Ultimate Guide to Lucid Dreaming
I have always held dreaming and writing on the same pedestal.
The comparison, however, goes deeper than most people can understand. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by dreams. Not only was dreaming something that I enjoyed and looked forward to—it was also a way for me to cope with reality. In the dream world, and in the writing world, there are no limitations. You are not chained by any laws. Though freedom can never be truly attained in the real world, freedom means everything in dreams. They can be a source of inspiration for your next book, a way to learn about yourself, and ultimately a way to express yourself.
That’s right—I’m talking about lucid dreams. I am quite lucky in the way that I am able to remember most of my dreams clearly. I was a child when I experienced my first lucid dream—I could not be older than six years old. In this particular dream I was wandering through the streets of my hometown when suddenly, out of the blue, I “woke up” in my dream. The delightful realization that I was dreaming and aware resulted in one single thought that would end up following me all my life: “I can do anything.”
In the subsequent years I was fortunate enough to experience lucid dreams on and off. Months could pass without me experiencing one. Alternatively, I could frequently find myself experiencing a lucid dream two or three times a month. Though I could never fully attain the perfect level of lucidity (I always estimated my lucidity to be around 90%), those brief encounters with lucidity always left me longing for more. At that time I did not know it was possible to make those kinds of dreams happen. It was years after I experienced my first lucid dream that I was finally able to discover what the phenomenon was called. Sadly, what I have found is that this is often the case for many people — and that few of them will even go as far as to learn its name.
What is a Lucid Dream?
Lucid dreaming, unfortunately, is quite a controversial topic today. With the New Age era, it comes as no surprise that some people like to classify lucid dreaming in the same category as “astral projection” or “dream interpretation”. The truth is that lucid dreams have been around for centuries; it is only recently that people have been able to understand them. The act of lucid dreaming, to put it simply, is the art of waking up in a dream. I call it art because, although lucid dreams may occur randomly, the act of making one happen voluntarily is an art in itself. Lucid dreams, however, are much more complex than that — simply imposing this definition on them fails to truly capture their essence and the extent of their benefits. Becoming lucid in a dream is the first and sometimes easiest step. Staying lucid is another completely different story. As I mentioned earlier, what makes lucid dreams so enticing is that there are no limitations. Depending on your level of lucidity (and this is something that comes with practice), your level of awareness will be similar, or equal, to the one you have in real life.
What that means, essentially, is that the “you” in your lucid dream will be the same, old “you”—every thought and action will be processed with the knowledge that you are indeed the same person. The only difference is that you will know you are dreaming… and this is when you will discover that nothing holds you back from being anything.
Countless opportunities will present themselves to you; it will be up to you to let go of everything that ties you down to the real world and explore the magical land of your subconscious. Sounds fun? You have no idea. A Brief Introduction to the Stages of Sleep Before going any further, let’s take a quick look at the five stages of sleep:
The first and lightest stage of sleep denotes the beginning of the sleep cycle and the shift from Beta to Alpha. Often seen as a transition phase between sleep and wakefulness, stage one usually lasts between 5 to 10 minutes. As the brain begins to release Theta waves, lulling the person into sleep, the latter may notice vivid bursts of random pictures appear before their eyes. Some may also hear random, foreign sounds. These are respectively known as hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations. Hypnagogia plays a big part in lucid dreams — the WILD technique (explained in the next post in more details) relies heavily on hypnagogic hallucinations.
The second stage typically lasts about 20 minutes. As the body temperature and heart rate begin to drop, the brain releases a series of small, rapid waves known as “sleep spindles”.
This is when the transition between “light sleep” and “deep sleep” occurs. Slower waves (in fact the slowest of brain waves) called Delta waves begin to emerge. They make up just a bit less than 50% of all brain activity.
Also known as Delta stage, this stage is when the brain emits almost nothing else but Delta waves. This stage of sleep lasts approximately 40 minutes.
The final stage of sleep is the most important stage, not only to lucid dreamers but to normal dreamers as well. REM, or rapid eye movement, is when most dreams, including lucid dreams occur. This stage is crucial to maintaining healthy brain activities.
If a person is awakened during this stage, they will jump back into it right after they manage to fall back asleep. The WILD technique, one of the most popular lucid dreaming techniques, is also initiated during this stage. The REM stage is characterized, as the name implies, by rapid eye movements and sleep paralysis. This stage usually lasts between 20 to 30 minutes and recurs on an interval of 90 minutes. Every time we enter this stage (about four or five times a night on average), we stay in it a little bit longer. How Do Lucid Dreams Happen? Though scientists still are unsure of what happens in the brain during a lucid dream, some scientists have speculated that the lateral prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that deals with logic) somehow manages to “wake up” during a lucid dream. Difficult words aside, what that means, essentially, is that both dreaming and logic circuits become active at the same time, allowing the person to question their experience and eventually realize they are dreaming. Physically speaking, there are no signs to let someone know a person is lucid dreaming—they only exhibit the normal signs that arise with the onset of REM.
Though to this day I still remain unsure of why it is so, I am, and always have been lucky to experience a lucid dream whenever I happen to have a nightmare (with some exceptions, of course). After a while of being followed by some monster or realizing that I am lost in a dark forest with the creeping feeling that someone (or something) is stalking me, my nightmare suddenly changes into a lucid dream and I begin to laugh at the utter absurdity of the situation. I then proceed to fly away or simply transport myself somewhere else where I can enjoy my lucidity in peace. The Benefits of
Lucid Dreaming for some unknown reasons that always baffle me, one of the most popular questions related to lucid dreams is: “Are lucid dreams safe”? As someone who has dabbled in lucid dreams for years (not always successfully I must admit), I can guarantee you that becoming lucid in a dream does not pose a single threat. In fact, lucid dreaming can be quite beneficial to a person—whether someone is able to overcome their fear or improve their creativity; lucid dreaming always ends up being a positive, heart-warming experience. In real life, we are limited by so many things, some of them human-made, and some of them simply there because we live in a two-dimensional, structural world controlled by the laws of physics. What makes lucid dreaming so appealing is the fact that these obstacles disappear. You become the writer of your own adventure, the musician of your own serenade — you become a dreamer, able to soar through the skies or create the most beautiful city anyone has ever conceived. The subconscious knows no limit. Just ask it to surprise you and you may end up coming face to face with its full, intricate power.
One of the most memorable lucid dreams I ever had occurred as a result of a conversation I shared with a dream character. Your dreams, as you already know, are populated with these characters, some of them familiar and some of them complete strangers. The conversations you may find yourself having with some of those characters when lucid have the possibility to be fascinating and enriching personal experiences that can even teach you a thing or two about yourself.
There are an endless array of things you can do while lucid dreaming. Some people have found inspiration for their next novel, some have created a new musical piece, some have been able to learn new skills… and some have even been able to find peace in a particular area of their life. Everything you remember while in a lucid dream, you will be able to remember in real life. The people you meet, the things you see—they are all there to inspire you, and ultimately help you. (If you want some facts, I encourage you to read this study. The latter claims that practicing a motor task while lucid dreaming (it can be anything from playing the violin to dancing) makes you better at those particular tasks.)
Becoming lucid is a journey that takes you to the heart of what it means to be human—by witnessing what your subconscious mind is able to achieve, you will be able to eventually witness what you, as a being, are able to achieve. You will expand your mind, expand your horizons, and experience creativity on a whole new level.
You will heal, learn—and finally find yourself in places you could never have imagined… or dreamed of before.