Lucid Dreaming: The Conscious Exploration Of The Psyche
A Lucid Dream, is a dream in which you are consciously aware that you are dreaming and that your physical body is asleep somewhere; or a dream in which you are aware that you are dreaming as the dream is happening.
There are people who do not believe that such a thing is even possible. They do not believe that they can be self-aware and act with volition in the dream state in the same way that they are aware when awake; in the same way that you are aware as you are reading this article right now. But I can assure you that it is quite possible, and it is an ability that you can learn to develop. I, among many others, have experienced this phenomenon first-hand. I have been having lucid dreams since I was a teenager over twenty-five years ago. I have also been experiencing a related phenomenon for just as long; the out-of-body-experience, or OBE for short. An OBE is when you feel that your consciousness leaves your physical body and is aware from a perspective outside of it, whether that perspective be in your immediate physical surroundings, of far removed from them. But, I am not going to go into OBE’s right now; I will save that for another time, perhaps. With this article, I am just going to talk about Lucid Dreaming.
There are many different techniques that can be used for inducing
lucid dreams, but more and more, I find that intentis really the most crucial element, and techniques are secondary. If I give it an earnest effort, I can induce on the average, perhaps 2 to 4 lucid dreams per month. If don’t really try, I will have perhaps 1 or 2 lucid dreams per month at the most. Many books have been written on the subject of how to induce lucid dreams, and there are web sites that are devoted to lucid dreaming and OBE’s. I am not going to go into techniques here, but I will give a few resources that I have found helpful. The first book I ever read about lucid dreams was, “Creative Dreaming,” by Patricia Garfield. I had my first lucid dream within a couple of months of reading this book. Garfield touched on different cultures that had interesting ideas about what we call “lucid dreaming;” most notable among these were the aborigines of Australia who placed a high value on the practical use of dreaming, or what they called, The Dream Time. They were taught at a young age how to react in certain dream situations. They were taught to always turn a negative situation around; for example, if you are being chased, you must turn around a face your aggressor and run after him/her/it, and once you confront them, you must demand a gift from them before the dream ends. If you find yourself falling, you should not become afraid and wake up, but let yourself fall and land, and
then explore the surroundings you find yourself in, and look for something that you can take back to your village when you wake up; this can be a song, some kind of art, or knowledge from a dream character that you encounter there. Creative Dreaming remains one of my favorite books on the subject. I am currently reading a book called Lucid Dreaming: Gateway To The Inner Self, by Robert Waggoner, which is proving to be very good so far; one of the best I’ve read in a while. Waggoner’s book is very insightful, with lots of personal experiences, and he really seems to have experienced what he is talking about, unlike many other authors on the subject who just compile other people’s ideas and experiences and critique them as if they are authorities. As a lucid dreamer, Waggoner is interested in evolving, and always taking his ability to new levels. If you really want to go deeper with lucid dreaming, I would suggest a couple of books by Carlos Castaneda as well. “The Fire From Within,” and ”The Art of Dreaming,” (read in that order) are two really amazing books. These might be a bit out on a limb for beginners, so I would only suggest them if you have already had experience with lucid dreaming. Dr. Stephen Laberge has done extensive research into lucid dreaming, and has done much to bring this area of exploration into the scientific mainstream. He discusses several techniques for inducing lucidity in his book, “Lucid Dreaming.”
Now, I am sure there will be some, who have never experienced a lucid dream, who will say, “Well what would be the point of becoming conscious in the dream state, even if such a thing were possible?” The benefits of learning and practicing lucid dreaming are many.When you become lucid in a dream, you are in a position to consciously access the normally inaccessible elements of your psyche, of your unconscious and subconscious mind. In a normal dream, your experience is pretty much “thrust” upon you. You have no conscious volition. You cannot accept or reject, or choose dream experiences you want to have. You cannot direct the dream in any way. But once you become lucid; once consciousness enters the picture, it is a different ballgame altogether. You can more or less now focus on any element of the dream you choose. You can choose to carry out an action that you decided upon while you were awake. You can bring new elements into the dream by focusing your mind on it.
Let us compare for a moment, having a regular dream with watching a TV program. In a normal (non-lucid) dream, you are either a character in the program, or you appear to be watching it from outside sometimes. But either way, the program is set, and normally you cannot change what you are watching or change your character within the program. But now imagine that you are consciously aware while the program is in progress — Instead of just watching the TV, or playing a “pre-scripted” role, now you can fast-forward, rewind, enlarge the image, or shrink it,
or peek around the borders of the TV screen. And if you are not feeling the show at all, you can change the channel. You can watch it from “outside”, or you can directly affect the program and the other characters from within. Action, drama, comedy, sci-fi, educational, news; you can basically go channel surfing through your own psyche once you get a feel for how it is done.
If you are an artist, a painter perhaps, you could use the dreamscape while lucid to produce your next painting. Or, if you are an architect, you could have a building you’ve been working on materialize in the dreamscape right before your eyes. A composer could pull the most sublime melodies from the vast creative well of his psyche and have them played out on the dreamscape. He could start out humming a simple spontaneous tune, and the dream itself would begin adding instruments and orchestration or voices. This has happened to me before, and I am not even a composer or musician. But if I were, I could have remembered the music of the dreamscape and transcribed it upon awakening. While the average artist must create his work in a linear fashion and perhaps toil and agonize over the creative details for a period of time before it is complete, the lucid dreamer/artist could have his work appear whole and complete before him in the dreamscape. The lucid dreamer has direct access to his unconscious processes and the natural unimpeded creativity of his psyche. He is able to consciously tap more of his abilities both creatively and mentally. It is said that Beethoven had such genius that he could hear complete symphonies in his head, and then simply transcribe what he heard as if he were a secretary taking dictation. Is it possible that he had developed a similar faculty to that of the lucid dream artist, but was such a prodigy that he could use this ability while awake? Such possibilities lead one to question the nature of creativity, and ask how much we really know about our own psyche. I personally believe that as human beings we are capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for.
I have, learned over the years that dreams in general are very responsive to the dreamer. Once you are lucid in the dream state, you can focus your conscious attention in just about any direction, and based on your focus, your emotional intensity, and your imagination, the dream will pick-up on your intent and begin manifesting whatever idea you are focused on. Indeed, it will start filling in the gaps, and fleshing out your vision. It is this particular quality of dreams that lends them so well to the conscious intent of the lucid dreamer. For those interested in creative visualization, the dream scape is the ideal setting for carrying out such exercises. You have complete access to your imaginative faculties, and you can totally immerse yourself in your visualization because there are no physical distractions. Carlos Castaneda’s “Don Juan” would say that lucid dreaming is a faculty that lies dormant in all of us, waiting for the moment that we would use it, and give it purpose.
Aside from the creative possibilities, of lucid dreaming, it can also be used for experimentation, and general problem solving, or to access elements, or memories from your unconscious mind where, it is said, a record all of your personal experiences is stored, going back to the time you were born, and beyond. The dream state is, among other things, a reflection of the elements your mind; of your unconscious and subconscious awareness. It is a mirror of the psyche. But for Lucid dreamers, It is also the reflection of your conscious mind in real-time, and thus can be molded to take the shape of your conscious intent or desire. But beyond this, I believe the dream state can be used as a valid field of perception, and possibly communication. Many lucid dreamers, however, simply use their lucidity for fun and dream adventures, and to act out fantasies that they could not, for whatever reasons, experience in their waking life. And while fun and adventure certainly have their place, lucid dreaming has the potential for far more.
I have done many experiments with my lucid dreaming over the years– on my own, and with others. I have used lucid dreaming to explore the Under World of the Shamanic cosmology. I have used it to “dream share,” which is when you have the same dream as another dreamer, but each from the perspective of your own “characters.” I have also experimented with various concepts from Carlos Castaneda’s books like isolating “scouts” in a dream, and following them, and using the “Twin Positions” technique to stabilize the dream experience. The possibilities for lucid dreaming are endless. I have even delivered a message from a deceased person to a living relative of their’s – a message that although meant nothing to me, was totally understood and appreciated by the person I delivered it to.
About 2 and a half years ago, I had a very long dream in which I went to sleep and had another dream. This is what’s commonly known as “a dream within a dream.” In the second dream, I became lucid, and at one point, I woke up from the second dream back into the first dream I was having. I am not going to go into the details of the entire dream, because it would be too long for what I intended here. But I mention it, because in the first dream (in which I was not lucid) I described a technique to a dream character which would enable her to incubate a dream about specific subject. The following is an excerpt from my dream journal dated Wednesday 2/13/08:
The dream “begins” in a cafeteria, and it seems that I am in my work environment-but not like where I actually work. Anyway, I am sitting at a round table in the cafeteria, and I am talking to a black woman about dreams. She wants to know how to have a dream about a specific subject… I tell her that, while she’s awake, whenever she sees an element that is part of the dream she wants to have, in her mind, she must review the whole dream she wants to have, and at the end, say “this is a dream” – as if she were actually having it. I ask her what elements are in the dream she wants to have, and she says, a tiger, and a river. I tell her that she is not likely to see those things in her waking life on an average day [so that would not be a good element to choose]. I then ask her what the dream is about that she wants to induce, but I don’t want to pry into her personal business, so I tell her that whatever the dream is she wants to induce, she just has to be aware, while she is awake, if she sees any elements from it, and that will be her cue to review the dream she wants to induce—Now, Frank, my manager at work, who is sitting at a table next to us, says that I am talking too loud, and that I should be more quiet. I am upset by this interjection, as I don’t believe that I was being overly loud, and so I just get up in mid-conversation, and storm out of the “cafeteria.” As I walk away further, I seem to be in a house that I used to live in years ago on Sylvan Terrace in Washington heights…
Now, although I have never actually used the technique that I gave to the woman in this dream, it is still very interesting in that I am, in a sense, getting information about how to improve my dreaming skills from the dream itself. This is a great example of how dreams can be educational. And, by the way, if any of you happen to try this technique out, I would be interested in knowing what kind of results you get. The technique was not for inducing a lucid dream specifically, but it could be tailored for that result.
Lucid dreaming is an ability that is well worth developing. You can explore the dream state as a realm in itself for pleasure or personal growth, or you can use lucid dreaming as a springboard into the exploration of other “psychic” phenomena.
Now, the reason why I wanted to write this article about lucid dreaming is because, aside from the fact that it is a very personal and meaningful subject for me, Hollywood is about to drop a bomb on us! Tomorrow, Friday, July 16, 2010, Christopher Nolan’s new movie, “Inception” will be released. This sci-fi thriller is based on the premise of a device that has been created which allows the user/s to infiltrate the dreams of another person; a sort of twisted version of the concept I discussed earlier called “shared dreaming.” But in the case of Inception, this “dream sharing” will ultimately be used for the purpose of corporate espionage. Here we have dream spies who will give the term “insider trading” a whole new meaning. Word is, Inception might be the smash sci-fi hit of the summer. And although Hollywood may very well drag the idea of lucid dreaming through the muck and mire, I, of course, find the subject matter irresistable, so this is one movie I will not miss. Check back here in a few days for my review! Until then, may your dreams be lucid!
Below, are a few interesting movies that deal with lucid dreaming. If you have any other suggestions that could be added, let me know:
A Nightmare On Elm St. (1984) – This is, of course, the classic horror movie, but the third installment of this series, “The Dream Warriors,” actually incorporated some very sophisticated lucid dreaming ideas!
The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988)
In Dreams (1999)
The Cell (2000)
Waking Life (2001)