“Though reflected outward in billions of manifest forms and activities and individual awarenesses, underneath, all are enlivened by the same light, the light of awareness. While apparently apart from others and apparently separate from objects, nature, and space, this awareness connects us at a deeper level. In lucid dreaming, we can consciously access this knowing and begin to demonstrate the existence of this profoundly connected realm.”
Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self by Robert Waggoner
I dream every night, in vivid detail and color. I recall at least half-a-dozen of my nocturnal adventures, in great part because I believe I can and make the effort to do so. We all have dreams, whether or not we remember them. Unfortunately, many of us have been encouraged since childhood to ignore our dreams; to dismiss them as random synaptic firings of our brains busily rehashing the day or performing other subconscious maintenance. The phrase “It’s just a dream” has had a deleterious effect on our inclination to remember our dreams by implying we don’t need to respect or pay attention to them. However, had we been told as children that it’s important we try to remember our dreams, that realizing we’re dreaming can help us conquer fears and positively impact our waking life, if we had been so educated from the beginning of our lives, most people would probably remember their dreams and become lucid in them more often.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to begin giving our dreams all the attention and appreciation they deserve. Dreaming is a vital part of our God given creativity, both awake and asleep.
Every now and then look around and ask yourself, “Am I dreaming?” The answer is always, “Yes, this is a dream.” The first time I did this exercise, I had a lucid dream that very night. I found myself out in the courtyard of my home and, as I had been doing all day, I asked myself if I was dreaming. It worked like a charm. I still regularly remind myself throughout the day that everything is a dream, which doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
Think about what you would like to do in the dream state. Set an intent and incubate a lucid dream. I’ve learned that feeling strongly about something works better for me than more general intents such as visiting a far away place, or flying to the moon and beyond. It’s my personal experience that really wanting to learn or achieve something, that setting an emotionally meaningful intent relevant to my waking reality, triggers lucidity in the dream state.
Whenever you wake up late at night, after at least 4 hours of sleep, stay awake a minimum of ten minutes (it helps to get out of bed) and mentally tell yourself that every night you will more clearly remember more and more of your dreams. Then, if it’s not too dark to see (I light a candle that symbolizes the spark of lucidity igniting in the mysterious depths of my subconscious) raise your hands before your face and tell yourself that you will have a lucid dream, that you will realize you’re dreaming. As you fall asleep, keep this affirmation in mind, trying not to let your thoughts wander. (At this point, you can also perform exercise number 4.) Eventually, your intent will bear fruit and you’ll “wake up in your dream”. The first few times, becoming aware of my hands in a dream triggered lucidity, and even when I become lucid in other ways, occasionally raising my hands before me and reminding myself that I’m dreaming helps me maintain my lucidity. At the beginning of all my lucid dreams, I quickly and lightly touch my upper body, which roots me more deeply in the dream. Sensations I experience in a lucid dream can help prolong it as long as I remember to control my excitement.
Lying in bed at night with your eyes closed, take a few slow breaths beginning deep down in your belly and moving up to the base of your throat, then exhale slowly and imagine your breath as energy flowing down your arms into the palms of yours hands. I do this approximately three times. Relaxed, focus on the darkness swirling with lights behind your eyelids. Anchor your inner vision, focusing only on any particular shapes and images that appear directly before you. At the same time, in a relaxed and pleasant fashion, be aware of your physical body lying on the bed gradually falling asleep even as your mind remains awake. Do this for a little while, enjoying the mysterious contrast between your sleepy, motionless body and your tireless, always excited and ready for an adventure, awareness. You may find yourself riding the hynagogic waves, observing distinct and detailed scenes rise out of the darkness. It’s sometimes possible to ride a hypnagogic image directly into a lucid dream (see WILDs) but more often than not you’ll simply fall asleep. A dream initiated lucid dream (DILD) is by far the most common.
Whenever waking up from a dream, lucid or not, keep your eyes closed, and don’t move for several minutes, as you gently remember your dreams, giving them time to “download” into your waking brain. The more you practice remembering your dreams upon waking, without letting any miscellaneous thoughts intrude, the better your dream recall will become. When you’ve remembered all you can, get up and write down your dreams, or at least a few key notes. Really long, complex lucid dreams, I record on my iPod. So as not to disturb my husband, I get up and sit in my study. I can talk faster than I can write or type, and being able to keep my eyes closed aids in dream recall. At first, in order to train your memory, you should record every dream you’re able to remember. With time, you’ll intuitively know which non-lucid dreams it’s important you keep a record of. I record all my lucid dreams. Come morning, I transcribe my nocturnal adventures using this fantastic online dream journal Lucidipedia which is also an online lucid dreaming workshop.
I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but since I set aside a space and a bed all to myself for lucid dreaming, my brain chemistry has reacted rather like a trained dog: “Oh, we’re in this room tonight, that means we can go out of body!” Every night I sleep in that space by myself (twice a week) I have at least one lucid dream, usually a lot more. I’ve also had some mild sleep paralysis there, which I rarely had in the bedroom, I can use to enter the dream space. I usually have a late dinner with red wine, around 8:00, go to bed between 10-11 and do my WBTB between 2:30-3:00. Not being hungry at night makes a big difference for me. At first I couldn’t quite believe it, every time, without fail, lucidity occurred in that room. But you have to be relaxed about it. I always enter the space thinking, It will be wonderful if I have a lucid dream or two tonight, but if I don’t, that’s okay too, my Inner Self knows best. But I also know it’s entirely possible I will become lucid, because I want to and I can.
I do not take any lucid dreaming supplements, such as Galantamine and Choline. I had never even heard of them when I began my practice. After two years, I experimented with a little Galantamine a handful of times, and did not like how I felt the next day, tired and drained. When I lucid dream naturally, I feel energized, invigorated. There was also a different quality to my lucid dreams when I took G; they were not quite as richly rewarding, and the stimulating nature of the drug often translated into strong sexual desire in the lucid dream state, distracting me from other intents. I would recommend trying the techniques listed above and training your brain to lucid dream the natural way. If all else fails, then research supplements and dosages and determine which ones might be right for you.
Food & Drink
When I first began incubating lucid dreams (as opposed to waiting for them to just happen every now and then as they’d been doing for years) I was concerned I might have to change my lifestyle by abstaining from alcohol and eating only certain energy cleansing foods, etc. Being a passionate foodie, I wasn’t willing to do that so I employed the scientific method and, for nearly two years now, I’ve documented everything I eat and drink in the evening. It’s been my personal experience to date that there’s no such thing as a diet that helps promote lucid dreaming. The only lucid dreaming diet is the one that feels right for you, provided, of course, that it’s a healthy diet which helps promote the peak functioning of your body and mind. Unless you’re so inclined, there appears to be no need to fast or to forgo certain foods or to abstain from having a glass or two of wine in the evening in order to lucid dream. Wine making is an ancient and wondrous art with a variety of health benefits, both psychological and physiological. Delicious healthy food and stimulating conversation over a glass of wine is a natural form of meditation I strongly believe deserves more credit for all its stress relieving, life-enhancing benefits. I do not diet or abstain from drinking wine, sacrifices that would merely make me unhappy, throwing a monkey wrench into the pleasure I take in my life on a daily basis, which should not be at war with the joy I take on a nightly basis in remembering my dreams, and regularly becoming lucid in them. I’ve read that wine suppresses REM sleep in the first hours of the night, leading to a REM rebound in the early hours of the morning, the time we are most likely to lucid dream. That may be true, but it isn’t why I, personally, drink wine.
Like the wings of a butterfly, my daily and nightly regimen are equally important to me, and only by respecting each one, without feeling that one need take precedence over the other, am I able to create a pleasurable and productive balance.
I feel there is one important practice that enhances our quality of life and therefore naturally helps promote lucid dreaming—Yoga. I had been working out 3-4 days a week for more than twenty years and had enjoyed, as well as endured, many different kinds of exercises, including jogging, speed walking, weights, Pilates and swimming. Then I began doing yoga—an all-ages-friendly practice three days a week for thirty minutes—and it was like finally meeting my soul mate after a series of stimulating, often pleasurable but ultimately unfulfilling relationships. The mind-body connection yoga provides, the awareness and control of breathing, the relaxed yet deeply intimate relationship the different poses encourage you to consciously develop with every part of your body, the meditation in motion quality of the exercise all promote lucidity. Yoga enables us to viscerally experience the fact that or inner self—the awareness at the eye of the storm of life—is never washed away by the torrent of experience. The practice of yoga enhances lucid living, which has a direct effect on our ability to lucid dream. Yoga’s centered awareness sensually wed to controlled fluid exertion is invaluable for honing lucidity and for maintaining it, both awake and asleep. I’m not saying yoga is necessary, but it has definitely worked for me in every aspect of my life.
Faith in the Process
What is truly vital to the success of any venture is to maintain a relaxed attitude; to continue enjoying your life as usual. Lucid Dreaming forums are full of people stressing out about how often they can become lucid and how long they can remain lucid, people desperately trying dozens of techniques, switching impatiently from one to the other if they fail to get immediate results. My own experience has taught me that an attitude of reverent intent, inseparable from faith in the process, lucid living, is essential for regularly achieving lucidity in the dream state and for prolonging it.
“If you shift the focus to becoming more lucid in your life, you can see the lucid dream as a fruit of that… In the mystical tradition I think that’s how these dreams were seen, as gifts that come due to your hard work, and they weren’t so much sought after on their own but appreciated that they did come.” Ryan Hurd
There is a spiritual dimension to lucid dreaming that transcends the mere sport of it.
“Eventually, when you realize the fantastic potential of lucid dreaming as a means to explore the unconscious, discover unknown but verifiable information, and interact with one’s inner awareness, you notice that the playground of lucid dreams connects to a school of higher education.”*
I don’t desire to become lucid in my dreams simply so I can fly, although I usually do fly because it’s such a joyful experience. I don’t desire to become lucid so I can dominate dream characters and play around with manipulating the environment, basically attempting to assert absolute power over the dream. In truth, the dream environments we travel in during sleep aren’t completely created and ruled by our ego anymore than our physical body creates and rules the planet it inhabits and is sustained by. In lucid dreams we can often pass through a wall if it’s in our way, we can sometimes change the scenery or manipulate it, just as in waking reality we have the power to knock down a wall in order to expand and redecorate the house we live in, but the mysterious Mansion of the Dream was already there before we lucidly began wandering in it. Enter with reverence.
“Any journey into one’s depth requires the flexibility and courage to accept a more profound reality and move outside of the area of the ego’s control. When lucid dreamers focus upon what they don’t control, they then realize all the things happening without their conscious involvement and understand that they direct their focus but do not control the dream. No sailor controls the sea. No lucid dreamer controls the dream.”*
*Robert Waggoner in Lucid Dreaming:Gateway to the Inner Self