When I was about 9 years old, a few unsettling dreams had me fighting my urge to sleep. That was until I caught an episode of Care Bears in which one bear told another that you have all the power in your dreams and can control them at will. This blew my mind. What ensued was 2 weeks of non-stop lucid dreaming. In that time I flew through the air to tackle tree-people who were destroying my kitchen, defeated a cat-faced pawn shop owner by pulling a bazooka out of my pocket, and felt up Carmen San Diego. I guess my pre-pubescent mind couldn’t resist discovering what was under that red trench coat.
Looking back, it boggles my mind how easy lucid dreaming came to me at such a young age. It wasn’t until around 3 years ago that I started pursuing the lucid dream state again. This time though, I would spare Ms.San Diego my shenanigans and instead, venture to explore the deeper aspects of this particular state of consciousness.
Currently, there is no definitive reason for why we dream while sleeping, although many hypotheses exist. One guess is that we dream to help us process what we’ve taken in that day. A particular sleep study showed that participants who were involved in a language learning course dreamed more than those who were not. This has given some backing to the idea that, while dreaming, we assist short-term memories in becoming long-term memories.
Another possible reason for dreaming is to reflect upon emotions experienced while awake. During sleep, emotions that weigh heavily on us get a chance to become more illustrated. For example, if you are experiencing a looming debt, you may have dreams that you are drowning and can’t swim to the surface. Feelings of loneliness could manifest as vast landscapes of nothingness in which you’re forced to face this emotion head-on.
New Age thinking on the subject brings up even more opinions, some of which may seem more plausible than others. The one that resonates most with me is the idea that dreams are just another version of reality that we’re typically unable to access while in the waking state. Dreams could also be seen as a preview of the afterlife, in which anything you desire can be yours with a thought. In fact, dreaming and the moment of birth/death have a very curious correlation in that those moments are all accompanied by a large release of DMT via the pineal gland. DMT, also know as the “spirit molecule” is famous for inducing enlightenment/oneness/indescribable types of experiences when taken exogenously.
This brings us to the coolest experience one can have while dreaming: Lucidity.
What Is Lucid Dreaming?
Simply, lucid dreaming is being aware that you are dreaming while dreaming. There is a super high probability that you’ve experienced this before. If you can’t remember lucid dreaming in the past, then there’s a good chance you have but just don’t remember it. We’ll get back to this when we talk about dream recall. While lucid dreaming, you are in a world that’s almost indistinguishable from the waking state. In this realm, only your creativity can limit the possibilities of experience. Aside from the popular “flying like Superman dreams”, there have been cases where seasoned lucid dreamers have developed 360-degree vision, spoken to long dead relatives or historical figures, and trained desired skills. I’ve had the great joy of waxing philosophically with John Lennon which was extremely memorable. While you could always leave it to chance, in order to have more frequent and beneficial lucid dreams there are a few steps you can take.
How To Lucid Dream
The first step in Lucid dreaming is remembering your dreams. As I alluded to before, there’s a good chance you’ve lucid dreamed and not remembered it. The same goes for most dreaming. Many people claim that they don’t dream at all when in fact they likely just have poor dream recall. To remedy this, using a dream journal will be critical. Keep a pad and pen next to the bed or use an app on your smartphone to record whatever you can recall about your dreams. The important thing to remember is to write your dream down the moment you wake up. Every second counts! On a number of occasions, I’ve given myself a minute to stretch before writing down some exhilarating dream from that night and lost it completely. The more often you write down your dreams, the better you will be able to remember your dreams because the brain will start seeing dreams as something worthy of being remembered.
Keeping a dream journal also allows you to catch dream cues. Do you often have dreams where you’re running from something/someone or dreams about water? By identifying common cues in your dreams, you will have identifying events to help you realize that you’re dreaming and induce lucidity.
One of the premier ways to have more lucid dreams though is by doing reality checks throughout the day. There are a number of different ways to do this, but the one I use most often is inspecting my hands. Notice the lines and freckles. When you’re awake, your hands will appear as normal, but while dreaming, the details of your hand will change and morph over time. By looking at your hands during the day at regular intervals, you will be training yourself to do this while dreaming too. This is especially useful when dealing with stressful events in waking life. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed because of something like an upcoming meeting or a monster chasing you, take a moment to study your hands. Do they change appearance or look weird? If so you’re probably dreaming.
Some other methods of reality checking include jumping, checking the time on a digital clock/watch, putting your hand through the wall or noticing intricate patterns to see if they change. The idea is to realize that your cue is impossible in waking reality, thereby inducing lucidity.
Another pro tip is waking yourself up with a timer about 5 hours after you’ve fallen asleep, setting the intention to lucid dream for 10 minutes, and going back to sleep. This method, known as Mnemonic-Induction of Lucid Dreaming (MILD), is a technique tested by Stephen LaBerge, a psychophysiologist specializing in the scientific study of lucid dreaming.
The next problem many people have when lucid dreaming, myself included, is remaining lucid for long periods of time. For numerous people, the mere act of lucid dreaming is so exciting that waking up happens instantly. Some tricks for enhancing lucidity or remaining in the state are: rubbing your hands together or spinning in a circle. According to LaBerge, “…the odds in favor of continuing the lucid dream were about 22 to 1 after spinning, 13 to 1 after hand rubbing (another technique designed to prevent awakening), and 1 to 2 after “going with the flow” (a “control” task). That makes the relative odds favoring spinning over going with the flow 48 to 1, and for rubbing over going with the flow, 27 to 1.”
These techniques along with a calm mind will help increase the duration, frequency, and enjoyability of your experience.
Using Lucid Dreaming To Better Yourself
Lucid dreaming is an excellent way to pass your nightly 8 hours in an entertaining fashion, but there are other applications. It can be used to practice skills, and gain insights on your subconscious. Renowned life-hack guru, Tim Ferriss, talks about how he used lucid dreaming to train with a gold medal wrestler in his dreams for about an hour each night, leading to his 20-0 record before national championships. Facing fears is another great application for lucid dreaming. On almost every occasion, when you face the “monster” that’s chasing you, it cowers away, returning the power back to you. You could even use the time to seek insights from higher dimensional beings or yogis of the past. The possibilities for self-help through lucid dreaming are only limited by your imagination.
In conclusion, if you’d like to fly, breathe underwater, or even have a chat with John Lennon tonight, try some of these techniques and give lucid dreaming a try! For more info, check out this awesome FAQ presented by Stephen LaBerge’s Lucidity Institute.
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