A lucid dream is any dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming. The phenomenon was referred to by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who observed that often “when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream.”
One of the earliest references to personal experiences with lucid dreaming was by Marie-Jean-Léon, Marquis d’Hervey de Saint Denys. The person most widely acknowledged as having coined the term is Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik (Willem) van Eeden (1860–1932).
In a lucid dream, the dreamer has greater chances to exert some degree of control over his or her participation within the dream or to manipulate imaginary experiences in the dream environment. Lucid dreams can be realistic and vivid.
It has been shown that there are higher amounts of beta-1 frequency band (13–19 Hz) experienced by lucid dreamers; hence there is an increased amount of activity in the parietal lobes making lucid dreaming a conscious process.
A lucid dream can begin in one of two ways. A dream-initiated lucid dream starts as just a normal dream, and the dreamer eventually concludes it is a dream. A wake-initiated lucid dream occurs when the dreamer goes from a normal waking state directly into a dream state, with no apparent lapse in consciousness. The wake-initiated lucid dream “occurs when the sleeper enters REM sleep with unbroken self-awareness directly from the waking state.”
Remembering your dreams is the starting place for learning to have lucid dreams. In order to be able to recognize your dreams as dreams while they are happening, you have to be familiar with the way your own dreams work.
Before it will be worth your time to work on lucid dream induction methods, you should be able to recall at least one dream every night.
Getting plenty of sleep is the first step to good dream recall. If you are rested, it will be easier to focus on your goal of recalling dreams, and you won’t mind so much taking the time during the night to record your dreams.
Another benefit of getting plenty of sleep is that dream periods get longer and closer together as the night proceeds. The first dream of the night is the shortest, perhaps ten minutes in length, while after eight hours of sleep, dream periods can last forty-five minutes to an hour.
We all dream every night, about one dream period every ninety minutes. People who say they never dream simply never remember their dreams.
You may have more than one dream during a REM (dream) period. It is generally accepted among sleep researchers that dreams are not recalled unless the sleeper awakens directly from the dream, rather than after going on to other stages of sleep.
It can be useful while you are developing your dream recall to keep a complete dream journal. Keep the journal handy by your bed and record every dream you remember, no matter how fragmentary. Start by writing down all your dreams, not just the complete, coherent or interesting ones. Even if all you remember is a face or a room, write it down.
Steps to Induce & Improve Lucid Dreaming
1. During the day, repeatedly ask, “Am I dreaming?” and perform some reality checks whenever you remember. With practice, if it happens enough, you will automatically remember to ask this question during your dreams.
2. Keep a dream journal. This is perhaps the most important step towards lucid dreaming. Keep it close by your bed at night, and write in it immediately after waking. Or you can keep a recording device if you find it easier to repeat your dream out loud. This helps you recognize your common dream elements (people from your past, specific places, etc.) and also tells your brain that you are serious about remembering your dreams. It will also help you recognize things that are unique to your dreams. You will be able to recognize your own “dream signs.” These will be recurring things or events you may notice in your dreams.
3. Learn the best time to have a lucid dream. By being aware of your personal sleep schedule, you can arrange your sleep pattern to help induce lucid dreams. Studies strongly suggest that a nap a few hours after waking in the morning is the most common time to have a lucid dream. Lucid dreams are strongly associated with REM sleep. REM sleep is more abundant just before the final awakening. This means lucid dreams most commonly occur right before waking up.
4. Try the WILD (wake-initiated lucid dream) technique. Basically, when you fall asleep, you carry your awareness from when you were awake directly into REM sleep and start out in a lucid dream. The easiest way to attempt this technique is to take an afternoon nap or after you have have only slept 3-7 hours. Try to meditate in a calm, focused state. You can try counting breaths or imagine ascending/descending stairs, dropping through the solar system, being in a quiet, soundproof area, etc. Listening to Theta binaural beats will easily put you into REM sleep.
5. Another technique for dream awareness is the “diamond method” of meditation, which can shortcut the overall learning curve of lucid dreaming. When you meditate, visualize your life, both awake and dreaming, as facets on a diamond. Some choose to call this “diamond” the Universe, others God, and still others “Spirit.” The point is to begin to recognize that life is happening all at once. It is only our “perception” that arranges our dramas into linear or “timed” order. Just as a diamond just is, each facet viewed as an individual experience is still going on at the same time the “dream body” has experiences. This method is known by remote viewers. This exercise calls for only a slight shift in awareness.
6. Try marking an “A” (which stands for “awake”) on your palm. Every time you notice the “A” during your waking hours, challenge whether you are awake or asleep. Eventually you may see the “A” in your sleep and become lucid.
7. Get into the habit of doing reality checks. Do at least three reality checks every time something seems out of the ordinary, strongly frustrating, or nonsensical. This habit will carry into your dreams. In a dream, reality checks will tell you that you are sleeping, allowing you to become lucid. In order to remember to do reality checks in dreams, you need to establish a habit of doing reality checks in real life. One way to know when to do a reality check is to look for “dream signs” (elements that frequently occur during your dreams, which can be found in your dream journal) or things that would not normally exist in the waking state. When these actions become habit, a person will begin to do them in his or her dreams and can come to the conclusion that s/he is dreaming. Frequently doing reality checks can stabilize dreams. This is also known as DILD (dream-induced lucid dreams). Some additional tactics include: looking at a body of text, looking away, then looking back to see if it has changed; flipping a light switch; looking in a mirror (your image will most often appear blurry or not appear at all in a dream); pinching your nose closed and trying to breathe; jumping in the air (you are usually able to fly during dreams); poking yourself (when dreaming, your “flesh” might be more elastic than in real life); or leaning against a wall (in dreams you often fall through walls).
8. Look through previous dreams in your dream journal. If you start to notice patterns in your dreams, you will notice dream signs, or certain things that continue to reappear. This may be as basic as all dreams are in your backyard, or all your dreams have fans in them. Get in the habit of doing dream checks every time you see your dream sign, and eventually you will see your dream sign in a dream, where you can do a check and realize you’re dreaming.
Benefits of Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreaming gives you the ability to control your own dreams and steer them in the direction you want. In the lucid state, you are more willing to confront threats and, as a result, become more self-confident. Lucid dreaming is thus helpful for overcoming fears and anxieties.
The application of lucid dreams is limited only by your imagination. Because brain activity during the dream state is the same as during the waking state, what you learn or practice in your lucid dream state is similar to the training and preparation you do in the waking world. Your neuronal patterns are being similarly conditioned.
At least half of all adults have had one lucid dream. Many have reported having lucid dreams without even trying. Often flying is associated with lucid dreams. With practice, lucid dreaming can be learned and achieved at will.
Copyright © Julian Websdale. All Rights Reserved.
Julian Websdale is an independent researcher in the fields of esoteric science and metaphysics and a self-initiate of the Western Esoteric Tradition. His interest in these subjects began in 1988. Julian was born in England, received his education as an electronic and computer engineer from the University of Bolton, served in a Vaishnava monastery during 2010, and has traveled to over twenty-one countries. He is also a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Connect with Julian on Facebook here.