Monday, 19 December 2011

Introduction to mnemonic induction of lucid dreaming technique (the 'MILD' technique)

The MILD technique was developed by Stephen LaBerge (of the Lucidity Institute, CA.) whilst he was at university during the 1970s, for the purposes of inducing lucid dreaming on demand. This is one of the simplest lucid dreaming techniques and is based on the idea that you can train yourself in self-awareness so that you are able to recognise that you are in a dream state.
The most basic way of using the MILD Technique is as follows. The use of positive affirmations and meditations are used to incubate a lucid dream and the 'programming' of your next dream to have predetermined dream triggers to prompt lucidity. Set your alarm to wake you up 4.5; 6; or 7.5 hours after falling asleep. When you are awakened by your alarm, try to remember as much of the dream as possible. When you think you have remembered as much as you can, return to your place of rest, imagining that you are in your previous dream and becoming aware that you are dreaming. Say to yourself, 'I will be aware that I'm dreaming' or something similar. Do this until you think that it has 'sunk in' i.e. been mentally processed by way of repetition/meditation on the phrase (this is the creation of a prospective memory). Now go to sleep. If random thoughts pop up whilst you are trying to fall asleep repeat the imagining/self-suggestion part, and try again. Don't worry if you think it's taking a long time. The longer it takes, the more likely it will 'sink in,' and the more likely you will have a lucid dream. 
Remember that alcohol or drug use may affect dreaming/dream recall, typically suppressing REM sleep and thereby reducing the amount of time spent in the dream state, although dreamers may experience "REM rebound" once the drug/alcohol wears off and they sober during sleep - with prolonged periods of dreaming/nightmares.
If, like myself, you find that the above (basic) technique increases general dream recall, but does not seem to successfully induce lucid dreaming, you could try the more complex version, outlined below:
  1. Dream recall - perfect your general abilities until you are able to remember at least 3-4 dreams per night;
  2. Reality checks - (perform as much as possible, at least 10 times per day is recommended in many instructional texts) throughout the day, repeatedly ask yourself whether you are awake or dreaming, with a simple physical action. A reliable method of 'reality check' is to set an alarm reminder for every hour (obviously, one small beep is sufficient and not too intrusive for others!). When you hear the sound, try to push your right index finger through the palm of your left hand (or a similarly simple, yet impossible action). Ask yourself "is this real?"
When you are awake, clearly the answer will be 'yes' and you will be unable to perform your impossible action. However, should you perform the 'reality check' during a dream state (which after time should be possible, as eventually you will have primed/programmed yourself into a predictable routine), you will be alerted that everything is not real - most likely because now that you are dreaming, you are able to perform the impossible task - i.e. poking your index finger through your palm or suchlike. When this occurs, you should gain some lucidity - i.e. awareness of being in a dream state and gradual control over your physical actions in that dream. 

A reality check is a simple way to trigger a moment of introspection. You can choose any 'trigger' which suits you - you just need to ensure the dream outcome differs from the real-life outcome. Other common reality check methods include: focusing intently on small details (such as the line patterns on the palms of your hands - perhaps draw an 'X' on your hand, which you examine regularly as part of the reality check. Once in a dream, the 'reality check' will reveal no 'X' at all or change the appearance/nature of the marking, indicating that you are performing the check within your dream); attempt to read a digital time display/text (can you read it twice without it changing/becoming incomprehensible? does it appear normal?); jumping (does gravity bring you straight back down as in reality, or do you float/fly?); breathing (can you breathe easily whilst obstructing your nose/mouth?); looking in the mirror (is your reflection as expected?) You may also be able to notice distinctions in the quality of your vision (i.e. clarity/blurriness/colours) and physical or mental capabilities and competence which alerts you to the fact you are in a dream state. Perform the reality check upon waking, to reassure yourself that you are not experiencing the phenomenon of 'False Awakening' which can often accompany a lucid dream. 

My personal ‘reality check’ – my fingernails are painted pale pink, but I have coloured the pinkie finger of my left hand indigo. When I perform my hourly reality check, I focus on the indigo nail, reminding myself it is ‘real’ because I can see the difference in colour. I repeat to myself (silently) “I know this is real and I’m not dreaming”.
  1. Lucid affirmations - the mnemonic aspect of this technique, involving the programming of memory commands (see basic method above). Remember to practice this part of the technique with a clear, relaxed mind and meditate on your affirmation for as long as possible, directly prior to sleep for the best possibility that the mental suggestion will become instilled in your subconscious mind.
  2. Visualise your dream - (to be performed when on the verge of falling asleep). Visualise a previous dream scenario and use your imagination to re-enter that environment. This is ‘day dream’ as opposed to a lucid dream as you are still semi-conscious at this stage, although you will likely fall asleep whilst in the dream visualisation process. The purpose of this method is to embed the subject of lucid dreaming in your mind before and whilst you are falling asleep. You semi-conscious imaginings should transfer into a lucid dream when you have fallen asleep if you have been successful in practicing this method. This is known as a Wake Induced Lucid Dream (WILD), which I shall post more on later.
    During the 1970s when LaBerge was researching and developing the MILD technique he found evidence that certain interruptions in regular sleep patterns improved lucid dream results. These included waking for sexual activity; to vomit or meditation. This led him to conclude that wakefulness interjected during sleep significantly increases the possibility of experiencing a lucid dream. 

    Thus, in order to experience more lucid dreams you may wish to practice waking into full consciousness at certain intervals during your sleep pattern – use the conscious period to immerse your thoughts with ideas and meditations on the subject of lucid dreaming (after recording any recalled dreams from the previous period of sleep). Reading about lucid dreaming for 20 minutes or so should be more than sufficient. Another way to exploit this principle is during an afternoon nap, where you may have more inclination/ability to awaken after a short period and perform an activity such as reading. This is a helpful method to employ if you have suffered mild sleep deprivation the previous night, so are particularly tired and ready for sleep during the daytime.
    Recommended reading: 
    Stephen LaBerge & Howard Rheingold, Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, Ballantine Books (NYC, 1990)

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