Monday, 15 December 2014

Mastering the art of lucid dreaming

The authors of A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming: Mastering the Art of Oneironautics (2013), Tuccillo, Zeizel and Peisel, offer some advice on how a beginner lucid dreamer can embark upon the magical adventure of lucid dreaming and learn how to control their dreams. 

Lucid dreaming is the art of waking up in a dream, so that the dreamer is aware that they are asleep and dreaming. Once the dreamer has become lucid, they are able to change elements of the dream and explore the dreamscape at their leisure. It is often  the bizarre and nonsensical elements of a dream (dreamsigns) which act as a trigger for lucidity. Normally we simply accept the dream narrative, characters and action, no matter how odd or impossible they seem to our waking brain. By recognising dreamsigns or triggers, a dreamer is able to become consciously aware that they are experiencing a dream instead of waking life. Often, waking life memories may trigger lucidity - for example, 'remembering' that you have actually left school, or that you are now in a relationship, rather than what you are being told in the dream. Perhaps the dream leads you to question the date, a name or the function of something, indicating that this is not waking reality, but rather part of a dream narrative. This is because, typically, lucid dreams are activated by some kind of inconsistency in the dream narrative, which makes the dreamer stop and question their reality. 

In the lucid dream, the dreamer is able to leave behind all the constraints of their physical body, and the laws of physics generally - it is possible to travel at the speed of light, become invisible or weightless and defeat gravity. The dreamer will experience these sensations as if they are really happening in a literal sense, although of course, the lucid dream is constrained by the breadth of the dreamer's imagination and their subjective experience. Conversing with dream characters can shed insight into the inner life of the dreamer, or reveal knowledge or inspirations, buried in their subconscious and not previously accessible to their waking mind. Many lucid dreamers relish the experience because it enables them to gain wisdom and guidance from an inner source. 

A dream journal is advocated by the authors, Tuccillo et al, because this will allow the dreamer to notice recurrent themes or dreamsigns, which are a powerful stepping stone to lucid dreaming. These dreamsigns act as landmarks in the dreamscape and are a great way of achieving lucidity. After just a few weeks of keeping a record of your dreams you will notice recurrent themes, characters, events or objects, and a clear pattern of your dreaming will emerge. Dreamsigns might change regularly as you change and grow as a person, but locating and identifying these dreamsigns will train your subconscious mind to spot them the next time they appear in a dream and can be used as a helpful lucidity trigger. You can even incubate an intention to become lucid next time you spot a specific dreamsign in your dreams, for example: 'I will realise next time I dream about a pink elephant and become lucid'. Slowly, you will become fluent in your own, subjective dream language!

Throughout the day, perform reality checks and ask yourself: 'Am I dreaming?' This will help you to become consciously aware of what is happening around you. If you perform reality checks throughout the day, they will eventually emerge in your dreams and your suspicion of reality will 'echo' in your sleep, until you become lucid. Reality checks are undoubtedly the cornerstone of lucid dream practice. 

If you stop and think about it, you can usually tell whether or not you are actually dreaming. While it may seem insane to stop and question whether you are dreaming when you know you are awake, it will be worthwhile when you find yourself conscious and lucid in a dream state. When you perform the well-rehearsed reality check and discover you are in a dream, the feelings of achievement and empowerment are almost unparalleled by any waking experience. 

Unsurprisingly, flying is the most common form of transport for most lucid dreamers. It is certainly a very popular experience for those who are able to achieve lucidity in a dream because of the exhilarating, intoxicating sensation of freedom and limitlessness. Another exciting thing to try in a lucid dream experience is walking through a solid object. Objects are nothing more than an illusion; a projection of your subconscious mind, and therefore are no obstacle for the lucid dreamer. Think about reality checks - typically, a lucid dreamer will use the basic method whereby they try to push the fingers of one hand through the palm of the other. When the reality check is performed in the dream state, it is completely possible to make the fingers pass through the 'solid' palm of the opposite hand. Other larger objects react the same in a lucid dream - if you focus on passing through a solid object, or perhaps moving something immovable, you will find that nothing is impossible, and the dream world will bend and shape around your desires. Additionally, after some practice, you can become the architect of your dreams - nothing is off-limits; you can create anything and manipulate your environment as you wish. 

There are many benefits to lucid dreaming. After a number of lucid dream experience, many dreamers undergo a drastic change in their perspective and realise that there is much more to reality and consciousness than they previously acknowledged or understood. Often, dreams alert us to problems in our waking lives and guide us towards resolution and closure. If we record and interpret our dreams, we are effectively decoding messages from our subconscious minds. Lucid dreaming enables us to explore our inner world with our waking faculties intact and an ability to search our psyche for clues as to who we are.

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