BY: KARMUN KHOO
‘Lucid dreaming’ is used to describe dreams whereby the dreamer is aware that they are in a dream. The term was coined by Dutch psychiatrist, Frederik van Eeden, but the idea of lucid dreams predates the scientific era. The Ancient Indians used ‘yoga nidra’, a type of meditation where the practitioner is conscious of being in a state of relaxation, in order to reduce tension and anxiety. Similarly, the Ancient Greeks were aware that some dreams naturally led the dreamer into a state of lucidity. Aristotle wrote,
“…Often when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream”.
In the twenty-first century, lucid dreaming has inspired a new subculture. Organisations such as the Lucidity Institute have created guides on how anyone, even those without a natural predisposition, can train themselves to experience them. Communities and forums have also sprung up where dreamers can ask for practical advice and share their dream stories. One such hangout is the /r/LucidDreaming/ subreddit, which classifies lucid dreamers as ‘oneironauts’. The sidebar contains links to other lucid dreaming sites, some of which detail new techniques in initiating lucid dreams, such as ‘Finger Induced Lucid Dreaming’.
As a natural lucid dreamer, the idea of ‘forcing’ a lucid dream seems like wasted effort. While movies like Inception have popularized the idea of ‘exploring your dreams’, normal lucid dreams are far more mundane than what is commonly imagined. Instead of killing Bond villains and saving princesses, I usually end up in familiar situations: Classrooms, gardens, and shopping malls.
The process repeats nightly. First, I fall asleep, which is no easy task, as I’m burdened with insomnia. I theorize that insomnia may improve your chances of lucid dreaming, because it is a natural application of the Wake Induced Lucid Dream (WILD) technique. Adherents try to maintain consciousness while the body falls asleep, and this is naturally done if you have an overactive mind. Insomnia also leads to interrupted sleep, a natural manifestation of the Wake Back To Bed (WBTB) technique. The lucid dreaming community asserts that waking back to bed, which means waking up for 20 to 30 minute intervals during regular sleep, will increase the likelihood of lucid dreams.
After the onerous task of falling asleep is completed, I then begin to dream. Sometimes I am aware that I am dreaming as soon as the dream begins. Other times, it takes a little longer. One ‘trigger’ that usually leads to realization I am dreaming is encountering food items, like glazed donuts behind a pastry shop window, in my dreamscape. Consuming the food items also helps the dream become more ‘stable’. Dream stability is important, as an ‘unstable’ dream might end before the dreamer is ready to wake up. This is, of course, immensely frustrating for the aspiring lucid dreamer.
Besides learning to come to consciousness within the dream, lucid dreamers also try to exert control over the course of their dreams. I do this by focusing on one aspect of the dreamscape, and trying to ‘mold’ it with my mind. I need to be careful that I do not concentrate too hard on this, as exerting too much force will send me into a state of full consciousness, thus ending the dream.
Since you will always be in control of your ‘dream body’, that is the first thing you should try to move. When I need to make strategic decisions regarding where to go, I try to edge my mind into a slightly more ‘awake’ state, so that I can think more quickly. This must be done in moderation and requires plenty of practice.
I operate using the principle of ‘Everything that happens in the dream world stays in the dream world.’ This means I have done some things while dreaming that I am not proud of. I have smothered my enemies, roasted and eaten the casualties of a shipwreck with my imaginary cannibal friends, and beaten up dream-people just because I felt like it. The beauty of lucid dreaming is that it allows you to do taboo things in an environment that simulates real-world responses, but which has no consequences on your waking life whatsoever.
Here are two simple methods to begin your lucid journey:
Throughout the day, stare at a body part of your choice and remember what it feels like to be awake. Focus on this body part and try to etch its image in your mind. When you get to sleep and have a dream, try to catch sight of this body part. For convenience, most people choose their hands, but any part of you will do. Inspect the body part and ask yourself: Am I awake, or am I asleep?
The second method is keeping a dream journal, writing down every remembered detail from your slumber right after you wake. The idea is to begin to notice patterns through analysis and thus increasing awareness in your dreamscape to increase the likelihood of dream consciousness.
The average person sleeps for 229,961 hours or nearly one third of their lifetime. Imagine being able to exert control over that time, while transcending the barriers of physical existence. What would you do?