Thursday, 20 November 2014

Lucid Dreaming - Why Lucid Dream?

You can transform your life in the dream state through the practice of lucid dreaming. It can be used for spiritual practice and growth, enhancing psychological integration; because lucid dreaming is all about being consciously aware of what is essentially a subconscious experience (dreaming), the mind is turned inwards, so the dreamer is able to examine their own psyche at work. Cultivation of lucid dreaming forms a cornerstone of Tibetan Buddhist Dream Yoga practices, a topic on which I hope to write an introductory article in the near future. Although I do not approach my own lucid dreaming explorations from Buddhist principles, it is incredibly useful to gain an insight into the reasons other cultures and traditions use the lucid dream process for spiritual enrichment.

Lucid dreaming has been described by Charlie Morley (author and lucid dreaming expert and teacher) as showing us the flexibility of our life experiences and the notion that we are projecting an aspect of our reality, allowing us to manifest certain desirable qualities or actions. Morely also states that lucid dreaming is a very literal form of 'co-creating' because in the lucid dream, the dreamer is both the dreamer and the dreamt of; the projector and the projected. You can directly observe how the lucid mind projects and manifests images and experiences and take this learning into your waking conscious, as a process of integration between body and mind. Morley, like myself, is sceptical as to whether we can simultaneously 'share' the lucid dream experience with another person, arguing that the phenomenon should be tested in dream experiments (he, like myself, has had limited success) - and explaining what some describe as shared dreams as little more than daily residue from a shared waking experience (such as a trip to the zoo) influencing dream content in dreamers (for example, both dreamers reporting dreams about a tiger the night after a visit to the zoo).

There is some evidence that lucid dreaming has been used as a form of 'training ground' for athletes or creative individuals who harness the process as a way of learning and practising skills and methods they wish to embody in their waking lives. Research has shown that some of the procedural memory for fine muscle movements (or 'muscle memory' as it is otherwise known) for playing musical instruments can be increased during a lucid dream. LaBerge and Rheingold cite a surgeon who would polish and refine his surgical skills (based on pre-sleep examination of his real-life surgical case-load) which enabled him to perform surgical procedures quicker and more effectively than the average surgeon, crediting his lucid dream surgical training as an explanation. Research by Dr Erlacher at the University of Bern in 2010, found that practising a physical activity in a lucid dream improved waking performance. He asked subjects to perform 20 attempts at flicking a coin into a cup, before they went to sleep. Those who practised the activity during a lucid dream that night, were found to be more accurate in the same tests the next morning, compared the those who did not practice in a lucid dream, or the control group, who did not lucid dream at all. Dreams are also a furtive breeding ground for the creative arts - painters such as Salvador Dali, William Blake and Paul Klee, used their dreams as source material for their art. Lucid dreaming and dreaming in general may enhance the dreamer's conceptual or symbolic understanding and offer them new ways of visually presenting thoughts or emotions which may not have come to them in their waking consciousness. Likewise, in music, Beethoven, Wagner and Mozart all found inspiration within their dreams. Dreams reveal our creative capabilities in ways the waking brain may not be able to - because during the dream process our ideas can flow free without being filtered by reason or rationalisation. 

Lucid dreaming has often been used as a way of confronting and resolving fears and phobias. Within the lucid dream state, time and space is relative - Morley likens the experience to jumping out of a plane - while the free fall may only last a minute or so, the experience may feel or be perceived as lasting a lot longer for the jumper. This is also true of the lucid dreaming experience, which means that even in a brief lucid dream (which in 'real time' only lasts a matter of minutes), a significant amount of  psychological insight or healing can take place. Much like the theory that nightmares are a way of presenting the dreamer with anxiety-provoking mental symbolism in a narrative form, as a therapeutic aid to dealing with such material and preventing it from negatively affecting our waking mind, lucid dreams enable us to manipulate our experiences and intentionally bring us into contact with the sources of our fears and phobias, giving us a safe opportunity to tackle and overcome them, with endless possibilities which may not be appropriate in waking like 'Exposure Therapy' or psychological 'Flooding' techniques. For example, if the individual's phobia is not one to which they can be exposed in a clinical environment (for example, they fear ghosts or demons) or the method of confrontation would not be ethically appropriate or even possible (i.e. slaying a giant spider to overcome extreme arachnophobia), lucid dreams may enable the individual to take advantage of the rationales behind such therapeutic methods in the comfort of their own bedroom and produce similarly positive effects. The lucid dreamer can use the lucid dream experience to visualise and project that which they wish to interact with - or conquer - and will still feel the same emotions which would accompany a waking experience of interacting with the person or object, but will know that what they are seeing and feeling is nothing but a mentally-created illusion, no matter how realistic or true to waking reality it appears to be. Nevertheless, the brain will create neural pathways based on this experience, which can be reactivated in the waking state and so the lucid dream states allows the dreamer to work with traumas and fears which benefits them in waking consciousness. 

In a study conducted at the University of Milan (Universita degli Studi di Milano), Italy in 2009, it was posited that lucid dream training may be a useful tool in dealing with chronic, recurrent nightmares and traumas, instead of the current trend for prescribing suppressant medications. This embraces the 'Threat Simulation Theory', which I will cover in more detail in a subsequent article, but in short, works on the assumption that dreams and nightmares serve an evolutionary function of exposing us to, and allowing us to rehearse, our reactions to dangerous situations. By rehearsing our 'fight or flight' processes in the dream state we are better prepared to deal with the same or similar situations if they arise in our waking life. Lucid dream training to deal with recurrent nightmares or traumas works on the same evolutionary and biological principles, but allows the dreamer to intentionally manipulate their dream content and experience in order to fast-track or improve their responses as well as the underlying healing processes involved. In a nightmare, the first instinct of the dreamer is to wake up because they are not ready or willing to confront their fear - this is natural and perfectly fine. but at some point they may be able to stay in the nightmare, and if in a lucid state, will be consciously aware that this is simply a projection of their mind Often all it takes to overcome the nightmare in a lucid dream state, is to bear witness to what it is which frightens the dreamer - to acknowledge it and recognise is as a visualisation of a subconscious emotion or thought. If the dreamer is able too become lucid during an incidence of a recurrent nightmare, it has been found that just one exposure is enough to end the nightmare cycle from reoccurring, 

Every time you experience a lucid dream, you become more apt at distinguishing between reality and unreality - i,e, waking expectations and the environment of the dream state, and thus, neuroscientific and psychological research has found that frequent lucid dreamers perform better at cognitive problem solving because the brain is adapting and learning new skills and abilities. Lucid dreaming reveals the incredible power of the human brain.

Aside from the psychological benefits of lucid dreaming, one of its mist compelling attractions for most oneironauts, if the fact of the limitless possibilities and freedoms for escapism.The lucid dream is the ideal scenario for fulfilling deep wishes and desires, many of which might be inaccessible or completely impossible to achieve in waking life, Many lucid dream enthusiasts use their dreams for experiencing erotic liaisons, animating a particular fantasy, meeting an idol or pursuing physically inconceivable feats, such as flying or becoming invisible. Otherworldly or fantastical scenarios and situations are now painted in stunningly vivid realism, and the dreamer is able to manipulate and control their interactions with the self-created and tangible dream environment, almost as if they were starring in their own subconscious movie. The scope of the lucid dream experience spans the length and breadth of the dreamer's imagination, but is projected in sensational detail, highlighting the dreamer's ability to mentally depict a believable, 3-dimensional location and functioning narrative, with an uncanny capacity to mimic the most minute elements of reality.The lucid dream world is perfect for exploring the depths of the subconscious mind in a safe and healthy way. 

Lucid dreams also prompt us to analyse the nature of reality. There are some philosophies which question whether it is consciousness which creates reality and lucid dreaming provides us with a direct line of communication with our subconscious mind. Using the lucid dreaming experience, we are able to conduct our own philosophical enquiries into the nature of reality and unreality, for example, why in the dream state there is a fundamental break down of the laws of cause and effect and also our concepts of time, space and the dimensions of our physical reality. We can use the lucid dream experience as a lens for our unconscious and allow us ourselves to discover what our dreams reveal about our interactions with physical reality, time and space. It therefore provides a great comparative experience to reflect upon the waking reality. It is an alternative to psychedelic drugs (which may be illegal and/or highly dangerous), and the furthest we can safely travel outside our usual waking perceptions and sense of reality, while still retaining the clarity of thought which is unlikely to exist during a drug trip. There are none of the adverse consequences of ingesting psychedelic or dissociative drugs. Lucid dream creates a natural high - including feelings of intense excitement, euphoria and adrenaline rush, in addition to stimulation of the senses and altered perception. 

There is some research that suggests lucid dreaming can help you grieve for departed loved ones, by giving the dreamer the opportunity for posthumous meetings and interactions with the deceased. Thus, lucid dreaming might be therapeutic during the mourning processes, allowing them to replay cherished memories or reach closure on unfinished business. 

This article has discussed a few of the main reasons why people may choose to lucid dream, but of course the explanation for why this is such an increasingly popular phenomenon, are as plentiful as the possibilities within the lucid dream experience itself. Lucid dreaming allows you to expand your horizons and connect with the subconscious mind and psyche in a magical reality of your own creation.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tallulah! This Blog is amazing. A lot of insight that is easier for me to read and understand than other articles I have read. I have LD'd only the one :-( and have had SP the once too which totally scared the day lights out of me lol looking forward to reading more xx