As we spend around a third of our life dreaming, it makes sense that we make the most of that time to enter a surreal infinite space where absolutely anything is possible.
Everyone is capable of having lucid dreams.
Lucid dreaming is the art of being aware that we are dreaming while in a dream state. This means we can create our own dreams by tapping into our unconscious mind and imagination.
When we are aware that we are in a dream state, we have control and are able to make decisions. We can also know the meaning of our dream and of the environment in which our dream takes place.
Our awareness can vary from mild to vivid recognition of all that is taking place.
Lucid dreams give us the opportunity to choose what we dream about, though, initially it is more common for people to be able to access and control a small section of their dream. Before long, if we stay focused and practice regularly, we can master our dreams so that we can delve into any knowledge stored within our unconscious mind and fully explore our imagination.
When we are lucid while dreaming we are operating from our subconscious mind, so we can delve into unresolved emotions or fears and explore them further in whatever safe scenario we choose within the dream. We can also revisit past memories and experiences (even ones we thought we had forgotten) and go back to particular events to find out more information than we were able to gain at the time. To achieve this effectively and authentically we also must be sure that our mind is rational and not clouded by illusions due to our judgment or emotions getting in the way.
I have only been exploring lucid dreams for a few years, although my daughter has been naturally lucid in her dreams since she was a child.
Not only do I actively control my dreams, I often remain aware and alert and allow my dream state awareness to enter my unconscious mind and unveil anything there that needs my attention. I also discovered that I was holding a huge amount of limiting beliefs and that many of the things I was telling myself I couldn’t do, were a feasible option when my critical left side of the brain wasn’t in gear.
I also regularly use lucid dreams to hold long conversations with myself. I may comfort and soothe troubles and fears or talk in detail about intense but essential subjects that are vital for self-growth or working towards my full potential. Often my dream-self has far more vital and logical information to tell me than I have to talk through with her.
Lucid dreaming gives us the chance to live out our wildest desires. We can literally go anywhere, do anything, see anyone and achieve anything just by setting the intention, monitoring it and being fully in control of whatever we see, do or feel within that dream. Anything we may wish to do is possible within a lucid dream, including all our unfulfilled or desires and extraordinary hopes that we may not yet (or ever) have the opportunity to achieve or experience in our current lives. We can feel what it would be like to fly, to roam unaccompanied across untrodden lands, to converse with people we never met (past or present) and to exist alongside other species that we wouldn’t normally be able to get close to.
We can use our dreams as an opportunity to unleash our creativity and many artists and deep thinkers use lucid dreams for inspiration, guidance, problem solving and motivation.
Our awareness can occur when we are already in the middle of a dream (a Dream Initiated Lucid Dream D.I.L.D,) or we can go into a lucid dream straight from our normal waking state (a Wake Initiated Lucid Dream W.I.L.D.).
Lucid dreams offer heightened sensations as our touch, hearing, sight, taste and smell senses are alerted and they are often more emotionally charged than our usual dreams.
Many lucid dreams begin when the person dreaming is alerted by an unusual encounter within their dream, that triggers their awareness.
Before we try to have a lucid dream we should first of all be sure that we have faith that it is possible. Our limiting beliefs can prevent us from achieving so many things we set our minds to and if we are already doubting the process before we begin, it will be far more difficult to enter the relaxed state required.
To venture into a lucid dream is very simple and totally natural. We can begin by visualizing what it is we would like to dream about and, if preferred, we can also add a simple mantra such as, “I am aware that I am dreaming,” and repeat this until we enter into the lucid dream state.
Meditating right before sleep encourages a profound state of relaxation to set the stage for dreaming. We can slow the mind of any persisting or irrational thoughts and focus fully on our breathing. The muscles in our body should be relaxed so we can scan from head to toe and release any specific areas of tension by gently squeezing the muscle and then letting go. With our eyes closed we can begin to evoke our imagination.
Then we can try to recall a past vivid dream or we can envisage a particular scenario that we feel comfortable with, quite in detail. When we start to focus in on the detail of what we are visualizing, our awareness will naturally heighten. We can imagine ourselves walking around and exploring our environment and paying close attention to anything that we may not normally notice.
Our physical body may feel tempted to move as the imagined body in our mind walks around and encounters things, though, it is essential that we remain as still and calm as possible to prevent disturbing the dream. We will eventually enter a state known as sleep paralysis which is when our physical body is fully relaxed and mostly unresponsive to what is happening within our dreams.
Sensations will then begin to infiltrate into our dream and we may experience these as though they are real. It is possible that all of our senses will relay things very differently and at a far more heightened level to how they usually are in our waking state. For example, a strawberry could taste like a banana although the texture may be totally unrelated to a banana.
The first REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase usually happens around 90 minutes after we have fallen to sleep and they usually reoccur every 90 minutes thereafter. The phases later in our sleep cycle are usually the most effective as this is when the REM state lasts longer and our dreams are more vivid. If we lightly wake during one of these sleep phases we can re-enter the dream we were in, but with our awareness heightened.
Sometimes we can become too alert when we first start lucid dreaming and our over-excitement or inquisitiveness can actually cause us to become restless. These overwhelming feelings may cause us to wake up. We can try relaxing once more so we return to our dream while we are slightly sleepy though still in a gentle state of awareness. It may be that gaining access to lucid dreaming is the easy part, while maintaining that state is more complex. Like with most things, regular practice leads to progression, but it usually doesn’t take long to enhance and prolong the experience.
We should try not to force lucid dreaming as our efforts are likely to cause resistance as we are in a relaxed enough state to enter the deep phase of sleep required for dreams to occur.
When we are consciously aware of our thoughts, emotions, feelings, intentions and actions throughout the day, it becomes far easier to maintain the awareness and continue it through the night.
Nightmares are far less likely to occur as we are the ones in control and we can alter our dream at any time and also use our dreams to put into context and resolve any inner or external conflicts.
Although lucid dreaming is a skill that can be learned and developed it is also a natural ability that some people possess and experience since early childhood.
Some people enter into lucid dreams regularly, whereas, others may need a little more patience and practice before the frequency increases.
Try not to drink anything directly before going to sleep so you are not disturbed during sleep by needing to go to the bathroom.
Try to intentionally, gently wake from the dream every few minutes to increase alertness and remember the dream by pressing the middle fingers softly into the palm of the hand or by rubbing both hands together. To wake fully just press the fingers more firmly into the palm.
When we are in a lucid dream we should try to wake ourselves intentionally, rather than naturally waking up, as this will keep us alert and allow us to retain the information within the dream so we can reflect back on it easier.
If you wake and can’t move your body immediately, don’t worry, this is normal. Sleep paralysis occurs to stop us physically living out our dreams, so when we awake from a lucid dream it can take a few moments for the body to move freely again. It may be possible that we become alert of our body being in sleep paralysis mode while we are in a lucid dream, so as long as we are aware that our bodies are just in a relaxed state it will prevent any panic from occurring.
We can keep a dream journal and write about our dreams as soon as we have woken to help us remember them in more detail and it will also make it far easier to recall one of them when we want to quickly and easily enter into a lucid dream.
Dream journals also allow us to detect dream signs so we can see patterns and cycles that may be trying to advise or alert us to what is happening in our waking life. These signs are also ways of letting us know that we are lucid dreaming as we may recognize them regularly when we are in the midst of a dream.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes a little while to lucid dream. It can take beginners a few weeks, but the practice will always teach us something, even if it is only that persistence and determination pays off.
I highly recommend lucid dreaming as it is a chance to experience absolute freedom, wisdom and adventure all wrapped up in one. Sleep will never be the same again.
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Travis May
Image: Flickr/Gisela Giardino