Becoming lucid is like crossing a threshold into a magical world. The moment we say to ourselves, ‘This is a dream!’ the dream world glows with brighter life and colour, and objects seem doubly alive. The classic 1902 quote from Hugh Calloway (Oliver Fox) says it all:
the solution flashed upon me: though this glorious summer morning seemed as real as real could be, I was dreaming! …Instantly the vividness of life increased a hundred fold. Never had the sea and sky and trees shone with such glamorous beauty; even the commonplace houses seemed alive and mystically beautiful. Never had I felt so absolutely well, so clear-brained, so inexpressibly free!
Why does becoming conscious make such a difference to the dream? Usually, we dream without knowing we dream. The strangest things happen and we accept them as if the dream world is actual waking reality. We stop to chat to a dead relative while out strolling by the river, and don’t think to remember that they are dead and so we must be dreaming this. At a business meeting we suddenly realise we’re wearing pyjamas – we forgot to get dressed this morning! Instead of grasping that this is a dream, we squirm with embarrassment.
When we realise we’re dreaming, we break out of this mental stupor. We understand that our body is in bed, asleep. We understand that we are seeing and experiencing everything through our dream body. We understand that everything from time and gravity to interactions with people and animals we meet follows different rules to those we’re used to in waking life. This dropping of the veil of illusion sharpens our own consciousness so that we feel fully alive in this moment of lucid awareness. In response, the dreamscape, colours, sounds and sensations sharpen and brighten and become more aware, too. Lucid dreamer Richard Schiffman describes the intensity of lucid dreaming:
The music that we hear during lucid dreams is rapturous and drenched in feeling; the colors are more subtle and vibrant than the ones we see in the ‘real world’; the aromas and tastes are more real than real, and may linger even after awakening; sex is explosive and ecstatic; and the insights we receive in lucid dreams are profound, if frequently difficult to put into words. A lucid dream, in other words, can be an intoxicating glimpse of what life might be like if we lived, as the Zen masters recommend, fully in the now – alert, fiercely present and with wide open hearts.
Even after thousands of lucid dreams, there’s still something miraculous about waking up inside a dream. Highly experienced lucid dreamers don’t always get the full ‘wow’ effect upon becoming lucid since they’ve done it so many times and grow used to the experience. Still, the sense of heightened awareness, the tingle of the dream body as you start to fly, and the deeper realities you can seek out and explore in lucid dreams make the experience endlessly exciting. We can bring the lessons we learn from lucid dreaming into our waking lives to help us to live lucidly, with greater awareness and compassion.