An Introduction To Lucid Dreaming
Jump to the following topics:
- What is a lucid dream?
are the characteristics of a lucid dream?
- Lucid dreams really
- We can
benefit from our lucid dreams.
dreams are not a recent "discovery."
What is a lucid dream? If we
have a non-lucid dream, we are not aware of the dream until after we
awaken; then it is merely a memory. During a lucid dream, we know
that we are dreaming while it is occurring. While the body sleeps, we
feel "awake" in a world which has the qualities of a regular dream,
and we are able to think clearly, act willfully, and change the
course of the dream around us.
are the characteristics of a lucid dream?
- Our alertness. At our best, our mental skills are comparable
to (or better than) those of wakefulness in such areas as
concentration, reasoning, memory, and control of our actions.
- Our senses. The senses are functioning during a lucid dream.
While our physical body is asleep, we experience the dream in a
dream-body which usually resembles our physical form (as in a
non-lucid dream). This dream-body has senses which are similar to
those of the physical body, so we can see, hear, taste, smell, and
feel. In a lucid dream, these senses seem absolutely authentic;
for example, if we touch someone, the person's skin feels warm and
soft. Sometimes this "virtual reality" is more real than "real
life" (and certainly more real than non-lucid dreams); the colors
have a greater vividness and the sensations a deeper intensity --
from the sound of celestial music to the explosiveness of a
- Our emotions. A lucid dream brims with emotion and feeling.
When we first become aware that we are dreaming, we feel
exhilaration: "This is a dream!" During the dream, we might feel
any emotion, including ecstasy (perhaps during a visit to a
heavenly dreamscape) -- or fear (although nightmare creatures can
be confronted and even befriended, in contrast to our helplessness
during non-lucidity). Lucid dreams give us a chance to know
freedom; we can fly, walk through walls, live out any fantasy, and
even change ourselves into another person. And when we awaken from
a lucid dream, we are not tired from the adventures; our body
feels as rested as it would feel from regular sleep, and our mind
feels stimulated and refreshed (if we took the responsibility of
creating a pleasant experience while lucid).
- Our control. We can control a lucid dream. We can create any
scenario, assume any identity, and invoke characters to play any
role. The range of possibilities is almost incomprehensible. Among
the limitless selections (which would be experienced with utter
realizm): We can visit a dreamscape which resembles the Mardi
Gras, or the moon, or the Egyptian pyramids, or the crucifixion,
or our childhood home. We can meet characters who speak and
interact in a lifelike manner -- and we can create vivid images of
specific people such as our first girlfriend or boyfriend, or a
movie star, or Carl Jung, or Cleopatra. Our own identity can be
that of our wakeful self, or a person of the opposite sex, or an
animal, or a centaur. We can swim with dolphins (and "breathe" the
dream-water), or jam with Jimi Hendrix, or star in a scene from
our favorite movie, or fly to another planet, or enact any social
or sexual fantasy with any partner. There are no restrictions on
the time, place, or activities; anything which we can imagine can
be accomplished with the same visual detail, emotions, and tactile
sensations which we would expect from wakeful life.
Lucid dreams really
exist. In laboratory tests at Stanford University and other sites,
lucid dreamers proved the existence of this phenomenon by signalling
to the researchers. The subjects did this by moving their eyes in a
prearranged pattern while asleep. During the sleep state (which was
confirmed during these tests by an EEG machine), most of the body is
unable to move, but the eyes move freely; hence the state which is
commonly associated with dreams is called "REM" (characterized by
Rapid Eye Movements). When the sleeping lucid dreamers moved the eyes
of their dream-body in a particular pattern -- up and down, and side
to side -- their physical eyes moved correspondingly; this activity
could be seen and recorded by the researchers. Even without these
scientific confirmations, lucid dreamers know that their experience
is genuine; our body is asleep but our mind is awake.
We can benefit
from our lucid dreams. They provide us with a vast arena for
self-improvement, adventure, creativity, problem-solving, pleasure,
psychological growth -- and increased understanding of the
unconscious mind and our underlying spiritual realities. The delight
which is experienced during lucidity often carries over into
wakefulness; the elation lingers, and we feel better also because
lucidity allowed us to resolve emotional conflicts (by directly
communicating with the unconscious mind).
dreams are not a recent "discovery." We can assume that people have
always had them. They were mentioned by Plato -- and by Aristotle,
who said, "... often when one is asleep there is something in
consciousness which declares that what presents itself is but a
dream." Lucid dreaming has been the foundation of Tibetan dream yoga
for more than 1,000 years. Freud wrote about lucid dreams in the
second edition of his classic, The Interpretation of Dreams.
The term "lucid dream" was devised in 1913 by a Dutch psychiatrist,
Frederick Willems van Eeden; it has also been called a dream of
knowledge (by Oliver Fox), a half-dream (by P.D. Ouspensky), dreaming
true, a dream of experience, a clear dream, a conscious dream, a
borderland dream, a power dream, and an awake dream. As a science,
lucid dreaming is relatively new to the laboratory; it is in a phase
(and probably always will be) where a discovery of information and
techniques is as likely to come from an amateur like you as from a
professional researcher. Lucid dreams have been mentioned throughout
- The philosophers. References have been made by the
philosophers Aristotle, Plato, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Ren`e
Descarte. Friedrich Nietsche wrote that he had "... sometimes
called out cheeringly and not without success amid the dangers and
terrors of dream life: 'It is a dream! I will dream on!'"
- The saints. Lucid dreams have also been mentioned by Christian
saints. St. Thomas Aquinas described lucid dreams: "... sometimes
while asleep a man may judge that what he sees is a dream ..." In
the fifth century, St. Augustine wrote a letter concerning the
lucid dreams of a doctor in Carthage.
- Other religions. Lucid dreaming has been part of the training
in certain religious groups. A twelfth-century Sufi, Ibn El-Arabi,
instructed his students to control their mental activity during
dreams. Tibetan Buddhism has a well-developed offshoot, "dream
yoga," which has been teaching lucid dreaming during the past
- Edgar Cayce. He was asked to analyze lucid dreams in at least
two instances. (Refer to #195-51 and #294-51 in his records.)
- Sigmund Freud. Freud also knew about the existence of lucid
dreams. In the second edition of The Interpretation of
Dreams, he wrote, "... there are people who are quite clearly
aware during the night that they are asleep and dreaming and who
thus seem to possess the faculty of consciously directing their
dreams." When confronted with a lucid dream of his own, the sexual
content disturbed him (predictably), and he concluded, "I won't go
on with this dream any further and exhaust myself with an
emission." Freud was aware of the work of Hervey de Saint-Denys,
who wrote a book about lucid dreaming in the 19th century; Freud
said, "It seems as though in [the lucid dreamer's] case the wish
to sleep [has] given way to another ... wish, namely to observe
his dreams and enjoy them."