Lucid dreaming is the art of becoming conscious within your dreams. During a lucid dream you are able to comprehend, “Aha! I’m dreaming!” While you’re still asleep. Once you become conscious within a dream, you can interact with and direct it at will; this allows you to collaborate with your unconscious mind.
It allows you cognisant access into the deepest niches of your mind, and the chance to guide your dreams. In a lucid dream, you’ve not woken up—in fact, you’re still sound asleep—but a part of your brain has been reactivated [the right dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex, in case you’re wondering]. The ‘waking up’ of this region, so to speak, allows you to experience the dream state consciously and with self-reflective awareness. Once you know that you are dreaming as you’re dreaming, you gain access to the most powerful virtual reality generator in existence: your mind.
I found that one of the most radical aspects of lucid dreaming is that it makes sleep enjoyable! Considering that we spend a third of our lives asleep, it completely reconfigures our relationship with sleep. Today, a large number of people refuse to go to sleep or sleep for a limited amount of time, because they believe that they should be doing other things. But lucid dreaming makes us realise that sleep is not just ‘wasted time’, as some people see it, but rather a potential training ground for psycho-spiritual growth. It is a laboratory of internal exploration that makes us more cogently aware in our waking lives too.
In fact, the term ‘lucid dreaming’ is a bit of a misnomer—it should really be called ‘conscious dreaming’, because it’s the aspect of conscious awareness that defines the experience, rather than its clarity.
Understanding what lucid dreaming isn’t
Given that there’s so much misunderstanding around what lucid dreaming actually is, it’s worth taking a moment to look at what lucid dreaming is not…
- It’s not a half-awake/half-asleep state. In a lucid dream, you are still asleep. You’re in the REM [rapid eye movement] dreaming sleep and out for the count, but part of your brain has become reactivated while you’re dreaming, allowing you to experience the dream consciously.
- It’s not just a very vivid dream. Although lucid dreams are often incredibly vivid, high-definition experiences.
- It’s not an out-of-body experience [also called astral projection]. This point is still being debated by many lucid dreaming practitioners, but as I see it, a lucid dream is happening primarily within the confines of our minds, whereas in an out-of-body experience we’ve moved beyond these boundaries.
- Lucid dreaming is a dream in which you are aware that you’re dreaming while you are still dreaming.
So why would we want to dream lucidity?
So many psychological problems have their source in the fact that we don’t know ourselves; we’re unmindful and unaware. Through lucid dreaming we get to truly know ourselves, and can become more mindfully aware in all states of day and night.
Our unconscious minds hold a wealth of wisdom—about both ourselves and the world around us. This treasure trove is rarely accessed in the waking state but once we become lucid, we gain access to a library of insight that resides in our dreaming mind. Through lucid dreaming we become conscious within the unconscious. This opens up the possibility of directly communicating with our own divine potential, and witnessing just how limitless we actually are.
The benefits of lucid dreaming
There are so many benefits to lucid dreaming but in a nutshell, once you become conscious within your unconscious mind you can [much like through hypnotherapy] make lasting changes to your body and mind while you sleep.
A few of my favourite benefits of lucid dreaming are:
- Psychological healing [phobias, trauma, confidence]
- Physical healing
- Engaging spiritual practice while you sleep
- Exploration of the unconscious mind
- Treating PSTD and nightmare integration
- Increasing and tapping into creativity
- Preparation for death and dying
- Enhanced learning and access to past memory
- Lucid living and waking up to your full potential
- Having fun [it’s the most fun you can have in your pyjamas!]
Sounds great, but how do I actually do it?
Now comes the exciting part! You can actually train yourself to have lucid dreams.
- The first step is start remembering your dreams
- Step two is to write them down as a way to learn and familiarise yourself with their content
- And step three is to start spotting patterns. Once you notice that, “Oh look, I often dream of being back at school” you can set a trigger in your mind so that next time you are back at school you think “Hey! I must be dreaming!”
Self-doubt and lucid dreaming
People often block their potential to have lucid dreams because of their self-doubt. Their misgivings make them think that they can’t have lucid dreams, or that only certain people achieve the ability to dream lucidly.
Lucid dreaming is for everybody who dreams. If you sleep, you dream, and if you dream you can lucid dream. Irrespective of where you lay your head, lucid dreaming is available to you.
It is likely that most people have already had multiple lucid dreams, even if they don’t remember them. This is because children and adolescents can lucid dream naturally, [not every night and not every child] but a majority of children experience copious lucid dreams as part of their psychological development.
The fact that children and adolescents have spontaneous lucid dreams tells us two important things: firstly, that lucid dreaming is a natural, unprompted arising of the human mind [rather than a forced imposition], and secondly that you don’t need to learn how to lucid dream, you just need to remember how.
This was first published in the January 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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