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
Sleep paralysis is a reliable portal into lucid dreaming as well as out-of-body experiences
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