The One Trick Every Lucid Dreamer Should Know. ~ Nick Atlas

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As a dream researcher and avid astral explorer of more than a decade, people often write to me seeking advice about their lucid experiences.

In a recent email, for example, my friend J. said that one night he became lucid and began to fly.

Suddenly, he remembered a conversation we’d had about dream yoga.

We’d last seen each other two months prior and when our discussion turned to dreams, I’d suggested that if and when he found himself consciously aware that he was dreaming—i.e., lucid—he try something novel.

I told him to talk to God.

Well, not exactly—allow me to explain.

According to the descendants of the Tibetan Bön & Dzogchen traditions, dream yoga has existed in one form or another for over 1,700 years and most likely has appeared in crude forms since humans began dreaming. What this means—to put it bluntly—is that we Westerners don’t know much about dreams, at least compared to those luminaries and the innumerable Eastern and indigenous cultures throughout the world for whom the veil between waking and dreaming is virtually non-existent.

More specifically, some degree of dream lucidity may be the norm amongst shamanic peoples and, while rare, there exists refined methods for mastering these further reaches of consciousness.

Now, this isn’t to say that indigenous peoples can’t tell the difference between the two worlds of waking and sleep. Rather, they don’t regard their dreams as unreal.

Thanks to Sigmund Freud’s prejudiced yet amply marketed dream theories of the early 1900s, to this day the average Westerner believes the content of their evening sojourns is, at worst, meaningless and, at best, symbolic.

Convinced that dreams are nothing more than imaginary and often chaotic representations of our unresolved, waking life conflicts and repressed, unconscious desires—that what we saw last night was “just a dream”—we inadvertently prioritize waking reality while demoting the dreamtime.

Herein lies one of the greatest tricks the devil ever pulled, right there alongside microwaves, which basically aren’t good for anything other than reheating stale coffee. But I digress…

Granted, Freud wasn’t entirely off the mark—many dreams are symbolic (though if you’re hoping to crack the code, it’s best to throw away your dream dictionary and join a dream group or fend for yourself). Likewise, waking physical reality is literally the soup du jour in our contemporary Western culture—it’s the sticky dimension where “real” life happens… or is it?

What if we were to imagine a world where we’re awake just long enough so that we can get back to our dreams, to a place where anything is possible. Yes, this is the stuff of science fiction, but we wouldn’t be the first to think this way, or at least to consider striking a finer balance between the two realms.

Remember the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu’s enduring question: Are we humans dreaming we’re butterflies, or butterflies dreaming we’re humans?

Given that lucid dreaming is clearly trending right now, it appears that this cultural revolution may be well underway. But, like most fads, we’re liable to have a lick and move on without ever having gotten to the center of the tootsie pop (which, as we all know, takes thhhrrrreeee  licks!).

Every other day there’s a new article raving about the untold marvels of controlling your dreams—so many, in fact, that lucidity and control are becoming synonymous. I can’t help but feel that we’re missing the bigger picture, and an indelible and magical art of self-discovery is on the verge of bastardization.

Now that we’re up to speed, allow me to clarify what I meant when I suggested that my friend “talk to God” in his lucid dream.

Any seasoned lucid dreamer will tell you that the dreamtime is not only real but also, in many cases, more real than being awake. Often this realization sets in after the dreamer has learned that he or she is capable of incredible feats yet cannot control everything in the dream.

Further investigation reveals that all the while there’s a higher power or Awareness occupying the background and occasionally nudging you this way or that.

Here’s the best part: this governing force—call it God, your Unconscious, Higher Self, etc.—is responsive. In other words, you can speak with it, ask it questions, receive invaluable insight and, in some cases, even perform miracles (like physical and emotional healing) that carry over into the waking world.

So, the next time you find yourself lucid, you might try not controlling anything. Instead, stop what you’re doing and ask aloud, “What’s the Highest?”

Then let go of the reigns, sit back, relax, enjoy the ride and, if you’d like, leave a comment or send me an email letting me know what you find out.




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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Hartwig HKD/Flickr

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anonymous Apr 12, 2016 12:16pm

Very bravely said. My favorite part was telling him, “talk to God”. I myself often get in a meditative state and submit my imagination to God, allowing him to use my mind for his Glory in the waking life. I learned that the devil works even when you’re asleep and he’s only got three tricks. The same ole tricks, nothing new. They are fear, guilt and shame. Ever heard the saying,”waking up on the wrong side of the bed?” So with knowing that, every night before I go to sleep I submit my imagination to God(the Trinity). The things I have seen are absolute references to the walking life and most definitely a higher power.

anonymous Apr 11, 2016 6:23pm

Nice write up Nick … Thanks for the insight. Sounds like you’re doing great!

anonymous Apr 11, 2016 1:31pm

Thanks Nick for this great article, I am definitely going to try asking “what’s the highest?” And see where it takes me.
A few months ago, only 3 or 4 months after my husband passed away suddenly, I met him on the astral plane and I asked him what it was like where he now lived, was it like life as I know it. His answer was simple…he told me “No, life is an illusion”. He had said this to me many times while living together in this earthly plane but it never made sense to me until I received this information in my dreamtime.

anonymous Dec 1, 2015 10:21pm

My mother passed 9 years ago. I have lucid dreams where she visits me, not as often anymore, however it’s usually when I am having troubling times, she always has a message for me. When we communicate, we talk with out words. It’s really amazing. I have always loved dreaming. I have flown in many dreams, been nude in public through my whole dream, and just about every other scenario, it always is an adventure. I will take your advice from the article. This was a good read 🙂

    anonymous Dec 2, 2015 10:48am

    Hi Jessica 🙂
    Thanks for your kind words! Pretty cool that we can experience so many amazing things every single night–sounds like you've got a knack for it…
    Hope to see you in the dreamtime~

anonymous May 3, 2015 11:21am

Hi Nick! Would you please you point us in the direction of some good books or information on the subject of dream yoga? Thank you so much!

    anonymous Aug 6, 2015 7:33pm

    Hi Jamie 🙂

    My apologies for the delay in replying–I was never notified of your question and haven't checked this thread in a while.

    My first recommendation is Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's "The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep"–def. the go-to text for traditional Dzogchen theory and practice.
    After that is Namkhai Norbu's "Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light."
    Robert Waggoner's book "Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self"–while not specifically on dream yoga–offers great insight into LD for any number of yogic purposes.
    A good entry level book on Tibetan DY is Alan Wallace's "Dreaming Yourself Awake," and for more esoteric writings check out his translation of Padmasambhava's "Natural Liberation."

    And, as if that weren't enough, hopefully I'll have my own book out in the next year or two, which should offer a nice and accessible synthesis of all of this stuff, including how it meshes with the Tantric yoga and shamanic traditions.
    Hope this helps! Peace!

anonymous Jan 6, 2015 12:29pm

Hi! So everyone who has commented is sharing "favorable" experiences. I, on the other hand, have been "tormented" by my dreams. I feel like they are reality and they are very upsetting. Most of the time those closest to me are disgusted with me, or indifferent to me, or I am looking to others to see how I should feel about this perceived terrible happening. I believe it's the devil torturing me in my dreams, and this is not the God of peace and tranquility that I desire and believe I believe in. Any perspective?

    anonymous Aug 6, 2015 7:24pm

    Hi Haileesmom 🙂

    First off, my apologies for the 1/2+ year delay in responding. I was never notified of your comment and haven't checked this thread in a while, but hopefully you'll see this. Since it's been so long, I'm going to keep this short but am happy to discuss it further if you're interested.
    My perspective is that we carry our emotional baggage with us always, regardless of whether we're awake or asleep and dreaming (so, in a sense, dreams ARE reality too). There may even be loads of stress and trauma in our bodymind that we're completely unaware of while we're awake, that can and will surface in dreams. Jung called this our "shadow." As we integrate the shadowy parts of ourself, we become more whole.
    As far as demons or other foreign entities are concerned, I think there's a very real possibility of this at the level(s) of "relative" reality. In the same way that there are all sorts of viruses that can affect our body, so too are there things that can affect our minds–in fact, they may even be one and the same in many instances. The rub, however, is that these "foreign" things can only disturb us if we believe in them. At the level of "absolute" reality there is no separation between anything–there isn't even an individual self. In other words, it's our false belief in our self as a separate, individual being that gives life to "other" things that may harm us. Obviously changing the experiential basis of our beliefs to one of non-separateness (or "non-duality") is not so simple–that's what spiritual practice and psychotherapy are for, and the process is generally said to unfold over many lifetimes. Ultimately, it all boils down to whether we can eradicate fear (of pain, death–suffering, more generally).
    If you can learn to "be" with your tormentors in a compassionate way and without resistance, you will see that they are all just as illusory as "you" are. However, this is not something that we can necessarily do on our own–best to seek out trained and sympathetic professionals that can help guide you through the process of integration and release. I can tell you from experience that it is possible to exorcise "demons." Whether we call it a demon or an emotional trauma (which, according to many traditions, may even be passed down from ancestors or carried over from past lives)–psychosomatic wounds and the stress they cause are serious business.
    Hope this helps! allLOVE~

anonymous Nov 11, 2014 3:40pm

This made me so excited!


I like the way you explain your ideas

    anonymous Dec 6, 2014 10:08am

    Thanks Ashley! That makes my day 🙂

anonymous Sep 1, 2014 1:32pm

I also tried it last night ;). The moment I turned lucid, I stopped doing anything and just asked aloud "What is the Highest?", at the same time looking for solution to my problems and waited for a response. Practically immediately I saw shadows appearing on the wall! They had multiple shapes: first came musical notes, then flying butterflies, later I could see a shadow shaped like a girl and similar things. They were moving away from me up into some corridor so I flew after them but later, as I saw no sense in it, I got back to where I was originally and tried again. After I asked again, these signs apperared on the wall before me, and as I was not moving, they were just appearing one after another. So at first I saw the same (notes, butterflies, a girl holding a violin) and after that before me appeared something like a symbolic message. Musical notes forming into some song, but I can't read music sheets so it wasn't really of help. However above there were two notes shaped like a couple of people. I could also see a title which has confirmed it. It was indeed about unity, even thoguh it was written in some Roman language, I could understand it, because many words looked similar to words I know either from English or from Romanian that I've learnt a little. It disspaeared and then I saw some verse written in German, but I can't really remember what it was about xD. But my overall impression right after experiencing it is that my Subconsciousness was trying to show me that I should just be at peace with myself and find inner harmony, and then everything shall come into its rightful place. So I didn't talk to my Subconscious self in person, but it sent me some sort of a symbolic answer.

    anonymous Sep 4, 2014 11:01am

    Great comment! Yes, as Jung proposed, our unconscious (or Higher Self, in this case) often communicates with us via symbols, patterns or 'archetypes,' essentially the universal building blocks of consciousness that precede provincial (i.e., culturally specific) language. What's so interesting about asking for the "Highest" is that it's not necessarily the word itself that invokes the response, but the intention behind the word. It's an act of attunement or alignment with the absolute best that you can be, even though it may not make 'sense' in the immediacy, or still requires some decoding. Look forward to hearing more about your experiments!

anonymous Sep 1, 2014 8:32am

Are there any methods that can encourage lucid dreaming? It happens to me often, but not often enough. I have tried telling myself while falling asleep “you’re aware of your dreams”…sometimes that works, but not always. I feel that as I get older, I am less aware that I am dreaming. One thing I find weird about my dreams lately, is I am thinking a lot. Last night I dreamed that I was sitting by a creek, and I was writing a paper about astronomy. I was pondering the universe very hard, and writing things that made sense in my dreams, but now seem like just a bunch of jumbling. I was not lucid in this dream though. But, I have been having a lot of dreams like this….dreaming that I am thinking very hard is interesting.

    anonymous Sep 4, 2014 10:55am

    Hi Chica 🙂 There are lots of methods to encourage lucid dreaming and several books have been written about the subject. I recommend Stephen LaBerge's "Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming," which is quite extensive, and "A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming" by Thomas Peisel et al., which is a very accessible synthesis of most of the preferred methods of long-time lucid dreamers. You could also google search "lucid dreaming induction techniques"–bound to find a lot this way too.
    In addition to frequent "reality checks"–literally asking yourself, "Am I dreaming right now?" or even announcing "This is a dream!" several times throughout the day–one of the best methods I know of is called the "Wake-Back-To-Bed" technique. Basically, wake yourself up about 2 hours prior to when you'd normally get up, meditate for 30-45 minutes or so, then head back to bed (you could also stay up for an hour and read, do your taxes, etc., but I find meditation works best). When you go back to sleep, your REM periods will be the longest of the night and you'll have cultivated more awareness then you might normally have at that hour. Try to give yourself the full two hours you're still 'due' and sooner or later the reality checks will pay off, as you'll announce that you're dreaming and realize it's true!
    Hope this helps–best of luck, and please report back if and when this works for you~

anonymous Aug 27, 2014 12:50am

Great article! It's always good to put things into context and be cautious about over-hyping these self-discoveries. On my part, only 23 years old, dreams have always been very lucid and vivid. I have too many stories to tell! I've dreamt that I was dying from cancer and attending my own funeral to flying over fields and lakes around the world!

But along with your article Nick, I have asked a question: I saw myself in the mirror. I noticed it was another me and not me on this side of the mirror. I hurriedly touched the mirror and asked the other me a question. It was an amazing experience. And guess what!? I didn't get an answer. I encourage all to ask but also be aware that the experience of asking and seeing what happens is more valuable than the answer! ( but we all know that, right!)

    anonymous Aug 27, 2014 4:53pm

    Wow–cool stories! I'd love to hear more!
    It's true, answers may not be verbal, rather the experience often speaks for itself. I think some people are more prone to audial responses, others visual, etc.
    Thanks for comments!

anonymous Aug 22, 2014 9:22am

Hello! Fascinating article and the question at the end…WOW. I became lucid in my dream a few nights back, in my dream, I was holding my two year old son in the middle of our kitchen, and I asked in the dream: "what's the highest?" IMMEDIATELY my whole body buzzed and vibrated, almost like I was flying. As soon as I became more aware of this intense (intense in a comforting and not concerning way) sensation, I remembered your words of "enjoy the ride" so stayed present to the all over buzzing and felt the the vibration again and at that moment a gentle, I believe male voice, whispered in my ear, "you already know."

At that moment, I awoke. It surprised me…to hear a response so I think that's why I woke up fast after that. Afterwards, I felt blissful. I had insomnia that night, and that dream left me feeling restful and peaceful the next day. I also felt more positive energy the next day, keeping me uplifted…also felt reassured in knowing higher power, as many of us feel and believe, is within us at all times. Just up to us to access it. Thanks for your time in reading this. Lots of love. 🙂

    anonymous Aug 23, 2014 10:15am

    That's wonderful! So nice to hear from you, and especially with such a great story!
    I'd love it if you'd send me an email at [email protected]

      anonymous Aug 25, 2014 5:03pm

      Very interesting experience Jennifer had. I wonder how would one interpret buzzing or other body experiences without a plain old list of "here are the answers…"? Intuition? Great essay, thanks Nick!

        anonymous Aug 27, 2014 4:50pm

        Hi Anna 🙂 Thanks for your comment.
        I'm hoping to tackle these sorts of experiences in my next article, but would love to hear what you think may be going on.

anonymous Aug 20, 2014 7:08pm

I like it nick, it may have not been obvious from the title, but I realised I already do this and have met lots of characters in my dreams that have woken me up to all sorts of hidden marvels of my own being that I thought I didnt have or had forgotten about. thanks for reminding me!

    anonymous Aug 21, 2014 2:03pm

    Hi Sam 🙂

    Great to hear this–one of my intentions behind writing the article was to inspire folks to share their stories, reignite the imagination, and get the ball rolling on this subject more generally. I welcome your tales should you wish to share them.
    Out of curiosity, do you recall where you first came across this technique, or perhaps you discovered it on your own?

anonymous Aug 20, 2014 12:33pm

Nice job Nick!

    anonymous Aug 21, 2014 2:00pm

    Thanks Shaye! Safe travels 😉

anonymous Aug 20, 2014 10:23am

Hey Nick,
Glad to see you on Elephant Journal. I love me some lucid dreaming. I've had experiences of communicating with Higher Self, somewhat spontaneously. It is an interesting technique to set an intention in your dream journal to have a specific kind of encounter when you become lucid. Spinning in your dream body is a classic method to solidify lucidity and initiate the rendezvous.
Maybe I'll see you in the etheric realms one of these nights.

    anonymous Aug 21, 2014 2:00pm

    Hi Brian!
    Great to hear from you and thanks for chiming in. It's amazing to see how many folks are becoming interested in this stuff! Hope all's well and happy space traveling 🙂

anonymous Aug 20, 2014 10:21am

I need someone to take me back to the beginning; I don't understand.

    anonymous Aug 21, 2014 1:59pm

    Absolutely! How far back would you like to go?
    Have you ever had a lucid dream? In either case, are you familiar with the concept?

anonymous Aug 20, 2014 9:22am

Nice, Nick – I think you hit on an important note about the difference between being lucid and allowing the experience to unfold vs. trying to control it. Controlling is a novel experience, allowing is a transformative experience.

    anonymous Aug 21, 2014 1:57pm

    Well said, Michael. Thanks for your comment!

anonymous Aug 19, 2014 11:02pm

shoutout to nick atlas

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Nick Atlas

Nick Atlas, Ph.D. (ABD) is a transformative educator and wellness consultant specializing in integrative approaches to sleep, dreams and the art of relaxation. The Director of Evolutionary Education® and advanced 200-hr Yoga Psychology Teacher Trainings, he currently teaches Psychology at the University of West Georgia and conducts pioneering research on lucid dreaming. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter via his website and receive a free, guided relaxation mp3.