What is Lucid Dreaming?
If there’s one thing that dreams have taught us, it’s that they have the power to take away all voluntary actions. The level of sleep that allows for dreams actually sends our bodies into a temporary paralysis, while in the dream itself we find that we are at the mercy of whatever the sequence of events calls for.
In a dream, the subconscious is the ruling body and, because of this, many people never even consider the possibility that they can change that. We have been conditioned from a very early age that the world of dreams is a realm outside of our control.
Do you remember being told that you couldn’t watch a scary movie right before bed because it would give you nightmares? Or how about that awkward moment during puberty when it seemed like every other phrase out of someone’s mouth related to wet dreams? But dreams don’t have to be scary, or even vaguely damp. Sometimes they are very much reminiscent of what it would be like if someone decided to shoot up heroin through their eyeballs before sticking a ferret down their pants.
Wild, crazy, vomit-inducing fun that is at best confusing and slightly terrifying and is at worst the most disturbing montage of things you’ve ever seen. Dreams can be nauseating, scary, embarrassing, informative, or just plain strange, but whatever goes on in our heads when we sleep, we understand on an instinctive level that we can’t do anything about them; at least, not without the proper training and/or luck.
Chapter one: How to Become a Lucid Dreamer
Lucid dreaming is relatively easy to accomplish. People ‘wake up’ during dreams all the time. The difference between your every day lucid dream and becoming a bona fide lucid dreamer is that a lucid dreamer has gone through the practice necessary for them to take advantage of their lucidity.
A lucid dreamer has a number of super powers in dreamland. Everyone should be willing to try being a lucid dreamer at least once or twice if for no other reason than the coolness factor.
To become a lucid dreamer an individual must do two things:
a) Hypnotize (or at least condition) themselves. The way it works is that, during the meditation/falling asleep phase of lucid dreaming, the meditator/future dreamer must somehow implant the suggestion in their brain that, during a dream, a certain sight, sound, or feeling will trigger them into realizing that they’re awake. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, a dreamer has to train him or herself to react a certain way in the presence of the given signal.
As an example, let’s say that before falling asleep each night a person was able to convince themselves that every time they heard their own voice while sleeping, they would realize that they were dreaming.
Eventually, giving themselves the same command over and over again before they go to la-la land should ensure that sooner or later they’ll follow the instructions of that command. Before you know it, a dreamer is noticing the sound of their own voice and is therefore able to realize that they aren’t awake after all.
Just as influencing a dream depends on your belief in your ability to do so, actually bringing yourself to the point of experiencing a moment of lucidity calls for the absolute belief that you will have a lucid dream. Without that belief everything else falls apart.
b) Once a dreamer realizes what’s happening, the next most important step is actually making an effort to change things. Some people are never able to move beyond the point of being observers in their dreams.
Others are able to manipulate everything from their body shape to the actions of the people around them. The trick to doing all of that is actually admitting to yourself that you can change things.
Without that type of confidence backing your efforts, you’ll never be able to get very far with lucid dreaming. In order to build up to big things like character, setting, and plot manipulation, you should first start with something small and simple.
Try changing something’s color and move on from there. After you’ve perfected physical appearance on outside objects, try manipulating your own appearance or nature that’s being depicted in the dream.
When that’s taken care of, you can upgrade to sequence of events and afterwards you can even control the types of rules that you may have influencing your dream world. Let’s say that, in the dream, you’re falling.
Being a lucid dreamer, you could always give yourself a parachute. But instead why not change the ‘rule’ that’s literally dragging you down. Without thinking about it, a person will assign things like the rules of physics and other concepts to their dream world, never taking into conscious account that, because it’s a dream, everything (including gravity) is subject to change. To be a lucid dreamer, you can’t just expect change; you have to actively will it to happen.
After a person has successfully completed those two basic steps, they can then take their ability as a lucid dreamer and do almost anything with it. From out of body experiences (where a dreamer feels as though their spirit were floating about the shell of their body), to astral projection (traveling as a ‘spirit’ rather than just floating there like during OOBE), the possibilities for an advanced lucid dreamer are numerous.
Monks, priests, and prophets are just some of the figures known to practice lucid dreaming, trying as they were to reach a higher level of spirituality or understanding through the help of this particular form of dream enhancement. When it comes right down to it, the issue isn’t whether or not it’s possible to become a lucid dreamer but whether or not you can reach all of the potential available once you become one.
Chapter Two: Kinds of Dreams
People experience a number of different dreams. Only one of those types, called lucid dreaming, allows for the dreamer to be a deliberate participant rather than an often unwilling and unknowing bystander. An aspect of dreams that fascinates many dream experts and psychologists is the fact that, when in the middle of a dream, a person doesn’t realize that they are dreaming.
The reason the idea is so interesting is because dreams, as we’ve already mentioned, are usually bizarre and more often than not panic-inducing.
So why wouldn’t a person realize they were dreaming? This is an important question, because in order to understand lucid dreams and how to experience them, we first have to understand what sort of obstacles we’re trying to overcome.
The natural consensus is that a dreamer doesn’t distinguish a dream from reality because, while dreaming, their brains are under the impression that everything going on is completely normal and within the realms of possibility. Flying pigs? No problem. Falling from the sky with absolutely no memory of jumping out of the airplane first? Completely possible.
In a dream, a person isn’t refusing to realize the fact that they are dreaming, but rather their minds help them ignore that small detail completely. Lucid dreaming allows a dreamer to overcome that initial obstacle, both in regular dreams as well as the many other types of dreams that you may experience.
- Nightmares – On average, we all start having nightmares around the age of three and it’s nothing but downhill from then on out. Since we have at least seven or eight dreams during a single sleep cycle, it’s more than likely that a couple of those dreams would be nightmares.
Because nightmares invoke such strong emotion in dreamers, nightmares are more easily remembered than regular dreams because they leave a stronger impression on our minds, meaning that even if you only had one nightmare out of seven, you’ll still remember the bad one before you remember any of the happy-go-lucky moments.
Despite all the trouble they cause, nightmares are essential to the health of our psyche. They reveal all the dirt that we don’t want to confront in such a way that we’re often forced to recognize and deal with it.
There are a number of reasons why a person may be having a nightmare. The first possibility is that there’s something worrying you in your day-to-day life. Whether the worry stems from a person, an event, or yourself, it manages to leave a strong enough impression that your mind decides to try and solve it.
The solving of that problem manifests itself as a nightmare. Another possibility for the presence of a nightmare may be that your subconscious is trying to work through some inner issue or bring a problem to your attention.
Sometimes nightmares act as an early warning system, telling a dreamer ahead of time about an accident or illness. Dream researchers have reached the conclusion that the more imaginative, creative, shrewd, or perceptive a person is, the more likely they are to have a nightmare.
This conclusion stems from the belief that people with these traits are more in tune or empathic to their surroundings than everyone else. No matter whether that’s true or not, I’m sure that many of us would appreciate the ability to transform a nightmare into a lucid dream.
That way, if we have to scare ourselves half to death, we can at least make the most of the situation by garnering as much information from the nightmare as it has to offer.
- Recurring Dreams – We all have at least one recurring dream. Whether the same dream takes place every other day, every couple of years, or only on special occasions, recurring dreams are perfect examples of the term ‘déjà vu’.
Recurring dreams are proof that our unconscious will be as persistent as it needs to be. You’ve most likely heard somewhere that often the point of a dream is to reveal some sort of message. Like nightmares, recurring dreams try their best to get their message across by leaving a strong enough impression on your dream mind that it carries over after you’ve woken up.
Since most dreams are forgotten almost as soon as they’re over, recurring dreams try to leave a bad taste in your mental mouth by evoking a severe emotional response. If the emotional response isn’t strong enough for a dreamer to get the picture, then the dream just keeps coming back.
Learning how to initiate a lucid dream could work wonders when it comes to recurring dreams. Mostly a dreamer will need to remember the events or emotions that took place before the dream made a repeat appearance. By looking at what may have caused the dream to come back, you may be able to work out what the dream is trying to tell you. If the appearance of the dream happens over long enough intervals that you’re easily able to forget what may have triggered it, then lucid dreaming is the best remaining option you have.
• Progressive Dream – Sometimes life leaves a ‘to be continued’ sign stapled to your forehead. When times like that occur in dreams, that usually means that you’re about to have a series of dreams known as progressive dreams.
Progressive dreams are the trilogies and sagas of the subconscious and are very unique in their own way. Rather than a dream ending for good once you wake up (no matter if the events in the dream were resolved or not), progressive dreams usually take place over a series of days, weeks, or even months.
A progressive dream picks up where the previous part of the dream left off. The idea is that your unconscious needs a series of dreams rather than just one to work out a problem.
Unlike nightmares or recurring dreams, a progressive dream doesn’t try to leave a lasting impression, nor does it try pounding a lesson into your psyche over and over again. Instead, it’s a willing effort between your conscious and subconscious to accept a problem and work through the possible solutions to the problem.
Your mind continues working at different alternatives to solving whatever the problem is and once you get an answer the dreams stop. Progressive dreams are extremely useful because they assist not only with external and internal problems, but they also help show different options and approaches to situations and relationships.
Lucid dreaming can allow a dreamer to experience a progressive dream whenever there’s a complex issue taking place. While a lucid dreamer could try and force the answer to come in one dream, that doesn’t mean that looking at the issue from a more relaxed angle isn’t often the best way to go.
- Epic Dreams – An epic dream is really a hit and run to the senses. In epic dreams, also known as cosmic dreams, the dreamer experiences details that are so vivid and intense that the details of the dream remain with them even years after the dream itself is over.
Epic dreams are usually extremely beautiful and profound in some way. Also, the archetype symbols present in epic dreams are numerous. With an epic dream, the dreamer always feels as though he or she has just had an epiphany about themselves or the world around them.
The reason why epic dreams have such an epic name is because most people describe them as being life-changing. To better interpret epic dreams, a closer look into universal archetypes as described by Carl Jung will most likely be a big help.
Epic dreams are the one type of dreaming where becoming lucid really wouldn’t be much help. In a way, an epic or cosmic dream is about as lucid as a person can be either awake or asleep. It’s believed that epic dreams are very closely related to prophetic dreams because they are sometimes able to give a strong indication of what the future will hold for the dreamer.
- Prophetic/Signal Dreams – Prophetic dreams are the types of dreams that are most often accredited with telling the future. The reason why prophetic and signal dreams are in the same place is because, like prophetic or psychic dreams, signal dreams allow a person to solve problems and make important decisions concerning their everyday life.
A psychic dream is often explained as your unconscious piecing together bits and pieces of information and knowledge to create an accurate prediction of the future. It doesn’t really matter why some dreams do this; what does matter is that there are those who benefit substantially from having a ‘psychic dream’.
With the help of lucid dreaming, a dreamer could possibly bring about prophetic dreams the same way that he or should would be able to induce a signal dream. It’s hard to say whether or not people in the past tried the same thing, but there’s no denying that lucid dreaming has opened up a whole new world that only a couple of years ago scientists were discrediting as being ‘impossible’.
If lucid dreaming can make things like astral projection possible, then why not take it up to the next level by combining it with prophetic dreams? Not only would people be able to have access to clues and hints that they missed while awake (if that is, indeed, how prophetic dreams work), they can then have the conclusion of that combination of information much sooner. Allowing them to take full advantage of their ‘psychic ability’ whenever they feel they need it rather than whenever their minds decide to create one.
- Mutual Dreams – Mutual dreams are rare but just as amazing in their own way as prophetic and epic dreams are. Unlike prophetic and epic dreams, however, mutual dreams are more easily influenced by lucid dreamers.
The point of a mutual dream is that it is shared between two or more people rather than just one person. Sometimes mutual dreams happen entirely by accident. Other times, if the people involved are good at lucid dreaming, then they can both work towards experiencing the same dream.
With mutual dreams, people are better able to communicate ideas and concepts to one another. Also, because dreams are usually very private, the simple act of going through the same dream with another person builds up a certain level of trust that can’t be found anywhere else. Mutual dreamers are well known for having a strong bond before the act of mutual dreaming takes place, and after the dream is shared, the bond grows even stronger.
- Lucid Dreams – When you realize that what you’re experiencing is a dream, that’s when you’ve become ‘lucid’. A lucid dreamer will often wake themselves up automatically once they realize that they’re in a dream.
Other lucid dreamers will simply let the dream continue on as is. The third type of lucid dreamer is the most popular and the reason why you’re reading all of this. The third type of lucid dreamer has learned how to become an active participant in his or her dream.
Some lucid dreamers are more advanced at it than others and, not only can they influence themselves, but they can also influence the ‘people’ and ‘place’ around them as well as any events that happen to be taking place. Lucid dreams are the stepping stone for a lot of more advanced dreaming.
- A Practical Guide To Lucid Dreaming and Dream Yoga
- Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self (ISBN 9781930491144): Robert Waggoner
- Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming (ISBN 9780345374103): Stephen Laberge PHD
- Lucid Dreaming (ISBN 9781591796756): Stephen LaBerge
- Lucid Dreams in 30 Days, Second Edition: The Creative Sleep Program (ISBN 9780312199883): Keith Harary Ph.D., Pamela Weintraub
- Lucid Dreaming for Beginners: Simple Techniques for Creating Interactive Dreams (For Beginners (Llewellyn’s)) (ISBN 9780738708874): Mark McElroy
- The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep (ISBN 9781559391016): Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Mark Dahlby
- Dreaming While Awake: Techniques for 24-Hour Lucid Dreaming (ISBN 9781571743596): Arnold Mindell
- Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life (ISBN 9780517887103): Robert Moss
- Advanced Lucid Dreaming: The Power of Supplements (ISBN 9781430305422): Thomas Yuschak
- Between the Gates: Lucid Dreaming, Astral Projection, and the Body of Light in Western Esotericism (ISBN 9781578633968): Mark Stavish, John Michael Greer
- Lucid Dreaming: The Paradox of Consciousness During Sleep (ISBN 9780415112390): Celia Green, Charles McCreery
Now that we’ve looked into what types of dreams people can have, it’s easier to see what sorts of situations a person’s dreams most often put them in. The next few chapters will focus on just those types of dreams as well as how lucid dreaming can affect them.
There are a handful of very common dreams that people seem to have the most often, and because these dreams are basically the default of all dreamers, they are an easy place to start practicing the skills needed to become a lucid dreamer. By starting with well known dreams and working from there, the ease in which a lucid dreamer will be able to handle themselves in a dream will occur almost twice as fast as it usually would.
Chapter Three: Going Naked
Naked dreams are most likely the most interesting of the most commonly seen dreams. A dream can strip a dreamer naked anytime and anywhere, and because of the accepting nature of dreams, the ease in which we’re taken out of our clothes in dreams makes us more than a little paranoid about the presence of our 100% cotton drawers once we wake up.
Clothes act as a kind of barrier or mask when we’re awake. Symbolically, we use them to hide flaws and insecurities. When we aren’t hiding, we’re usually using clothes as a way to become someone else. In many cultures, clothing is taken as a status symbol.
In some places, people don’t consider cloth as ‘clothing’. Instead, they may put the same stock that we have in our favorite pairs of jeans into jewelry or paint.
When dreaming, the fear of being naked goes much deeper than simply walking around as bare as a newborn babe. To dream about being naked (or partially naked or exposed in some other intimate way) means that you feel unsure and insecure about a situation.
You’re afraid that people will be able to see your flaws and you’ll end up being ridiculed or disgraced. In some cases, dreaming about nudity could be an expression of your fear of being revealed. You worry that people will be able to see who you really are and you’ll be exposed as a fake.
There are dreams in which the dreamer is naked and no one but the dreamer seems to be aware of what’s going on. That’s the way that your subconscious tells you that you may be blowing a situation out of proportion and giving it more importance than it’s worth.
The meaning behind a nude dream depends strongly on what’s happening in your life at the time. When you experience these types of dreams, it may be helpful to become lucid so that the embarrassment or fear isn’t so sharp and so you can look at the situation that you’re in from a more dispassionate point of view.
Chapter 4: Running Away
Chase dreams are very basic in nature while still allowing for plenty of diversity. In a chase dream, you can run from yourself, a concept, a masked murder, Freddy Krueger, your mother, your next door neighbor’s pet pit bull, your English teacher, that creepy talking plant from the movie Little Shop of Horrors, your lovely-and-yet-clingy wife/husband, or your not-so-lovely-and-yet-nagging boyfriend/girlfriend.
Even the method of travel can change in a chase dream, and you could end up finding yourself running away by foot, boat, car, parasail, or skateboard. Whoever, or whatever, and however you happen to be trying to escape, a chase dream is one of the best ways to show you what you’re running from.
Some people try ignoring problems until they go away or downplay the severity of an issue in the hopes that doing so will somehow make things better. All it does is set you up for a nice chase sequence, at which point you’ll have to admit to what’s bothering you or risk heart failure.
The point of a chase dream is that you have to realize that you can’t keep running away from your ‘pursuer’. The person chasing you can represent a number of things. They could be a manifestation of a problem that you’re aware of in your waking life, or they could be a construct of the emotions or urges that you feel that you reject or don’t admit to. One of the first things that you can do with a chase dream once you become lucid is to notice the distance between you and whoever is chasing you. If the pursuer is steadily closing in, then that means that the problem you’re running away from isn’t going to go away until it either catches you or you confront it.
Once you turn the dream into a lucid dream, try outrunning the pursuer. If you’re able to do it, then you are basically pushing the problem away from you, which means that you can handle it when you’re ready at another time.
Chase dreams don’t always have to mean that you’re the one being chased. If you’re running after something, it could represent your ambition or it could represent that you feel as if you’re falling behind on some point and need to catch up.
Chapter Five: Bye, Bye Birdie
A flying dream is like a falling dream, without the panic, bladder control problems, or falling. Flying, according to Buzz Lightyear, is just falling with style and this particular sort of dream is a prime example of just that.
A flying dream is actually the only type of commonly seen dream where a dreamer is already partly lucid. Unlike naked dreams or falling dreams, a dreamer is aware of the fact that they aren’t usually able to fly in real life. Therefore, the sensations are often joyous and exhilarating, two emotions that are lacking in regular dreams where the dream makes the dreamer believe that flying is an everyday occurrence and therefore not impressive at all.
Flying dreams can be interpreted to mean freedom and even a breakaway from previously set limitations and the ability to do anything and be anyone. They are a sign of a strong will and an indomitable mind. Enjoying a flying dream and being able to control your own flight is a clue that you’re feeling as if you’ve overcome something and have control of a situation.
It’s an indication of what you feel your level of power and control happens to be. However, flying dreams can be negative as well. Fear during a flying dream says that you may be unprepared or nervous about new challenges and the responsibilities that come along with succeeding.
The fear could also indicate that the dreamer isn’t ready to take the next step in a situation (for example, a relationship, a job, or a project). If you’re having a hard time controlling your flight, that’s a sign that you may be hesitant or unsure of what you can do. You’re afraid that you don’t have control over the situation and, because of that, you’re barely able to stay in the air.
Flight complications can also make themselves known by the obstacles that you find in your path. In the dream, something may be blocking your way and keeping you from going even higher or further along your current path. This obstruction in the dream is a representative of an obstacle that you have in real life. By gaining a bit more control of the dream, you’ll be able to find out what’s blocking you as well as how to get around it. If confidence is your problem, becoming a lucid dreamer will allow you to give yourself the confidence needed to keep on flying.
Chapter Six: Testing 1, 2, 3…
Dreaming about a test doesn’t always have to involve school. It could be a driver’s test or a drug test or any number of other types of test. The only requirement is that there’s the stronger-than-average expectation that the test taker (namely you) will fail the test in question.
Fearing failure or inadequacy over anything can be stressful enough, but when such strong emotions are the result of a relatively harmless piece of paper, that’s a whole new ball game. Tests have always represented something larger than themselves and these days that concept is even more apparent.
Tests can dictate which country you gain citizenship to as well as which college you’re allowed to waste your money on. It’s unsurprising that tests and the failure or passing of them is such a hot topic as far as dreams go.
Lucid dreaming is able to ease some of the pressure in this type of situation, but just because the fear of failure isn’t riding your back like a monkey on steroids, it doesn’t mean that the message the dream is trying to impart is any less important.
A test dream concerns your own concerns about not being prepared or qualified for a specific challenge. If you fear failure to that extent, then take extra measures while awake. Even if you can’t do anything but make the chances of failing less obvious to the casual observer, you’re still better off than you were before you put in the additional time and exertion.
Test dreams can also be taken in another way. Have a dream about failing a test is a clue that you’re feeling as if you’re being judged, or that you’re not living up to the standards set up by yourself or the people around you.
Chapter Seven: Danger, Will Robinson!
Falling Dreams – Falling dreams have to be the most dangerous for our health. There’s just something about a consistent, seemingly never-ending, random freefall that stops the heart and contracts the grease-clogged arteries.
Believe it or not, falling dreams are said to be sexual in nature. Falling dreams indicate that a dreamer is feeling as if they have no control over some part of their nature or life. Falling is the catalyst of a lot of anxiety and insecurities.
Falling is also a sign that the dreamer is experiencing a sense of failure. Usually the fall is a symbol that you’re feeling insecure or inadequate at something. You could be falling from ‘the status quo’ or falling ‘short of expectations’.
There are some who believe that the falling that takes place in a dream is spiritual and moral in nature, a sort of a ‘fall from grace’ mentality when the dreamer is aware that their behavior may be less than pleasing to whatever divine spirit they answer to.
Unsurprisingly, it was Freud who claimed that falling dreams have a sexual motivation behind them. According to Freud, this type of dream is a sign that you’re thinking of giving in to sexual urges that you may have been ignoring when awake.
Whether the purpose behind freefalling is sexual or not, the body’s reaction to such a dream is related to what is known as the arousal mechanism. This mechanism is what allows you to awake suddenly from this type of dream.
These jerks and spasms that your muscles go through while you’re in the midst of a falling dream are known as myclonic twitches. Turning a falling dream into a lucid dream could save a person a lot of stress.
Instead of going through the dream until its end, it may be easier for a lucid dreamer to find another way to learn what the dream is trying to tell them in a way that doesn’t involve the lack of a parachute.
Chapter Eight: Dreaming on Purpose
Ninety percent of the content of our dreams is lost no more than ten minutes after the dream is over. Considering how many dreams a person can have per night, it’s obvious that our unconscious is trying its best to tell us a number of things, things that we are never able to acknowledge because we can’t remember addressing the problems in the first place.
Lucid dreaming is the way to solve all of that without first having to resort to therapy. By becoming a lucid dreamer, an individual can sort through their issues themselves and at their own pace.
Not being a lucid dreamer is often like not having spyware on your computer. You’ll have pop-ups, blue screens, worms, viruses, and Trojans galore until you take the time to install the proper security. Once the spyware or antivirus program is on your computer, you can run scans every now and then and catch the bugs and complications that are just waiting in the background, thereby extending the life and improving the performance of your PC. Ignoring the issue completely means that your computer then has three options: it can run slowly and haphazardly; it can continue to be infested by viruses until you have to pay through the nose to have everything that’s wrong with it repaired; or it can experience complete system failure.
Remember that your brain works the exact same way and maybe you’ll start to understand why lucid dreaming is often the healthiest kind of dreaming that you can do.
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