Keeping with the dreaming theme, this week I’m going to talk about lucid dreaming. Lucid dreams are dreams in which the dreamer is aware that she is dreaming.¹
Although, lucid dreaming has been around for centuries, conventional science did not accept lucid dreaming as a real phenomenon until the late 1970’s/early 1980s.
This is when Keith Hearne, in 1978, and Stephen LaBerge, in 1981, independently tested lucid dreamers by measuring eye movements during the REM stage of sleep.
The theory was that REM movements corresponded with vision in dreams—when a dreamer looks left in his dreams, his physical eyes will look left as well.
Their theory was correct. They conducted these experiments and found that lucid dreamers could use REM to communicate messages to the researchers while they were sleeping. The lucid dreamers correctly answered “yes” and “no” questions using REM, and gave other indications of their conscious awareness while in a dream state.²
As bizarre as that sounds, lucid dreaming comes in various forms and is a fairly accessible experience. Some people are more naturally inclined to lucid dream than others. I started lucid dreaming when I was around the age of six. It was such a common experience for me that I didn’t realize until I was much older that not everyone has lucid dreams.
The reason lucid dreams are desirable is obvious: you get to do whatever you want in your dreams.
When I was really young, my biggest lucid dream activity was flying. When I got a little older, I switched to having telekinesis (I won’t go into the reasons for that here).
These days, I tend to hang out with people that I miss and I can’t physically visit. During some of the really cold and dark stretches of this past winter, I spent some of my lucid dreams at the beach.
How to Have a Lucid Dream
According to the book Lucid Dreaming: The Paradox of Consciousness During Sleep, research on lucid dreaming indicates that most people can increase their lucid dream frequency considerably.³
It’s not unusual for some people to start having lucid dreams as soon as they learn that there is such a thing is possible.4
If you don’t have good recollection of your non-lucid dreams, then work on that.
While you’re working on that or if you already have good recollection of your dreams, you can also employ one or many other techniques for having what is called a “pre-lucid” dream.
A dream is considered pre-lucid as soon as you ask yourself whether or not you are dreaming. If you answer, “yes,” then your dream becomes lucid. If you answer “no” then your dream falls back into an ordinary dream.
There are a few techniques that might help you have pre-lucid dreams that I gleaned from Lucid Dreaming that I’ll mention here:
The first is to condition yourself to ask yourself whether or not you’re dreaming in your waking life.
You can do this by either habitually asking yourself whether you’re dreaming at random intervals throughout the day or by using a trigger. If you’re using a trigger, ask yourself whether or not you’re dreaming every time a regular event happens in your waking life. For example, every time you walk by a designated object in your house.
The other is to fall asleep while thinking about lucid dreaming. This can be done by reading about lucid dreaming just before bed, pondering it, or repeating a mantra about it, such as, “I am dreaming,” as you are falling asleep.
Finally, some people achieve lucid dreams by completely skipping the pre-lucid state and going straight to lucid. They do this by meditating while they fall asleep. Those who are already very skilled in mind control (such as monks and yogis) do this by concentrating on their own conscious awareness as their bodies’ falls asleep. When they do this, they can witness their own sleep cycle. This seems like the hard way to go about it, but feel free to give it a try.
Once you are having a pre-lucid dream, then the next step is to get yourself to answer, “yes” when you ask yourself whether or not you’re dreaming.
For this, here is a list of suggested tests that you can use to try to determine whether or not you are in a dream.
- Try to push through a wall (walls are less solid in dreams).
- Pinch yourself—yes, this is really a test, and your skin will respond differently to the pinch.
- Try to read something—text doesn’t like to stand still in dreams or will be fuzzy.
- Try to pick up something heavy or do any other similar task where there is a very specific expected physical result. If you don’t get the expected result (like you can easily pick up a car without strain) that’s an indication that you’re dreaming.
Once you get past this step, you’re now a lucid dreamer. Continue practicing lucid dreaming and you will improve! I’ll look forward to hearing about your awesome dreams!
To learn more about maintaining a lucid dream once it becomes lucid, you may want to check out this website on lucid dreaming.
¹ Green, C. & McCreery, C. (1994). Lucid dreaming: The paradox of consciousness during sleep. London: Routledge., p. 1.
² ibid., p. 7.
³ ibid., p. 115.
4 ibid., p. 114.