by Kimbriel Dean: A few years ago, I experienced my first lucid dream, a dream I was able to consciously control.
It was a beautiful dream which changed the course of my life. At the time, I was dealing with intense fear in my personal life. My dream began in this place of fear.
Photo from josephinewall.co.uk
Artist: Josephine Wall
I was racing up a mountain, a crowd of people running at my heels. I was running faster than I’d ever run before. I felt terrified. I didn’t know why I was scared until I saw the animals out of the corner of my eye. Giraffes and rhinos… and then I heard the roar of lions.
When the animals started passing me, I noticed they were abnormally large. They weren’t elephants and tigers. They were mammoths and saber tooths. Colors were brighter and sharper than usual. The scene was more vivid, somehow more “real” than anything I’d experienced in waking or dreaming life.
White tiger and clouds
Then, the rain started to fall. That’s when I realized I was running towards an ark. I wasn’t just being chased by enormous animals; I was also running from the Great Flood. The roar of the lions sent chills up my spine.
They caught up to me. The majestic beasts matched my pace, one on each side of me. I couldn’t run away from them. They were running with me.
That’s when I saw my brother looking down at me from the top of the mountain, only he was the wrong age. He should’ve been 25, but in my dream, he was only eight years old. That’s when I knew I was dreaming. Everything changed at that moment. Since I knew I was dreaming, I was able to take control.
The first thought I chose was, “You don’t have to be scared of the lions. You can run with them, and they won’t hurt you.” I jumped on the back of one of the lions, and we bolted to the zenith. As we raced by him, I pulled my brother onto the back of the lion. We leapt into the ark. I was able to show each creature to their proper spot before closing the door. The waters lifted us up.
When I woke up, I understood I had no reason to fear the real life “lions” I was running from. That morning, I made a major life decision which involved a long-distance move. I learned just how powerful lucid dreams can be. This lucid dream allowed me the opportunity to experience the same intense emotions that were plaguing me in waking life in a dreamworld training ground. My lucid dream was a simulator that allowed me to work out a troubling situation without putting me in any real danger.
Because the experience was so powerful, I researched conscious dream states. Was it a fluke? Was I kidding myself? As it turns out, lucid dreams are a well-established phenomenon. Researchers have found that lucid dreams involve an increased amount of activity in the parietal lobes of the brain, causing dreams to become a conscious process.
The key is to realize you’re dreaming so that you can “wake up” that part of the brain, as I understand it.
As I started to learn more, I began to practice techniques which promised to increase the likelihood of having a lucid dream. While it’s still rare for me to experience a lucid dream, the following basic recommendations do seem to help. Perseverance is key. It may take a long time before you have a lucid dream.
Lucid Dream Techniques
- Keep a dream journal. Keeping a dream journal improves your awareness of the dream state, making it easier to wake up in dreams. As soon as you rise in the morning, write down your dreams.
- Wake Back to Bed (WBTB). Go to bed and sleep for six hours. Get out of bed and fully wake yourself up. Stay alert for 20-60 minutes. Go back to bed. Relax your mind, planning your next lucid dream as you fall asleep.
- Perform reality checks. To learn lucid dreaming, you must be able to distinguish the difference between a dream and waking reality while you’re asleep. By getting into the habit of performing reality checks while you’re awake, you’ll eventually start doing reality checks in your dreams. Pick at least two reality checks and do them several times throughout each day. Examples of reality checks include:
- Ask yourself, “Am I awake, or am I dreaming?” You can write this question down and post it somewhere prominent.
- Look for a light switch. Usually, there are no light switches in dreams. When you ask yourself if you’re awake or dreaming, go turn a light on or off.
- Time. Read a clock face or digital watch. Usually, you can’t do these things in your dreams.
- People and Places. Look for cues that things don’t make sense. Are the people around you the “right” ages? Have their faces morphed over the course of your time with them? If you’re in a familiar place, is it different than usual?
- Jump. In dreams, we often float back down.
- Mirror. Check to see if your reflection looks normal in the mirror.
- Hand. Can you push your hand through a solid surface?
- Hold your breath. Hold your nose and shut your mouth. If it’s not a problem, you’re dreaming!
Why Practice Lucid Dreaming Skills?
Imagine being able to explore fantasies, turn nightmares around and solve problems in your sleep. What if you could practice speeches in your sleep? Explore space or spiritual dimensions? Design clothes? Write poetry or novels? In the words of Frederick Henry Hedge, “Dreaming is an act of pure imagination, attesting in all men a creative power, which if it were available in waking, would make every man a Dante or Shakespeare.”
Today, I read about new technology that can read the language of rapid eye movement (REM). Researchers hope to refine this technology to the point where we’ll be able to play back movies of our dreams after we wake up.
Once this technology is up and running, researchers will have a new tool with which to understand and evaluate dreams. I imagine we will gain amazing insights regarding the purpose and meaning of dreams. I’m particularly interested in knowing more about the potential applications of lucid dreams. I feel we’ll be surprised at the problem-solving and creative potentials held by this state of consciousness.