The concept of lucid dreaming is not at all a new one. The first recorded instructions for learning how to lucid dream come from an unnamed Tibetan yoga master from the eighth century, the author of “The Yoga of the Dream State.” The next also originates in Tibet, Atisha, who described lucid dreaming as “being simultaneously awake and asleep” in his “Seven Points of Mind Training.” But no scientific research was performed until the 1960s and 1970s, including P.D. Ouspensky’s “A New Model of the Universe”, in which it’s called a “half-dream state”; Don Juan’s “Journey to Ixtlan, which taught cues for becoming conscious in and stabilizing dreams; and Carlos Castaneda, apprenticed to Don Juan. In the fall of 1975, Stephen LaBerge, one of the current leading researchers in lucid dreaming today, was introduced to lucid dreaming. Currently, he works in the Stanford University Sleep Research Center, where he proved that lucid dreaming is indeed possible and that virtually anyone can be taught.
Essentially, a dream is lucid if you are aware that you are dreaming. Depending on the control, experience, and/or natural talent of the dreamer, you may be able to influence the dream, changing it to your own desires. However, any attempt to alter the dream creates a chance of waking up. (Lucid dreaming, wikibooks)
It is difficult to describe lucid dreaming without causing some confusion, so the following list of terms is provided to, hopefully, clarify.
- The term “dream state” or “dreaming” refers to the period one experiences during rapid-eye movement (REM) periods of sleep.
- Lucid dreaming, or cognizant dreaming, refers to a state where the sleeper is aware that they are dreaming, and may or may not have control over the dream state, the “storyline” of the dream, and its contents.
- Dream recall refers to the ability to remember dreams experienced upon waking up. Dream recall can be trained to be more vivid
- The term “real life” refers to the waking state, the “real” world, regardless of how “real” the dream state appears, and how “fake” the “real” world appears.
There are many ways to achieve and improve your lucidity, from mind strategies to uses before and while going to sleep, to food, dinks, plants, and drug. Technology in the forms of gadgets and software to simulate and improve lucidity have also been developed. Regardless of your budget, you can find enhancements to aid in your attempts for lucidity.
Strategies for achieving lucidity can be confusing, difficult, complex, and unreliable, or they can be very simple. Use caution when using these strategies, as some may disrupt your sleep cycle.
WBTB (Wake-Back-to-Bed) requires waking yourself up a few hours after you fall asleep, then going back to bed. During the interim, it may help to do something involving lucid dreaming, either reading about it, or performing another method to induce lucidity, such as autosuggestion, MILD, or VILD.
Autosuggestion is perhaps one of the simplest and requires the least preparation and can still be as successful as any of the others with practice. Autosuggestion simply requires that, as you lie in bed, tell yourself that you will dream, and that it will be lucid. If there’s anything specific you want to dream about, that can also be included.
MILD (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams) was developed by Stephen LaBerge. It requires that you repeat a mantra to yourself as you fall asleep. For example, “Next time I'm dreaming, I will remember I'm dreaming.” (Wikibook)
WILD (Wake-Initiation of Lucid Dreams) can involve lying in bed on your back and tensing/relaxing your body, very similar to meditation techniques. This may create a sleep-paralysis state where you cannot move your body, and feel fully conscious but are indeed asleep. There are many ways to accomplish this, simply by trying to stay awake while falling asleep.
LILD (Lucid Induction of Lucid Dreams) requires that you have a lucid dream in the first place. While in that dream, according to Wikibook, “you have to do something in your dream that will help you become lucid the next time you are dreaming.” This will not work for those who have not had a lucid dream.
VILD (Visual Induction of Lucid Dreaming) requires that the dreamer visualize what they want to dream about as they fall asleep. This method may not work for those who have trouble falling asleep due to constantly thinking.
Vitamins in food and drink and naturally occurring hormones in the body can enhance lucidity in ways that aid the mind strategies. Included in these are Tryptophan, which is present in warm milk, Vitamin B6 and other B-group vitamins, and the hormone Melatonin. (Wikibook)
Plants and herbal resources can be used, either by use of a “herb pillow” that can be placed inside one’s pillow at night, or ingested. Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort) is a hallucinogen, and acts as a substitute for marijuana and tobacco. It can increase intensity, recall and control of dreams. Hypericum perforatum (St John’s wort) is commonly used to treat depression, and contains serotonin. Calea zacatechichi (Dream herb or bitter grass) can increase frequency and recall, and is commonly used by the indigenous Oaxaca Chontal of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and in oneiromancy (divination through dreams. The dream herb is legal to grow and sell in the US, except for Louisiana, and has no apparent side effects or hangover. (Wikipedia)
There are two primary gadgets that can influence the mind and lucidity. Caution is advised when using these devices, be sure to read all warnings and operating instructions before using the following devices.
The NovaDreamer was originally produced by Stephen LaBerge and the Lucidity Institute, but is now only available through independent distributors. It is an aid, but is not essential to learning to develop and control lucidity. The NovaDreamer detects when one enters REM, and provides a cue that allows the dreamer to become aware in-dream. (Lucidity Institute)
The Kvasar is very similar to the NovaDreamer. However, the Kvasar is not available for sale. Instead, it was developed for those who may not be able to afford the NovaDreamer, and instructions to build are available online. (Kvasar)
Software programs for computers have been developed to help control, generate and improve lucidity. However, not all programs will work for all people. Among those currently available include the Brainwave generator, which plays binaural noise files that may or may not do everything from improving creativity to concentration; Liquid Dream II; Reality Check; and SBaGen. This is by no means a complete list, as new software is continually being developed.
Drugs can be used to enhance the dream state, vividness, control, and frequency of dreams, but as with plants, use with caution. The following list, provided by Wikibooks, included chemicals natural to the body in small doses, and legal and illegal drugs.
- Amanita muscaria
- Morning glory seeds
- Psilocybe mushrooms
- Salvia divinorum (in larger doses)
Lucid dreaming can be very useful in many cases. According to Stephen LaBerge, they can be used to deal with stress, aid in problem solving and decision making, improve creativity, and deal with phobias and nightmares.
In the dream world, one can potentially do anything, be anyone, see anything, go anywhere. Using that ability, one can deal with stress in ways impossible or illegal in the real world. Tormenting someone who torments you, injuring someone who has to you, among other things. There is a word of caution on this, however. Be certain that you are dreaming, and not really participating in the real world when performing such activities.
Lucid dreaming can also help when it comes to solving problems. Trying to redecorate, but don’t know where to start? Trying visualizing what you want to see when you dream. Build the furniture in your mind. Create, invent, discover.
Some artists and writers have been known to use lucid dreaming to create and inspire art. For writers dealing with writer’s block, they may enter the dream and ask their characters what happens next, what decisions they make, such that the writer may form the story true to their characters and not polluted by their own point of views.
For those who experience nightmares and phobias, lucid dreaming can be used to control and squash those fears. One may take control of their nightmares and turn them into comedies. For those with phobias, desensitization therapy in-dream is free.
There are some things to be cautious of when introducing and immersing oneself in the worlds of lucid dreaming. In some ways, LD can be dangerous, and in others, it has the potential to be greatly beneficial. Among there are addiction, alienation, disassociation, and religious caution. (Wikibook)
Lucid dreaming can be a wonderful way to escape the world and the pressures of life, but like all escapes, it can become addicting. Spending more time asleep may not show a problem, providing that there are no problems appearing in real life that stem from lack of attention. Using lucid dreams to solve problems is one thing; using them to live your life is destructive.
Simple alienation can also be a problem. Lucid dreaming is not a concept many people are familiar with, let alone willing to comprehend. There is nothing abnormal or “wrong” with lucid dreaming, but people may not perceive it as such.
There is no solid evidence that too much lucid dreaming is a bad thing, except in cases of addiction and disassociation. The following list, provided by Wikibooks’ “Lucid Dreaming,” contains symptoms of disassociation.
- Ability to ignore extreme pain or what would normally cause extreme pain
- Absorption in a television program or movie
- Remembering the past so vividly one seems to be reliving it
- Finding evidence of having one things one can’t remember doing
- Not remembering important events in one’s life
- Being in a familiar place and finding it unfamiliar
- Seeing oneself as if looking at another person
- Other people and objects do not seem real
- Looking at the world through a fog or haze
- Not recognizing friends or family members
- Finding unfamiliar things among one’s belongings
- Finding oneself in a place but unaware of how one got there
- Finding oneself dressed in clothes one doesn’t remember putting on
Finally, there is the religious aspect. Accidentally encountering spiritual entities may or not be a problem depending on one’s religious standpoint. For those who are deeply religious, you may encounter in your dreams your significant spiritual entity, or their adversary. Depending on your beliefs, you may believe that this manifestation is genuine, or that it is just an object created by your mind. Tread cautiously.
Lucid dreaming can do many things for everyone. It can help dealing with stress, solving problems, decision making, and phobias and nightmares, as well as provide inspiration and improve creativity. But, as with many of treatments for dealing with these things, there are dangers. For some, these dangers may be inconsequential, for others, entirely worth the benefits, for still others, potentially serious. Anyone can be taught to lucid dream, but lucid dreaming may not be for everyone.
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