As the author of Jake, Lucid Dreamer, a novel about a 12-year-old boy who uses lucid dreaming as a means to heal emotionally after the loss of his mother, I am often asked questions about lucid dreaming.
I have compiled a list of the seven most important things everyone should know about lucid dreaming, progressing from the basics to more advanced information.
Whether you are the curious type or have personally experienced lucidity (awareness) during a dream, these facts will help you better understand lucid dreaming.
1. Being lucid in a dream does not make you a lucid dreamer, at least not yet.
We’ve all had a moment during a dream when we realized something isn’t quite right. Why can’t I read that clock? Why would the sky be green? Wait, my house isn’t a submarine! Much like watching a mediocre movie with continuity issues, we break from the magic and question it.
Most of the time, our brain will explain it away with some other erroneous explanation (only for us to wake up later and cringe at our own gullibility), but every now and then, we’re not fooled at all. During the dream, we realize that we’re dreaming.
If you’ve accomplished this, then congratulations! You’ve been lucid in a dream. Most people have had a moment like this. Maybe several. But that is not quite a lucid dream. Knowing that you’re dreaming during a dream is the first step to lucid dreaming, but there is so much more.
2. Lucid dreaming is a skill, not unlike juggling.
To juggle, you start with one ball, catching and throwing. Add a ball and try again. Keep working on your proficiency until you are ready for three balls. With enough practice, the balls just fly in and out of your hands. Next, you learn tricks. You advance to clubs. How about flaming torches? Sure, maybe, but most people don’t get this far. Perhaps they lose interest or just want to keep their body parts intact.
Less dangerous but more challenging is lucid dreaming. Expecting to fly through the cosmos on a wild lucid dreaming adventure on your first attempt is like expecting to juggle flaming torches on your first juggling attempt.
Either will end with disappointment – and a phone call to the fire department if you did the flaming torches thing.
3. Any skill can be learned, but not everyone can do it well.
My favorite juggling trick isn’t cascade or columns or even under-the-leg. No, I just stand in front of someone and juggle normally. Then I stop looking at my hands and stare directly into their eyes while I continue to juggle. That never fails to freak people out. Unless they are also jugglers, in which case they are unimpressed. This is because the trick to juggling is the throw, not the catch. Once you perfect the throw, you never need to look at your hands.
So what is the trick to lucid dreaming? Skepticism with a dash of faith.
If you are the credulous sort, you will never realize that you are dreaming. Your subconscious will always pile one explanation on top of another until you are lulled back to passive dreaming. Unless … you learn to question everything including your own beliefs, your own perception of reality, and your own assumptions of what you think is possible.
At the other extreme, if you are such a skeptic that you don’t believe in anything unless you can see it for yourself, then you will never be able to take the leap inward to the world of your dreams.
Be prepared to be surprised. I promise you don’t know your brain as well as you think you do. Like I wrote in the first paragraph of my book, “Hang with me for a sec, this isn’t what you think.”
4. The ability to fail repeatedly and come back for more is key to success.
You know who fails repeatedly? Successful people. You know who else fails repeatedly? Unsuccessful people.
And there’s the rub. I have no idea which category you are in, and neither do you. That uncertainty will wear down your persistence.
But there are two simple things you can do to increase your odds.
5. Just before falling asleep, think about how the next thing you experience will be a dream.
That’s it. Don’t stress about it. Don’t get upset with yourself when you are lulled into passive dreaming night after night.
Keep at it, and it will happen eventually. And when it does, you need to be prepared. You will only have a moment to shift from being lucid in a dream to become a lucid dreamer by actively engaging in a lucid dream.
6. Plan what you will do when you become lucid.
This plan should be simple, but be sure to decide in advance. To remain lucid in your dream, you will need to actively do something.
Some people will call out, “I’m in a dream!” That’s a fun one because the reaction of the dream people may not be what you expect, or even always the same. Dream people have different personalities. It’s strange, I know. You’ll see.
Another option is to reach out and touch the nearest person or object. Either will feel completely real. Seriously, completely real.
Experiencing lucid dreams is to learn to question reality. You learn to accept that it is your perception of reality that defines what you believe is the truth.
If you’ve seen The Matrix, a movie created by two lucid dreamers, then you’ve probably already thought about this.
7. As with any skill, lucid dreaming works in stages with increasing difficulty as you progress.
The best effort I’ve read at defining the stages of lucid dreaming is found in Robert Waggoner’s excellent book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self.
He describes 5 stages with each later stage the product of diving deeper into your subconscious.
Initially, the dreams are brief and are about play and pleasure. These lead to longer dreams and interacting with dream figures. False awakenings are likely at this point.
Later, you develop a sense of mastery of the dream world and a feeling of power. This gives way to personal concerns, interactions with the source of the dream, and letting go. The most advanced stage is awareness of the foundations of dream and waking reality.
These descriptions will make more sense once you have encountered them. While the details every lucid dreamer’s experience is unique, the human brain is similar in us all.
For a more detailed account of lucid dreaming, check out Robert’s book using the link above. He also writes a quarterly newsletter, and the online version is free.
If you enjoy novels and want to see how I integrated lucid dreaming into the story, please check out my book. I wrote it so adults who like YA/MG reads (and inexpensive eBooks) can enjoy. Also available in paperback.
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