Most of us have realised we’re in a dream, maybe we’ve even been able to control it. This is lucid dreaming. Most of the time though, we get so excited at this realisation, we wake ourselves up and the dream ends. But what if you could stay in the dream longer and control it?
Tibetan monks have supposedly been practising lucid dreaming for thousands of years. However, scientists have struggled to study the phenomenon since the 19th century. A breakthrough came in the 1980’s, when a study of lucid dreaming was conducted by Dr Stephen LaBarge at Stanford University.
His study confirmed that lucid dreaming was a reality by training sleepers to repeat a specific pattern of eye movements within dreams. Eyes are not paralysed in sleep, so scientists could observe the movement. Brain wave measurements also confirmed the subjects were in a dream state at the time.
Most of us have had a handful of lucid dreaming experiences that have happened randomly. Flying is a common fantasy that lucid dreamers can act out. If you’re looking to explore lucid dreaming more deeply, there are techniques to help lucid dreams happen more frequently, and become more controllable.
The following is a four step technique called Mnemonic-Induction of Lucid Dreaming (MILD), developed by Dr LaBarge.
Step 1: Recall
The first stage of being able to catch yourself in a dream state is to remember them when you wake. Have your phone with the iDream App waiting beside your bed and write down your memory of your dreams in the Diary within 1 minute of waking. Do it quickly, recall after this first minute tails off dramatically.
At first, you may not remember dreams very well. But as you practice remembering and recording your dreams, you will subconsciously develop the skill of recall. You will begin to remember more and more details of your dreams and become more aware of them whilst you’re in dream state.
Step 2: Reality check
The next step of developing lucid dreaming is to practice reality checking. In reality, the physical laws of nature apply. But in dreams you can fly, pass through walls and move things without touching them.
In dreams, our brain builds the world that we see in real-time. If you look at something in a dream like a street sign, then turn away and look back at it, it will probably have changed completely. These impossible events show you that you’re in a dream and you can begin to control it.
For reality checking to work, you have to develop the habit of checking something regularly in your waking hours, so that it becomes ingrained enough that you do it whilst dreaming. Around 12 times a day is ideal.
Checking your watch is a simple check. Practice checking your watch and looking back at it again during the day, noting carefully the change of time, if any. As you begin to do this in your dreams, your careful study of your watch will tell you that time has jumped, or there’s no watch at all when you look back. This is the trigger you need to sense you are dreaming.
Step 3: Lucid Affirmations
Waking briefly in the middle of the night, 4-5 hours after you fall asleep to remind yourself you want a lucid dream is a surprisingly good way of increasing your chances of entering lucidity. You can take 10-15 minutes to read about lucid dreaming or say to yourself “Tonight, I am going to have a lucid dream.”
Another is to use your snooze time at the weekends to wake up in 10-15 minute intervals for as long as you can. This constant switching between sleep and waking will blur the lines of reality and increase your chances of a lucid experience.
Step 4: Visualise your dream
When you’re lying in bed, completely relaxed and ready to sleep, try to imagine the lucid dream you want to have in all it’s vivid detail. Go through the experiences and places you want to go to, doing reality checks every now and again.
Sometimes, you will slip from conscious imagination into a lucid dream as you fall asleep. Other times this process just increases your awareness. You will find yourself in another dream, but can carry out your reality checks and take control.
Lucid dreaming, a tool for self-awareness
Lucid dreaming is a skill that can be learnt and improved. The increased awareness that reality checks give you not only in your dreams but in your waking hours, can improve stress levels and your quality of life on its own.
Go further into lucid dreaming and it can be used to practice physical skills and mental clarity. To extend your dreams, spinning on the spot or rubbing your hands in a dream have been shown to extend the length of a lucid dream. A technique created by Carlos Castaneda.
Your iDream Diary will be an important part of your journey into lucid dreaming. Use your dreams to experience wonderful new insights and go to bed excited to see what your imagination has in store for you.