inspired much fiction.

False awakenings share the "clarity" of a true lucid dream and to an extent the dreamer has control over the environment. The crucial difference is that unlike a true lucid dream, in a false awakening you do not realise you are still asleep. As such you don't achieve true lucidity and your control of the dream world is limited.

3

How Can I Avoid Waking from My Lucid Dreams?

Some people fear that they will be "trapped" in a lucid dream and never wake. In reality, most people find that they wake from the lucid dream state far too easily. This especially true when you're new to lucid dreaming; the sudden realisation "I've done it!" can shock you awake.


Delay


The spin technique is a widely used method to prevent lucid dreams from ending - or at least to delay the moment.


If you feel yourself beginning to wake from a lucid dream, the spin technique is very simple to use. Just stand still, extend your arms, then start to spin on the spot.


Start slowly then gradually speed up. As you see the world around you spinning and the colors flowing, think of the dream location you want to see when you stop. Then slowly stop spinning and with any luck you'll be back in lucidity.

Why does this work?


One hypothesis is that when a dream starts to fade the visual effect is very similar to spinning - colors and shapes start to run and mix. By spinning, you are incorporating this visual factor into the dream, making it part of the dream. That somehow persuades your brain to stay dreaming.

Patrick Mahinge is a freelance writer who knows how it feels like to be a chronic snorer. He helps keep Snorezing updated with fresh anti-snoring content and product reviews. Connect with him on Google Plus, Twitter, or Facebook.

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