What is Lucid Dreaming?
This is the ability to consciously direct and control your dreams. It transforms your inner dream world into a living alternate reality – where everything you see, hear, feel, taste and even smell can be as authentic as real life.
This remarkable state of consciousness occurs when you realize you are dreaming – and your brain switches into waking mode inside the dream. In normal dreams, your self awareness is shut down. That's why they often feel fuzzy and distant. But when lucid, the conscious brain wakes up during sleep.
Lucid dreams are a safe and natural state, where you can wake yourself up at any time if you choose. When you become conscious in a dream, your senses become alive, giving you as much control as you need to manipulate your own self-awareness and any elements of the dreamscape you desire. Moving through a sea of the subconscious, you can explore the workings of your inner self with total freedom.
Who Discovered Lucid Dreaming?
The practice of conscious dreaming has formed a part of Tibetan Buddhism for at least 1,000 years. They call it Dream Yoga.
The modern name for it was coined in 1857 by Marquis d'Hervey de Saint-Deny who called it a "rêve lucide". Later, in the 1960s, Celia Green popularized the notion and pointed out the scientific potential of having heightened consciousness in dreams. She was also the first to forge the connection with false awakenings and Rapid Eye Movement (aka REM sleep).
The first scientific evidence of lucidity was recorded by Dr Keith Hearne at Hull University in 1975. He monitored and recorded REM signals from his volunteer, Alan Worsley, under laboratory conditions. However, Hearne's findings went under the radar of mainstream science, and it was Dr Stephen LaBerge at Stanford University who more famously replicated this experiment in 1983.
LaBerge went on to found The Lucidity Institute in 1987 to better understand this incredible state of consciousness while asleep … A riddle that may one day offer huge advances in our understanding of the human brain.
Can Anyone Learn to Have Lucid Dreams?
Everybody dreams, even if they do not always remember them. And everybody achieves consciousness – the act of being self-aware – upon waking up every day. So the idea of merging the two to create vivid, conscious dreams is theoretically within everyone's grasp. It just takes practise.
What's more, there are lucid dreamers at both ends of life: children can acquire lucid dreaming quite naturally by facing down their nightmares, and some medications for degenerative conditions like Parkinson's Disease can cause spontaneous lucid dreams.
Studies reveal that everyone experiences at least one lucid dream in their lives just by accident. With know-how and commitment this state can be induced at will.
There are two ways to create lucid dreams:
1. Dream Induced Lucid Dreams (DILDs) – launched from within a normal dream, which suddenly surges into focus when you realize you're dreaming.
2. Wake Induced Lucid Dreams (WILDs) – launched from a waking, meditative state, whereby there is no lapse in consciousness between the waking world and the dream world.
Let's focus on the first method (DILD) as it is a lot easier for beginners. To become lucid this way, you must recognize that you're dreaming at the time. That's all. And there are many ways to do this by increasing your self-awareness in the waking world and on the sleep-wake border, including:
- Daily meditation
- Self hypnosis
- Reality checks
- Dream herbs
Using some or all of these methods, many people are able to have their first lucid dream within a matter of days or weeks. Inducing lucidity becomes easier with experience, whether you practice DILDs or WILDs.
What Are The Benefits of Lucid Dreaming?
First, it offers escapism – that's why many people decide to take it up. In a virtual reality dream world, you can fly over stunning landscapes, teleport to the edge of the universe, meet your favorite celebrity in the flesh, or become a ninja assassin. It is much more realistic than merely day dreaming or playing your favorite video game. Guided dreams are exceptionally vivid.
Beyond the novelty appeal, conscious dreaming has many benefits, including:
- Problem solving technical, mental and emotional issues
- Being inspired to create original music and art
- Facing your fears, such as phobias or public speaking
- Enhancing new skills, such as martial arts or playing the guitar
- Communicating with your unconscious self
Lucid dreams offer a powerful psychological tool to explore the inner self. As a beginner, intermediate or expert lucid dreamer, you have a limitless personal journey to look forward to.