Monday, 13 April 2015

Common Lucid Dream Mistakes

  • Focusing on the Wrong Induction Method
Many beginner lucid dreamers get swamped by the plethora of lucid dreaming induction techniques discussed on popular online forums and pages dedicated to lucid dreaming. There seems to be an 'ILD' (abbreviation for 'induced lucid dreaming') for absolutely everything (i.e. FILD - finger; SILD - sex; SSILD - senses; U- urination; T- thirst; O - object etc). There is an 'ILD' for just about every letter of the alphabet!

The problem is, if you focus on obscure and niche forms of lucid dream induction method, you are neglecting to recognise that most of them are simply variations of the MILD Technique (Memonic/Memory Induced Lucid Dreams) aiming to achieve a DILD (Dream Initiated/Induced Lucid Dream), the method devised by Dr Stephen LaBerge of the Lucidity Institute. Almost any induction method which involves entraining yourself to recognise a certain event or trigger in a dream and then performing a reality check is a part of programming your memory, which is the ethos behind the MILD Technique which is the single best method for learning how to train yourself to experience a DILD. 

Instead of learning the key principles and foundations of the MILD Technique, beginners often choose a favourite 'ILD' and concentrate exclusively on that. Many of these induction methods were created by non-expert lucid dream enthusiasts looking to differentiate themselves and gain status for coming up with something new, when all they are really doing is refining (but not improving the MILD Technique). My advice is to learn the basics of the MILD Technique from grass-roots (enhancing dream recall; performing reality checks; doing lucid dream affirmations; understanding the sleep cycle; and practising Wake-Back-to-Bed). Ignore all the other 'ILD' methods for DILDs - they simply limit your capability of recognising when you might be in a lucid dream.

Another common mistake beginners make is trying to perform WILD (Wake Initiated/Induced Lucid Dreams) before even learning the MILD Technique. WILD is the 'holy grail' of lucid dream induction, and as compelling as it sounds (the idea of transitioning directly from a waking state into a lucid dream), it is very difficult and requires you to learn superior meditation methods to induce the unnatural state of the Mind Awake/Body Asleep paradox, which involves waking sleep paralysis and dream visualisation skills. The WILD Technique is not a beginner technique and should be worked up to slowly once you have the basics mastered - you cannot build a skyscraper without first ensuring you have a solid foundation in place!

FILD (Finger Induced Lucid Dreaming) is a popular modern-day version of WILD (FILD was created by an online forum user, while WILD is part of ancient Tibetan Dream Yoga practice). FILD is no easier to achieve than WILD - and actually may be counter-intuitive as it involves movement of the fingers to keep the mind awake, which can disrupt that vital Mind Awake/Body Asleep balance. I would personally advise beginner lucid dreamers to completely ignore FILD. 

Using the wrong induction technique and trying to run before you can walk by attempting the WILD Technique before you can achieve DILDs via the MILD Technique can lead to you becoming very disheartened by the inevitable failure. Lucid dreaming is a journey, not a final destination and cannot be rushed. There are no short-cuts or quick fixes!

  • Failure to Commit
In order to achieve successful lucid dreaming, you need to regularly train and dedicate yourself to your goal. Lucid dreaming is analogous to hacking your own brain - it's not an easy task to trick your brain into performing in a way contrary to how it has naturally evolved (i.e, to be consciously aware you are asleep and dreaming and to actively control your dreams). It is very common for beginner lucid dreamers to give up hope and decide to quit after an extremely short amount of practice. It has taken me years to be able to induce lucid dreams - and I am a natural lucid dreamer, who had a lot of failure still. Another common problem is that because many beginner lucid dreamers are seduced by the idea of controlling their dreams, they don't focus on the basic skill of remembering their non-lucid dreams and recognising their dreamsigns sufficiently.

One particular study found that with extensive daily training, it was possible for beginner lucid dreamers to have their first lucid dream within 3 - 21 days, but this varies greatly.

My advice is to learn the MILD Technique, effective reality checking and meditation and practice every single night. Record all dreams in a dream journal and focus your mind on reaching your goal - it will happen eventually.

  • Trying Too Hard
This mistake is rather like choosing the wrong induction method - some beginner lucid dreamers are too enthusiastic and want quick results so try to combine everything at once. They attempt a variety of different methods, take lucid dreaming supplements, use binaural beats - all at the same time, without success. This is because they are not nailing the basics - lucid dreaming is not about a race to the finish line - it is about purposeful effort and motivation to learn and develop important skills. If you want to hit a target, it is best to aim accurately and carefully rather than haphazardly firing from every angle. 

Mindful practice is much better than trying to tick every single box. If you desperately try each and every method at the same time, this puts undue pressure on you and you are likely to end up frustrated and confused by what went wrong. Also, if by chance one of your variety of induction methods happened to work, how would you know which one it was and how to refine your technique in that area? That would be like ticking every single answer in a multiple choice exam - one of them is correct, but you don't actually know which one! You can't rush lucid dream entrainment - simplify your practice, take it slow and steady and note what works for you. You can always move on to another technique/method if you have no success, but give it a fair chance before you try something different.

  • Poor Dream Recall
Since I advise all beginner lucid dreamers to start with DILDs (using MILD Technique), dream recall is absolutely vital. I am always surprised by how many beginner lucid dreamers admit they don't recall many of their normal non-lucid dreams. If you cannot recall your dreams, how can you hope to become lucid in a dream? If you do happen to become spontaneously lucid in a dream, the chances are that you will simply forget it and the opportunity to relish that experience will be completely lost.

In order to successfully lucid dream you need a decent standard of dream recall - at least one dream per night. These dreams should be recorded in a dream journal, which will also enable you to note recurrent themes and potential dreamsigns which can act as lucidity triggers in a future DILD. Establishing strong dream recall enhances the vividness and intensity of your dreams, which is a great advantage for your lucid dream practice. Keeping and reflecting on your dream journal entries has a secondary purpose (and benefit) of placing greater emphasis and focus on your dreams.

  • Sleep Deprivation
If you are sleep deprived (i.e. not getting enough deep, restful, restorative sleep) then you will limit your REM sleep, which is when dreams occur. Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on brain function and general health and will inhibit both the amount and recall of your dreams which is detrimental to lucid dreaming.

The best time for lucid dreaming is the longest, most intense period of REM sleep which occurs after approximately 4 - 6 hours or deep sleep. This is why we often have the longest, most vivid dreams just before we wake up. Distractions and unnatural awakenings (by an alarm clock) are often the reason why we cannot recall dreams which occur during this period of REM sleep. If you need to wake early, there are several methods which can increase your chances of having a lucid dream. 

Firstly, go to bed earlier - you will have your necessary deep sleep earlier in the night and then experience your longest REM stage in good time before you are due to wake up. 

Secondly, if you can't get more than 4 - 6 hours sleep in a night, try and take an afternoon or early evening nap, which is another great time to experience a lucid dream. An afternoon nap means you can do some affirmations/meditation directly before you go to sleep, and hopefully (if you are fully rested from the night before) you will enter an REM sleep straight away, while those lucid dream induction methods are fresh in your mind. As a nap is a short sleep, you will also wake up from the REM dream sleep and your dream will be easier to remember!

Thirdly, if you cannot dedicate longer periods to sleeping during the week, or having afternoon naps, exploit your free time at weekends to having lie-ins. Get your full quota of deep sleep and then do a Wake-Back-to-Bed. The WBTB works on the same notion as an afternoon nap - you are fully rested after your 4 - 6 hours of deep sleep, then you awaken and practice some lucid dreaming induction methods (reality check, mindfulness, affirmations and meditation) for a brief period (say 10 - 30 minutes) and the  return to (REM) sleep while the intention to lucid dream is fresh in your mind. Hopefully, your WBTB will coincide with that long period of REM sleep and you will experience a lucid dream. 

Fourthly, there are many innovative technologies and devices aimed at improving your sleep cycles - and encouraging lucid dreaming. Some devices can help to re-programme your circadian rhythms which benefits your sleep cycle and chances of lucid dreaming. Other devices can be set to wake you up just after you are likely to have been in REM sleep, which helps you improve your dream recall. 

  • Failure to Stabilise a Lucid Dream
Becoming lucid in a dream (DILD) is such an overwhelmingly exciting and exhilarating experience that it often causes dreamers to destabilise their dream and either lose lucidity or wake up. Lucid dreams are a very tenuous, unstable state - the dreamer is so close to wakefulness that anything can tip them over the brink. Often when I lose stability in a lucid dream I am aware of the dream fading before my eyes as I wake up. At other times I stay semi-lucid, but the lucid dream environment is vague and unclear meaning I cannot fully engage with it or explore it, rendering the experience unsatisfying and pointless.

The euphoria which accompanies a successful lucid dream is the most common reason for its premature ending!

The best way to prolong your lucid dream is to learn how to anchor yourself in the lucid dream environment and stabilise the dream sufficiently before you continue your adventure. My advice is to stand still and concentrate on something - either your hands (focusing on the palms of your hands is one of the most popular methods) or one single thing in the lucid dream world. You could try touching a wall or another object and not allowing anything else - especially dream characters - to distract you. Another method I like to do is to sit on the ground. The trick is to calm yourself down completely. 

To stabilise the dream, you can try rubbing your hands together, while saying to yourself: 'I'm dreaming' or 'This is a lucid dream', then performing a reality check, which I advise you do after every lucid dream stabilisation. If the dream is still somewhat unstable or unclear, you can say in a firm voice: 'Clarity!' and then engage all your senses - sight, sound, smell, touch, taste etc. 

  • Forgetting you are Lucid
This seems like an odd mistake to make, but it does commonly happen to me. Often I become lucid in a dream and then 'forget' I am lucid and allow myself to slip back into a non-lucid dream. This is particularly likely to happen after lucid dream stabilisation. The key to overcoming this obstacle is to consistently perform reality checks to remind you that you are lucid and to exercise your conscious awareness and cognitive performance. 

  • Bad Reality Checks
The key to a good reality check is to choose an action which has a very different outcome when you perform it in waking life to when you perform it in a dream. However, sometimes reality checks - even very good ones - can fail. It may be just misfortune, or it could be that your dreaming brain has taught itself to override the reality check.

Another bad reality check practice is not performing mindful reality checks. This means simply performing the physical reality check without engaging your conscious awareness. You need your conscious awareness to be strongly linked to the performance of the physical reality check.

Every single time you perform a waking reality check, stop whatever you are doing and focus on your conscious awareness. Ask yourself: 'Am I dreaming?' and instead of simply assuming the answer, focus your senses and use cues from your environment to give you an answer. Perform the reality check to confirm your answer was correct and then ask yourself again 'Am I dreaming?'

Regular, frequent and mindful reality checks are a core aspect of mentally entraining yourself to lucid dream.

Also make sure you are performing enough reality checks throughout your waking day. You need to establish a habit which will transition across into your dreams. This will not happen if your reality checks are inconsistent and irregular.

Research by LaBerge and Levitan suggest that 15 - 20 reality checks yield the best chances of becoming lucid via a DILD. Try to perform a reality check every time you do a particularly frequent waking action, such as walking through a doorway, looking at our phone, using the toilet etc.

  • Expecting Too Much (Control) Too Soon
Many beginner lucid dreamers confuse lucid dreaming with dream control and treat them as synonymous. There are several levels of lucid dreaming, from pre-lucid through to super-lucid. Lucid dreaming - by definition - is simply the conscious awareness that you are dreaming. Controlling a dream - or further - dream architecture are additional elements of a lucid dream and have to be learned after you have some experience in lucid dreaming. 

When you first begin to lucid dream it is very common to have little to no control at all. You need to work on dream stabilisation before you can learn dream control. Even when you start learning how to successfully control your lucid dreams you may find that you are only able to control your own actions, and dream characters remain autonomous beings with their own self-determination and will. You may also find that the dream environment has been created for you and cannot be changed. 

Many beginner lucid dreamers want to jump in at the deep end and enjoy flying, sex or space exploration. If you attempt too much too soon you will end up limiting yourself significantly.

Before you become omnipotent and without boundaries you need to build confidence and self belief. You wouldn't attempt to run a marathon before you have discovered whether you have enough stamina to run to the end of your street, so use this approach in your lucid dreaming and take small steps and work your way onwards and upwards gradually. 

  • Prioritising Sex as a Goal
Sex is the second main reason beginner lucid dreamers state they were motivated to learn how to lucid dream. Many of our dreams are driven by primal urges and it is unsurprising that dreamers seek the instant and risk-free gratification available in the dream world. However, due to the highly stimulating, intense nature of sex, it is common for beginner lucid dreamers to suffer from 'sensory-overload' and prematurely end their lucid dream by focusing on fulfilling their goal of engaging in lucid dream sex. Lucid dream sex requires a lot of skill and concentration - you need to be able to anchor yourself in the lucid dream; stabilise the dream; exercise some form of lucid dream visualisation and control and then remain calm and grounded as your excitement increases. 

Lucid dream sex can also be disappointing for other reasons - your conscious brain may be set on physical gratification, but your subconscious mind may have a completely different agenda and try to throw a spanner in the works. You may think you are wholly motivated by physical satisfaction and release of sexual energy, but your subconscious knows best - it may be that you are actually looking for a more intimate meaningful connection or relationship. This is one of the main reasons why sexual lucid dream encounters fail - either your dream character rejects you outright or morphs into something undesirable and repellent.

If you haven't had any real-life sexual experience it may be impossible for you to translate your desire for a realistic sexual experience into a lucid dream - after all, what are you actually basing your lucid encounter on? Most likely it will be the visual depiction of sex (i.e. sex scenes in movies or pornography) rather than the memory of actual physical sensations. Lucid dream sex - when it happens - can often feel more like masturbation.

Try not to make lucid dream sex your sole motivation for learning how to lucid dream - you will be short-changing yourself in the long-run and preventing yourself from fully enjoying the incredible range of experiences available in the lucid dream world. 

  • Relying on Lucid Dream Supplements & Drugs
I would never advocate the use of recreational drugs on this Blog, and further, recommend that anyone seeking to take legal, natural supplements consult a medical professional before doing so.

Many beginner lucid dreamers think you can pop a pill and lucid dream. In fact many experienced lucid dreamers seem to advise using supplements - or illegal drugs - in place of learning and refining the core methods outlines above. 

Many lucid dreamers ask if cannabis can help you lucid dream. The answer is 'no' (THC suppresses REM sleep and encourages deeper, dreamless sleep), but quitting cannabis can cause REM Rebound which is characterised by intense, vivid dreams. Other lucid dreamers suggest LSD and psilocybin ('magic mushrooms') are great for lucid dreams, but what they seem to be actually saying is that psychedelic experiences are like being in a lucid dream state. If you are awake and hallucinating, you are not in a lucid dream. I have never taken LSD before, so I do not know what effect it has if you go to sleep while it is still in your system, but personally, I would steer clear from experimenting with illegal recreational drugs - psychedelic or otherwise. 

In terms of natural vitamins and supplements (and food sources known to boost lucid dreaming), these can be great for boosting REM sleep, enhancing the vividness and recall of dreams and encouraging lucidity, but should never be used to compensate for learning the basics of lucid dream induction and dedicating yourself to daily mental entrainment. Supplements should be used alongside - in addition  to - lucid dream induction methods such as the MILD Technique. Also, I would advise that you do not take a variety of different vitamins and supplements at the same time - some may counteract the effects of the others and as with trying too many different induction techniques at the same time, how will you know which ones work and which don't? Lucid dream supplements can be very expensive and sometimes a waste of money - especially if you rely on the hearsay of other lucid dreamers or the marketing material from the manufacturer of supplements branded as 'lucid dreaming supplements'. Many effective lucid dreaming supplements are not produced specifically because of their effect on dreaming - they have primary health benefits and coincidentally happen to also aid dreaming. 

I would suggest you learn the basics of the MILD Technique without any supplements and then slowly incorporate them into your routine, one-by-one, so that you can monitor the effects and any changes to your patterns of dreaming. 

Do not just try supplements because another lucid dreamer has given them a positive recommendation - different chemicals/substances will react differently from person to person, and there may be a whole host of reasons why this person is able to successfully lucid dream. Before you spend money on lucid dreaming, try the basic mental entrainment which is free and without risk to your health!

  • Paying for Tuition from 'Experts'
Some lucid dreamers think that because a service costs money if must be tried/tested and effective. This is not necessarily true. Lucid dreaming is becoming increasingly popularised and as a result people will try to exploit a growing audience. It may not be fraudulent - these 'guides' or 'gurus' may have your best interests at heart, but this doesn't mean they are qualified to charge a fee for what they have to offer. The internet is awash with free tuition on how to lucid dream - and you can buy published books by experts such as LaBerge who certainly has the pedigree and expertise to offer advice and information on lucid dreaming. This Blog offers tuition on how to lucid dream, but it does so completely free of charge - my advice, tips and techniques are there for those who want them and cost nothing. Do your research and you will find that you are perfectly capable of getting all information online without spending a single penny.

  • Putting Too Much Faith & Trust in Other Lucid Dreamer's Anecdotal Evidence/Experiences
I would advise that all beginner lucid dreamers converse with and listen to the advice of other more experienced lucid dreamers. However, you should always question how subjective their experiences actually are and how they can relate to your own lucid dreaming journey. 

As I have pointed out in earlier posts, I am a non-spiritual, non-religious humanist, who seeks scientific evidence or validation before I can put my belief or faith into anything. Therefore, when I discuss lucid dreaming with spiritualists, much of what they say is completely irrelevant to my own understanding and experience of lucid dreaming. I don't believe in astral projection, spirit guides, guardian angels, shared consciousness, universal life-forces etc. Therefore any advice which involves the belief in, or embracing of, these concepts will not be of any benefit to my lucid dreaming practice. Despite what many lucid dreamers think, you do not need to embrace spirituality to enjoy lucid dreaming. Many spiritualists are lucid dreamers, but not all lucid dreamers are spiritualists.

Putting your faith into something as esoteric as some of the spiritualist theories I have heard can prevent you from finding out what really works and the rational or scientific reasons for why. 

Be wary of taking advice or information without carefully checking credible sources which support it. 

Also, don't become dissuaded from your own ability or progress just because Person X says they have a lucid dream every single night without trying; or Person Y says they have a lucid dream just from listening to binaural beats in a dark room; or Person Z says eating cheese while wearing a dream mask is all it takes for them to experience hour-long lucid dreams where they visit alternative planes of existence. That's the thing about lucid dreaming - in the absence of a sleep laboratory, a dream expert/neuroscientist and an EEG machine, these wild and wonderful claims (usually made online) cannot be substantiated - or disproved. You shouldn't base your own lucid dream practice on the hearsay of anyone else - no matter how much they talk up their own skills and experience. 

Certainly listen to what they have to say, but do your own research to ascertain whether you have been given good advice and ask for their source material if they have some - any experienced lucid dreamer willing to help a beginner should be more than happy to recommend the books, websites or documentaries they are referencing or borrowing information from. Trust your instinct and intuition - if something sounds like a sham or a little less than believable, it may well be so. Many people use online forums to gain social status, feel self-important and blow their own trumpet, so concentrate on what works for you and take everything you are told with a pinch of salt unless it can be externally verified. And remember, you are a unique individual whose brain will never work exactly like Person X, Y or Z - so while some general basics will work for everyone, some things are very subjective and specific and won't translate across to your own practice. 

  • Ignoring the Dream Self/Ego
One of the best things about lucid dreaming is that it enables the dreamer to engage in a dialogue with their inner-self - i.e. their subconscious. Instead of focusing solely on lucid dream control (which is regarded as some lucid dream experts as superficial gratification), beginner lucid dreamers should also consider the advantages of communicating with their subconscious and unlocking their psyche in a way which is not easily possible in waking reality.

Your subconscious mind is not the executor of your free-will - it is the silent observer and author of your dreams - part of a dual consciousness which operates on two separate, yet interconnected levels. Some people pay psychoanalysts huge sums of money to decode their subconscious minds - you can use your lucid dreams to do this yourself for free. Use your lucid dreams to question your dream ego and unlock the parts of your mind which are shielded from your waking life. 

Ignoring the dream self/ego is neglecting to engage with the richest aspect of dreaming and missing a precious opportunity to inspect the dark and hidden recesses of your own mind.

  • Mistaking Dreaming of Lucid Dreaming for Lucid Dreaming
Many beginner lucid dreamers are unaware of what a lucid dream should feel like. As a result of the influence of 'day residue' and lucid dreaming being on their mind when they go to sleep, beginner lucid dreamers can often dream of lucid dreaming, resulting in confusion as to whether they actually experienced a true lucid dream. However, it is completely normal for something which takes up so much of our waking thoughts, hopes and desires to surface in dream form - even for experienced lucid dreamers. I often dream of lucid dreaming, without becoming lucid at all! I have tried to teach people how to lucid dream - and be taught lucid dreaming - in totally non-lucid dreams! 

References to lucid dreaming do not prompt me to reality check or question the nature and truth of my reality - because I haven't trained myself to use the words 'lucid dream' as a trigger for a reality check. If I did that, it would be incredibly hard for me to use Facebook or write this Blog! Instead I use my 'inner awareness' or another form of dreamsign as a cue. Lucid dreaming is triggered by a deep mental awareness that you are in a simulated environment or version of reality - it is a cognitive process, not a mere reference to lucidity. This is why a steady, dedicated and mindful practice is important rather than simply going through the motions and paying minimal attention to each aspect of lucid dreaming just to tick a box. 

Dreaming of lucid dreaming is not the same as lucid dreaming, but it is an indication that the concept and ideas of lucid dreaming are filtering through to your subconscious mind and entering into your dreams which is very positive. If thinking about and practising lucid dreaming can cause the theme of lucid dreaming to pop up in your non-lucid dreams, it is easy to imagine how all the methods you will be learning as part of the MILD Technique will make the same transition and eventually result in a successful DILD lucid dream. 

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