Sunday, 15 January 2012
What is Lucid Dreaming? How Can We Control Our Dreams?
‘Lucid dreaming’ is the type of dream we have when we are fully conscious we are dreaming and not awake, unlike regular dreams when we are only aware of the dream after we wake up. This level of conscious state when dreaming allows us to be in control of the storyline of the dream and it is therefore possible to do whatever we like as if we were in some kind of virtual reality.
To the vast majority this type of dreaming is very rare, not least because when it is realised that a dream is indeed a dream and not reality it is usually enough to wake us up! When I was a young teenager I tried immensely hard to have lucid dreams each night in hope that it would be something I could master. No matter how much mental effort I put into the practice, the second I realised I was dreaming the dream disappeared and I was awake again. Very frustrating. But there is a method to succeed…
In a previous post I wrote about the make-up of dreams, how often they occur and when they are remembered (read it here). The key thing to understand is that dreams take place regularly every time you sleep, it just depends on when you wake up if you are to remember the dream or not. If you wake up during a dream you remember it, if you wake up after the dream cycle has finished you probably won’t. So delving into your dreams is more about memory than actually dreaming, as dreaming occurs frequently and naturally for everyone.
How to remember? A dream diary is the easiest way to begin. Keep a notebook and pen by your bed (or wherever you chose to sleep) and the moment you wake up write down as many notes as you can on the dreams you had, if you wake up during the night with the dream in your head turn the light on and do the same thing. The more often you do this the more your mind will improve its recall and before too long you will be writing in more detail and delving much deeper into your subconscious than you ever were before (an article on that topic here).
Another method is to program your mind into remembering on its own. Before you sleep sit comfortably with your eyes close and breathe deeply for as long as it takes to deeply relax. When you have found a good level of relaxation repeat several times in your mind or even out loud a phrase such as the following ‘I will remember all my dreams in vivid detail’ and then go to sleep. You may very well be surprised at the powerful effect this will have on your memory recall.
When you get to the stage where dreams are being remembered to a satisfactory level and you want to step up to the next level and control your dreams, know first of all that you are on the right path. Controlling the mind through meditation and self-hypnosis allows for a greater mastery of altered mental states such as dreaming. You can change your repeated phrase to ‘I will remember all my dreams in vivid detail and will be in total conscious control of my dreams for as long as I wish to remain there for’. This message will be transferred to the subconscious mind and will work in the same way dream recall did. Sometimes having a goal for the dream helps too, if you want to fly in your dreams, program your mind to dream about flying by telling yourself this is what you want to do and even visualise the experience in as much detail as you can. The subconscious can create anything you wish it to so long as the motivation and will to succeed exists alongside the resolve to make it happen.
To stay conscious in a dream you must master being conscious in the waking state also. Daydreaming is something that has always affected me, but by performing a small ritual I remind myself that I am wide awake and in control, and this can help keep my mind in focus. My ritual is to make the ‘Ok’ sign with thumb and forefinger while repeating in my mind ‘I am totally aware and conscious’ and this prevents me from drifting away and not concentrating on what I'm supposed to be doing...like blogging. I have performed this ritual in dreams sometimes but instead of waking me up it allows me to be more conscious and in control of my dreams.
If you follow these steps dream recall and lucid dreaming will follow so long as you stay consistent with your practice and don’t give in. The more you do the easier it will get like most things in life, but you must keep trying if you want to succeed, and if you do succeed the rewards can be fantastic.
Dreaming is entering into your own subconscious mind and by controlling dreams your conscious is directly tapping into your subconscious deeper than any other known method (similar to hypnosis in many ways). You can uncover forgotten memories, live out fantasies, make life decisions and answer questions in a way you simply could not do ordinarily. There are no boundaries in dreams and to control them is like one big adventure you can enjoy each and every night while learning more about yourself along the way.