Learning How to Lucid Dream
Ever want to be able to control your dreams, their outcomes and change a scary dream to a not-so-scary one? Ever have a flying dream in which you could control the direction and speed at which you were flying? Lucid dreaming is that state in which the dreamer is completely aware that they are in fact having a dream and they are able to control the narrative of the dream itself. There are many benefits and risks to lucid dreaming and this article will share with you a few of them and provide some tools to help you learn how to do this at home!
Before you can learn how to control your dreams, you must become aware that you are dreaming. Most often, the dreamer is unaware that they are in a dream state and instead only realize this after awakening. To become more aware of your dreams, start a dream journal and write down anything you dream about immediately after waking. Before bed, meditate mindfully on the idea that when you fall asleep you will be in a dream state and repeat to yourself, I will remember my dream. If you wake in the middle of a dream, concentrate on going back into the same dream when you fall back asleep. Ensuring that you can get to a restful REM state for long enough to dream is essential, of course.
Become mindful of your dream state and when you start to become aware that you are in a dream try out some reality checks--pinch your nose and close your mouth and test whether you can still breathe or look closely at your hands and feet. In dreams, body parts can be distorted and you will often find that you are capable of breathing in impossible situations (like under water).
Once you are aware that you are dreaming, you can begin to manipulate the outcome of your dreams and control your actions and other's actions in the dream as well. You can fully explore the creative realms of the mind in this state and interact with parts of your own psyche that are not accessible to your awoken mind. There are many benefits of lucid dreaming; they can be an opportunity for you to rehearse an interaction with someone, prepare for the big race, visualize something you desire in your life and practice obtaining it or just plan live out a crazy fantasy that you wish to come true. Lucid dreams have been used in therapy sessions to confront trauma and to change the outcome of past events, enabling the patient to overcome fear, anxiety and depression. Lucid dreams also help you to explore the mind creatively and to unlock untapped creative potential within yourself.
There is science behind lucid dreaming and recently, a 2009 study at the Neurological Laboratory at the University of Frankfurt revealed significantly increased brain activity during lucid dreams. The research also showed heightened activity in both the frontal and frontolateral areas of the brain -- an area that is responsible for self awareness.
There are dangers to lucid dreaming that should be explored before deciding if learning this new power is worth the risk. Lucid dreamers will often awake and not be completely sure that they are not dreaming. Blurring the lines between reality and the dream world, it is often difficult for lucid dreamers to determine if they are awake or asleep. Lucid dreaming also uses up a lot of mental energy and once you begin to manipulate your dreams, you may find that you are not waking up refreshed and rested as you once were. Lastly, you cannot ever have complete control and there will always be some aspects of the dream that don't go as desired and depending on the type of dream you are having, this can be frustrating and/or scary.
There is also something called "sleep paralysis" that can happen where the dreamer is stuck in between the dream world and the waking world and while they are completely aware that they are in a dream, they are unable to wake themselves up or to move. They are in essence, glued to their bed and unable to bring themselves out of this state easily. For someone that may be suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder or another mental condition in which reality may be skewed, this type of dreaming is not recommended. For all others, its up to you to weigh out the benefits and the risks involved.
Have you ever had a lucid dream? What was your experience and how did it shape your experience of the awakened world? I look forward to reading your comments below!