Richard D. James said the following about lucid dreaming:

To have lucid dreams is to be conscious of being in a dream state, even to be capable of directing the action while still in a dream. I've been able to do it since I was little. I taught myself how to do it and it's my most precious thing. Through the years, I've done everything that you can do, including talking and shagging with anyone you feel that takes your fancy. The only thing I haven't done is tried to kill myself. That's a bit shady. You probably wouldn't wake up, and you wouldn't know if it had worked, anyway. Or maybe you would.

I often throw myself off skyscrapers or cliffs and zoom off right at the last minute. That's quite good fun. It's well realistic. Eating food is quite smart. Like tasting food. Smells as well. I make foods up and sometimes they don't taste of anything -- like they taste of some weird mish-mash of other things.

Lucid Dreaming is a reference to the practice of being self-aware while dreaming. To get an idea of how it feels like, imagine yourself right as you are now, but suddenly realizing that you're dreaming, without this doing anything to your consciousness. Neat stuff. Some people are naturally lucid, but they're pretty rare. Almost everyone else can achieve dream lucidity by doing a few exercises, which I've listed further below.

While at lucid state, you normally have some degree of control over your dreams. The more you take an active part in the experience, the greater degree of control you have over it. I'm talking dream control here -- you can conjure up pretty much anything or anyone you want, that boy/girl nextdoor you really wished you could boink, a situation you're afraid of and always wanted the opportunity to confront from the comfort of your blanket's underside or something really really fun that you couldn't do in real life. Like flying. Flying really takes the cake.

So anyway, some real effective exercises for becoming lucid; It took me about two weeks till I had my first lucid dream and then had one every three days on the average:

Reality Checks: A lot of stuff happens differently in dream state, almost invariably. Willing to fly would get you off your feet and in the air when you're dreaming. Reading something and then re-reading it again normally results in a different text each time in a dream. Also, when you look at your hands while dreaming, they tend to melt. I'm not trying to scare you or anything, it just works that way. I don't know why. If you try these things several times a day, eventually you'd start doing them in your dreams as well, in which case they're almost sure to trigger lucidity.

Dream Journaling: Also for reasons unbeknownst to me, keeping logs of your dreams that you remember helps immensely towards becoming lucid. Keep a notepad and pen beside your bed. If you wake up remembering a dream, as many people often do, take the time to scribble to paper everything that you remember. Don't bother trying to make it look consistent, just log all the bits that you do remember.

Explicit Wishing: Also a good thing to do several times a day along with your reality checks is to explicitly wish to become lucid. Speak it out loud, or, if you're afraid to incur doubts of nearby witnesses with your sanity, just think it out loud.

Use your imagination: Imagine that you're dreaming, and that everything that happens to you at the moment is in fact a dream. Imagine yourself doing stuff you could only do in a dream: Fly, slither up walls, fight big bad dragons... think of yourself doing those things being fully aware that you're dreaming. Don't just think about those things, imagine yourself doing them!

Consider becoming lucid when you go to sleep. I remember once, having fallen asleep to thoughts of becoming lucid (I don't really remember falling asleep, just the bits afterward), I started dreaming about being in school again, I was sitting among my friends in the meeting hall, trying, very badly to become lucid. Sometimes you miss your mark, it was a step in the right direction though.

Take naps: This is not really necessary, but lucid dreamers find that they're much more strongly lucid, much more often, when they take naps. For instance, if you wake up in the morning and have some time to kill, get up, hang about for a while, then go back to bed with the intention of becoming lucid. Take such naps in the middle of the day.

These should be more than enough to get you to become lucid. Standard disclaimer applies. Also, very shortly after I stopped doing any exercises I stopped being lucid as well, I wonder how quickly I'll regain lucidity once I start doing them again.

A lucid dream can be more. Not just a change of reality in a dream. It can be a window into your brain. You can figure out what your fears, hopes, dreams are. You can find out the meaning of life. You can contact spirits. You can use it as a springboard onto astral projections. You can have the ability to control anything and everything in the dream ( if you work at it). Lucid dreams aren't as rare as you might think. It's true that lucid dreams comes naturally to some few lucky people. But you can attempt to induce them yourself. There are many techniques that you can use.

  • The Dream journal- Write down your dreams in a notebook. Re-read it everyday and note strange things that have happened in your dreams. Categorize the strange things into groups. Then focus on why its strange and why it wouldn't happen in the real world.
  • Look at your hands every hour. In dreams, if you look at your hands, for some reason, the dream world will distort and you have a good chance of knowing that you are dreaming.
  • Whenever you get the chance, think about why you are currently not in a dream and what you would do if this were a dream and you could do anything you wanted.
  • Type out on a computer many times that you are going to have a lucid dream
  • Go consult a hypnotist and see if he can hypnotize you.
  • While falling asleep, tell yourself that you will wake up once you have a dream. When you do wake up, tell yourself, it was a dream and i can awaken in it.
  • Eat strange or spicy foods that will cause you to have very weird dreams or nightmares. It is more likely that you will know it is a dream
  • Take naps. Some people experience more lucid dreams if they are napping.
  • Sleep more hours per day. Dreams are more clear if you have lots of sleep
  • Try reading something twice in a dream. Or for that matter, try reading anything! Most people cannot read in dreams.
  • Stare at a painting by Rene Magritte. He will blow your mind so that you have a lucid dream.
  • Read a Carlos Castaneda dream. He will blow your mind as well, and you will have a lucid dream.
    In case you think this is a very occult or odd phenomenon, there is a scientist named Stephen LaBerge of Stanford University who is conducting scientific research on lucid dreams. He has several great books, both of the techniques and science behind lucid dreams.
On a more personal note, a lucid dream I once had: I was in my living room playing baseball when I looked at my hands. My vision got blurry and I felt tipsy and realized it was a dream. I ran out the door and jumped up and flew. I flew around and look at the ground which was filled with bright orange leaves of unimaginable beauty. I flew and flew until I woke up. That is an example of what lucid dreams can be.
This is the realm of adventure...when you can wrestle control from your sub-concious, this is the ultimate form of role playing. If you have ever wanted to discuss foriegn affairs with your Great Aunt, in the middle of a WW2 battle field, this is the way to fulfill that twisted desire.

The trick to having a lucid dream is 3 fold.

1.) You must be willing to question reality, that is, you have to ask yourself, "what really is the difference between the waking world, and the dreaming one?" Once you find the answer, you can test the waking world constantly to find those clues that tell you you're really awake.

  • Look at a piece of writing, then look away, and back again. If the writing changes, you're dreaming.
  • Try and float off the ground. Don't just pay it lip service, actually see yourself floating off the ground into the air.
  • Review the events of your day, as often as you can. Usually this will become habit, and once in a dream the glaring inconsistancies in the dream will elucidate your conciousness.

    2.) Work with your sub-concious, in as many ways possible.
  • You need to, on a very regular basis, allow your sub-concious to play, and/or communicate with you. This can be as simple as alotting some day dreaming time (your favorite method will usually suffice).
  • It can also mean that your sub-concious will forceably take back control of your dream, insisting on it's will being done (don't worry, this means that there's a message it really wants to share, and believe me, if it wants to share it, you have no choice).

    3.) Paying attention to what your dreams are telling you.
  • A dream diary is good for this, as your dreams will follow a pattern which may not be obvious in any single episode. If you work enough with your dreams, your sub-concious will stop having to frantically fill every sleeping minute with urgent messages.
  • This also will help you have more fun with your dreams (have you ever had a nightmare? ever wish you could change the ending? never have the dream again?).

    Or, if you lean toward an esoteric vein, lucid dreaming is the gateway to Astral projection, or out of body experiences. In fact, some sources suggest that a flying dream is really a unconcious OBE, and taking control would initiate full blown projection (some say it's the other way around, that lucid dreaming is just a watered down OBE).

    One thing is for sure though, you will never think of sleeping as wasted time again.

  • One of the lesser-known features of lucid dreams is the fact that they seem to be contagious to a greater or lesser degree depending on the mentality (neural software) of the person. It has been noted in the literature on lucid dreaming that you are more likely to have a lucid dream after reading about them, or hearing someone talk about them.

    I have personal experience of this: when I was 19 I read a book on dreams, the title of which I forget now, and I was particularly interested in the chapter on lucid dreaming. I proceeded to become lucid (conscious that I was dreaming) in at least one dream every night for the next week or so, which was remarkable considering that I only remembered one other lucid dream in my whole life. I emailed a friend to tell her about this, and she emailed me back the next day to tell me that she had dreamed lucidly that night.

    I have no suggestions as to the mechanism that might make this contagion possible, except to say that it can't possibly be a biological agent of any kind (my friend was living in a different country at the time).

    It's funny - most people report flying or changing things in their environment when they talk about lucid dreams that they have had. Every single time it's happened to me, I've wandered around the dreamscape telling everyone I meet that they don't have to worry, the things that are happening are not serious and terrible, because it's just a dream. Strangely, I have mostly been met with hostility. I say this is strange, because conventional wisdom tells us that the characters in our dreams are figments and facets of ourselves, but in my experience the people I meet in dreams have far more autonomy of expression than I would have expected...maybe this is a lesson to learn about the nature of 'self'.

    When I have lucid dreams, my favorite thing to do is levitate. Like, you know, jump 30 feet into the air. Flying is also a lot of fun. I remember my first lucid dream; it was some years ago, probably when I was in middle school. I remember riding a bike down a street close to my house. It was very realistic; the details were all correct. Oddly, that's what set it off: I got the sensation that the details were correct, but that my mind was "drawing" them only in the direction where I was looking - kind of like the flashlight effect, where the only thing that appears to exist is what you are looking at. (Kind of like Schrödinger's Cat.)

    That is the moment where I realized that I was dreaming, and I knew exactly what to do. I remembered a scene from E.T. in which E.T. levitates everyone's bike so as to precipitate his safe return to the big Christmas-ornament-like UFO. I remember willing myself and the bike to lift off the ground, and it worked. I rose above the city and looked around. My mind, faced with rendering a much larger area, started dropping details, kind of like when you zoom out on a map at Mapquest or one of those sites. After doing this for some time, I woke up.

    That brings forth an interesting question: Since people usually only remember dreams if they are interrupted in the middle of them, who knows how many lucid dreams we have that we don't know about?

    One of the interesting side-effects of lucid dreaming is that if you levitate in the dream, it makes it easier to envision levitating yourself, someone else, or an object during meditation. (At least, that's what I've found.)

    I also entered an alternate reality in a lucid dream once. That was pretty cool, especially since it was quite unexpected. This unexpectedness can be surprising at first. Dreamvirus mentions encountering hostility from characters in dreams. The human mind has the capability to simulate other people's personalities - witness the actor as s/he/it "gets into character" and becomes their role for a short duration. Witness adults who act exactly like their parents in certain circumstances, often using the exact same phrases that their parents used. The mind has no trouble simulating multiple personalities across different "players" in dreams. After all, it simulates the way other people look and move and sound, and a personality is just another piece of data for it to process. This ability to partition resources is the same thing that makes it possible to jump up and down on one foot while rubbing your stomach and patting your head, or hold a completely lucid telephone conversation while playing a wicked game of Unreal Tournament at the exact same time.

    At one time, there was on the market a device which was intended to induce lucid dreaming. Worn on the arm, when it detected changes in breathing indicating the R.E.M. state in the dreamer it would administer a tiny electric shock to the wrist - enough stimulus to wake up the dreamer 'inside the dream', but not to trigger complete waking from sleep.

    It was invented by Keith Hearne, a psychologist at the University of Hull, who was the first researcher to have a lucidly dreaming subject signal their state at the time of dreaming, via controlled movements of their body.

    In sleep, we generally do not have control over our muscles - they are 'paralyzed' - but during the dreaming state, the eyes may move rapidly: REM (Rapid Eye Movements) are another way of detecting the presence of dreaming.

    Hearne's subject, Alan Worsely, was able, during REM, to successively move his eyes eight times right and left, which was monitored and observed by Hearne. This experiment effectively put an end to more than 50 years of skeptical theorizing by psychologists about lucid dreaming, since the term was coined by Dutch psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden in 1913, that 'consciousness' during sleep was simply impossible, and lucid dreams purely an invention or illusion.

    A lucid dream, therefore, is not just one in which the fact that you are dreaming is part of the scenario of the dream. The important thing about the lucidity is to do with control, but is not simply control.

    What (to me) indicates the presence of lucid dreaming is that your thoughts, memories, knowledge and intentions are closely connected with the ones in your everyday waking consciousness. That is to say that in a lucid dream, you won't be fooled by the sort of dream logic that serves as a rationale and explanation for events in ordinary dreams - you are, in effect, the same person that you are when you are awake. This (I believe) is not a strict either/or dichotomy, but a matter of degree.

    Myself, I've had a couple of lucid dreaming episodes.

    In one, I 'came to' inside the dream in a large underground shopping mall (I remember lots of escalators) which was populated largely by troglodytes (think Aldous Huxley's 'Epsilons' from Brave New World.) The process of waking was a bit like it is when waking normally - characterized by some confusion and a bit of 'mugginess'. As I went through this, culminating in the realisation that I was dreaming, I was ascending the escalators (the people around became less trogg-ish) eventually 'surfacing' through a manhole in the Crescents, a housing estate in which I had lived previously.

    As I'd been interested in lucid dreams for some years (starting with my reading the works of Carlos Castaneda) I was excited and exhilerated by the knowledge that I was actually having one, and decided that I'd test my ability to fly. My first attempts failed - embarrassingly (there were a couple of 'people' present) I hopped off the ground only to fall back down in the normal way! I dodged round a corner, out of sight of my 'observers', and tried again. This time I was able to stay aloft.

    I found that I could direct my movements by fixing my gaze in the direction I intended to move, and had a bit of fun swooping around the Crescents, arms by my sides in Superman fashion. If I attempted to go straight up, the featureless sky was impossible to concentrate on, and I lost my sense of direction. So I was only able to 'fly' in directions produced by focusing on spots where ground features, or the horizon, were within my field of vision.

    Coming to rest, like Spiderman, sticking to the wall of one of the Crescents, I observed my hands (as Carlos is instructed to do in the Castaneda books.) This was more for the fact of doing it than for the purpose of making my dream lucid, since it had been an ambition for several years, and I already knew I was having a lucid dream.

    I 'woke up' (normally) shortly afterwards.

    What follows is my own Guide to Lucid Dreaming, see that node for another pretty good description.


    Section 1: General Information
    This section is to provide an understanding of the basic concepts of lucid dreaming, so you can determine whether it is for you.

    Definition of the term "lucid dream"
    A lucid dream is a dream wherein you are aware of the fact that you are dreaming. This may happen two or three times in an average person's lifetime, but they can be induced intentionally.

    "Why would anyone want to?"
    Well, being in a dream, you can create your perceptions and do whatever you want, unhindered by reality or the laws of physics. You can make passionate love to anyone you want, kill your boss, anything - just by will. If you become lucid within a nightmare, you lose all rational need to be afraid: you now know that the monster attacking you is not real, for example. If you practice enough, you can even do things that are physically impossible, like flying, passing through solid walls, creating objects out of thin air, and so on.

    It's also pretty neat because it allows direct access to your subconscious - for example, analyzing dream symbolism becomes rather easy, as you can just ask the characters in your dream what they represent and they may tell you (honestly or not is yours to determine).

    It's also good for creativity, since (if you pardon the pseudoscience) parts of your mind responsible for creativity are in a state of intense activity while in a dream (after all, it has to create all the imagery you see around you), so in theory you can instantly get inspiration for art or music with almost no effort.

    Many eastern religions, and philosophy in general, tends to emphasize that what we see as the world is just a construct of our minds, and that we have no way of knowing what is the "real" world. Lucid dreams allow an empirical understanding of this fact, by being in a situation that ordinarily seems completely real at the time and aware that it isn't real. The "history" section later on covers some ways which lucid dreams have been used for spirituality throughout history.

    You can also confront your anxieties in a lucid dream. For example, you can speak in public in a lucid dream without any risk of messing up and embarrassing yourself.

    In summary, the benefits fall under the use of it as an unrivaled method of custom virtual reality, and the more introspective aspect of being able to interact with the internals of your mind directly.

    "Is this difficult? How much of my time will it take?"
    While it comes easier for some than others, virtually everyone who tries eventually succeeds in some capacity. Most people are very likely to attain some degree of success within a month or two. It varies pretty dramatically from person to person, though. I, for example, had my first one 3 days after I first heard about the idea from the movie Waking Life. Depending on what techniques you're using, you usually need to invest at most 10 or 20 minutes a day, total. It's time well-spent, too, since it helps you not to waste the 8 or so hours you spend sleeping.

    It's a cumulative thing. Over time and with experience, you get better at doing it, and many end up having one or two a week.

    "Is it safe?"
    Perfectly. There are some sensations and imagery and things like that you may experience using some of the techniques that could be scary (I'll talk about those later), but none of them are actually harmful, of course. Nothing that much exceeds the vagaries of regular dreaming, which obviously are very mild. It's a less restful state than normal dreaming, so if you have 3 or 4 lucid dreams a night (an extraordinarily rare number), you may wake up a little tired in the morning. Some people wonder whether, if dreams are an expression of the subconscious and a form of information processing, lucid dreaming is tinkering dubiously with your mind; this point is way beyond our current neurological and psychological capacity to know for a fact, but the case against it is that we as protagonists have say over how we behave in our dreams anyway, and lucidity just makes us more informed. People have also noticed that if your mind seems to really have a point to make in a given dream, it's much harder to stay lucid anyway.

    "This is another stupid New Age thing."
    Like a lot of stuff (meditation, hypnosis, herbal medicine, etc.) it's possible to create a "spiritual" practice of it, but that shouldn't discredit the idea itself. Lucid dreaming is especially prone to this treatment, because after all if you decide to, say, explore your past lives, you'll be able to, or at least it seems that way: dreams follow your expectations. As to whether it's just your mind playing along, or you can really use dreams as a window into other realms or the like, I definitely vote for the former. Carlos Casteneda, a major New Age leader from the 60's, was a big advocate of lucid dreaming - and I, being of the skeptic camp, of course consider him to be a fraud, but I won't get into that ;)


    Section 2: Techniques
    This section describes how to attain a lucid dream, and to increase their duration and vividity.

    Techniques to induce a lucid dream

    Intention
    The very easiest technique is to simply think or say to yourself "I will have a lucid dream tonight" as you go to bed. That way, the memory of that thought may occur within your dreams, and you'll become lucid. It seems obvious, but a lot of people don't realize how important this is. If you slept without even thinking about the idea on a given day, your chances are hugely reduced.

    Napping
    Lucid dreams occur much more frequently when you take afternoon naps, so especially apply the active induction techniques I describe later on when you nap. If you're really hardcore you could sleep an hour or so less than the amount you're comfortable with, and take an hourlong afternoon nap. Not everyone would want to alter their schedule for their dream life (and I'm not especially clear as to how this effects your overall rested-ness), but this is a very reliable technique.

    Wake-back-to-bed
    This could be considered a sub-technique of napping. Set your alarm to go off during the night, get up for 10-30 minutes (the longer the better), then fall back asleep. 5-6 hours into your sleep is considered the best window, since it's around where the longest REM periods set in. It makes your subsequent dreams more vivid and coherent, since whatever brain chemistry is involved from having recently been awake apparently lingers. This has been shown to increase your chances of having a lucid dream by a factor of as much as 30. Napping probably has similar or better statistics, but I don't recall specifically.

    I've also heard some very favorable things, particularly regarding the WILD technique which I'll explain later, about waking up naturally (no alarm clock) but going back to sleep anyway. That tends to result in fairly intense lucidity (and vivid dreamas in general), the reasons for which are probably along the same lines as napping. Dream recall
    Most people have about 10 dreams a night but remember only two or three a week, and only vaguely at that. Improving the vividity and number of dreams you remember, plus the general attentiveness to your dream life, means the thought might occur to you when you're in a dream that the feeling is similar to when you've been dreaming before. It's relatively simple to remember your dreams, just have the clear intention to remember before bed and write down any fragmented memories you have as soon as you wake up each morning. Dream memories tend to fade quickly, and then throughout the day, so best to get them on paper as soon as possible. Some find it best to remember all they can when they wake up, before they even move. Dream recall has its own benefits, too, since if you take an interest in your dreams it's good not to forget every one you've ever had.

    Mnemonic lucid dream induction
    Repeat to yourself (mentally of course) "this is a dream" or another mnemonic as you fall asleep, so when you start to dream that thought is still in your head. This works especially well when you're falling back asleep using the wake-back-to-bed technique mentioned earlier, or taking a nap. The goal is to have those words still in your mind as you start dreaming, and at the time when you go to bed at first it will usually be some time before your first dreams start, so this is less useful when you're first going to bed.

    Reality checks
    In a dream, details aren't as exact. Clocks generally don't behave appropriately since your fine vision and your sense of time are off, and fine print tends to shift around a little bit. It's useful to test to see whether you're in real life or in a dream. The simplest way is to look at the nearest clock three or four times, and if time is progressing normally, then you're not in a dream. Do this often in your waking day (let's say every 20 minutes) and eventually you'll do a reality check out of habit while in a dream, and become lucid.

    A few of the more common reality checks:

    • Lightswitches. Probably because the parts of your brain responsible for vision are not very quick on the draw, in most dreams, dramatic changes in light levels usually can't occur, so flipping a lightswitch won't cause anything to happen.
    • Observing your hands. If you really look hard at your hands in a dream, you might notice the details of your fingers being subtly off - a little swimmy, perhaps. This applies to any finely detailed object, but your hands are familiar to you, and they'll certainly be available to look at no matter what the setting.
    • Jumping. In a dream, you tend not to fall too hard, you sort of float to the ground. So jump in the air every so often, and see if you fall normally. This technique is generally only advisable when not in the company of others, unless you're comfortable with the funny looks you'll get when you jump at regular intervals.
    • Breathing. Can you hold your nose and still breathe? I've never tried this one, but it's pretty common.
    • Memory. Do you remember how you got here? How you woke up today? If you're engaging in a swordfight on a sinking Victorian gunship, think, What did I eat for breakfast today? Was I here an hour ago?
    • And above all, reading. Text is usually very unstable in dreams. If you look at some text, look away and look back to see if it's changed. This tends to apply to digital clocks too.

    Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming
    This technique is rather different from the others, because the goal is to stay conscious continuously from when you're awake all the way into the dream, rather than merely increasing the chances of becoming aware of the fact that you're dreaming from within the dream. For many people, it works better than any of the other techniques. It's also handy if you want instant gratification - if this technique succeeds, you're immediately there. Here's how to do it:

    Use the wake-back-to-bed technique (or a nap), but instead of doing a mnemonic or no technique at all as you fall back asleep, instead focus on your breath or some other locus of attention. As much as possible, don't let your mind wander as it ordinarily does as you fall asleep. What you're doing is staying focused as you fall asleep, so that you stay relatively clear even as you fall straight into a dream. This is pretty similar to for example some kinds of meditation, but differs in that you're supposed to fall asleep in the process, and the result is of course quite different.

    Ordinarily when you fall asleep your mind starts filling with idle thoughts and you don't notice the details of the transition into sleep, and eventually those thoughts coalesce into a dream. When you attempt a wake-induced lucid dream, however, you interrupt that process by not letting yourself drift off in the conventional way so that you're aware of the process of falling asleep.

    You're usually not aware of it, but your body goes almost completely numb and paralyzed as you fall asleep, so that stimuli from your real body doesn't effect your dreams very much and so that you can't move around as you dream - sleepwalking is this natural paralysis somehow failing.

    When trying this you might be suddenly aware as your body goes numb and you are unable to move. This can be a little scary, but it's harmless. If you ever want to wake up, all you have to do is try to move, and that'll generally wake you up eventually (at worst you'll end up sleeping).

    Many people will just suddenly be in a dream, or have no memory of the transition. However, what follows are some transitional effects you may experience.

    For one, you likely will no longer feel sleepy at some point. People tend to feel wide awake, and that's usually a sign that you're beginning to enter the dream (you don't feel tired in dreams, do you?) Other effects you may experience include hearing rushing or roaring noises, seeing blobs of color (like when you press on your eyes), and a sense of your whole body vibrating, like painless electricity running through your body. These are also natural side effects of being more conscious of the neurological vagaries of process of falling asleep. Almost everyone experiences the vibration/electricity sensation. Once you do get to it, wait for it to end. Stay calm, any strong emotion may wake you up. Once the electricity/vibrations are over, you're either fully asleep or you've woken back up again. A dream may begin to form before your eyes. If it does, clearly you're asleep. Otherwise, open your eyes. If you're not still where you fell asleep, obviously you're in a dream already. If you're still where you fell asleep then you should do a reality check anyway - you may be dreaming about your room. If the vibration/electricity phase seems to be going on for a long time (more than 3 or 4 minutes, say) try rolling over (not off the bed, if possible!) or sitting up; that usually will force you into a dream (or awake, if you're unlucky).

    A particular variant of the wake-back-to-bed technique tends to be very effective for those who find it difficult to fall asleep while focusing. Stay perfectly still when you wake up (any significant movement will wake you fully up) and then immediately fall back asleep. This is an alternative to the method of staying up for 10 or 20 minutes, so it obviously can be more convenient, and some even find it better. However, if you're using an alarm it does require an alarm that stops fairly quickly on its own so you don't have to move to turn it off.

    The trick in choosing how long to stay awake is to find the right balance between waking up in full (so you don't drift off and lose focus) and being sleepy enough to fall back asleep again while doing this.



    Techniques to stay in and enhance a lucid dream

    Verbal confirmation
    At the very beginning of a lucid dream, it may be difficult to not slip out of lucidity. It helps to repeat "This is a dream, this is a dream," so you don't forget. If your dream seems vague or your thoughts muddled, you can try shouting "More detail!" or such to help keep yourself attentive.

    Focus on details
    If your dream's detail level seems low, focus on the details. This will usually help. Dreams are rendered as needed, so if you're not looking for a detail in particular, it often won't be there.

    That's why some people think they dream in black and white. It's not that it actually was in black and white, but because colors weren't included. People say, "the lady was wearing a hat... but... what color was it?" and assume that it must have all been black and white, since one normally would remember color as one of the main things - but it's really that it had no color, your mind just didn't think to make that part up. It's hard to imagine seeing something without any color, not even grayscale, but that's really what happens. But I digress.

    Relax
    Often details in a lucid dream will begin to fade, or the dream may dim, because you're waking up. This can from all the excitement you experience when you become lucid. The first thing you do in this case is to relax so you don't wake up.

    Spin
    When you start to wake up, spin around like a little kid trying to get dizzy. This blurs your vision so your brain has time to re-render your surroundings, but you don't have close your eyes, which can result in a loss of lucidity. It also utilizes the part of your brain responsible for motor skills to help you to stablize the dream, which is good, since the motor functions of the brain are some of the last parts to go when you are waking up from a dream (of course: the last thing that happens is you regain control of your real body). When you stop spinning, you may find yourself in a separate scene entirely, or one with significantly changed details.

    Rub your hands
    ...Like you're trying to get warm. Again, this a simple, repetitive motor action to center your mind. This has a somewhat lower success rate than spinning, but it's easier.

    Do math
    If your thoughts seem muddled or confused, do some simple math, such as counting up by 7s, to help wake up parts of your brain responsible for logical thought.


    Section 3: A brief history of lucid dreaming

    The first documentation of a lucid dream is from over a thousand years ago, in the form of a letter penned by St. Augustine in 415 A.D., sent to a doctor in Carthage regarding the former's lucid dreams. Perhaps the best-known historical record of lucid dreaming in most circles is the Tibetan Buddhist Book of the Dead in the eighth century. To this day, I understand certain sects of Tibetan Buddhism practice a form of yoga centered around lucid dreaming.

    A twelfth-century Spanish Sufi, Ibn El-Arabi, instructed his students to control their mental activity during dreams.

    In 1867, a scientist named Marquis d'Hervey de Saint-Denys published a book entitled Dreams and How to Guide Them, in which he proved that with relatively little discipline, an average person can grow conscious in their dreams, and able to control them. Saint-Denys documented more than twenty years of his own research, detailing how he first increased his dream recall and then becoming aware that he was dreaming.

    Another major figure in the history of lucid dreaming is Frederick Van Eeden, a psychiatrist and dream researcher from the Netherlands. His first work on the topic wasThe Bride of Dreams, which he wrote as a novel so he could freely present his ideas without being outright rejected by the psychological establishment. In 1913, he presented a paper on lucid dreaming, A Study of Dreams, to the Society for Psychical Research, which described 352 of his lucid dreams collected between 1898 and 1912.

    At least passing references to the possibility of lucid dreams have been made by many philosophers: Aristotle, Plato, Arthur Schopenhauer, and René Descartes. 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!'"

    In the second edition of The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud 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." Later, Freud was so disturbed (naturally) with the sexual content of a dream that he had, that he was shocked into lucidity, concluding in the dream "I won't go on with this dream any further and exhaust myself with an emission." Freud was well aware of Saint-Denys' work: "It seems as though in this [the lucid dreamer's] case the wish to sleep has given way to another [...] wish, namely to observe his dreams and enjoy them."

    Finally, I must mention Stephen LaBerge, by far the central figure in the modern-day lucid dreaming world. In late 1977, LaBerge applied to to study lucid dreaming as part of a Ph.D. program in psychophysiology at Stanford University. He was approved, and began his work, with access to the Stanford sleep lab. Eventually, he came up with the first scientific proof of the existence of lucid dreaming, with himself as guinea pig. He did so by having his research partner record signals he made with his eyes while dreaming lucidly.

    He now heads the Lucidity Instute, an organization devoted to researching lucid dreams and evangelizing the benefits of them. The Institute maintains an FAQ and also sells the NovaDreamer, a lucid dream aid device (more on that later).


    Section 4: Miscellaneous

    About out-of-body experiences
    An out-of-body experience (or OBE, or more New Ageily "Astral Projection") is just that, an experience where you have a sense of being outside of your physical body. The definition of an OBE is highly flexible: the case can be made that even standard dreams are out of body experiences, in the sense that the body you experience in a dream isn't your physical body. Scientifically speaking, we have no reason to believe it's possible for any element of the mind to literaly leave the body, but we can still refer to the experience. Many people consider lucid dreaming a "gateway" to out of body experiences, or even that they are the same thing, and many lucid dreams (especially those incited with the wake-induced technique) do sometimes manifest themselves as dreaming of being out of your physical body, but in my opinion it's still just a dream. In fact, the wake-induced lucid dreaming technique is similar to that which the Monroe Institute teaches for inducing OBEs, but with less high-minded goals.

    Researchers at this point think most OBEs, disregarding special cases like the near death or trauma-induced kind, are hypnagogic (half-asleep) hallucinations, which I'll discuss in a minute. If you are more conscious than normal as you fall asleep (again, as in the wake-induced technique I mentioned in section two), you may notice the effects of ceasing to receive signals from your body, in preparation for sleep. Due to your subconscious trying to account for the sudden lack of any sense of body, you might dream or hallucinate of leaving it.

    False awakenings
    Not uncommonly, you'll "wake up" from a dream, lucid or otherwise, only to still be in a dream. In a lucid dream, people tend to get anxiety that they're going to wake up, and this sometimes causes false awakenings, since dreams tend to follow one's expectations. This is why it helps to do a reality check whenever you wake up.

    Sleep paralysis
    Sleep paralysis is a sleep condition many people get occasionally, and it can be used for lucid dreaming. Sleep paralysis is when you wake up suddenly and find yourself unable to move. This is because you're awake, but your brain hasn't established control of your body yet. It's like the opposite of sleepwalking - instead of not being paralyzed while you're asleep, you're paralyzed while you're awake. This half-awake state sometimes still has residual dream imagery, which can be disturbing, especially since you're typically very afraid since you're paralyzed, and the dream imagery can be scary to match. You may also get a sense of suffocating, since you're panicked but your breath is still automatic, so you can't breathe quickly like you're trying to. Trying to move or to call out helps to break the paralysis, and at worst you'll fall back asleep. But sleep paralysis can be a good thing - it's another lucidity technique, just close your eyes and let yourself fall back asleep while doing a mnemonic. It seems the dodgy half-awake nature of the state can improve your chances of going straight into a lucid dream.

    A note on sex in dreams
    Pretty much everywhere in the world, sex is a very emotionally charged activity, with lots of guilt and other socially-instated anxieties associated with it. In part because of this, sex is one of the things that can very easily wake you up to try. So I'd suggest working for a some time on your ability to stay lucid before you even try.

    On flying and other ordinarily impossible activities
    Flying and such is a little tricky. Since dreams are constructed by your brain in large part based on your expectations, you have to really believe you can succeed. Thinking of a way which you can explain your ability to do these ordinarily impossible activities ("there is energy beneath my feet pushing me into the air" or "this wall is soft and porus, so it will permit me") works much better than trying to fly without justifying it to yourself in any way. Asking dream characters for help can be useful too. One technique for getting started flying is to try to step into the air as if stepping onto a stair, envisioning that there's a platform of solid air where you're stepping.

    Hypnagogic Hallucinations
    In some cases lucid dream practice can lead to a state which is not a dream at all, but something cooler, a hypnagogic hallucination - in a sense a sort of modified dream. Basically, it's what happens when you fall asleep but not entirely, or wake up but not entirely, and your dreaming mechanism is still active. Since your mind is very awake indeed, these are classified not as mere dreams, but a slight glitch in your half-asleep mind. These, of course, are much more vivid, since the cognitive parts of your mind are often entirely awake. The increased wakefulness of lucid dreaming can cause a dream to change into one of these, and these can be fantastic experiences. The line between a simple dream and this state is blurred, but if you have a lucid dream experience that you remember just as clearly as you would a real life event (some claim even more) it may well have been this kind. Note that the majority of these experiences are induced by the wake-induced technique. As I talked about above, most OBEs are probably just hypnagogic hallucinations.

    Devices and software for lucid dreaming
    There are a number of devices you can use to assist in lucid dreaming. Most of them work on the principle of giving you some kind of audio cue or visual flash intermittently, so that if you notice it in the dream you will realize you're dreaming. Far and away the most popular and known of these is the NovaDreamer, which is sold for $275 retail to help pay for the (supposed) operating costs of the Lucidity Institute. To quote the site:

    "The NovaDreamer detects when you're in REM sleep, then gives you a cue (flashing lights or sounds) to remind you to recognize you're dreaming. Cues enter your dream, becoming incorporated just like an alarm or radio will sometimes work its way into a dream."
    The NovaDreamer, from what I've heard, is very helpful, but not quite worth the money.

    You might find some success with lucidity-inducing software, which can play a sound at a specific interval or time, to get into your sleep and tell you that you're dreaming. DreamWatcher (for Windows, which is available for download at http://www.xs4all.nl/~pasquale/TTM/4/3/dwatcher.zip, looks cool, but there's no shortage of lucid dreaming programs, including many free-of-charge ones, available.

    Notables that lucid dream(t)

    Recommended reading
    Many, many books have been written on the subject, but the one that started the modern movement and is still probably the best summary is Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge. ($6.99, Ballantine 1994 034537410X). Ignore the cheesy cover.

    Recommended watching

    Movies about lucid dreaming, or with lucid dreaming as a central component of the plot, include Waking Life and Vanilla Sky.

    Recommended browsing

    • The Lucidity Institute - http://www.lucidity.com/
    • Through the Mirror - http://www.ld4all.com/

    props to mario_god, well, just because he wanted props

    School of Dreaming

    Good morning, Dreamers. As you may or may not know, lucid dreaming is quite possibly the most consciousness-expanding experience one can have short of death or DMT. For a personal account of the extreme possibilities, see my entry at Dream Log: August 29, 2001 or visit my home node. Today let's answer some reader mail.

    Dear stash,

    I have known about lucid dreams for a while, but never really got interested in them until I saw Waking Life (by Richard Linklater; if you've not seen it I highly recommend it). I am aware of several methods of achieving lucidity, such as trying to fly, trying to change light levels, trying to read fine print, but my main problems are that it just doesn't occur to me to do these things when I am in a dream. I try to do a 'reality check' probably 4 or 5 times a day during waking life, especially when I wake up and as I go to sleep. The other problem I have is that I very often don't remember my dreams; or sometimes I'll just remember the last one I had. Do you have any specific advice about these?

    Thanks,
    benjaminbradley

    Thanks for your questions, Ben. They are good ones. Let me give you and our other readers some quick basics. The techniques I mainly use are written about in the 2nd writeup under the lucid dream node, and also the dream spinning node. The most powerful technique I know is also the simplest: think about dreams and lucid-dreaming as often as you can while awake. All "reality-checking" and dream journaling methods are ultimately variations on this. I'm sure you've noticed that a dream's contents often come from your thoughts or activities from that day. Simply put, we dream about our lives; and if your life has dreaming and lucid dreaming as a common theme then you will dream about dreaming and become lucid--wake up inside your own mind.

    For instance, many times throughout the day, I consciously try to fly (no kidding) by thinking about it, willing it to happen. Since it's a normal pattern of my behavior while awake, I continue the pattern while asleep and fly all the time! Similarly if you think many times throughout the day, "Am I dreaming?", and look around you for clues that you are...then you'll eventually do the same while asleep and it will be true.

    You say you remember to reality-check mostly when you're in bed before sleeping or in the morning. The mind works by context association. If you only reality check when you're in bed, then in a dream you'll only reality check if you happen to be lying in a bed. So if you want to become lucid in other contexts besides lying in bed, you need to create an association between the idea of lucid dreaming and some ordinary context you might commonly find yourself in while dreaming. For instance, my friend August and I talk about dreams and lucid dreams all the time. Thus when August appears in my dream, we often start talking about dreams--which results in lucidity. Another example: whenever I'm near an ocean cliff while awake, I imagine leaping off of it and flying out over the sea. So when I dream of an ocean cliff, usually I fly off it. Perhaps if you choose one specific thing or person that you encounter often while awake and somehow mentally associate it with the reality-check, continuing to reinforce this association every time you encounter this thing, then you'll continue the habit while dreaming and become lucid.

    So those techniques are the best for inducing a lucid dream. Sometimes however, it's difficult not to wake up when you realize your dreaming. That's where dream spinning comes in. Read that node for the info. As an alternative to this, I just look at my hand and wiggle my fingers and that seems to do the trick. A good idea would be to do this hand-look-finger-wiggle while awake whenever you ask yourself if you're dreaming, so it too becomes part of the behavior pattern.

    Now to answer your second question about how to remember your dreams better. First of all, if you're in a lucid dream you are much more conscious than in a typical dream and you'll almost certainly remember the dream because of this. So don't worry about succeeding in your lucid quest but not remembering in the morning! All the advice for stimulating lucid dreams applies for remembering dreams as well. Keeping a dream journal--writing something down no matter how small or vague the fragment--has proven invaluable to me for remembering more of my dreams. Dream memories fade so quickly after waking that keeping the journal by your bed gets you in the habit to make dream recall your very first mental activity in the morning. Any other distraction--listening to the radio, planning your day, etc.--will overwrite the fresh dream memories in a matter of seconds.

    Eventually the goal of this habit is that you'll be recalling and rehearsing your dream memories even before you are fully awake. That's the key. You're like a diver swimming down into the ocean of mind, and the only memories you will come away with are those you clutch tight to your chest as you rise back to the surface. Those waking moments are critical. And you may discover that they can be just as thought-provoking as a lucid dream--in and of themselves. Great knowledge and insight is to be found there: between dreaming and waking.

    If you haven't already, check out my home node which rates my most lucid dreams. They can give you a sense of what's possible. I like Dream Log: August 29, 2001 in particular. Beyond that...right now I'm in a phase where I try to get into a lucid dream, sit down to meditate, then leave my body behind. Some people say you can actually return to the waking world in this state and view events that are actually happening (astral projection) but I'm not sure how much I believe that.

    Have fun. And remember: if one can dream anything that is possible to imagine, then one could dream a world exactly like this one.

    Waking Into Lucid Dreaming

    Lucid dreaming is often disregarded or unknown, but is at the same time a very powerful human ability. The process of becoming conscious of your own dream state – which is exactly what lucid dreaming is by definition – isn’t exactly as simple as it sounds. Some people innately have the ability to enter lucidity in a dream with little or no effort, but this is not too common. Others can achieve this through a bit of work and determination. Others aren’t so lucky.

    Just imagine that you could become fully self-aware in your dreams. You really can do anything you could ever possibly envision. Flying, amongst an infinite list of other possibilities, seems to be the most popular notion associated with dream control. The Lucidity Institute (lucidity.com) also suggests adventure and fantasy, overcoming nightmares, and rehearsal for waking life as just a small percentage of the overwhelming potential that comes with lucidity.

    Lucid dreaming comes naturally to a select few, some have them without even knowing it, but to others it can be achieved through simple habits and exercises in your daily waking life. Recalling, logging, and reviewing your dreams can help you find unique consistencies that occur. With these uniform events or visions, it can be gradually easier for you to determine when you’re dreaming by recognizing them as they appear. Though a bit odd at first, getting used to asking yourself, Am I dreaming?, regularly throughout the day can also assist in recognizing your state of consciousness. Additionally, dreaming can be recognized by double-checking specific pieces of writing like streets signs or any other such text that you can find throughout the day. If you read something specific, turn away, read it again, and find it has changed then it’s likely a good indication that you are dreaming. It can even be argued that lucid dreams are contagious to some degree or another; hearing somebody talk about them or even reading about it (maybe even this article itself) may induce you to have them yourself.

    All of this is comes down to a matter of consciously fighting with your subconscious for some level of control. But why do all of these ridiculous exercises just to get a little control? It needs to be understood that this is more than just a little rule over your mind; you have access to an endless amount of information and imagination that your brain can relay to your subconscious. Beyond anything computers, books, or television can do for you, your dreams are afar from a reality of any kind. Without fear of physical harm or repercussions of any sort, you could, for instance, kill your boss or meet that special someone you’ve always thought about it. Again, the possibilities are endless. It’s just a matter of what whets your whistle.

    These dreams are as real as they come. You can see, smell, taste, hear, and feel everything just as you would in waking life. The only difference is that it’s up to you what you’re putting up to your senses. This is what really drives lots of people to learn more about lucid dreaming and how to achieve it, and this is exactly what’s inspired me to research, attempt, and write this article.

    My personal experiences with lucidity in dreams are pretty few, I must admit. I can think of a few occasions when I thought I was in control during my dreams, but really only came to this thought a day or two after a dream I happened to only vividly remember. I shouldn’t need to point it out, but remembering a dream clearly is significantly different than controlling one, which I think quite a few people might mistake. My first, and thus far only real experience happened about a week or so before finishing this article. I had stayed up relatively late doing Internet research about this subject, as a matter of fact, and got quite caught up traveling from one website to another, reading and reading. I finally realized I should get to bed, so I did my nightly routine, turned on some relaxing music and just laid in my bed. I don’t remember ever hearing the second song come on from my CD player, so I must have fallen asleep really quickly. I had a pretty usual dream (and by that I mean not totally off the wall), and I do remember it extremely vividly, more so than any other I’ve ever had. Avoiding some uninteresting personal jabber, I’ll relate that in the dream there was nuclear war (maybe even in relation to class discussion) and my family was packing up to move somewhere remote for the time being. I distinctly remember walking through the upstairs hallway of my house to grab my CD collection – strangely I even remember exactly which album it was that I wanted. This is when I looked at my watch, and then looked back, and then again; I did this exactly as some of the methods of realizing dream states mentioned above. First it was 8:30. Then 8:20. Then 8:15. Something clicked and I said to myself, “hey, this is a dream, don’t wake up!” The next thing, I realized was that I was consciously making decisions to be running around my house and doing back flips down the stairs – this isn’t quite flying, but it’s a start – and then I decided to wake up. I recounted the dream to myself in perfect detail, like it had just happened in my awakened life. Soon enough I even got the effort to pull myself from bed and write down detailed points about things I saw and did in the dream. Reflecting, I couldn’t believe how real it felt. As far as my heart and soul were concerned, it did happen. I really did feel the same fear that I might’ve felt had there actually been nuclear war. It was eerie, to say the least, but enjoyable. However, despite my efforts, I haven’t had another one since.

    Lucid dreaming isn’t just one of those New Age, yoga-driven hippy ideas. It’s real. Scientific studies have been conducted, institutes have been made, and there are an uncountable number of personal relations of these dreams (Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephan LaBerge, Ph.D. & Howard Rheingold has some great individual reports throughout). You can’t get in touch with your mantras, you can’t see with your Third Eye, and you won’t be able to predict the future. It’s not like that all. However, you can have dreams that you’ll always remember, dreams that feel so incredibly real, dreams that you can control and are beyond anything you’ve ever experienced while asleep. (It’s also said you can achieve Out of Body Experiences, or Astral Projections through lucid dreaming, but that’s really an entirely different article in itself. I’ll leave that to someone who is more “mainstream” than I am.) The whole point is that you can avoid the sentiment that dreaming is just a waste of time and get back that once “useless” time of your day.

    The next time you’re being chased endlessly by a monster, you can thank me when you realize it’s only a dream and then place yourself into paradise.

     

    Written for my grade 12 Writer's Craft assignment where we could write an article/(personal) essay about essentially anything we wanted. I don't remember any exact sources, but this is just a lot of what I remembered from doing my own research in previous weeks.

    Node your homework.

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