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Lucid Dreams: Everything You Need To Know

Contents:

  1. What Is Lucid Dreaming?
  2. Lucid Dreaming Techniques
  3. Dream Recall: How To Remember Dreams

What is lucid dreaming?

Over the recent years, lucid dreaming has become an increasingly popular topic. Numerous books have appeared on the subject, and indeed many people have discovered the fantastic playground that dreaming can be. We might vividly remember those occasional and exceptional flying dreams from our childhood, but sometime during adolescence most of us have unfortunately lost the ability to enjoy dreamland. But what exactly is a lucid dream?

Essentially, a dream becomes lucid when you become aware that you are dreaming.

We often become aware, or lucid, in the middle of a dream, when something strange, out of the ordinary happens. When things turn bizarre, we might question the matter of the dream, realising we‘re in a dream. For most of us, spontaneous lucid dreams still occur naturally from time to time, without any efforts made.

But it is important to note that becoming lucid in a dream does not necessarily imply that we have control over what is going on - that is a more advanced achievement. In the early stages of dream awareness, it is common to realise that you are in a dream but still be swept along with it - remaining a spectator instead of an active participant. Dream control is absolutely possible, but it requires some effort.

As a consequence, there are different levels of lucidity. In higher levels, you might completely realise your freedom to roam around and materialise what you want. In a lower level of awareness you might be more of a spectator, watching the movie of your dream. Frequently dropping in and out of of awareness is also common in basic levels of lucidity.

Lucid dreaming is nothing new, in fact, it‘s most likely as old as our brains. While it might be something new for many people nowadays, dream awareness has been a very important part of the spiritual life of many „primitive“ societies. It might well be that during the times of inquisition also the knowledge about this treasure of the human mind was eradicated, along with much wisdom of spiritual matters. In any case, in Buddhism the discipline of dream yoga has been handed down for generations and is considered an advanced tantric technique. Also, South American and African shamans were well aquatinted with dreamscapes, and particularly with the herbs that induce them.

Lucid dreaming is an art that needs to be cultivated over a period of time. There‘s a number of skills that need to be sharpened, one of them is dream recall. Good dream recall is essential to fully appreciate a lucid dream - you don‘t want to wake up to have forgotten what you experienced. But even more important, good dream recall becomes very important to even have lucid dreams in the first place.

Lucid dreaming be both fun and profoundly revealing. Dreams are a way to explore our unconscious mind and learn about the nature of reality. It‘s a healthy process and there‘s absolutely no danger do lucid dreaming. Best of all - it‘s completely legal.

Lucid dreaming techniques

Lucid dreaming is an art that can be learned by anyone. There are a couple of proven techniques that will help to increase awareness and train our minds to wake up during the dream periods. As with many things, practice is key.

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Keep a dream journal

One of the simplest an most effective ways to develop a better sense for dreams to keep a dream journal. It‘s easy, just keep a notepad and pencil next to the bed. Any time you wake up, immediately write down as much as you remember from your dream. Make this the very first thing you do after waking. As you probably know, our dream memory fades very rapidly.

The dream journal allows us to recognise dream patterns and generally attune our sensitivity towards dreams. As we remember our dreams and write about them, we become more acquainted with our personal dreamlands. Since dreams often repeat themselves, with more or less variations, there is a good chance that next time you‘re in a similar dreamworld, you recognise it and turn lucid.

Reality checks

Another cornerstone of lucid dreaming is to perform so called reality checks. This technique is particularly aimed at the early levels of awareness, when you are already a spectator to you dreams, but not yet realising that you‘re actually dreaming. In these states, performing a series of simple checks will help you determine whether you are in a dream or not.

The key to preforming reality checks in a dream is to make it a common habit in the waking state. Ask yourself at least 5 times during the day „am I awake?“ and try to answer this question by looking closely at your environment. Is there something that looks weird?

Some ways you can preform a reality check include:

  • Holding your nose, closing your mouth and trying to breath – Can you do it even though you are blocking you airways?
  • Reading – Can you read a sentence twice without it changing?
  • Jumping – If you jump, can you fly? Do you float at all?
  • Looking at your hands and asking “Am I dreaming?” – Are the amount of fingers correct? They will normally be wrong in a dream.
  • Clocks – Look at a digital clock. Does it remain constant?

A good one is the mirror check - in a dream, there tends to be a different reflection, or none at all. You can make it a habit to perform a reality check every time you pass a mirror in your home. Doors are also a good anchor point, because we encounter them many times during the day. Every time you walk through a door at home, make a habit of asking yourself „am I awake?“ and perform the checks.

After practising this for a few days consistently, it should be engrained enough that there is a high chance you will perform a reality check somewhen during a dream. If indeed you find „no, I‘m not awake“, you will all of sudden become aware of your dream consciousness. It‘s common to become overly exited if this first succeeds and wake up. But no worries, that‘s a great sign and if you keep going that‘ll take care of itself.

The MILD technique

MILD stands for Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming and was described by psychophysiologist Stephen Laberge, an expert in lucid dreaming. This technique focuses on memorising your last dream in detail and then re-entering that same dreamworld in an aware state. To do this set your alarm to wake you up 4 ½, 6, or 7 ½ hours after you have gone to sleep. That is the best time to become lucid.

As soon as you wake up, start recalling what you were dreaming. Recall the dream, but imagine that you had become lucid at that moment in time during the dream. Tell yourself that you are aware that you are dreaming, make yourself determined to enter a lucid state. Go back to sleep with the firm expectation and determination to be lucid.

Nap Lucidity technique

This technique tends to be the most successful when used in conjunction with reality checks. Set your alarm to wake you up 90 minutes before you normally would. After the alarm went off, stay awake for the 90 minutes either reading or thinking about lucidity. Go back to sleep with the expectation of becoming lucid.

Waggoner's Modified Castaneda Technique: Finding your Hands

This method revolves around making an association with your hands and being aware. This technique is essentially based on the reality checks, but focuses particularly on the hands. In dreams, looking at your own hands tends to be a bizarre experience, because most likely they won‘t look like what you would expect.

Instead, they might look goofy, massive, rubbery, or coloured. So, to get the hang of this method, just perform the reality checks by looking a your hands several times during the day. At some point in your dream, you will see you hands and you will make the association that you are dreaming.

A good way go mentally prepare, is to sit on your bed until you are sleepy and in a calm meditative state. Stare at your hands and internally repeat to yourself in a soothing manner “Tonight, while I am dreaming, I will see my hands and realise that I am dreaming”.

After five minutes, or when you become too tired, calmly lie down and go to sleep. When you wake in the middle of the night, remember the phrase and reinforce your intention to enter a lucid dream. If you continue to repeat this process, at some point you will see your hands and become lucid.

The herbal path

Certain herbs have a long history of being used to induce lucid dreaming. In South America, shamans have discovered the powers of Calea Zachatechichi to induce vivid dreams. But when it comes to herbs, African healers are the ultimate experts. Working with an arsenal of herbs, they discovered a whole range of plants that support their spiritual journeys. The Xhosa and Zulu tribes of Africa were particularly renowned for using dream herbs such as Silene Capensis, Entada Rheedii and Synaptolepis kirkii.

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Dream recall: How to remember dreams

Learning how to remember your dreams is an important part of lucid dreaming – you will want to remember the awesome time you had the next day! Techniques to do this may have been already touched upon in our other lucid dreaming explanations, but this section should give you a proper understanding of some methods you can use to train your mind into efficiently recalling your dreams.

Maintain a healthy, regular sleep cycle

One of the best ways to enhance dream recall is to make sure you get a regular, good night's sleep. Dreams take place during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of the sleep cycle, which is repeated more and more the longer you sleep. The first REM phase is the shortest and happens quite quickly after falling asleep. This first dream will only last a few minuets, making it hard to remember the dream. With each following REM phase, your dreams will become longer, more vivid and memorable - dreams after 8 hours of sleep being the best.

If you only get 6 hours of sleep, or have bad sleeping habits, then you are very unlikely to remember any dreams; this is why some people say they never dream, it is actually more likely that they do not sleep enough to get far enough into the REM sleep cycle for their dreams to become memorable – it is not until after 6 hours of sleep that dreams start lasting 45-60 minutes and become really vivid.

Do not consume food, alcohol or other drugs right before bed

Any chemicals you ingest can affect your ability to remember dreams, in a positive or in a negative way. Some particular herbs enhance sleep and dream activity, while others will work against it. Unless you are taking a particular dreaming supplement, it is best to refrain from ingesting anything for a few hours before sleeping. This way your brain will be devoid of any interfering chemicals, allowing you to have the best chance you can of remembering your dream when you wake.

Keep a notepad and pen next to your bed

Doing this will allow you to write down your dreams as soon as you wake at any point during your sleep, before you forget them. Make sure to write down everything, not just the gist, or the interesting bits. It is handy to make sure it is in the same location every night and is open at a plank page, so you do not have to clamber about. Writing down your dreams and reading them back the next day will help reinforce dream memory within you, and get you into good lucid dream habits.

Be determined to remember your dreams

This may sound odd, but it works. By having the intention of coming fully awake and remembering your dreams you can actually do so. It works in the same way as when you know you have to get up at a certain time in the morning and you wake just before the alarm rings. The first thing you need to think upon waking is “What was I dreaming?”. Do not move, do not think about the day ahead, just go over the dream a few times and then write it down.

Set regular alarms

Earlier we mentioned how the deeper you get into your sleep cycle, the longer and more vivid your dreams can become. This method will allow you to remember you longest and most recent dream, but is likely to have you forgetting all of the others you had. An alternative method for those who want to write down all of their dreams, is to set your alarm at intervals throughout the night to wake you up 4 ½, 6, and 71/2 hours after you fall asleep. Ideally, these intervals should wake you during each of your REM phases of sleeping, allowing you to write down more dreams, giving you a bit more of an intensive memory workout.

Extra Tips

  • It is good to read through your dream journal each night before you go to bed. This will get you in the right mind set to remember your dream.
  • Practice makes perfect. You may find it quite hard going at first, but continuing to follow the same regime each night should see you gradually improving - hang in there.
  • Keep a note pad with you throughout the day. As you go about your business, keep trying to remember extra details about your dream. If you remember anything, write it down.
  • Look for patterns in the dreams you have recorded. This will be helpful for both lucid dreaming and dreaming recall, enforcing it within your brain.
  • Remember that your recordings are a personal experience, they do not need to make sense to other people.
  • Record whatever you remember, even if it does not make sense to you!
  • Dreams tend to be easier to remember if you record them in the present tense.
  • If you have a recurring dream, record it also – it is the habit of recording, as well as the dream content itself that will help you remember your future dreams.
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