Thursday, 23 August 2012

Lucid dreaming, online 'dream explorers' & recreational drugs

I'm going to use this opportunity to discuss an issue I have found amongst the online dream explorer community. This is not always a particularly friendly 'community', mainly because there is a huge cross-over with drug-culture on the internet and, as a result, the boundaries between lucid dreaming advice and pro-drugs discussion become blurred. I have found many well-educated or dedicated online people who are friendly and willing to share their expertise and experiences, but sadly, these people tend to be in the minority. I myself spend a fair amount of time on the internet researching lucid dreaming and therefore visit many sites and forums dedicated to the topic. Where I feel I am able to offer my assistance to those more inexperienced than myself, I will often contact individuals, either directly (by email, which has never provoked any negative responses) or by posting on said forum/discussion board. I always post my Blog updates on my Twitter (click on button at top of right-hand column to follow me, I will always follow back!) and on my Facebook profile, for friends and family (I usually end up having to email one or two of them to tell them they made an appearance in my dream, as I always inform my real-life ‘dream characters’ as soon as the report is written up – sometimes a little embarrassing depending on content!) and overall, I have had a very positive response to my work. Whenever I discover a Blog or website which I find interesting, I usually offer feedback to the author, but only if my comment is (a) positive and complimentary; or (b) educational/instructional and such help has been sought by the author or there is an open debate. I do not, however, wade into the debates into drugs and lucid dreaming, because I am only too aware that my views – as expressed in this article – will not be welcomed amongst those discussing the topic online. When I refer to these online ‘dream explorers’, of course, I am isolating a distinct category from the masses – those who recklessly promote the use of recreational, illegal drugs and controlled substances amongst inexperienced lucid dreamers under the guise of proffering expert advice.

When it comes to drugs, I don't really need to learn anything from forums on the internet - not only have I had many friends with serious drug problems, but I have worked extensively in criminal defence law upon completing my undergraduate my law degree (I am not a qualified Barrister, not practicing and a PhD in criminal law) and have wide experience of dealing with drugs; drug laws and drug-users/criminal justice institutions involved in drug treatment, rehabilitation and prevention, both in the community and prisons. I am a freelance writer and therefore also spend time researching various aspects of drugs culture as well as seeing and learning about the practicalities of drug production, sales and use from first-hand experience. I am not being judgmental about the use of recreational drugs - I believe it is a matter of choice for the individual and I socialise with people whose views on drugs are more liberal and 'pro' than my own, without any issue or conflict. I'm open-minded about people using drugs, but never about those who push them onto others or downplay the detrimental effects and tragedies that drug use can entail. For every person I know who has had a positive experience using a given drug, there is someone who has suffered a negative one - from mental health problems, financial difficulties; loss of university place/job; relationship or family breakdown; to legal problems.

The active chemicals in drugs are often just mimicking what our brains are naturally able to do with the right practices and techniques. Ignoring or withholding the scientific research into neuroscience and psychology (which I assume these ‘dream explorers’ are well-versed in, as they often cite various articles/experiments or writers and claim long-term practice of lucid dreaming as qualification for the advice they give when answering queries. It is highly unlikely that someone would maintain several years interest in a fairly obscure area of science/culture without reading expert opinion or considering empirical data which might enhance your own understanding and practice) which offers many simple to follow explanations of the dreaming process and suggestions regarding effective induction, control and recall techniques. Not only are these techniques far more safe and suitable for practice at any age, but they are also rewarding in themselves, enabling the knowledgeable  dream explorer to explore the depths of their own consciousness and psyche without resorting to the consumption of synthetic or impure substances which can alter the brain  chemistry in the short-term, and sometimes permanently.

I'm not in a position to offer drugs education or to preach an anti-drugs discourse (which I do not subscribe to in any event, I'm not a hypocrite or a morally self-righteous person), I'm simply commenting on the attitudes of some dream explorers who propagate (selfishly and recklessly) on the supposed advantages of illegal drugs on dreaming, often misleadingly citing Strassman's work as justification for their stance. Strassman himself speaks out against the recreational use of psycho-active drugs and in any event, bases his theory on apparent evidence that the brain is able to naturally create organic forms of synthetic and organically derived (but often human-manipulated and profitable) drugs. When referencing Strassman, many people tend to only quote the sections of his work which seem to suggest that dream states are best accessed through DMT, an experience which is prohibited due to (primarily American) drugs laws and public policy on controlled substances - in fact, he urges for the further empirical testing of his theories of endogenous DMT by bio-chemists and neuroscientists who would be able to ascertain how the pineal gland affects states of consciousness.

My main problem is with recommendations from self-proclaimed experienced dream explorers, who give out dangerous advice to people online without knowing how that person will act upon what they are told. Sometimes I read other people's online dream diaries and lucid dream experiences - either in Blog form or in the comments section beneath lucid dream Youtube videos - and many people recount a lucid dream happening every night or every time the dreamer 'wills' it to happen. Such stories are often accompanied by tips such as 'smoke cannabis before you sleep and you will definitely lucid dream'. I would never advocate illegal drug use for lucid dreaming or for any other purpose - if you use drugs already and have found they have an effect on your dreaming which you wish to share, that's very interesting - but many lucid dream explorers tend to (a) exaggerate quantities/types of drugs taken prior to dreaming; and (b) recommend their drugs of choice to other online dream explorers, particularly those who are asking for advice or tips. I find this dangerous, particularly as some of the online explorers seem to be quite young and impressionable. I have read several accounts from oneironauts - possibly better termed 'psychonauts' who say they smoke/inject DMT every night for better lucid dreams. Whilst I have no authority over this matter, I can safely say it is unlikely someone could tolerate daily DMT sessions or that they would have regular access to such a rarely found illegal substance (by 'rare' I mean, in it's extracted 'recreational' form, sold as a 'street drug'). The most aggravating aspect of this is the fact that such 'tips' tend to be given when a less-experienced dream explorer asks for help, because they have 'tried everything else'. Instead of asking whether the dream explorer has actually tried all forms of lucid dream induction techniques (such as legal, over-the-counter LDS; brain entrainment using binaural beats; meditation and dream incubation; WBTB method, amongst many others) and ascertaining whether the inexperienced lucid dreamer has put in the requisite time and effort needed to 'train' the brain to maintain consciousness during sleep. Like yoga, lucid dreaming practice is not a quick fix and there are no real short-cuts which will be an intense or satisfying as developing a lifelong, well-honed and controllable practice.

Whilst I do sometimes take (legal, natural) LDS and write articles on them and the benefits they may possess for lucid dreaming, all the supplements I refer to can be bought from pharmacies and health stores, without prescription and I would take them anyway, regardless of their effect on dreaming, because of the general health benefits associated with each (for example 5-HPT has been found to be of benefit to bi-polar (manic depressive) or chronic depression sufferers, because of its effect on serotonin production. I therefore use 5-HTP to boost and retain my serotonin levels (as well as for dreaming purposes) as I have trouble with sustaining the correct chemical balance in my brain, especially in colder, darker seasons and was originally prescribed SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) and other anti-depressants to do the same thing. I choose not to use prescription medication and since taking my dream exploration more seriously, have managed to resist the need to use strong prescription sleeping pills as I actively look forward to going to bed. Analysing my own dreams has also helped my mental balance and ability to analyse my problems internally rather than reacting emotionally or aggressively out of frustration or fear. However, I am keen not to place too much emphasis on external stimulus such as chemicals - I want my brain to naturally produce the experiences I am seeking, not simply for recreation, but also for self-learning and developing my intuition and mental control. I feel many online dream explorers do not approach lucid dreaming in the same way - treating it like a mental 'drug trip' which is triggered by consuming drugs. If you need drugs to lucid dream it is the trip or high from the changes in your brain chemistry, caused by consumption of the drugs, which is the experience you are enjoying - not the harnessing of conscious or control of the mind during sleep, which is the true aim of the oneironaut. I have been undertaking a serious investigation of all aspects of dreaming - psychological, neurological, spiritual and psychedelic - for around 8 - 9 months and in that time I have had two full dreams and a small handful of normal dreams which involved short periods of lucidity being triggered. I think this is normal - there is no way I would expect to become lucid in every dream, or even on a weekly basis, until I am further in my studies and practices. Unfortunately, although my Blog articles and advice has been very positively received on the whole (thank you to my lovely readers who regularly email me to discuss my Blog or ask for help/further information), one a couple of occasions, I have received messages from other dream explorers who accuse me of 'spamming' or being a 'troll' (I posted a suggestion that dream explorers, who were asking many various questions under relevant Youtube videos on this topic, might like to visit my Blog for answers; I didn't post my URL, just told them what to Google to find me and how I would be happy to help them with any queries). I really don't care about the insults these people (who consider themselves to be serious dream explorers) want to throw in my direction, but I do take issue to the fact that both of those persons who wrote the nasty emails (one of which also referred to me as a 'bitch' and told me they hoped I would die, LOL) were also using the Youtube comments section advocate the use of LSD (not lucid dream supplements - actual LSD acid); DMT; mushrooms; cannabis; and a whole range of other illegal substances to those asking the questions about lucid dreaming - some of whom had mentioned they were still at school. There was no discussion about the consequences or likely effect of taking such drugs - these 'dream explorers' just pushed the message that a lucid dream would definitely result from taking them. This is not true. I notice that I often have a false awakening/lucidity when I drink alcohol then take a nap - however I do not drink alcohol regularly and never for the purposes of lucid dreaming, as my health is more important and I wish to use my SOBER brain and organic mental faculties to achieve my goals rather relying on ‘synthetic induction’. This is really all I wish to say on this topic, but if any of my readers have any comments or questions in relation to this post (or any other posts on this Blog) please feel free to contact me in the comments section below, by email ( or via my Twitter account (@tallulahlaghash).

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