- Mental Health
Why You Should Learn to Lucid Dream!
Have you ever had a dream in which you knew you were dreaming?
What is Lucid Dreaming?
Wikipedia defines a lucid dream as any dream during which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. During lucid dreaming, the dreamer may be able to exert some degree of control over the dream characters, narrative, and environment.
The term lucid dream was first coined by Frederick Eeden in his 1913 article, A Study of Dreams. However, people being lucid in their dreams has been around for far longer. Lucid dreaming has been found in ancient Greek writings, the philosopher Aristotle wrote: 'often when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream'.
In lucid dreaming their is a spectrum of awareness and control, often one is aware of the dream state, but only for a fleeting moment, or one could be in control of the dream to such a degree that they can simulate whatever they can possibly imagine.
Paul Tholey, a German oneirologist and Gestalt theorist, laid the epistemological basis for the research of lucid dreams, proposing seven different conditions of clarity that a dream must fulfill in order to be defined as a lucid dream:
- Awareness of the dream state (orientation)
- Awareness of the capacity to make decisions
- Awareness of memory functions
- Awareness of self
- Awareness of the dream environment
- Awareness of the meaning of the dream
- Awareness of concentration and focus (the subjective clarity of that state).
Further Technical Information
Benefits of Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreaming gives one a surreal sense of freedom, adventure, euphoria, and excitement that compares only to the most incredible waking moments. It can also be used for practical purposes such as self knowledge, one can speak with their subconscious mind and receive unexpected and helpful answers. Lucid dreaming has been used by artists for inspiration and the instantaneous creation of material. One artist I heard of has lucid dreams so that he can walk into an original art gallery of his minds making, then stare at a painting that he prefers until he wakes up, then he paints it out exactly as he saw in his minds eye. I've tried this once, and as someone who can draw only stick men, cubes, and two-dimensional images, I was blown away by the artistic abilities of my own subconscious.
One of the main reasons many people get into lucid dreaming is for the sex. One can experience the wildest fantasies they can envision, and feel every sensation as if it were really happening.
Lucid dreaming can be used to practice various skills, and since the same neurons are firing as if it were happening in real life, this cuts the opportunity costs of a long sleep. In Stephen Laberge's book, Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming, a surgeon brags of practicing operations in his sleep, and refining his skills in order to display cunning excellency when it came time for the real thing. Not only does this dream practice ease the stress of the actual event, but it purifies the neural pathways associated with the occasion.
In a lucid dream one can safely overcome fears and phobias. In one dream I had as a kid, I was laying on the cold concrete basement floor, I couldn't move, then ants, spiders, and millipedes began to crawl all over me, I was absolutely terrified until I realized I was just dreaming and that my subconscious was showing me my fears in a very real simulation. After that dream I no longer felt a visceral discomfort at the sight of spiders, ants, millipedes and other annoyingly crawly creatures.
Another very beneficial aspect of lucid dreaming is being able to grieve the loss of a loved on in a very close and personal way. Speaking with the person in a dream provides closure, comfort, and a sense of acceptance of the event.
The fact of the matter is that the possibilities of lucid dreaming are as limitless as the simulation abilities of your own mind.
Learning the Methods
The first step to lucid dreaming is starting a dream journal and getting into the habit of checking if you have all five of your fingers from time to time, do this because out of habit you will do it in a dream, and upon seeing 4-8 fingers you will become aware of the dream. Keep a note pad, and pen on your night stand, or have a note app on your phone. When I started out I hadn't had a single dream that I could remember for years. I began by writing down the thoughts I had upon awakening. After less than a few days of doing this I could remember snippets of my dreams in detail, so I would write those memories down. Once I began to recognize certain patterns in my dreams, called dream signs, I would become aware of my dream state upon seeing these signs. That took me less than a couple of weeks. Once I began to have lucid dreams I became hungry for the best methods of induction, stabilization and prolonging, because I really loved the experiences I had.
In the WBTB (wake back to bed) method you set an alarm to go off around four to six hours after you fall asleep, or simply drink a big glass of water and your bladder will wake you up. Then for example, at four in the morning you'll wake up and stay awake reading a book, playing a game, or some kind of mental activity for ten minutes to an hour. I find meditating for ten minutes works best, because meditation trains the brain to be aware of ones surroundings, which is crucial to being able to lucid dream. Then as you go back to sleep, use a combination of MILD (mnemonic induced lucid dream) and FILD (finger induced lucid dream), as you fall asleep you want to repeat in your mind something along the lines of, I will have a lucid dream, or I will do a reality check, and as you mnemonically induce lucidity you may also want to lightly move your index and middle finger up and down slowly. I'm not sure exactly why this method works, but I believe it keeps your mind awake as your body falls asleep. This method has been proven to work with a very high success rate.
Prolonging and Stabilization
Most people often get very excited when they first become aware that they are dreaming, and the excitement wakes them up. To maintain stability and to have a long dream, one must remain calm, focused, and in-the-zone. Even after 10 months of practicing lucid dreaming almost every night, I still need to learn to remain focused and calm. It helps to plan your dream before you are in it, because the thought of unlimited possibilities often awakens one pretty quickly. It helps to say aloud, I am dreaming, I will remain focused and calm, I will wake up when I am ready.
Doing simple math or counting, awakens other parts of the brain but allows you to keep awareness of the dream more easily. I have found that meditation and focusing on the environment, including moving, feeling the temperature, texture of things, and activating as many senses as possible is the best way to stabilize and prolong the dream.
Your dream senses will allow you to perceive:
My Favorite Things to Do
When I lucid dream every night I enjoy going for flights around cities, mountains, and jungles. Exploring outer space, other planets, and shrinking myself down to experience the life of an insect. I often drive beautiful super cars, or ride my bike and practice tricks that I'm not as good at in real life. I've learned how to do tricks in a dream before I ever did them in real life. I like to talk to people in dreams, because I know its a part of my own mind, and yet I don't know what to expect. I also enjoy listening to orchestras or bands that my mind makes, because its original, and although I'm not a musician myself, my brain has the capacity to create amazing melodies that I can deeply enjoy. There are so many things I have yet to try, that I want to try. I would like to go into a restaurant that I own, and eat food I've never had, or go to a candy store and pig out. Sometimes I do really trivial things in my dreams, and sometimes I find immense motivation, inspiration, and new ideas. After almost every lucid dream I have ever had, I've felt happy and contented upon waking up.