Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Lucid Dream Tutorials - The MILD Technique (LUCID DREAMING FOR BEGINNERS TUTORIAL SERIES)

Tutorial Aims: 
  • Experience Level: Beginner (Level 1)
  • Explain the basic difference between Dream and Wake Induced Lucid Dreams
  • Introduce the basics of the MILD Technique (a form of DILD)
  • Provide a 6 Step programme teaching the key elements of the MILD Technique
  • Produce an effective and practical programme of lucid dream induction for ongoing practice
  • Give information on potential problems or barriers to a successful MILD Technique attempt

What is a Lucid Dream?
A lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer is consciously aware that they are dreaming. Although it is commonly thought that a lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer has control over the content or events of the dream, dream control is only one aspect of lucid dreaming. Some lucid dreams involve no control at all. Indeed, many oneironauts (dream explorers) have to work very hard at learning how to control their lucid dreams. Therefore, when we refer to lucid dreams, all we really mean is that the dreamer knows they are dreaming during the dream. Dream control methods will be discussed in a later tutorial.

Some people are able to naturally become lucid in a dream. This means that they do not need to 'train' themselves how to achieve lucidity or induce it using a lucid dream induction technique. - it just happens without any effort. However, due to the increasing attention paid to lucid dreaming (within popular culture and also the academic community) and it's growing recognition, as a result of movies such as Inception (2010), many people are keen to learn techniques to induce lucid dreams. I have therefore decided to create a step-by-step programme of lessons, tutorials, tips and advice for those who wish to embark upon their own lucid dream adventure, starting from the very basics, which makes this series of articles and accompanying videos ideal for beginners. This tutorial focuses on an introduction to the MILD Technique, which is arguably the easiest and most effective method of lucid dream induction. 

Firstly, let's think about types of lucid dream induction and get acquainted with some terminology. 

The Difference Between DILDs & WILDs
There are two main types of lucid dream induction:

  • DILD (Dream induced/initiated lucid dream) - where the dreamer spontaneously becomes lucid  in a normal non-lucid dream. Often, the realisation that something bizarre or impossible is happening in the dream is sufficient to spark instant lucidity in the dreamer. Therefore the dreamer falls asleep, enters a normal dream state and then 'wakes up' (becomes consciously aware) within that dream.
  • WILD (Wake induced/initiated lucid dream) - where the dreamer transitions directly from a state of wakefulness into a lucid dream without a lapse in consciousness. This is a technique sometimes referred to as the 'holy grail of lucid dreaming' because it involves entering a deep meditative state which enables the dreamer to achieve 'lucidity on demand'. 

DILDs are more common that WILDs - perhaps because DILDs can happen naturally to many people, without the need to learn and practice induction methods, whereas WILDs involve time, effort and understanding how to create a paradoxical state of mind awake/body asleep. WILDs also rely on the dreamer entering a waking state of sleep paralysis (which can feel uncomfortable or disconcerting for some); immersing the self in hypnagogia (the hallucinations which are experienced when on the brink of sleep); and dream visualisation. 

This all sounds fairly complex and full of jargon, but we will return to these topics in a later tutorial, when we will start learning the WILD technique in full. The idea for now is to simply familiarise ourselves with some of the common terms associated with lucid dreaming. 

One laboratory study suggests that suggests that up to 75% of lucid dreams are DILDs. Dr Stephen LaBerge of the Lucidity Institute states that WILDs are more commonly experienced in sleep laboratories than  at home. DILDs often occur spontaneously in 'natural' or proficient lucid dreamers without the need to purposefully and intentionally induce/incubate them.

The MILD Technique (Mnemonic/Memory Induced Lucid Dream)
There are a number of DILD Techniques, all of which will be covered in future tutorials. However, this tutorial focuses specifically on the MILD Technique, which was developed by LaBerge in the 1970s, during his doctoral studies into lucid dreaming.

The MILD Technique (mnemonic/memory induced lucid dreaming) is an ideal method for lucid dream beginners. The MILD technique is a form of DILD because - as explained above - you enter the lucid dream from a normal non-lucid dream state. However, the methods for learning this technique are performed throughout the waking day and just before falling asleep. 

Essentially, the MILD Technique teaches the dreamer to become more self-aware. This increases the chances that the dreamer will recognise that they are dreaming. Not only does the dreamer enhance their self-awareness, but they incubate a dream with affirmations, and programme their dreams to contain triggers/cues (pre-determined) to prompt lucidity. The technique therefore involves the memory, hence the name.

  • Step 1: Understanding the Sleep Cycle
Firstly, make sure you are getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is one of the main reasons some people experience less dream recall than others. The REM (rapid eye movement) stages of the sleep cycle are the times when dreaming - and potentially lucid dreaming - occur. These REM stages happen at least once every 90 minutes. The early REM stages are fairly short - around 10 minutes long. Towards the end of an average period of sleep (8 hours), the REM periods are closer together and longer - sometimes up to 45 - 60 minutes in length, giving ample time to experience a lucid dream. See the diagram which shows the stages of the sleep cycle, based on an average duration of sleep (8 hours):



As you can see, the best (optimal) time for lucid dreaming is the last period of REM sleep before waking. We will learn how to utilise this knowledge later (see below). If you have a shorter cycle of sleep (for example, 5 - 6 hours), you may be missing the best opportunities to experience a lucid dream. If you are unable to sleep for 8 or more hours during the week, try to set aside extra time at the weekends and catch up on your sleep. Deep/delta wave sleep (Stages 3 & 4 on the above diagram) is restful and restorative sleep, so if you are sleep deprived, or sleep for fewer than 8 hours, your brain will be prioritising your body's need for deep sleep over REM sleep. During the weekend when you are able to spend longer periods sleeping, you can (and hopefully will) experience the REM rebound effect. Because you may have missed out on the 'average' and healthy amount of REM sleep during the week when you have less sleep, you will experience more REM sleep when you finally get a full 8 hours or more. This is because your brain tries to 'balance' deep sleep and REM sleep and will try to 'make up' for lost REM sleep once all the required deep sleep has been accommodated. 

If you have had enough sleep during the night, an afternoon nap is an excellent way to experience vivid dreams and hopefully, a lucid dream. Research has shown that lucid dreams often occur during a 1 - 2 hour afternoon nap in persons with an average sleep cycle (so therefore, someone getting sufficient deep sleep each night). This is because, in non-sleep deprived persons, the afternoon nap will be mostly spent in the REM stage of the sleep cycle.

  • Step 2: Dream Recall
The most important step to any lucid dream practice is learning dream recall - basically, remembering your dreams when you wake up. If you cannot remember your dreams, you will not know if you have become lucid or not! If you don't take care to recall your dreams then you will have no idea what you are experiencing in them, but thankfully, learning to recall at least one dream per night is simple and can be achieved in a very short time.

2.1 Strategic Waking for Dream Recall
LaBerge found that periods of wakefulness interjected during sleep i.e. planned interruptions to the sleep cycle greatly increases the chances of having a lucid dream. During these strategic awakenings, the dreamer should bring themselves to full consciousness for a short period of time (i.e. 10 minutes) and ideally spend that time performing the various steps of the MILD Technique or immersing themselves in a lucid dream-related activity, such as reading about it or meditating with affirmations.

Some oneironauts like to set alarms throughout the night - based on the stages of the sleep cycle shown in the diagram above. It is common practice for avid lucid dreamers to wake up throughout the night, at approximately the time the REM stage ends - for example, if the dreamer goes to sleep at 10:00 pm, they might wake at 1:00 am; 3:00 am; 4:00 am; and 6:00 am. This is because you are most likely to recall a dream if you wake up straight after the REM stage in which it occurs, rather than going into another (deeper) stage of sleep. This method may be unsuitable or undesirable for many people - and risks sleep disturbance or exhaustion the next day. Instead, we will be learning an easier method for utilising the sleep cycle for lucid dreaming (see below).

2.2 Dream Journal
The first thing you must do is start a dream journal. Even if you remember your dream immediately after waking, you will find that dream memories fade very quickly and therefore it is essential that you record them in writing. This will also help you recognise dreamsigns - the bizarre or impossible elements of a dream which indicate that you are dreaming, not experiencing waking reality. We will learn how to use dreamsigns and reality checks below. 

Immediately upon waking, write down your dream - you should be keeping your dream journal and a pen beside your bed in easy reach. Sometimes, you have to clarify and consolidate the dream memory in your mind before you can write it down. As soon as you wake, turn your mind to your dream. Do not move - remain in the same position you awoke in, because even physical movements can distract you from recalling your dream. While laying in the position you woke in, ask yourself if you have been dreaming. You might find it useful to speak the dream aloud. As soon as you have the dream mapped out in your mind, write it down in as much detail as possible. If you cannot remember much, don't worry - just note down what you can recall - even if it is simply colours, thoughts, emotions, sensations, words etc. You may find the dream memory is triggered and surfaces at some point throughout the waking day. In a later tutorial, we will be learning how free association/stream of consciousness techniques can aid dream recall. 

When writing in your dream journal, give a name to your dream. Mark your dreamsigns (bizarre, odd or impossible features of the dream, including dream characters, events, objects, themes etc). Read through previous dream journal entries before sleep.

2.3 Affirmations for Dream Recall
We will consider affirmations below, but it is worth noting that affirmations can really aid dream recall. Before you go to sleep each night, remind yourself that you 'will remember your dreams when you wake'. Repeat this affirmation/mantra in your mind as you fall asleep, setting an intention to recall your dreams in a form of 'mental programming' or entrainment. 

2.4 Dream Supplements for Dream Recall
Some oneironauts use lucid dream supplements to boost their REM sleep and increase the vividness and recollection of their dreams. For instance, 'lucid dream supplements' such as Calea Zacatechichi; Vitamin B6 (and foods containing high levels of trytophan); Galantamine; 5-HTP etc are reported to intensify dreams and boost dream recall significantly, which can assist in lucid dreaming, as can nicotine replacement patches worn during sleep. There will be a separate tutorial on lucid dream supplements. However, it is worth noting that certain medications, recreational drugs (notably cannabis) and alcohol can inhibit dreaming - either by suppressing REM sleep stages or affecting dream recall. While some of these substances can produce the REM Rebound Effect described above (the dreamer 'catches up' on lost REM sleep once the substance has metabolised or its effects are over), it is not worth using them for this purpose. It is not recommended that anyone experiment with any substances - whether recreational, pharmaceutical or natural (such as over-the-counter/without prescription supplements) without first seeking professional medical advice. 

  • Stage 3 - Reality Checks
There will be a separate tutorial on reality checks & dreamsigns, but it is essential that you understand the principles of reality checking in order to fully master the MILD Technique. 

The key is training yourself to be more self-aware. Throughout the waking day, ask yourself: 'Am I dreaming?' When you ask yourself this, you 'perform the reality check'. 

A reality check is an action which confirms whether you are asleep or awake. 

Common reality checks are: 
  • Trying to push the fingers of one hand through the palm of another 
  • Just look closely at your hands and notice anything odd (extra fingers)
  • Looking in a mirror and noting unusual changes in your reflection
  • Holding your nostrils closed and trying to breathe normally through your nose
  • Trying to read text/the time/a mobile phone screen - letters, numbers and words often appear different

My preferred reality check is trying to push my fingers through the palm of my hand. It usually works effectively for me, but on one occasion when I tried to perform a reality check when already lucid (to prove to my dream characters that we were in my dream state), the reality check did produced no bizarre effects - i.e. it produced the effect that I would expect in waking reality - my fingers could not pass through the palm of my hand. 

If you are awake, these actions will produce a 'normal' result - you will find it is impossible to push your fingers through your palm; you will see your normal reflection in the mirror; you will be unable to breathe through your nose while pinching your nostrils; you can read text/numbers. In a dream, you are likely to find that your fingers are able to be pushed straight through the palm of your hand; your mirror reflection appears different to your waking reality - you may be a different ethnicity, gender, age, shape or size; you can breathe easily despite the fact your air supply is limited; and text/numbers appear to be radically different, sometimes illegible or in a different language/composition. 

In the dream state, the reality check should 'fail'. The main aim is to choose a reality check action which produces a different result when awake than the result you get when you perform it during a dream. You might like to experiment with a few different ones before settling on your favourite/most effective, although the fingers/palm action tends to be a very popular one. 

Question whether you are awake or dreaming and perform your accompanying reality check action as many times as you can, and develop a habit - one which will eventually become programmed into your dreams. Some oneironauts set alarms to remind them to perform a reality check - others might perform a reality check every time they do a routine act such as use the bathroom or enter a room.

Reality checks are a simple way of prompting a moment of introspection and self-awareness, which primes you for becoming conscious - i.e. lucid - within a dream state. It is recommended that at least 10 - 20 reality checks (which are simple, momentary and can be done discretely when in public) are performed throughout the waking day.

In your dream, seeing a dreamsign (which you will learn to recognise from noting them in your dream journal and finding recurrent themes, signs or symbols) should prompt you to perform a reality check. If the reality check 'fails' i.e. produces a different result to that you would expect when awake, then you should become lucid - aware you are dreaming!

  • Step 4 - Lucid Dream Affirmations
Affirmations can be done at any point during the waking day, but are necessary just before you fall asleep. Totally relax yourself as you lay in bed, and completely clear your mind. Enter a meditative state: your muscles should all be loose as you lay in the most comfortable position to fall asleep. Now, focus on an affirmation/mantra which you will repeat to yourself in your mind, as if chanting it in your thoughts. This is a form of brain entrainment or mental programming, which will set an intention to dream. Perform the affirmations until you feel yourself falling asleep. If you become distracted at any point, just start this step again.

Try one of the following (lucid) dream affirmations:
  • Tonight I will have a dream and remember it when I wake up
  • I will remember my dreams
  • I will be aware I am dreaming
  • I can lucid dream
  • I will have a lucid dream tonight
  • My next dream will be a lucid dream
  • I am dreaming now
  • This is a lucid dream

My personal affirmation is: 'Awareness, Control, Recall' which sets my intention to become lucid (aware); exercise control over my dream (control); and remember my dream when I wake up (recall). Note that I include 'control' in my affirmation because I am not a beginner lucid dreamer and have learnt dream control techniques. For beginners, it is best to wait until you have some experience of lucid dreaming and lucid dream stabilisation before you attempt control - or include it in your MILD Technique affirmations, as this is a more advanced step in learning how to lucid dream. 

  • Step 5 - Dream Visualisation
This step should be performed when you are fully relaxed and on the brink of falling asleep. It is perhaps the most difficult step in the MILD Technique, but don't worry if you can't quite master it to start off with - it isn't the most essential step in the process and you can keep trying this while you learn and put into practice the other steps which are much more important. 

Imagine yourself in a previous dream and visualise it in as much detail and clarity as possible. When you encounter a dreamsign, tell yourself 'I am dreaming!' This is not a lucid dream - merely a daydream which is preparing you for a lucid experience. Imagine a lucid dream experience and just let your imagination guide the way you explore the dream scene you are mentally visualising. During this step, you are likely (if tired enough) to fall asleep. Don't try to fight sleep - let yourself naturally enter the sleep state. The purpose of the MILD Technique is that you are mentally programming yourself for a lucid dream, so it is necessary that the last thing on your mind before falling asleep is the subject of lucid dreaming. On occasion, the imagined/visualised dream scene might seamlessly merge into a real lucid dream (if you experience something like this, perform a reality check!) - this is how the MILD Technique attempt transforms into a WILD! This is certainly something to celebrate and is likely to aid you in your future lucid dream adventures!

  • Step 6 - Wake-Back-To-Bed Method
Wake-back-to-bed (also known as WBTB or WB2B) is a method which LaBerge has indicated produces increased success in lucid dreaming. It is a way of exploiting the optimal time in the sleep cycle to have a lucid dream. See the diagram above. If we assume that this average 8 hour sleep cycle begins at 10:00 pm, you will note that the last period of REM sleep (the longest one, lasting approximately an hour) takes place after about 6 hours of sleep (so approximately 4:00 am). LaBerge suggests that the best time for a lucid dream (in a non-sleep deprived person) is after 5 - 6 hours of sleep, during this last REM period. Because it is likely that the dreamer will wake soon after the last period of REM sleep in an average cycle, there is also more chance that they will remember the dream in greater detail. 

It is very common for oneironauts to wake up after 6 hours of sleep, by setting an alarm. This is something a beginner lucid dreamer should try whenever possible, because attempting MILD after having sufficient deep sleep (so having had your restful, restorative sleep), but waking yourself fully first, creates the best circumstances to become lucid. This is the ethos behind the afternoon nap method as well. 

Go to bed at your usual time, after performing the MILD Technique (Steps 2 - 5). Set an alarm for 6 hours time. Wake up after 6 hours of sleep and make sure you are fully conscious - have a drink, use the toilet, read your dream journal etc, to ensure your mind is fully awake. It is worthwhile performing a reality check at this stage (Step 3) - because every time you find yourself 'awake' you want to be checking whether or not you are dreaming and making this a habit, for the reasons outlined above. After 10 - 30 minutes, you are ready to go back to sleep. Make yourself relaxed and comfortable and perform the MILD Technique Steps 3 - 5 (reality check, affirmations, dream visualisation). Do this until you fall asleep again and hopefully, you will have a lucid dream! If you are trying the MILD Technique during an afternoon nap, use Steps 3 - 5, the same way you would during the WBTB method. 

Additional points to remember:
  • Always make sure you turn off all digital, light-emitting or noise-producing electronic devices in the room you are sleeping in just before you go to sleep. Going to bed in a completely dark room makes it much more likely that you will dream, and potentially, experience a lucid dream.
  • Research - and accounts of Tibetan Dream Yoga practice - suggest that laying on your right side may increase the likelihood of lucid dreaming. It is worth trying, but only if you feel comfortable and able to fall asleep in this position.
  • Eating a snack which is high in tryptophan shortly before you go to bed may increase your chances of (lucid) dreaming. Healthy high-tryptophan foods suitable for late night snacks include: seeds and nuts (pumpkin, flax, sesame and sunflower seeds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, almonds); cheese  and other dairy products (cheddar cheese, milk); and fruit (apples, bananas). There are many other high tryptophan food sources which may assist in boosting dreams, and these will be covered in a separate tutorial.
  • While meditating, performing affirmations and dream visualisations (Steps 4 & 5), you may feel strange physical sensations, such as vibrations, floating, shaking, sinking, falling etc. This is the beginnings of sleep paralysis (which will be explained in a later tutorial). Everyone experiences muscle atonia during REM sleep so that we do not act out our dreams and put ourselves in physical danger. Sometimes, when attempting to induce lucid dreams - or just when we are very tired and about to fall asleep - we experience sleep paralysis starting before we are fully in the sleep state. It can be a terrifying experience if you do not know what it is. This is a paradoxical state of mind awake/body asleep which is encouraged when attempting the WILD Technique, but we do not need to consider how this works at present. Just be aware that it may happen. Also note that sometimes we experience what is know as a false awakening, where we 'wake up' (usually in the place we fell asleep) and feel like we are fully awake, but actually - are still asleep and dreaming. This is often accompanied by feelings of sleep paralysis and also visual/audio and physical hallucinations (hypnagogia - a phenomenon which occurs when we are halfway between sleep and wakefulness). False awakenings happen naturally to many people (myself included) and are common in childhood (often referred to as 'night terrors' if accompanied by the hypnagogia or nightmarish dream imagery). False awakenings can be transformed into lucid dreams once you know how. I will produce a separate tutorial on this theme, but remember, the best thing to do as soon as you wake up is to perform a reality check! This will confirm if you are actually awake, or in the false awakening limbo state. Try not to panic - it feels very real and experiencing paralysis and hallucinations/dream imagery during a false awakening can make you feel like you are trapped in a nightmare, but it is one step closer to experiencing a lucid dream as recognising a false awakening involves the same cognitive processes as becoming lucid in a dream state. If you know you are in a false awakening, you are basically lucid dreaming!

5 comments:

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  2. I love getting comments from my readers, but please DO NOT include links to other lucid dreaming websites which also offer tutorials, especially when this is your only motivation for leaving me a comment. I work really hard researching and writing my articles and using my personal experience to bring you the best advice, tips and techniques I can, free of charge. I make NO INCOME from my Blog - as you can see there are no advertisements anywhere. I do not endorse the work of any other lucid dream practitioner unless I specifically cite them in my own writing. I also DO NOT wish to advertise the work of anyone who offers lucid dream tuition as that would be counter-intuitive and compromising to my own goal of promoting my work. Many of these other websites/blogs have sponsored content/income from advertising, so it is very annoying when I see them linked on this one, which often has more hard work put into it (I am the sole author and administrator of my Blog) and has the singular aim of providing information/entertainment, but not making me a profit. Thank you, and sorry for the rant.

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  3. Thank you for your work. I've listened to dozens of podcasts, lectures and interviews on LD and I find your tutorial very logically arranged and clear and that's a rarity. Thank you again! :D

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  4. Hi Tallulah! I've read so many tips on lucid dreaming and I think your additional points to remember are very practical and helpful to both veterans and beginners. I'd explore eating snack with high content of tryptophan and see if it would help induce more lucid dreams. Hoping to connect with you!

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  5. What is Lucid dreaming? Fantasy fulfillment & the lucid dream experience. Overcome nightmares. Develop skills. Benefits of lucidity. How to lucid dream.
    Lucid Dreaming

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