Monday, 15 December 2014

WILD Technique: Wake Initiated/Induced Lucid Dreaming - Explanation & Instructions

The aim of the WILD (Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming) technique is to keep your mind awake while your body is falling asleep. It is one of the more popular methods of lucid dream induction, but one that seems to cause new practitioners many problems. Indeed, WILD is considered to be the 'holy grail' of lucid dream practice for many oneironauts.

Although I have written on this topic before, I thought I should pen another article outlining what WILD is and how to achieve a lucid dream this way. The major advantage of using WILD for lucid dreaming is that you can essentially experience a lucid dream using this method whenever you want, as long as you are in the right frame of mind. It is sometimes called the Mind Awake/Body Asleep technique and has been said to produce the most vivid forms of on-demand lucidity, because there is no lapse in consciousness. The principle behind this technique is mind-body independence.

Basically, when using the WILD technique, the dreamer uses focus and concentration to keep the mind active, while allowing the body to enter sleep paralysis. This effectively bypasses the 'false awakening' stage or the need to perform reality checks in a non-lucid dream. One of the main advantages of this technique is that the dreamer is encouraged to relax and meditate, which is a beneficial end goal in itself. 

Step 1 - Preparation

The best time to try the WILD technique is after approximately 4 - 6 hours of sleep (depending on how much sleep you require - this is subjective, of course and make take trial and error to determine). It is essential that you are not deprived of deep sleep when you try WILD, because if you still need deep, restorative sleep, you are likely to experience less REM sleep, which is where dreaming occurs. Try the Wake-Back-To-Bed method alongside the WILD technique - wake yourself up after 4 - 6 hours of normal sleep and then,  during the period of wakefulness, practice the WILD technique, using the final 1 - 2 hours of sleep time for lucid dreaming (assuming that the average person sleeps for 7 - 8 hours in total per night). If you usually have 8 hours of sleep, perform WBTB after 6 hours, and spend the remaining 2 hours for the WILD technique. Hopefully, you will experience a lucid dream in the final 1 - 2 hours of sleep, before you wake up again for a second time. Research has shown that dreams occurring in the final part of the sleep cycle, near the time of waking, are most vivid and easily recalled. This is the best time for attempting a lucid dream, other than during an afternoon nap (if you have had your full quota of sleep the night before), which is my personal preference. Often, the brain will try to catch up on REM sleep during an afternoon nap (rather than going into a deep sleep), which makes this the perfect time for experimentation. You may wish to combine your lucid dream experimentation with binaural beats (for brain entrainment) of lucid dream supplements/dream-boosting foods, but these topics have been/will be covered in detail elsewhere. 

Some lucid dream researchers suggest that you should not eat or drink for up to an hour before bed. Even more importantly, you should try to limit use of any screens or other electronic/digital devices while preparing to sleep, and make sure that no light is being emitted from an active source of power (such as a computer screen or night light) or able to enter the bedroom through curtains/blinds. Light can have a detrimental impact on our ability to sleep and produce melatonin, a chemical known as the 'dream hormone'. Minimise any noise and make sure the temperature of your bedroom is comfortable. 

If you maintain a dream diary/journal, you may find it useful to read through some of your previous dreams before bed, to get into the right mindset and also assist your ability to recognise dreamsigns when you are in the dream state. 

Step 2 - Physical & Mental Relaxation
Once you are in bed, practice some deep and steady breathing exercises - yoga breathing exercises are perfect for this. You must then prepare yourself to be able to lie completely motionless. Make sure your bed is comfortable, your muscles have been stretched and any itches are scratched. 

You need to lay very still, with all your muscles loose and relaxed, Do not cross your ankles or your arms - let your body feel heavy an sink into the bed without resistance. Let your mind be free of intrusive or distracting thoughts - try to empty your mind. If thoughts do pop into your head, acknowledge them without interacting with them and let them drift away. Focus your mind on the blackness of your closed eyelids. This part of the technique may take a while, or it may come naturally - you need to persevere until you are able to meditate your way into the sleep state with a focused mind. If you feel the urge to move or readjust your body in any way, you should do so and then repeat this step of the technique. Some practitioners experience the 'swallowing problem' - where a build up of saliva in the mouth produces an urge to swallow and a concern that this will 'reset' progress (like when you make other movements when intending to be completely still). My advice is to just swallow and try not to focus on this action at all. It is simply a reflex and should not hinder your method if you pay no attention to it.

Step 3 - Stop, Drop & Roll

When your body has been very still for a long period of time, it is 'tricked' into thinking that the brain is asleep and begins to enter the process of sleep paralysis, in preparation for dreaming. However, it is not good for the body to be asleep while the brain remains awake, so the body sends a test signal - this is known as the 'roll over signal' - and presents itself as a strong urge to roll over. If you move - i.e. responding to the roll over signal - the body knows the brain is still awake, so the main aim here is not to respond to the roll over signal because this sends the message that you are still awake. There are 4 types of roll over signal:
  1. Fast relax - This happens when you relax quickly and deeply and the body decides to go into sleep paralysis without sending a proper roll over signal. This is the best condition for the WILD technique because you enter the optimal state rapidly.
  2. Slow relax - If you are tense, but tired and remain still for long enough, the roll over signal will build in strength until it cannot be ignored. This is known as a 'signal swell' and the body will not enter sleep paralysis because of the tenseness of the muscles.
  3. Urge surge - The body sends a strong roll over signal at random. If you can resist the roll over signal, it will pass in a matter of seconds and the body will go into paralysis. This is a useful condition for the WILD technique, although if you are not sufficiently relaxed, you may only enter partial paralysis, which is not helpful.
  4. Quick switch - This happens quickly and rewards you with a deep form of sleep paralysis. It tends to happen when you are very tried (not an ideal time for practicing WILD) or when you are in a deep state of relaxation (ideal time for WILD). 
The key is bringing on the roll over signal as quickly as possible. This can be achieved by the stop, drop and roll step of this method. It is essential that you are laying on your back and your legs are slightly separated and not touching. Some researchers suggest laying with your hands by your sides, while others advocate putting your arms on your pillow above your head. I opt for the latter because I have found that this sends the strongest signal. The feeling that you need to move your arms and place them across your body or cross them in some way is a subtle form of the roll over signal and this sensation is an indication that you are on the right track. Resist this temptation: when you toss and turn in bed, what you are effectively doing is resetting your internal sleep-timer. The roll over signal is a test to see if you are asleep, and moving (rolling over) is a reminder that you are awake. Continually moving around keeps you awake - hence why tossing and turning is associated with insomnia. Instead of haphazardly releasing small amounts of tension by continuously moving, the Stop, Drop and Roll step allows you to control the release of tension, by dissipating it in two intentional chunks. 

You need to get to the stage where the body is 'asking' to go to sleep and then tell it 'yes'. This sounds strange, but it is actually very easy to do! First of all: STOP. Relax in the position you have adopted, with your arms above your head. Once you feel as relaxed as you possibly can, purposefully DROP your arms from above your head down to your sides, releasing all the tension which has built up in your shoulders. The dropping of your arms will let the body think that it is ready to sleep and that the brain has prepared itself for this state. You should now experience the roll over signal strongly, which is the body's response to you dropping your arms and releasing tension therein. The stronger the roll over signal, the stronger the body's quest for sleep. If you reach a point where it feels that the roll over signal has plateaued, ROLL over. Once in this final position, do not move - let yourself fall asleep. If you do feel the need to move - do so - and go back to Step 2 and repeat again.

One trick is to build up a strong roll over signal before even getting into bed (or getting back into bed if practicing WBTB). Lay on a hard floor next to the bed. After a few minutes this will become uncomfortable, and your body will be grateful for you getting into a more comfortable bed, making it easier to relax and go to sleep. 

The Stop, Drop and Roll method is a form of sleep starter, with an implicit sleep trigger - if you ignore the roll over signal, your body is tricked into entering sleep paralysis.

Step 4 - Sleep Starters & Triggers (optional)

Ideally, this topic could be treated as an independent article in itself, but it is useful for me to summarise some of the sleep starters/triggers herein, as they complement the WILD technique.
  • Sleep breathing (sleep starter 1) - Learn to breathe like you are asleep. Sleep breathing is a deeper and longer form of breathing than wakeful breathing, and you should pay attention to the rhythm of your breath as you fall asleep and try to mimic that pattern when trying WILD. You may detect your sleeping breath by laying completely still when you awaken and noting how your breathing is. 
  • Stop micro eye movements (sleep starter 2) - If you close your eyes and try to keep them as still as possible, you will most likely sense a twitching. These are micro eye movements. If you are able to keep your eyes completely still, this is another way you can trick your body into thinking it is asleep. One way of stopping any eye movements is to relax your eyes before bed. Do this by performing wide eye rolls (both directions) until the eye muscles feel tired and then relax them. 
  • Pause breaths (sleep paralysis trigger 1) - These are useful if your body is in partial sleep paralysis. While breathing deeply and steadily, as described above, exhale fully and then pause your breathing. During this 2 - 3 second pause, try to relax your body as much as possible. After continuing this for a short period, you should feel your sleep paralysis deepening, a tension is released from the body. Techniques such as 'blackout breathing' and 'narcotic breathing' have been advocated by some lucid dream explorers.
  • Muscle twitching (sleep paralysis trigger 2) - Again, this is useful for when the body is in partial sleep paralysis. When you experience the partial paralysis, try to twitch just one muscle - the limbs are best for this - and you will feel complete paralysis onset. 
  • Up and down/side-to-side micro eye movements (sleep paralysis trigger 3) - This is also known (in hypnotherapy) as 'eye movement desensitization and reprogramming' and is used as a trigger for sleep paralysis. While your eyes are closed and the rest of the body is relaxed, quickly move the eyes either up and down or from left to right for approximately 10 seconds. This should help partial sleep paralysis become full sleep paralysis.

Step 5 - The Hypnagogic State
This is one of the most fun elements of the WILD technique for me! At this stage - and all others in this technique - it is essential that you remain calm and focused and do not let fear overtake you or interrupt in any way.  I have experienced horrible hypnagogic imagery because I have let negative thoughts intrude into my mind at this stage (usually during a false awakening) and this can be off-putting and terrifying, as well as ruining attempts at nurturing lucidity.

After successfully performing the above steps, you should be entering the hypnagogic state, which presents itself when you are half asleep and half awake. During this state you will experience brightly coloured patterns and visual hallucinations, auditory hallucinations (sounds and voices) and physical sensations (floating or tipping are common). You need to embrace the hypnagogic state and let it draw you in. Allow the numbness and heaviness of your body to take over, and do not move. Observe the hypnagogia and tell yourself that you are entering the dream state and you are transitioning between wakefulness and sleep. Hypnagogia occurs during a period of 'threshold consciousness' which is ideal for lucid dreaming. Other terms for the hypnagogic state and the sensory phenomenon which occur are: presomnal or anthypnic sensations; oneirogogic imagery; phantasmata; praedormitium; dreamlets or pre-dream condition/sleep-onset dreams; or wakefulness/sleep transition (WST).

Hypnagogic imagery is usually static and lacking in narrative. The most common types are phosphenes, which are random speckles, lines or geometrical patterns, in either monochrome or bright colours, and may be flat or three-dimension. Some people - like myself - may experience moving imagery. The images may be fractals, form constants or figurative/representational shapes and movement through tunnels of light are also commonly reported. Often the images are fleeting and changeable, although some report elaborate imagery. I often experience a snowy landscape at night, where I am able to see snow falling against a dark sky. I have also experienced similar imagery during a conscious false awakening/sleep paralysis experience. Sometimes I can detect a small house and figures moving. For some - particularly those who have engaged in a repetitive (or new) activity before bed - it may be common to experience what is known as the 'Tetris Effect'. This is where the new or repetitive waking activity dominates their hypnagogic state and is not confined to visual imagery, but also sounds and physical sensations. 

The hypnagog
ic state can also cause strange auditory hallucinations, which can vary in strength from a whisper to a loud bang (exploding head syndrome). Common sounds like the dreamer's name being mention, buzzing, the doorbell ringing, snippets of conversation or simple white noise are all typical. These sounds may be the internal voice of the dreamer and perhaps (in terms of snippets of conversation) appear as apt summations or comments on their thoughts at the time. Gustatory (taste), olfactory (smell) and thermal (temperature) sensations have also been reported. Alongside the physical sensations of floating, being crushed or suffocating, tingling or vibrating and falling, these are all phenomena associated with sleep paralysis and transition from wakefulness into the sleep state. 

Try to engage with the hypnagogia - relax with it and 'perceive' it, but do not become so absorbed by it that you accidentally fall asleep.

Remember that if you get the roll over signal, or any other urge to move, you need to resist at this stage. If you do have to move, you will need to repeat this technique from Step 2 again.  

Step 6 - Visualise a Dream Scene

Once you are fully immersed in the hypnagogic state and feel sufficiently still and relaxed you are ready to begin visualising a dream scene. Some OBE enthusiasts use this stage of the technique for Out-of-Body-Exit. I am not a proponent (or believer) in OBEs, so the idea that this part of the experience can be used to induce an OBE is insignificant to me - indeed, several lucid dream researchers and popular sources for lucid dreaming material suggest that an OBE is just a very vivid lucid dream experience, where the dreamer actually wrongly believes they are awake, rather than realising they are conscious within the dream state. 

I will therefore concentrate on visualising a dream scene. You need to inject the most amount of realism and detail into your visualised dream scene as possible. Therefore, it may be useful to re-create a scene you have experience in a previous dream (whether a non-lucid, or lucid dream - it doesn't matter). Either 'programme' the dream scene into your hypnagogic imagery or recall the imagery from beyond your field of vision. Use your mind's eye to paint a picture from your memory (if using a previous dream) or to solidify and make concrete the hypnagogic imagery you are experiencing. Often, the hypnagogic imagery will come together to form a dream scene for you. Be aware of your field of vision expanding as increasing detail and depth is added to your mental dream scene, which will slowly become three-dimensional. It is essential that you achieve the right balance between passive observation and light interaction when visualising the dream scene.

Imagine yourself at the core of the dream scene you are visualising, all the time remaining focused on your goal. Keep reminding yourself that you are dreaming - you need to maintain your wakeful mind and lucidity and not lapse into a normal non-lucid dream state, which is highly probable at this stage.

Imagine stepping into the dream scene - or rolling/falling into it. You need to work out which method works best for you. It is important not to open your eyes at this stage - the visualisation process, like the hypnagogic stage, occurs when the eyes are shut. Your eyes should remain shut during this entire technique. At first, the dream world will seem faint, but you need to anchor yourself within it. Try and move your dream body - some dreamers like to imagine themselves sinking through the mattress of their bed into the dream world. You may gradually find yourself entering the dream world you have visualised, or you may discover yourself there in an instant. Remain calm and focused, reminding yourself that you are dreaming, but not allowing the feelings of excitement or exhilaration distract or overwhelm you. You may need to perform a reality check to make sure; and of course, if you find yourself waking up in bed, make sure you do that reality check to ensure you aren't in a false awakening situation (although this could be used as a springboard for a lucid dream!). Moving your dream body and using lucid dream stabilisation techniques are key once you are in the dream world and aware that you are dreaming. 

Below is a Youtube video I made to accompany this Blog post:


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