When you are having a normal dream, you will usually follow the events that take place and believe that they are actually happening, until you wake up and realize that everything wasn’t real. This realization can cause both relief and disappointment, depending on the nature of the dream. Also, in normal dreams, all sorts of logically impossible things may occur. However, your rational senses are not there to tell you that you are simply dreaming, and as a result, you don’t even try to question what is happening, and why.
There will be times, however, when you start to ask yourself if what is happening is actually real or not. When you start asking, “Is this real? Or am I just dreaming?” you are already in a pre-lucid state. When you decide that you ARE NOT dreaming, you simply go back to the dream’s flow, or you wake up by this time. However, when you do realize that it is a dream, then you have achieved a state which is called “lucid dreaming” (or sometimes referred to as “conscious dreaming”).
Defining Lucid Dreams
A lucid dream is a type of dream in which you know that you are dreaming. The lucidity levels of dreams can show a stark contrast. When the dream is highly lucid, you are aware of the fact that everything is just happening inside your head, and that no real danger will come your way. When a dream is not that lucid, you may be aware that you are dreaming to some extent, but you don’t immediately realize that you can’t be harmed and that you are really just sleeping in your own bed. The differences between a normal dream and a lucid dream include:
- • Having rational thoughts, or the ability to plan and decide
- • Ability for complex cognitive processes, such as performing mental calculations and remembering intricate instructions
- • Ability to change or program the events of a dream, like being an orchestra conductor or a play director
- • Ability to act out real-life wishes and even sexual fantasies
- Having an intense feeling of delight, wonder, independence, and freedom
- Almost realistic state of consciousness and sense of being alive
- Ability to fly or teleport from one dream space to another
- Having an integrated self who is in touch with his or her physical and intellectual potentials
- Ability to achieve prayer and meditative states
- Having a vivid and accurate recollection of the dream upon waking While lucid dreams allow you to control and experience many things that are impossible in real life, or even in normal dreams, there are some limitations as well. These include:
- Inability to turn on bright lights; usually the lights wouldn’t turn on, or they will only be dimly lit.
- Some devices will work in odd ways, or will not work at all (these include phones, radios, computers, car ignitions, etc.).
- Inability to read complete passages; lucid dreamers have reported that they cannot read books in their dreams, because the words often change or disappear after a few seconds.
- Inability to control what other people will say or do; this is a rather interesting phenomenon, because this implies that the various characters we come across in our dreams have thought processes of their own.
Lucid Dreaming vs. Dream Control
When we think of lucid dreaming, we often associate it with the ability to control what is happening in the dreams. However, it is not really synonymous with the concept of “dream control.” This is because it is possible to be in a lucid state with only little or no control over the context of the dream. In the same manner, it is also possible to be “in control” without being aware that you are just dreaming. Of course, entering a lucid state greatly increases your ability to change the course of events. Upon being lucid, dreamers generally opt to do something that only dream spaces can allow you to do, such as flying.
It is up to you to control your dreams as much as you want. For example, you may choose to continue what you were doing upon becoming aware that you’re in a lucid state –– the only difference is that you already know that you are in a dream. Once this happens, you now have the capability to change the elements of the dream –– the surroundings, the circumstances, the characters, and even yourself. However, you will not always be likely to perform “magical” things in dreams, such as changing the scenery or transforming an object. On the other hand, succeeding in controlling dreams depends mainly on the dreamer’s confidence in himself or herself.
Is Lucid Dreaming Dangerous?
Realizing that you are dreaming can give you a great sense of relief. But what if you are having a nightmare? What if you die in your dream? Will you also die in real life?
These are just some of the questions that may be of concern to those who want to practice lucid dreaming. The good thing is, a vast majority of people who have had lucid dreams have reported that such dreams have given them rewarding and positive experiences. In addition, being lucid during nightmares also helps turn your usual fears into conscious courage. Being in a state of lucidity is often enough to lift a dreamer’s sour mood during nightmares. In fact, one study regarding the effects of lucid dreams on a person’s mood reports that lucidity makes nightmares seven times less terrifying than they originally were.
Now, another concern for some is dying in their dreams. Will you also die in reality if that ever happens? Well, no one really knows, because those who have experienced “dying” in their dreams cannot even tell the details of it. Many people wake up from such dreams, though, and none of them have experienced any ill effects.
Finally, there are people who worry that the excitement and pleasure they get from lucid dreams can make them too addicted to it. However, you don’t have to worry about “sleeping your life away,” because lucid dreams only occur in REM sleep, and we can only do it for a limited amount of time during the night.
Lucid dreaming is a skill that anyone can learn, if willing. If you are wondering if you should do it, the next chapter will discuss the power of dreams and the benefits of going into that lucid state.
The Power of Dreams and Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreams can help us improve the way we handle things in reality. You can change yourself and take on a new identity, let go of your inhibitions and fears, and be confident that you can do just about anything that you wish. Having conscious dreams is also a rather captivating experience. At first, it may be shocking to find out how real everything feels, but once you realize that you are completely safe, the excitement from living in an alternate reality begins!
It is totally fun to create your own reality, and you will be quite surprised with how it relates with your subconscious thoughts. Seeing how everything else is connected allows you to utilize your dream spaces for personal growth. You can also act out your wildest fantasies in full color. This wish fulfillment is just one of the many reasons that people are fascinated by lucid dreaming. Of course, there are many other positive things that you can get from the experience, such as:
Improving Your Creativity – Going into a lucid state is a powerful way of improving and exploring your creativity. Dreams have actually inspired musical composers, such as Beethoven, Wagner, and Mozart, to create great music. Painters, such as William Blake, Paul Klee, and Salvador Dali, have also said that some of their famous artworks were inspired by dreams. Improving your creativity in your dreams can be done in two ways. The first one is to make an announcement by saying, “I want to see something amazing!” You will be surprised with what your subconscious mind will give you for answers. The response is often unpredictable, but deeply moving nonetheless. On the other hand, you can also try setting intentions for your dream before you go to sleep. For example, if you are an artist, you can try picking up your sketchbook in your dream and see what’s in there. Doing these things will allow your dream to show you new things straight from your subconscious mind.
Improving Your Problem-Solving Skills – Many scientists have already used lucid dreaming to improve their problem solving skills in rather creative ways. Learning the basics of lucid dreaming allows you to tackle and solve any problems on demand, and on an entirely different level. This happens because you are in a place where your logical consciousness cannot intervene. Now is your chance to solve problems creatively, and make abstract ideas materialize in a 3D environment. You can also try asking any question, and your subconscious will provide you with amazing insights.
Facing Your Fears and Overcoming Nightmares – Lucid dreaming gives you the chance to face any fears that you have, in a controlled environment. For example, if you are scared of heights, you can try jumping out of a skyscraper in your dream. What you can do is to slow down your fall, to make sure that you will land safely on the ground. Once you do this in your dream, you will be amazed with the results when you wake up. Somehow, after such dreams, you will feel differently about heights than you did before. Dreaming consciously is also an effective way of getting rid of nightmares. This is because knowing that you are in a dream state leads you to realize that nothing in that environment can hurt you. This means that you don’t have to run away or battle with any of the monsters in your dream. Actually, it is pointless to try, because the horror that always chases you was created by your own mind, and as long as you continue to be afraid of it, it will often come back to haunt you. Basically, the only way to escape the terror is to put an end to your fear. Remember, feelings of fear in a nightmare are completely real, but the danger that is causing it is not. This method of eliminating fear works, because the dream allows you to deal with a worst-case scenario in whole new way, giving birth to new neural patterns within your subconscious. Facing your fears through realistic experiences in your dreams can help you get rid of these fears altogether.
Rehearsing or Practicing New Skills – Lucid dreaming creates extraordinarily vivid images, and the best way to make the most out of the experience is to be aware that it’s a mental construct. It is no longer surprising to know that many people utilize their lucid dreams to rehearse the success they want to achieve in the real world. It is applied to various situations, such as artistic performance, public speaking, athletic prowess, and even difficult confrontations. Going into lucid state is also very helpful when you are learning new skills. If you want to be better at something, you can practice at it even when you’re asleep. This is because the muscle movements that you make in your dreams will help your brain carry the information over to your waking life.
Transcendence Lucid dreaming often leads dreamers to question the nature of reality, but many have reported having transcendent experiences when they are in such a state. It frequently sends people into a different kind of trance and elation. As a result, dreamers are able to achieve a great deal of peace from within, giving them a new and higher sense of self. Indeed, dreams are very powerful tools in shaping the way you live and see things in your waking life. Lucid dreams are not anything like daydreams or normal dreams –– they shows you the way to your subconscious mind, allowing you to put an end to your anxieties and fears, explore your creativity, and see things in a completely different light.
Learning to Have Lucid Dreams
Lucid dreaming is a skill that can be developed. Probably the best indicator of success with lucid dreams is the ability to remember them well, but of course, learning how to do it requires effort and motivation. Many people have had lucid dreams on spontaneous occasions, but such dreams rarely occur without having the intention to do so. Fortunately, there are specific techniques that can help you recall dreams better, which in turn increases your ability to dream consciously. When you sleep tonight, go ahead and try out the following techniques, and modify them as you wish. What is important is that you experiment and keep trying, and soon you will discover that lucid dreaming is not as hard as you expected!
The most essential requirement for learning how to dream lucidly is dream recall. There are two reasons why this is so. First, remembering your dreams will make you familiar with the elements and patterns that are present in them. As a result, it will be easier for you to recognize that you are in your dream space. Second, it is possible for you to have had lucid dreams before, but unfortunately, you can’t remember anything because of poor dream recall.
To get better at dream recall, you will need to keep a dream journal. Each time you wake up, which can be a number of times at night, write down everything you remember from your dreams, no matter how little the details are. Don’t wait until morning to write it down, because you will probably forget most of the details by then. You may choose to write in a notebook or use a voice recorder, but the important thing is that you take note of the events and images of your dream, as well as the feelings you had when you were dreaming. Once you’re done recording the memories from your dream, go back to sleep until it is time for you to rise.
When you get up in the morning, go over your notes, and add any other details if they come to mind. After a few weeks of writing in your dream journal, you may find some common images, themes, locations, and other elements in all your dreams. Realizing these things will help you determine your personal dream signs, and these will be very useful when you start practicing lucid dreaming.
Dream signs refer to dream elements that signify that you are dreaming. Dream signs vary from person to person, and some examples include flight and malfunctioning devices. By remembering the notable features of your dream, you will be familiar with your personal dream signs, which will make it easier for you to realize that you are in a dream space, thus making you become more lucid in your future dreams.
Reality testing is a good technique to prepare yourself for lucid dreaming, especially if you are new to it. One of the things that you can do is to bring a book with you or wear a digital watch during the day. Read a passage from the book, or read the time on your watch. Look away for a few moments, and observe if anything has changed once you look back. See if you can make them change as you watch them. According to research, text in dreams change 75% of the time when it is re-read once, and 95% of the time when it is re-read twice. If you notice that the characters have change, or are senseless, then it is highly likely that you are dreaming. However, if the characters are normal and sensible, then you are probably awake.
You can also try holding your nose shut and seeing if you can still breathe, or jump to see if you will fall back down. Looking at your hands or at your reflection in a mirror are also good ways of telling if you’re dreaming or not. Usually, your hands will look strange in a dream, and your reflection may not be what you really look like (and this causes nightmares in some dreamers). Try pushing your hands on a solid surface, and see if they will go through. You can usually pass through solid objects in a lucid dream, and the sense of realness makes it feel very weird, indeed!
To be sure where you really stand –– in dream or in reality –– it is recommended to do two reality checks at a time, because your first method may not work.
It is said that interjecting wakefulness during sleep increases the chances of having lucid dreams. You can do this by waking up one hour earlier than usual, staying awake for 30 minutes to an hour, then going back to sleep. While you are awake, try to remember the details from your previous dream, and then tell yourself, “I will know that I am dreaming,” as you fall back to sleep. One study revealed that those who practiced this technique had 15 to 20% more chances of lucid dreaming than those who had no specific technique.
Having a consistent sleep schedule will let your body know when it is time to sleep or wake. The hormone responsible for this is melatonin, which sets your body clock and regulates your sleeping and waking cycles. Your body clock will not function correctly if you don’t have a consistent bedtime schedule, and this can hinder your chances of falling into a lucid state when you sleep.
Foods for Lucid Dreams
There are foods that can raise your melatonin levels, making lucid dreams more achievable. Here are some foods that contain melatonin:
- Mustard Almonds
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax seeds
- Red radishes
- Poppy seeds
- Fish (especially tuna and cod)
- Sweet potatoes