If you’ve never experienced it then you may find it hard to understand what lucid dreaming is all about. In fact you may be thoroughly sceptical and dismiss the whole thing as silly nonsense. But I can tell you from personal experience that lucid dreams are very real and something that many millions of people regularly enjoy.
Note: March 2012: Due to the huge amount of interest that this post has generated I am now seriously considering writing a book on the subject, and I would welcome input from anyone with an interest. If you have any anecdotes, suggestions, dreams or anything else you’d like to share with me for possible inclusion in the book, please email me. Your contribution can be anonymous and you may change any and all names/characters as you wish. I’ll send a free copy to all contributors if the book is published.
These types of dreams are hyper-real in that when you experience one it is bursting with vibrant colour, there’s often marvellous music playing in the background (if you listen for it), the air is the freshest and sweetest you’ve ever smelled, and you are the healthiest you have ever been (or could ever be).
Lucid dreaming is when you experience full consciousness while dreaming. You know that you are in a dream and you discover that you can do absolutely anything you like in it. What generally causes you to become conscious without waking up is when you notice something so incongruous that you would never see in real life that you instantly realise you must be in a dream. But, you may be thinking that so much of what you dream is weird and wonderful and could never occur in real life. And you’re right. It’s only sometimes that the incongruity stands out, and there’s no way of knowing when it will happen. However, there are techniques you can use to increase the possibility, which I’ll explain a little later.
You may also have another question on your mind, along the lines of “What’s the big deal with being conscious while dreaming, anyway?” And that’s a good question to ask if you’ve never experienced it. The answer is that when you dream you create a world that is far more real than you remember when you wake up. Usually it’s packed with colour and texture that you rarely see in real life.
When you ‘wake up’ inside a dream you can consciously appreciate just how wonderful dreams really are. And because you’re awake you will remember the dream in exquisite detail. I promise, you’ll never forget your first lucid dream.
Experiencing a lucid dream
The dreamworld your unconscious mind creates for you is so intricately constructed that you can pluck a leaf from a tree and examine it in tiny detail. Every little vein and pockmark is there. You can walk over to a building and examine its brickwork, where you’ll discover every item of sand or other material that went into its making. You can also feel all manner of fine and rough textures.
The only thing you don’t feel, though, is pain. Nothing actually hurts you physically in a dream, which is why pinching yourself inside one is a sure way of proving that you are, indeed, dreaming (although, it turns out from the comments below, that some people can feel pain while asleep – which just goes to show how different we all are).
When you are experiencing a lucid dream you can do absolutely anything you want. You can float, bounce or fly around. You can dance and run super-fast. And you can even participate in dream sex. What you do is entirely up to you, and whatever you desire to manifest, your unconscious will create for you to enjoy. Most lucid dreamers also report that they experience extreme joy when in the state.
You can also use your awake time in a dream to work on your personal growth because it’s the perfect time to slay any nightmare monsters or demons that bother you. Seek them out and cuddle them with inescapable love. Envelop them with goodwill and optimism and turn them from black and menacing ugly things (which dream monsters often are), into tiny, colourful collectable figures that couldn’t hurt a fly. This will go a long way towards reducing the incidence of nightmares if you have them.
Becoming lucid while sleeping
I most frequently used to lucid dream after working the night shift at the home for disabled people where I spent my first few years after completing my education. The night staff had to stay up all night and regularly attend to the resident’s needs, so napping wasn’t an option, and copious amounts of coffee would be drunk to keep us alert throughout each 12-hour shift.
We used to work only a few nights at a time and then would go back onto day shifts, so our internal day and night clock was constantly changing, and by the morning after the first night shift in a series, I would have a combination of sleep deficit, exhaustion and caffeine, which would make it quite hard indeed to get to sleep. It also meant that sometimes my dreams would become lucid – since then I have learned to recognize the first hints of becoming conscious during sleep and am able to “wake myself up” once or twice a month to enjoy a lucid experience.
One way to help bring on a lucid experience is to think about the concept as you go to sleep. This will prime your unconscious mind to be more willing to relinquish control when it thinks appropriate. So imagine having a lucid dream (even if you’ve never had one) and visualize all the things you would like to do, and allow yourself to drift off to sleep as you do so.
You can also get into the habit of pinching yourself regularly throughout the day. Try to do so at least once an hour so that it becomes standard routine and quite normal for you. After a while you may find that the habit carries over into your sleeping, and if you do pinch yourself while asleep, the lack of pain should be enough to awaken your consciousness.
If your partner doesn’t object another method that often works is to set your alarm clock for about five hours after you normally go to sleep. When it sounds turn it off and try to remember everything you can about your interrupted dream. Sit up in bed while you do this and keep the concept of lucid dreaming firmly in your mind. Imagine what it is like and what you will do. Try to stay awake for at least fifteen minutes (or longer if you can), then settle back down and let yourself drift back off to sleep, and sometimes this will help provoke a lucid dream – but you may have to try it quite a few times before it does.
Making the most while it lasts
Sadly, lucid dreams last only about five or ten minutes in most cases. Either your conscious mind gets tired or your unconscious mind decides to seize the reins again. So as soon as you know that you have become lucid don’t waste any time before doing all the things you have been waiting for. Quickly go and examine all the objects around you to see how exquisitely detailed they are – this alone will tell you how amazing lucid dreams are – and how much more powerful than the most expensive computer graphics card your brain is.
Seek out other people, animals or things to interact with. As you move around, notice how the 3D parallax is absolutely perfect, with the vanishing points moving slower than things near you. Listen quietly and see if your unconscious is playing music for you. If it is, sometimes it may be a tune you know but often it will be a new kind of music that’s rich and almost angelic – somehow the best music you’ve ever heard. Go and fly and look down on the world – the trees and houses and everything else you can see. It’s all there in perfect detail, and you can fly to any part of it. In fact you can fly as far and high as you like, even to the moon, where the air you breathe will be just as fresh as on earth.
As you become skilled you will even be able to create your own imaginary worlds, islands, buildings, animals, aliens, or what have you. Just like in the movie Inception, it will all instantly come to life and you can then experience it to your heart’s content.
If nothing else, once you have dreamed lucidly, you will forever be in complete awe at the depth, ability and creativity of your unconscious mind. And if you use creative visualization you will understand just how it is that your visualizations manage to bring your goals to fruition.