An introduction to lucid dreaming

Posted by lec** on Sunday, February 24 2008 @ 18:57:08 GMT        
Lucid Leaping
Lucid mountainside leaping! Why not? :D
Well I simply had to have a little introduction to lucid dreaming, to promote this stunning but astoundingly little-known phenomenon of the human mind. Lucid dreaming is one of the few things in the world that can cause you to feel "reborn" once you find out about them for the first time, if you didn't know about them beforehand. Now you're probably itching to learn more, so...

What is lucid dreaming?
Lucid dreaming is the term used for dreaming whilst knowing you are dreaming. In essence, it consists of falling asleep, having a dream and realising you are asleep (except in certain cases of inducing lucid dreams, in which case there is an almost direct transition from "awake" to "lucid dream"). Though this can happen of it's own accord to you, lucid dreaming refers to the purposeful attainment of such a state. Once you realise you are actually lying in your bed, and actually dreaming the whole thing, you can practically do whatever you want for the duration of the dream, including and not limited to: flying, exploring the dream world, acting a role from your favourite movie, just going around and shooting a laser gun at thousands of screaming civilians, beating people up, eating fifty truckloads of pears or doing impossible acrobatics. Of course there are less radical things to do, but they are no less interesting - e.g. (my favourite) exploring your own memories, seeing how detailed your memories are, or investigating certain aspects of your own mind. Some people also find lucid dreaming useful for getting over fears, e.g. spiders, preforming in front of a large number of people, zombies (it really can work!), or conquering nightmares. Whatever your own reason, once you realise you are asleep, you actually realise everything is under your control, and you can do whatever you want.

Lucid dreaming, unlike daydreaming, is a remarkably realistic experience. You can see, touch, smell, taste and hear as if it was real. You will be very surprised how detailed lucid dreams are (you'll swear that everything is incredibly real-looking), though they can only be as detailed as your own memories, or your imagination. Many people have apparently said (I don't know who they are, but I think so too so it's not a weasel word) that their first lucid dream (or at least, the first one they remember - I'll get to that later) was one of the most memorable experiences in their lives. And honestly, with a little bit of practice and some determination and motivation, you can easily start having lucid dreams regularly. Maybe several times a month at the beginning, then you can increase that to several times a week (and even several times a night if you get really good!) with enough work. Seriously, a human wastes about one third of their life (22 years on average) sleeping, so if you can really put that wasted time to good use, why not? (you can't do anything about it anyway, so why not have some fun if you can)

How it works
Human beings go through several stages while they sleep. There are 5 of them in total, when you fall asleep, you go through each one starting from 1, and going through 2, 3 and 4. These stages are known as non-REM stages, or Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS). In the final stage, called REM (Rapid Eye Movement, because the eyes move under the eyelids in rapid bursts) dreams take place (thus, this stage is the one during which lucid dreams happen). Then the process reverses, and you go back from 4 to 1. This cycle takes roughly 90 minutes, so you will go through several cycles in one night. With each cycle, the REM stage lasts longer, so you dream longer the longer you sleep - typically the first REM stage lasts only 10 minutes or so, but this increases significantly, so that the last one can last a full hour. This is why it's important to get a good amount of sleep - otherwise, you will not be able to develop lucid dreaming easily, if at all.

Dream recall
Developing lucid dreaming is not difficult if you are determined. If you are only vaguely interested, it will take you longer, or perhaps you may not have a lucid dream at all. The first step is always acquiring an ability known as dream recall. Dream recall is simply the ability to remember your dreams. When I was younger (pre-high school) I could easily remember every dream I had during the night in the morning, but gradually I lost the ability as I grew older and consequently had more obligations and work to do. Unless you can already recall one or two dreams you had in the morning, it's absolutely necessary to work on dream recall first. The most common approach is to write a dream journal, where you recount the dreams you have. This also comes in handy when looking for dream signs later (I'll get to that a little later). Anyway, there is really no set method for remembering your dreams. Waking up a little earier than you would normally usually interrupts your REM stage of sleep, and you can remember the dream you were having. If you are not experienced at dream recall, it is highly unlikely you will remember a dream once you transition out of REM sleep - the dream is forgotten, or becomes so distant and vague that you can barely remember having it.

A good approach (the one I've used anyway) is to tell yourself "I will remember my dreams" just before you fall asleep, as you are lying in your bed. Preferrably, repeat it several times so it sinks in. You can also use "I will wake after having my dream". The mind is incredible. In the morining, you will very likely remember a dream you had. Repeat this as many times as you can, and always record the dream on paper as soon as you wake so you don't forget it. Sometimes, you will wake up in the middle of the night after a dream, and you must record it immediately, or else get up and walk around a little (drink some water or engage in some other activity to wake yourself up) in order not to forget the dream. Yet, the best thing is to write it down. Just don't go back to sleep thinking you'll remember it in the morning; it's already fading from your memory, admit it! You can't get lazy and slack off if you want to lucid dream, it'll be worth it.

Getting into the motions
So after you can easily remember your dreams (because you don't want to have a lucid dream and forget about it in the morning), it is a good idea to read through your dream diary, and look for any recurring elements. Many people (not including me) have certain tell-tale signs that often crop up in dreams, like certain people or places. This might help you now that you're ready to start inducing lucid dreams - for example, if you notice every other dream seems to be set in your local supermarket, you should get into the habit of preforming a reality test, a simple check to determine whether you are dreaming, every time you enter. Whenever you go there, you should assume you are dreaming, and then try to prove you are not by method of a reality test. The chance is high that the next time you dream your supermarket, you will preform the check in your dream and realise that you are dreaming. The same goes for objects (eg. vases) that recurr in your dreams, as well as other things. In fact, you should probably get into the habit of doing reality tests every now and again, so as to increase the chance of you preforming one in your dream.

A reality test can be done any number of ways. The most common is for example to look at your watch or a piece of text. Numbers and letters often appear blurred (so blurred you can't make out what is written at all) or change in some way when you look away and then look back. From my experience, once you are having a dream, the mere thought that this could be a dream flowing through your head is sufficient to realise you are dreaming. The reality test is usually just a method of getting yourself into the habit of thinking about lucid dreaming multiple times throughout the day. A not very common event from my experience, but certainly not unheard of, is something called a false awakening, when you apparently wake up after having a dream, only to realise you are still dreaming or to wake up after having gone through some of your daily routines. In these types of circumstances, preforming a full reality test is useful, because you can be under the strong impression that you are actually awake.

A good way to induce lucid dreams is like the one used to remember dreams. It's a technique layed out by a psychologist and leader in the study of lucid dreams called Dr. Stephen LaBerge, and it is known as MILD, or Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams, and is done by repeating a phrase about remembering to recognise that you are dreaming, like "I will recognise that I am dreaming". It's surprisingly effective, and I have used it many times successfully.

Apart from thinking about lucid dreaming, watching movies to do with lucid dreaming-like concepts (e.g. The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, ...) can be a good way to have a lucid dream. There is a chance that you will have a lucid dream tonight, having read this much about it (although you may not remember it :D). Once you've had your first, you will definitely want to have more. You might have even had a dream like this already, just you didn't recognise the potential of such dreams. There are other induction techniques but I don't like them much or have not tried them, so I'm not going to go into that.

Keep your head
Having started a lucid dream, it is a common problem for many people that they get so exited that they wake themselves up. It's natural to get excited, but if you overdo it, you can wake up and then you will have ruined a fantastic opportunity to do something in your lucid dream. You should try to remain calm, but if you at any point feel like your dream is fading away, and you feel yourself waking, you should immediately relax and start spinning on the spot, with your arms held apart, like when making a star. This is known as dream spinning (surprise, surprise) and it can also be used at any point in your dream to "teleport" yourself to another location (anything you can think of), even to escape from uncomfortable situations you may encountter in your dream. However, it's important to know that you are in full control, and that you do not ever have to get in any situation that you may find uncomfortable. In the extreme, you can always wake yourself up easily if you want to, so you do not have to be hesitant about having lucid dreams.

I personally have only used dream spinning for location changes, since it is much easier to instantly change locations while everything is blurred from spinning (closing my eyes also works, but dream spinning and then leaping high into the air, to find myself someplace else when I land feels really neat). In my opinion a better method to remain in your dream if you get too excited (I've used this several times) is to immediately take a deep breath, attempt to calm down, and rub your palms together. The palm rubbing forces your mind to try and generate the sensation, and not to think about waking up. In general, you should avoid thinking about yourself lying in bed, asleep, as you might accidentally wake up. Don't hesitate to use these techniques if you feel that you are about to wake.

Now we shall move forth to controlling your dreams.

Exercising control over your lucid dreams
The hard part is over. Once you are in your lucid dream, you won't have much troubles doing whatever you can think of. There are certain techniques though to help you do things better. For example, your mind may be so bound by certain rules, such as gravity, that you can actually have problems going against them (as in, flying). The problem is that you do not have enough faith in the fact that you are dreaming. If you think "this will fail" as you attempt to take off, there's a big chance that it will, so first remind yourself that you are dreaming, and leap to the skies, knowing that there are no limits in dreams, or your imagination. Being confident and determined in your every endeavour inside dreams (funnily enough, often outside them too) will lead you to the things you seek.

In some cases, you might want an item in your dream, like a fire extinguisher (random). It can be difficult to create one from nothing in front of yourself, as you don't ever see that happening, and so you can't simulate it easily even in a dream. Try to imagine the item behind you, or else behind a corner, and you'll find it positively easy to get whatever you want (can you say: "Ferrari"? 8D).

Problems of lucid dreaming
There really are no drawbacks to lucid dreaming. Humans can only have a certain amount of REM sleep each night, so there is no need to worry that you will get addicted to it. Lucid dreaming is practiced by a wealth of people worldwide, and they don't use it as a substitute for reality. It's in my opinion a much better way to spent those 22 wasted years of your life, having some fun, meditating, going back into your memories and visiting places, exploring or dumping stress and anger somewhere. The only problem I've noticed so far is that if you stop training your dream recall capabilities while you aren't good at it yet, you might linger in a "half memory" area for a while - not longer than a month or two, where you remember some of your dreams, but are unable to say when they happened, of if they were dreams at all. Consequently this may cause you some confusion, but it's nothing very serious.

Anyway, that's enough for the introduction. Just remember that you are in control in your own dream and you will do great. Practice the methods described here, and you'll be having lucid dreams in no time. Isn't that cool? As always, my artices aren't RFCs, so I'll edit and add to/ammend this article at my own discretion. If you need any other information or have comments, just comment below or email me.

For more information on this topic, check dreamviews.com, a web site I used to learn more about lucid dreaming, and from which a lot of my knowledge of lucid dreaming comes from.
SpaceMan

SpaceMan's avatar
Aug 28 2009 @ 04:41:51
I read that Wikibooks tutorial and I can do it 50%.
I will draw all maps in the Dream World when I gained the ability to remember and recall dreams.
I experienced the rapid movements of eyes when my eyes were closed.

I will call a 50cm snail in the dream because snails are my worst fear
Crystallion

Crystallion's avatar
May 01 2008 @ 22:28:30
Oh, wow. This is awesome, in fact I had a lucid dream the day before I read this. ^.^ I didn't control it though, and it was only a few seconds, but it was so awesome~~

I've always wanted to have dreams like this, but I've never really been able to, except for rare times like yesterday. I'm so glad you posted this~ I'm going to tell all my friends. <3
Penguin

Penguin's avatar
Apr 27 2008 @ 21:53:31
Wow, this sounds so amazing! I can't wait to try it when the weekend comes back! ^^
lec**

lec's avatar
Feb 25 2008 @ 07:18:19
Hehe, good luck! It's an amazing thing
Nick^

Nick's avatar
Feb 25 2008 @ 06:31:44
That is so cool. I'm going to start working on my dream recall tonight. Also, I'm showing my friends. :D
lec**

lec's avatar
Feb 24 2008 @ 21:45:11
I just noticed that I used an awful lot of parentheses in this article. I guess these things just happen. Hm... actually, I may need to edit some of them out.
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