In Western culture there is an idea of what reality is and is not. Dreams are a fascinating experience and subject for exploration but no one confuses them with reality…that is with the exception of the quantum thinker. For this individual a dream may be nothing more than a parallel reality. In fact some quantum thinkers use the term “lucid dreamer” to describe their experiences in dream states.
A lucid dream consists of pictures, images, people, events or symbols in the mind of a sleeping person who is aware that that he/she is dreaming.
The term was coined by the Dutch psychiatrist and writer, Frederik van Eeden (1860–1932), in his 1913 article: “A Study of Dreams”. This paper was highly anecdotal and not embraced by the scientific community, but the term was embraced to describe a state of dreaming that had caught the attention of some important thinkers.
Lucid dreaming is not a modern discovery. Many people report having experienced a lucid dream during their lives, especially in childhood. Here are a just a few important historical points related to lucid dreaming:
St. Augustine of Hippo wrote a letter in 415 AD referring to lucid dreaming.
In the 8th century, Tibetan Buddhists were practicing what might be called Dream Yoga, a form of lucid dreaming. They were able to maintain full waking consciousness while in the dream state.
Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682), a noted physician and philosopher, described his ability to lucid dream in his Religio Medici.
Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denys published the book: Les Reves et les moyens de les diriger; observations pratiques (Dreams and How to Guide them; Practical Observations) in 1867, in which he documented more than twenty years of his own research into dreams. Saint-Denys was probably the first person to argue that it is possible for anyone to learn to dream consciously.
In the late 1970s British parapsychologist Keith Hearne, working with a volunteer named Alan Worsley, used eye movement to signal the onset of lucidity, which was recorded by a polysomnograph machine. This is the first specific scientific observation of lucid dreaming.
Stephen LaBerge at Stanford University published the first peer-reviewed article on lucid dreaming. A few years later he independently developed a similar technique as Keith Hearne’s as part of his doctoral dissertation.
During the 1980s, scientific evidence is progressively gathered confirming that lucid dreamers are able to demonstrate to researchers that they are consciously aware of being in a dream state (again, primarily using eye movement signals).
Lucid dreams usually occur while one is in the middle of a regular dream and suddenly realizes that she or he is dreaming.
Most lucid dreamers may not have a similar experience while being in this state. In fact person, who is in this state of “lucid” may enter one of many levels of lucidity.
Here is a description of some of the levels of “lucid”:
At a lower level, the dreamer may be dimly aware that he or she is dreaming. In this state there is little, if any, rational awareness that realizes that the actions/events/people/ in the dream pose no threat and are not even real.
At a higher level, the dreamer is fully aware that she or he is asleep. He or she understands fully what is happening and can have complete control over his or her actions in the dream.
There is no universally accepted tiered system for evaluating Lucid Dreams. It is known that when a lucid dreamer has low mental control, one’s decisions may be biased not by one’s opinion, but by the workings of one’s own brain.
There is nothing that you can control 100% of the time. However, if you want to have a lucid dream about something or someone, there is a specific way to do this. The key is to think about that object or person just as you slip into a light sleep. Think very vividly about this object or person: the way it/they feel, the way it/they look, the way it/they smell, etc. This will motivate your mind to focus intently on that object or person and your dream will reflect this intention.
Other reality checks include:
If you have recurring dreams, and you notice something happening in the dream that would ever happen in a waking state you can say to yourself, “this only happens in my dreams, I must be dreaming.”
If you notice something happening that is impossible in real life, such as you walking on your head for 26 miles in a marathon, this can act as a reality check to inform you to the fact that you are dreaming.
Lucid dreams are not necessarily dramatic or transformational events. The experience is different for each person. The awareness may range from very short, faint recognition of the fact that one is dreaming (often too brief and nebulous to be classified as a truly lucid dream) to something as momentous as an awe inspiring expanding of awareness. Such an experience may transcend anything one has ever experienced, even in one’s waking life.
There are a number of benefits from Lucid Dreaming. From a philosophical level the experience of lucidity helps us to understand the unreality of certain individuals, symbols and forms which appear in dreams, and which would otherwise be overwhelming during dreaming or in the death experience.
Psychologically speaking, some therapists have used lucid dreaming as a tool for reducing the impact of nightmares during sleep, as well as some of the problems that people experience in their waking lives including self-mutilation and depression.
In the end, what a dreamer does with lucidity will generally reflect their personal tendencies and the level of skill attained through experience and practice.
The term “Lucid Dreaming” doesn’t accurately describe what is happening in this state. Lucid dreaming implies that one is experiencing a “clear or vivid” dream. The alternative term, “conscious dreaming”, avoids this confusion. Van Eeden chose this term because it implied that one was “having insight”, rather than as a reference to a perceptual quality of this experience, which actually may or may not be clear and vivid.
Lucid dreaming is not a superficial process to master. a fairly
Even seasoned lucid dreamers will continue to encounter developmental and psychological challenges in the dreamscape. The distressing and agreeable, the difficult and the easy, the horrifying and the beautiful, are all part of lucid dreaming just as they are in regular dreaming
One should keep in mind that there is a key difference between regular dreaming and lucid dreaming. Whereas a regular dream is filled with the convoluted subtleties of the subconscious mind presenting and struggling with its issues before a largely unconscious dreamer, a lucid dreamer has the opportunity to consciously explore these at many different levels.
Of course Can one lucid dreaming doesn’t have to be serious shamanic business. Many explore and use this state purely for the recreational benefits. You can walk on walls or the ceiling, and from there progress to flying.
I have found that many of my students find flying for the first time a bit unnerving. This is especially so if they are not sure that they are dreaming. Of course, others find flying to be natural and very exhilarating…and then, of course, there is teleporting. Here you close your eyes, spin your dream body, and create a brand new landscape and open your eyes while still in lucidity.
When I was a shaman’s apprentice I spent time exploring the aboriginal concept of shape-shifting. Have you ever heard of shape-shifting? It is part of the mythology connected to shamanism and many aboriginal cultures. Westerners generally perceive of it as a superstitious idea of people changing into animals. In tribal cultures where there is a thin line between, legend, sacred myth and ordinary reality is not so clearly defined shape-shifting may be part of a tribe’s cultural reality. Very skilled lucid dreamers know that you can also make an “excuse” to transform from “you” into an animal. These is done by creating a transformation machine or a magic assistant while in a lucid state and then have them change you into an animal.
In quantum realities you can create anything you want, be whatever you want, and do whatever you want. Lucid dreaming is part of the process where this takes place.
Of course Lucid Dreaming takes skill, practice and experience, just like most things.
Lucid dreaming has been the center of much research especially among neurophysiologists. Most of the research being done in lucid dreaming is a mixture of pure science (much of it conducted by neurophysiologists) and social science. Since the 1960’s more and more scientific evidence has been discovered confirming the existence of lucid dreaming. Lucid dreamers have consistently demonstrated to researchers that they are consciously aware of being in a dream state. In addition, techniques have been developed to enhance the likelihood of achieving this state. The first book to recognize the therapeutic potential of lucid dreams was Celia Green’s 1968 study Lucid Dreams. She was also the first to link lucid dreams to the phenomenon of false awakenings, and recognized that lucid dreams were a category of experience quite distinct from ordinary dreams. She also correctly predicted that lucid dreams would be associated with rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep).
Accumulated observation over decades has shown that dreams are strongly associated with what is known as Rapid Eye Movement or REM.
We do not experience REM sleep throughout our sleeping period. Most REM sleep occurs during stage I of sleep (there are four different stages of sleep). Most REM stages last 90-100 minutes and the average human will go through 4-6 of these stages during sleep each night. Subsequent REM stages increase in length, so the last REM stage before awakening is the longest and the most vivid.
Most research indicates that humans do not ever dream without REM sleep. REM sleep is specifically associated with unique experiences and different mental abilities. The thought process at this time often bizarre and is non-logical. During REM sleep sensation and perception is vivid but, rather than being the result of external stimulation, is created internally by the brain.
For decades there was much debate among many important thinkers as to whether or not lucid dreaming even existed. However, the discovery that eye movements performed in dreams affected the dreamer’s physical eyes offered a path to proving that actions agreed upon during one’s waking life could be recalled and performed once one was lucid in a dream.
I begin teaching my students this work by directing them not to remember a dream but rather to focus on the feelings that were felt while in the dream state. Trying too hard to remember the dream will only take your mind away from it. Chances are your mind will think of everything but the dream.
When recalling a dream upon waking, try not to move. Activating your muscle neurons can make it more difficult to access the parts of your brain that allow you to recall your dream.
When you wake up naturally – that is without an alarm – focus your gaze on the first object you see as you open your eyes. Look at the object; focus on it. That object will most often take the vague recollection of your dream to a place mark in memory where it is easier to recall details.
A doorknob, a light bulb, a set of car keys, or a nail in the wall, for example, will quell your urge to begin your day and will help you to settle into memories of what you experienced while sleeping.
Though it is not necessary to do so many of my mentees, students and apprentices have a interest in spirituality, mysticism, and the esoteric in relation to lucid dreaming.
This is an area of great interest to many people, but I will not venture into here on any level more than the most superficial. Let me leave this idea with this concept: there is a great overlapping between lucid dreams, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, astral projection, and many other experiences related to trance states and altered states of consciousness.
If you wish to train yourself to be a lucid dreamer there are a number of techniques, all based on the same principles that can be explored. Many are based on the use of external cues to facilitate lucid dreaming. These cues are connected to REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). Basically, there are two ways that a lucid dream is likely to begin:
A dream-initiated lucid dream (DILD)
A wake-initiated lucid dream (WILD).
A dream-initiated lucid dream (DILD) begins as an ordinary dream. While in the dream state, the dreamer realizes that they are dreaming.
In wake-initiated lucid dream (WILD) the key to these techniques is recognizing the “hypnagogic stage”, which is within the border of being awake and being asleep. If one is successful in staying awake while this stage occurs, one will eventually enter a dream state while being fully aware that it is a dream.
Essentially a WILD state occurs when the sleeper is actually entering REM sleep with an unbroken self-awareness directly from the waking state. The dreamer goes from an ordinary waking state directly into a dream state, without any sense that there has been a lapse in consciousness.
One can be taught to go into a wake initiated lucid dream (WILD).Of course there is no rigid standard for whether one has had a lucid dream or not. Some individuals experience some aspects of what might be called “lucidity” while not experiencing other aspects. Research has shown that less than a quarter of lucidity dreamers exhibited all four. There are new categories related to dream research that are interested in those states that include corollaries 1-3 but miss the realization that of #1 “knowing that one has dreamt.”
The four elements, known by researchers as “corollaries” include:
- Knowing that one has dreamt.
- Knowing that objects, symbols, and individuals won’t persist beyond waking.
- Knowing that physical laws need not apply in this state.
- Having a clear memory of the waking world.
Today research on techniques and effects of lucid dreaming continues at a number of universities and other research centers. Much of the work is being done from a neurophysiologic approach, as well at Stephen LaBerge’s Lucidity Institute.
Whether one is or is not a lucid dreamer has little to no importance as to their ability to create an extraordinary quantum reality. It is simply one more path to explore.
Lewis Harrison is a stress management speaker. He combines trainings on Stress, Lucid Dreaming with Corporate Chair Massage. This blog is based on a stress management seminar he offered at a chair massage conference and meeting in Baltimore and Washington. D.C. Learn more at http://www.eventschairmassage.com
Here is a video on dreams: