What is lucid dreaming?

© Clare R Johnson, PhD

whatispageLucid dreaming is knowing that you are dreaming while you are dreaming. Lucid dreams happen while the body is asleep but the dreamer becomes mentally alert enough to realise, ‘Aha, I’m dreaming this!’ This realisation enables the dreamer to guide the dream, go with the flow, or observe events with full conscious awareness.

Everyone dreams every night, and everyone is awake and conscious during the day. When we learn to mix these two ordinary abilities, we can ‘wake up’ in our dreams. Lucid dreaming is a natural skill – it’s simply a question of training our self-reflective awareness and noticing which state of consciousness we currently find ourselves in.

When we learn to notice and question strange events, like a rock defying the laws of gravity by
floating in the sky, we quickly come to realise that we are dreaming.

With the recent discovery in Europe that lucid dreaming can be triggered through electrical scalp
stimulation during REM sleep, and with ever more sophisticated lucidity devices appearing on the market,
the gateways to lucid dreaming are opening wider and the world looks set to wake up in dreams.

How is lucid dreaming different from daydreaming?

difffromdaydreaming

Lucid dreaming happens during sleep, so it is different from daydreaming, which happens when we’re awake. Daydreaming is very easily guided and more superficial; the imagery is less vivid as we are still aware of our body and the waking physical environment.

In lucid dreams, we wake up inside a vivid three-dimensional unconscious world where we can see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Colours are often heightened, as are physical sensations such as jumping or flying. Guiding the lucid dream will not always be easy!

Escape into fantasy?

fantasy Some people wonder whether lucid dreaming encourages people to ignore their problems and flee waking reality. Is lucid dreaming all about escaping into a fantasy world?

Lucid dreaming can fulfil wonderful escapist fantasies. Imagine someone who is trapped in a dead-end job: becoming lucid in a dream gives them the freedom to travel to the Seven Wonders of the World whenever they choose. If a lucid dreamer purely wants to indulge in escapism such as fulfilling sexual fantasies or flying over magical vistas, he or she is free to do this.

But there’s a strong tendency in the dreaming mind itself to ‘go deeper’, because this
is the realm of the unconscious. All our memories, fears, and desires are floating around
somewhere in our dreaming mind. It’s a safe bet that sooner or later, the lucid dreamer
will have an experience that goes beyond escapist fun, and come face to face with
their deepest unconscious symbols, dramas and memories.

When this happens, it’s good to know more about the deep possibilities of lucid dreaming like psychological healing, creativity, how to interact with dream figures, and what to do when all the usual dream imagery falls away and you find yourself floating in dream space.

Lucid dreaming has so much more to offer than escapist fantasies. It can help with nightmares, skill-learning, the grief process, problem-solving, phobias and confidence-building. Lucid dreaming can teach us much about our own nature and the nature of conscious experience. It can take us deep into the heart of our dreaming mind and help us to wake up in our lives.

But first things first – how do you get lucid? And once you’ve managed it, how do you stay lucid? How do you learn to wake up in your dreams?

Have fun exploring!