Dreams are a reservoir of knowledge and experience, yet they are often overlooked as a vehicle for exploring reality.
- Tibetan Teacher Tarthang Tulka
Did you know you can use your dreams to solve problems? Face and overcome your fears? And even explore the purpose of life? I didn't, until recently. But it appears that this scientifically proven practice has existed for thousands of years, dating back to the yogis of Tibetan Buddhism who used lucid dreaming to experience the illusory nature of reality. So what exactly is lucid dreaming? It can be understood as the practice of becoming consciously aware during dreaming. Those that have experienced lucid dreams report amazingly intense feelings of exhilaration, elation and vivid feelings of freedom. A man from Minnesota for instance, described one of his lucid dreams in the following way:
I was standing in a field in an open area when my wife pointed in the direction of the sunset. I looked at it and thought, "How odd, I've never seen colors like that before". Then it dawned on me: "I must be dreaming!" Never had I experienced such clarity and perception - the colors were so beautiful and the sense of freedom so exhilarating, that I started racing down through this beautiful golden wheat field waving my hands in the air and yelling at the top of my voice, "I'm dreaming! I'm dreaming!"
-In Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge
You're able to control the outcome of your dreams when lucid dreaming. This means you can fly through the galaxies, bathe in a bath of diamonds and pearls, make love on rainbows (yes, you heard me ;) ), or travel to whatever destination, in whichever era or planet you like. Basically, the only limit in your dreams is your mind and its level of imaginative creativity.
So, the question is, if lucid dreaming opens up such an amazingly rich and rewarding world - how do you actually become "awake" in your dreams? You can find out some introductory tips below.
Before you start having and maintaining conscious awareness during dreams, it's important to do some mental exercises. These exercises will help make lucid dreaming a lot easier to induce.
Experiencing the World
This exercise will help you sharpen the five senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. This in turn, will help your lucid dreams become more vibrant and vivid. You must practice
consciousness in order to become conscious in your dreams. The goal is to become aware of what you experience with your senses. Every size shade, texture, taste, and nuance.
- Look - Attune to every shape, color and movement. e.g. A building, a blade of grass.
- Listen - Attune to every pitch and intensity. e.g. The wind, a bird.
- Feel - Attune to every texture, weight, temperature, and feeling. e.g. The soil, your legs.
- Taste - Attune to the bitter, sweet, creamy, crunchy, smoothness of food. e.g. The sea air, a muffin.
- Smell - Attune to every odor, whether warm, sweet, bitter, odorous, floral. e.g. Smoke, incense.
- Become Aware of Yourself - It also helps to become conscious of your emotions, thoughts and breathing. For example
"I feel peaceful", "I am thinking about my friend."
Asking the Golden Question
This is also called Critical State Testing. It involves asking the question during the day "am I dreaming or am I awake, right now?" It sounds a bit silly, but really try to justify your answer. The point of this exercise is to create a habit of testing consciousness in waking life that can be brought over to the dream world. Essentially, this exercise is about creating a habit. Soon you will find yourself asking the same question in your dreams, "am I dreaming?" It's important to plan when you ask the question so that you remember. For instance, you could always ask "am I dreaming or awake now?" whenever you look into a mirror, climb some stairs, or shut a door. Planning will help you test your own reality.
Basically, if you can't recall your dreams, you won't be able to remember to become lucid in the dream world. This exercise is about recording your dreams in as much detail as possible, for maximum dream recall. It's also about finding peculiarities in your dreams called dreamsigns. It's recommended that you keep track of your dreams for 14 days in a row before you attempt to lucid dream. Keeping a dream journal will allow you to collect these dreamsigns, which are essentially unrealistic occurrences in reality. This will help trigger lucid dreams in the future once you're able to identify your most frequently occurring sign. Dreamsigns are highly personal in nature. Your dreamsign could be that the sun is usually purple, or an intimate friend is always a stranger. Dreamsigns can be many and varied. For example they could be:
- Actions (personal/character/object)
- Form (personal/character/setting/object)
- Context (personal role/character role/character place/object place/setting place/setting time/situation)
More to Come
Stay tuned for the next article on Lucid Dreaming. This article will focus on the second stage of achieving the lucid dream, and the indispensable knowledge you must know to maintain, and get the most out of this experience. If you're interested in knowing more in depth information and research on lucid dreaming, I highly recommend Stephen LaBerge's book Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. Most of this article owes its information from this book.
If you've had an experience with lucid dreams, please let me know below!