When I was a child I had a recurring nightmare of standing in a cold forest at night. All I could hear was the wind in the leaves and the squeak of a rusty metal handle on a gas lamp, swinging while it moved in a walking rhythm.

I could see the light it emitted like a small dot, flickering as it moved between the trees in the distance. I would stay vary quiet but it would suddenly stop as if it knew I was there. The lantern would then start moving towards me.

I could not see who or what was holding it as it gradually got faster and faster and started to move with greater ease and finesse through the thick undergrowth. It would disappear suddenly and the squeaking would stop, only to appear again much closer and gaining as I ran to escape.

This dream repeated itself a number of times over the following weeks. That is until one night I recognized the events and surrounding and realized it must be a dream. But why did this thought not wake me up? As I ran, I imagined a large door by which I would try and exit the dream and wake up. I saw the large black wooden door and as soon as I was through it I closed it behind me and immediately felt safe. The space I had entered was a pitch-black room with no defining features or walls. This was the end of that recurring nightmare and the first of what I later – as an adult – came to recognize as a lucid dream.

Although I did not know it at the time, I had actually used a commonly accepted method of transitioning between locations, scenes or situations in dreams that is used by experienced lucid dreamers and researchers.

The basis of this technique is probably the reason I came to use it in the first place. It is a simple way to use a tool from the real world to trick your mind into thinking that this is a logical and expected thing to happen, and therefore lets it continue…but more on specific techniques and practical uses of this phenomenon later.

For now, I would like to say that I am approaching this article as a curious explorer rather than an expert. I have experienced various levels of lucid dreaming once every so often since that first instance when I was a child. However, once I had found out that this was something other people had experienced too, and that it wasn’t just in my imagination, I started to read more about it. Recently, I found a book that really upped the game. It actually described the techniques necessary to make these dreams occur more regularly and gave advice on how to explore and increase control once in a dream. After only half way through I experienced the most vivid lucid dream I have ever had. This was a new level of consciousness while dreaming and was made up of detail that was crisper than I thought was possible.

 

The Dream:

The following was written at 5am straight after waking so that I did not loose a single detail. I have not exaggerated what I scribbled in my notepad: this is a direct copy with some additional punctuation to make it readable.

I am in a garden with my younger brother, but he is only about 11 years old in the dream. We are hiding behind a large tropical plant like a palm or cactus. He is stacking crystals, which are white and shaped like Thai Buddhist charms or small gravestones. I tell him to look after them as he will need them in the near future.

As I walk towards the nearby house (which feels like my house in Thailand but looks like a hybrid with my Kenyan house) I can see my Mum, Dad and older brother leaving through the front door. They are all dressed up smart, although my older brother is wearing black Muay Thai shorts while still managing to look formal. He seems to have uncharacteristically large shoulders like a boxer. They are on their way to a wedding but it is not clear who’s wedding it is. I complain that I did not know that they were leaving so soon.

I turn and walk into the living room of the house, where 6 industrial washing machines are lined up along one wall. I turn to look out through the patio doors and into the garden and notice that the mosquito mesh that covers the opening is detached at the base and floating in the breeze. A penguin is walking across the garden holding two slices of pizza. Wait…What?! “Why is there a penguin with pizza?” I shout to my parents, but they have already left and it is just me in the house.

I suddenly have a strange idea that this could all just be a dream, but I don’t believe it. So, feeling a bit silly for thinking such a thought I decide to do a ‘reality test’ as described in my book. In a subtle manner I put my index finger to the palm of my other hand and push to see if I can make it go straight through (only in a dream would this be possible). I feel my finger touch my palm as usual, but then to my astonishment it continues and I can feel my finger moving into my hand and out the other side. I stand in shock for a few seconds… this really is a dream.

My immediate reaction is excitement followed by an uneasy feeling that I am trapped in a world where bad dreams also live. My uneasy feelings soon subside as I then realise that if this really is a dream, it is impeccably real. I can feel the breeze on my face and the grass between my bare toes. I can smell the flowers on the bushes and trees and I can hear birds and creatures in nearby undergrowth. I decide to see if I can fly.

I look up to the sky and try to focus but my brain feels like there is an ocean of data physically surrounding this, now slightly flimsy, world. The data is flowing like currents under a raging sea and is represented by a school of millions of small fish 360 degrees all around me. I cannot see the fish but I can feel them behind the paper walls of my current world. I feel incredibly small in comparison. I try to float and my feet lift gently off the floor. I hover for a while but feel that the world is not yet ready and it begins to split at the seams. I push on, focusing my mind as I begin to slowly rise above the house. As I look up towards the blue sky it washes grey and the world starts to fade. I cannot keep control and I wake up.

Once awake I am confused and amazed at what has just happened and, due to the sheer realness, I put my finger to my palm again to check that I am definitely not still dreaming. I still slightly expect it to go though, but it doesn’t. My initial reaction is that I am not sure that I want another lucid dream as I do not feel ready to manage that ocean of data. An hour later and I am reading the next few chapters of my book, which describes a lot of the things I had experienced. I am also keen to explore how lucid dreams could be used in a practical way – either to overcome fears, gain a deeper understanding of myself, or to strengthen my mind.

 

How Can I Use Lucid Dreaming?

How can I use Lucid dreaming for positive change, facing fears and reconciling traumatic events? Could I even use it as a matrix style dojo for accelerated learning and practice?

The answer to this should technically be ‘yes’! After all, the basic principal for athletes visualizing success in their chosen field is that the brain cannot distinguish between imagined events and real. The more vividly you imagine them the more effective it is.

What if I practiced speaking in front of the biggest stadium ever imagined, full of people who are listening carefully and looking only at me? What could that do for my public speaking in my waking life?

What would happen if I challenged a dream resident (controlled by my subconscious mind) to a game of chess? Would this level of detail even be possible; and, if so, could he or she beat me? Or to put it another way: could I be beaten by myself at chess?

This leads on to another interesting area of my dream world that could be of use to me: the people that I find there. These are not real people but a projection created by my subconscious.

Why, in the dream above, did I see my younger brother in a child form (he is now 27)? He does not always appear in my dreams as an 11 year old but for some reason my mind chose to do so on this occasion.

If I ask these projections questions, what do their answers mean? Although I do not know what the answer will be when I ask, it is actually me (or my subconscious) that is answering. This should teach me a lot about how I perceive these people, my opinions, fears and maybe even irrational limiting beliefs.

 

How to Start Your Own Lucid Dreaming Experiments:

Step 1: keep a dream diary

Keep a notebook and pen next to your bed to note down everything you can about your dreams as soon as you wake up, even if that is in the middle of the night.

You will start to notice common themes that appear in your dreams. For example, it is common for my dreams to feature a lion, tiger or wolf type animal. Another theme may be the location. You may have the sense of being at home, however you notice that it is not your current home and instead it is a mixture of multiple childhood homes (as in my dream above).

Noticing trends will eventually help you to identify that you are dreaming and help you to gradually gain more and more control over the dream.

 

Step 2: Question and test reality

Is this usual? Does something not seem right? If so, you need to test to see if this is actually a dream.

Just like in the movie Inception – where the main character carried a spinning top that he used to test reality – you need to find a simple way to determine if you are inside a dream.

Try the simple test I used above: put your index finger onto the palm of your other hand and try to push it through. In a dream this is possible… and quite a strange experience!

 

Step 3: How to anchor yourself to prevent you from waking up

Now that we are lucid, the next problem is waking up. Often as soon as we realise that we are actually dreaming, we will either wake up or the dream will fade and move on. It is also very normal for you to forget that you are dreaming and loose lucidity as you drift on through your dream.

In order to solidify the dream and to allow you to explore or influence the world, try looking at the ground, picking up and focusing on an object- or try Stephen LeBerge’s method of spinning on the spot a few times.

 

Step 4: Moving around the dream world

One of the most common ways for people to travel around in their dream world is by trying to fly. However if you would like to take control a little more you will need to use a variety of tools.

Although your dream may be completely illogical, when lucid dreaming you need to make sure you stay within the rules of your brain’s logic. When moving between dream locations, simply trying to change the landscape will put a lot of strain on the dream and you may find yourself waking up. Instead use some logic that your brain can understand such as using doors. Your brain can accept that doors are a logical transition from one place to the next: so imagine your door and imagine where it will lead. Then as soon as you go through the door you can move smoothly to a whole new location.

 

Step 5: Rules of conduct in the dream world: asking questions and interaction

As we already discussed, the characters you meet in your dreams are projections from your subconscious and often represent people in your life or any number of other things. For this reason it would be advisable to think carefully about how you treat them. Deliberately driving over family members in a monster truck may not be a great way to interact with them… What if this had a negative effect on the way you think about them in real life?

 

Have you experienced a lucid dream? What was the craziest thing you remember? What was the most incredible? Let me know in the comments below. Share your findings!

 

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