Have you ever had a dream that was so real, that when you awakened you weren’t sure if you were actually dreaming? If the characters and the scenarios of a dream seemed to be as clear as any waking experience compared to the often confusing and surrealistic images you see in ordinary dreams, you’ve experienced a lucid dream.
What makes them even more extraordinary is that they seem to have a life of their own. Unlike regular dreams, you (the dreamer) are completely conscious throughout the lucid dream and able to mindfully direct what you do, as well as the actions of the characters and the environment. This opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities for both psychological and creative growth for the dreamer.
Here’s an example of a lucid dream.
I’ve just gotten out of bed and am walking down the hall, when suddenly I’m delighted to realize I’m dreaming! To test myself, I decide to walk through my front door. For some reason, I succeed only by walking backwards, feeling the layers of the door as I pass through – incredibly realistic.
Stepping outside, I see my friend Suzanne. Remembering that in “waking life” she wanted to experience a lucid dream, I look into her eyes and tell her she is dreaming. She acknowledges me, but she seems sleepy. Throughout the dream, I keep reminding her that this is a dream.
We decide to go to the beach and take off flying in an exhilarating journey over the city. The sensation of flight as we zoom through the air is extremely vivid. Landing at the beach, we wade through the water at the shoreline. Then I begin to grow tired. I awaken with a feeling of absolute wonderment.
Talk in your sleep
Being conscious and able to direct what you do in a dream, like flying, traveling to distant lands and talking to dream characters, is an unforgettable experience. It’s also a valuable tool for gaining insights, preparing for changes and boosting self-confidence. Psychotherapist Carl Jung said that asking your dream characters what they represent in your waking life is like having a direct link to your unconscious.
This lucid dream explores an outdated issue the dreamer had about body image and food.
Recently, while dieting, I dreamed of a group of people horseback riding through a forest. I recognized Lisa, a fashion-conscious sixth-grader I knew from school. Realizing I was dreaming, I remembered my desire to talk to my dream characters. I turned to Lisa and asked her why she was in my dream. I had no idea what to expect or what she would say. To my amazement, she immediately told me she represented my weight, and then asked me if the surroundings (the forest) looked familiar. I realized the environment reminded me of the camp I went to as a child.
Lucid dreams can also prepare you for times of transition, such as starting a career, moving to a new area or beginning a relationship. For example, say you’re nervous about an upcoming musical performance. You can induce a lucid dream in which you’re performing before an audience as a way to gain confidence. Because the unconscious mind can’t distinguish between waking life and dreaming, performing successfully in a dream is an effective dress rehearsal.
Sports figures have benefited from rehearsing moves and plays in dreams for years.
In his book “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming,” Dr. Stephen LaBerge writes about research that shows that an athlete who practices his moves during lucid dreams can optimize the sensory-motor skills that are used during a game. In other words, practicing in dreams increases the skill level of the athlete.
The how-to manual
So how do you have a lucid dream? The following methods can help you become a successful lucid dreamer. Lucid dreams won’t necessarily happen overnight. It takes focus and discipline, but the benefits are exciting and insightful.
1. The weird-image trigger
Just before going to sleep, form an intention to become aware of incongruous and bizarre images in your dreams. Waking intentions often carry over into dreams, and spotting strange scenarios can trigger lucidity. While dreaming, you may find yourself suddenly exclaiming, “This is weird, I must be dreaming!” Once you’re lucid, you can direct the events within the dream.
2. I want to fly!
Because flying dreams often coincide with lucid dreams, going to sleep with the intention of having a flying dream can trigger lucidity.
3. The twilight zone
Focus on the images that occur in the “twilight zone” state between waking and sleeping. This will allow you to drift into a conscious dream without falling fast asleep. This in-between state of waking and sleeping can be a doorway to lucid dreaming.
4. Submerse yourself!
The more you pay attention to your dreams, the more success you’ll have at inducing lucid dreams. Keeping a dream journal and analyzing the images upon waking will awaken your ability for conscious dreaming. Just reading a book on dreams before bedtime can trigger lucidity.
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