Lucid Dreaming Guide for Beginners

Lucid Dreaming is the experience of knowing you are dreaming, while still firmly located in the dream itself. For myself, those fleeting moments when I am "lucid" in my dreams are some of the most cherished moments of my life. The feelings from just the first few seconds after realizing "I am dreaming!" are often exhileration, freedom, and clarity. And after this, the journey becomes infinitely more interesting.

Most people have at least one or two lucid dreams in their lifetime. However, laboratory experiments have shown that lucid dreaming is actually a learnable skill. Just like training in sports, or sculpting your mind in meditation, lucid dreaming can become a regular occurance of your dream life.

Watch the clip below from the movie Waking Life. I love the attitude of the lucid dreamer here. He reminds me how our thoughts, how we spends our days, and even our culture affects how "lucid" we really are. 

Scene from Waking Life

Why try to go lucid?

I differ from many of the other voices on the Internet about the benefits of lucid dreaming. Partially this is from my graduate work in dream research, but also because of my own temperament and interests. Personally, I am not interested in fulfilling all the earthly pleasures in my dreams, although this could be easily done. I'm also not interested in controlling the dream, although this could be achieved effortlessly.

For me, lucid dreaming is about learning how to be a better dreamer. This means not trying to control the dream, but simply to learn how to better control my own actions. Self-control, in other words. This in itself is an empowering act and has really changed my life.

A More Holistic Introduction to Lucid Dreaming

Benefits of Lucid Dreaming

Many people who benefit from the empowerment of lucid dreams are:

* nightmare sufferers

* abuse victims

* quadraplegics and other wheel-chair bound people

* sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Also lucid dreaming is used a source of inspiration by poets, artists, and even scientists. Other people develop lucid dreaming to contact dead relatives and even reconnect with their ancient ancestors. I am not concerned whether or not the dead are "really" contacted - only that these experiences are psychologically real, and often release deep emotion in the dream that leads to greater health and self-knowledge.

Other reasons to learn about lucidity include:

* Facing the past

* Accepting the present

* Envisioning the future

* Spiritual guidance

One thing I've learned about lucid dreams is that they show you what you truly believe in. And that may not be what you think! Whatever your faith - and even if you are an atheist or an existentialist - lucid dreams can reflect back your personal mythology, leading to insights, catharsis, and even some truly ecstatic and transpersonal moments.

Still More Uses of Lucid Dreaming

Researchers have discovered that lucid dreaming shares many traits with out-of-body experiences (OBE). Whether or not you believe that the soul or mind can "really" separate from the body, it is in fact a psychological reality that is hardwired into our minds. Shamans and medicine men have used their out-of-body experiences for healing, gathering information, and meeting other entities in their lucid dreams since time immemorial.

Here's a fun video that explores the connection between OBEs and lucid dreams, while introducing the experience known as sleep paralysis.

Sleep Paralysis to Out of Body Experience

Lucid Dreaming: Beyond the Succubus Attack

The video above uses a strict scientific paradigm to explain what happens during REM sleep paralysis. I find that this view is only part of the story. In sleep paralysis, we are aware of the body but unable to move it. This can be terrifying because no matter how much we struggle, we cannot move. And just like the old horror movie gag, no one can hear us scream.

However, this fearful experience can blossom into incredible lucid dream and OBE experiences if we learn how to move through our fear. Remember how I said lucid dreams help us find out what we truly believe? Sleep paralysis is a great teacher in this way.

Like I said, the scientific account is only part of the story. The experience of paralysis is often followed by the uncanny presence of a "Stranger." Sometimes it's just a feeling. Other times, people in paralysis feel someone sit down on the bed next to them. Many others go on to have a confrontation with an unknown person, while being held down by an invisible force, and sometimes being suffocated.

Sleep paralysis has a long history in mythology and legend. In England, it is known as the "Hag Effect," for the prevalence of scary witches that prey on the paralyzed dreamer. In medieval times, it was known as a visit by Incubus, a demon who sits on the female dreamer and has his way with her. Correspondingly, the Succubus is a female demon who bewitches sleeping men against their will.

The cross-cultural descriptions of this experience suggest that it is indeed a human universal. But by overcoming fear, and setting strong intentions, vigilant lucid dreamers can find themselves confronting not their worse fears (be them demons, aliens, or rapists) but benevolent characters such as wise old man, esteemed ancestors, and also angels and helpful mythological creatures. These "strangers" can give advice and share information that is previously unknown to the dreamer.

Clearly, this experience is deeper than the physiology of paralysis and the expectation of the dreamer's fears. Again, it is more about learning how to become a better dreamer.

Techniques For Beginners

There are dozens of techniques to help you learn how to lucid dream. A quick search on google and you will find plenty to work with.

I recommend that, no matter what technique you try, you take some time to figure out why you want to lucid dream. Gathering this intention is really the most important step. To put this in a wider context, consider that for some religious traditions (such as Sufism and Christian mysticism), lucid dreaming is not deliberately sought but instead is seen as a natural "fruit" of doing the spiritual work. Lucid dreaming will naturally increase the more you train your mind, no matter your cultural and religious background.

That being said, I'm a big fan of doing "reality checks." This is a way to induce lucid dreams by creating a habit in waking life of questioning reality. While some people like to ask themselves "Is this a dream?", I prefer the question "Am I aware?" Often I find that, in fact, I'm "wakewalking through my daily life," as said in the movie Waking Life. After a while, this habit is then mirrored in my dreams, providing more opportunities to become self-aware.

Another reality check that I've had success with is trying to be aware every time I walk through a doorway. "Threshold" I say to myself. This simple practice can be difficult to do, but it has resulted many times in me realizing that I am dreaming.

Check out another interpretation on the Threshold theme:

Reality Check for Lucid Dreaming

More by this Author

Comments 17 comments

mariane 8 years ago

Lots of good info on dreams I didn't know about. Keep the good work going.

BlueSkyBright profile image

BlueSkyBright 8 years ago

Great Benefits of Lucid Dreaming. Good hub with interesting info

sybercat 8 years ago

Nice hub great links I just linked it to mine ;] Ive only lucid dreampt once, as soon as I realised I was dreaming I woke up. Need to do a lot more inner work before I go that deep I think.

iPodTouchTapp 7 years ago

I'm into lucid dreaming myself, why waste your time sleeping when you can lucid dream!

Nice informative hub :)

Sara Tonyn profile image

Sara Tonyn 7 years ago from Ohio, the Buckeye State

Interesting subject! I've had lucid dreams ever since I was a child. I was absolutely amazed when I found out not everyone has them. I just assumed they were normal, or at least common, because I had them so often. As I've grown older I have them less frequently but they're still cool! :)

FWIW, I never try to control lucid dreams. To me that seems like defeating the purpose -- whatever the purpose is!

abby t 7 years ago

so i'm not alone, when dreaming sometimes i know that i'm having a dream, like i'm watching myself asleep. quite a few times i've half awoken to feel like i'm paralyzed & could feel a weight on the bed or pushing against me. i've actually had to force myself to sit up @ open my eyes coz some unseen presence was holding me down & didn't want me to wake up & take control back. pretty wild huh? abby t.

Ryan Hurd profile image

Ryan Hurd 7 years ago from San Francisco, CA Author

thanks everybody for the comments.

Abby t: your experience sounds like sleep paralysis, which is a little different than lucid dreaming. it's completely normal and harmless, as scary as it seems.

Thethetheluis 7 years ago

I have a few times woken up in what I think was this paralysis thing. I'd wake up like for some reason usually when I would be sleeping on my couch and I never felt any like person sit on my or near me or something but I wouldn't be able to move and I couldn't breath and then I would finally gasp a breath and kind of move but then I would become paralyzed again.

It was as if my body was asleep but I wasn't

EnergyAdvisor profile image

EnergyAdvisor 6 years ago from The nearest planet to Venus

Hi Ryan! Just found out about your Hubs. They're really interesting. I like your views about lucid dreaming and the fact that you're not using them for pleasure. I'm a lucid dreamer myself and I first learned about them through the books of castaneda. Bet you know them too. My point of view is totally spiritual based. I've just been a Hubber for about a month now and my first Hub was in fact about dreaming and I'm planning to write more about the subject. If your interested in reading it, here's the link:

If you don't mind I'll follow you instantly:) Can't wait to talk about this subject as it is for me one of the most important things in my life.

Vote up! and see ya..

Zenofsong profile image

Zenofsong 6 years ago

I've been trying to have lucid dreams off and on for the last two years. Recently got back in into it. Enjoyed you views on sleep paralysis. Keep up the good work and please do go into more detail about initiating lucid dreams!

Tina Kachan profile image

Tina Kachan 6 years ago from Europe, Croatia

I love it when I have lucid dreams. I too thought that it was normal to have lucid dreams, until I found out that half of people doesn`t even remember their dreams. Let alone, have lucid dreams. But I`m in it for fulfilling all the earthly pleasures. Gulity as charged :)

rcrm89 profile image

rcrm89 6 years ago

Ryan - what do you think is the best book or other resource on lucid dreaming?


stey_true profile image

stey_true 5 years ago from Maine

My favorite Hub by far. Dreaming is something I have always been interested in. I have had lucid dreams all my life, and at one point could not tell the difference between the reality we live in and the dreams I would have. I think anyone who has the power to control their dreams is very lucky. I wish I could dream all the time it is when I feel the most control over my surroundings, and myself.


I love the reference to Waking Life.

Ryan Hurd profile image

Ryan Hurd 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA Author

rcrm89 - i think the best intro is Robert Waggoner's book LDing: gateway to the inner self. Also Laberge and Rheingold's classic "exploring the world of lucid dreaming" - many tips and tactics here.

thanks stey-true and everyone else for the comments!

Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 4 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

I love this hub explaining lucid dreaming, thanks! I've shared it and linked it to my lucid dreams about trains. Interesting videos.

Alexa 2 years ago

Hi, have you heard of using Guayusa for lucid dreaming? I found info on it here:

Shannon Yaw profile image

Shannon Yaw 2 years ago from Aberdeen

Maybe someone can help me with my dream. My mother had control over my grandmother, so much she kept the whole family from seeing her. A year before my grandmother died, I called the funeral home where my grandmother had her funeral prearranged, explained my family history and told them, that Gloria wouldn't tell us when my grandmother died. On Dec 13 I get the call my grandmother passed away, however the funeral home attendant, told me my grandmother home was so dirty they couldn't get into it, they had to wrap my grandmother in a sheet and take her outside to lay her on the stretcher. My grandmother weighed 57lbs when she died, she starved to death. I did some leg work, and found out two before she died that there was 3 reports of neglect that was made and ignored. The police just told me that she was 98 and lived a long life. My grandmother was murdered, and the people responsible got away with the perfect crime. I have trouble dreams, where my grandmother is all alone and calling for help, other times she is laying in a filthy bed, crying for help. I know my grandmother's not at peace. Because when I dream of my grandfather all I see is bright light like your looking into the sun and can't see the person face when I dream of him, am at peace. When I dream of my grandmother it's reversed, I feel terror and loneliness. I don't sleep that much anymore and I have started to sleep walk. Am I going crazy or does a person's soul really cause the living to feel their pain, and crying out for justice. I used to sleep walk when I was a little girl because of the abuse I suffered, and I have always had the most god awful dreams, they are so vivid, it's like it's really happen. The one time I slept walk and I was dreaming about starting a fire in my fireplace, I almost caught my whole house on fire, another time I woke two blocks from house in my underwear a t-shirt.

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