Dreams are more real than reality itself, they’re closer to the self.
– GAO XINGJIAN, Dialogue and Rebuttal
This article is a continuation of my introductory article on Lucid Dreaming. Once completing the three mental exercises of sharpening awareness, critically testing reality and keeping a dream journal, lucid dreaming will be a few steps away. This article will explore the best techniques for waking up in dreams, and maintaining lucid dreams.
I realized I was dreaming, I raised my arms and began to rise… I rose through black sky that blended to indigo, to deep purple, to lavender, to white… there was the most beautiful music I have ever heard. It seemed like voices rather than instruments. There are no words to describe the joy I felt. It was a long, slow slide to wakefulness… the euphoria lasted several days, the memory, forever.” – from Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming
The Autosuggestion technique involves suggesting to yourself that you’ll have a lucid dream the same night or another. This is all done while deeply relaxing and clearing the mind before sleep. The goal is to put yourself in the frame of mind of genuinely expecting a lucid dream to happen soon. This technique is especially effective with people susceptible to hypnosis.
Tip: Don’t try too hard to Autosuggest yourself. Too much effort can be counter-productive, as suggested by many lucid dream researchers.
2. MILD Technique
MILD stands for the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams. Created by Ph.D researcher Stephen LaBerge, this technique can be used with the above for an increased likelihood of lucid dreams. The technique relies on the principle that if we can manage to remember to do things in waking life, so we can while sleeping. How can we remember to do something in a dream that will help us become lucid? Mnemonic associations, or devices to help aid the memory, are the answer. Here’s a summarized version of what to do:
- Read the day’s targets. Memorize them. You’ll find a few examples of targets below.
- Look for the targets during the day. Every time one occurs, e.g. a dog barks, ask the question “Am I dreaming?” Justify the answer.
- Use a specially designated dream journal to record how many you noticed during the day.
- Examples of daily targets are: The next time I see a flower, The next time I feel pain, The next time I see a blue car, The next time I use the toilet, etc.
The target can be anything your mind can conceive. Once the week is up, you’re ready to apply this to the dreamworld. Before sleeping:
- Resolve to wake and recall your dreams.
- Upon waking, recall your dreams in as much detail as possible.
- When going back to sleep, single-mindedly concentrate on telling yourself: “Next time I’m dreaming, I want to remember I’m dreaming”. Block out any other thoughts. Focus solely on this.
- Before sleeping also visualize that you’re back in your last dream. Find a dreamsign (a peculiar symbol which shows the dream is unreal, e.g. you’re crawling instead of the usual walking) and visualize yourself becoming lucid.
- Fall to sleep thinking solely of your intention.
Tips: It’s recommended that you memorize at least 2 targets a day for the period of a week. Also, contrary to Autosuggestion, the MILD technique requires intentional effort.
Did you know?
For love-lorn bachelors and spinsters alike – you can have actual orgasms while lucid dreaming. ;)
3. WILDS Technique
WILDS, or wake-initiated Lucid Dreams, is another way to induce lucidity. Basically, the idea behind this technique is to fall asleep consciously. This means keeping consciousness while wakefulness is lost. WILDS allow you to enter directly into the lucid dream state. A few WILDS techniques are below:
Focusing on Pre-sleep Mental Images
Ever found yourself drifting off to sleep, while strange scenes play in your mind – yet you’re not fully asleep yet? This is called hypnagogic imagery. The premise of WILDS is to focus on this imagery gently. At first the images and scenes will be disconnected and fleeting, but continue to observe. Once the images and scenes become connected and vivid, the idea is to passively allow yourself to be drawn into the dreamworld. This bit is a little tricky and may require practice.
Tips: Remain detached and passive. If you forcefully try to have too have involvement it’s likely the images will vanish and you will awaken. Being gentle is the key.
Apparently counting does work as an effective method to fall asleep consciously. What is important, however, is to constantly repeat the phrase “I’m dreaming”. This helps reinforce your intention while you consciously fall asleep. To do this you must firstly:
- Relax completely. Head to toe. Let go of all thoughts.
- Start counting once you begin drifting off. e.g. “1, I’m dreaming, 2 I’m dreaming, 3 I’m dreaming…” etc.
- Remain a gentle, and relaxed degree of vigilance.
Focusing on a Flame
This technique requires constant visualization. Adapted from a Tibetan technique with a lotus flower, this trick is the most useful for vivid minds. It requires that you:
- Completely relax your body and mind. Let every thought, feeling and worry go.
- Once relaxed, visualize in your throat (the ah chakra point), a flame of fire. See it’s incandescence and focus on it entirely.
- Observe how the flame you visualize interacts with the other images that arise in your mind.
- Gently maintain your visualization at all times.
- Gently contemplate the flame until you simply see it. This means you no longer have any conscious effort over maintaining the image, though you continue to have the same awareness in the waking world as in the sleeping world.
Tips: It may help to concentrate on an actual candle flame first, before attempting the exercise. This will help the image burn into your mind, no pun intended.
How to Stay in the Dream World
I am astounded at the clarity of the stars. They seem so close. At this point I become lucid. The dream “shakes” momentarily. Immediately I look down at the ground and concentrate on solidifying the image and remaining in the dreamscape.
– G. Sparrow (Lucid Dreaming: The Dawning)
It is a common occurrence for many people to wake up immediately after becoming lucid. Although frustrating, this can be solved a number of ways. Some suggested tricks to stay in the dream world are to:
- Focus on senses other than vision in lucid dreams. e.g. smell or touch.
- Spinning – like a bottle, child or dervish. This is highly effective.
- Simply talking to yourself – remind yourself that you are dreaming!
- Listening to your dream-body breathing.
Did you know?
Dreams have inspired great masterpieces like the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Wagner, the paintings of William Blake, and even the creation of the sewing machine.
Look out for the third and final article in our dream trilogy which explores the many fascinating uses of lucid dreaming for leisure and self improvement.
Think you have something worthwhile to contribute to this article? Please comment below.