Once you’ve learned how to get lucid and how to stay lucid, the next step for most people is learning to explore and guide the dream. Lucid dreaming is not all about ‘control’ – each dreamer can decide for themselves how much or how little they want to guide the dream. It’s perfectly possible to have a lucid dream where no attempt is made at all to change anything. Also, it’s not usually possible to control every single element of a lucid dream. On the other hand, with all the talk about whether or not people should ‘control’ their dreams, it seems to me that one big thing gets overlooked – the fact that it’s almost impossible not to affect the dream! Simply by thinking thoughts and feeling emotions, the dreamer transmits information to the dream, and the dream responds.
What is ‘dream control’? My 2006 PhD research identified four main methods of engaging with a lucid dream:
If you stop in a lucid dream and just watch, the dream will continue to create, morph and flow, without you ‘willing’ anything. The leaves on the dream trees will move realistically in the breeze, yet you’ll see a stag pass by and notice that its hooves aren’t touching the forest floor. Watching the scene, it seems that none of this has come from you: the dream seems to be amusing itself, playing and creating under its own steam. It’s a fascinating way of learning more about your dreaming mind.
Lucid dreamers often choose to go with the flow of action in the dream. If you become lucid paragliding over a mountainous vista, rather than deciding to teleport to a nightclub and find a movie star to have sex with, you continue to hang in your paraglider enjoying the view, and remain open to whatever the dream chooses to create. This method is wonderful as you are fully immersed in the multi-sensory world of the dream while remaining lucid and able to marvel at the complexity and fabulousness of the dream.
This is when an impulse is given to the lucid dream, such as asking a question (What should I do with my life?) or making a request (Fly me into outer space!), and then simply seeing what happens and going with the flow. This can be incredibly creative, as the dreamer and the dream respond to each other. I’ve used this to help me with specific creative projects such as writing my novels, by asking to meet my novel characters or experience the world through their eyes.
A lucid dreamer is free to experiment with dream control, but even in the most lucid of lucid dreams, it seems very rare for the dreamer to have control over every aspect of the dream. The colour of the sky, the feel of the sand, the Pterodactyl that unexpectedly flies past are often ready-created background elements or what I call ‘dream furniture’. The dream continues to create dream furniture regardless of whether the lucid dreamer is trying to control the main action or not. So a continuous control lucid dream means a dream where the lucid dreamer is continually exerting their will to guide and shape events: ‘Now I’m going to dive into the ocean (splash!). Now I’m going to meet a hump-backed whale and ride on its back (wow!). Now I’m going to turn myself into a sea-horse…’
How to guide lucid dreams
- If you want to guide a lucid dream, first take a deep breath and stabilise the dream scene.
- Clear, firm thoughts work best when making lucid dream requests, as do those with strong emotions behind them. ‘Show me the most beautiful landscape!’ will work best if you feel excited anticipation as you state your request.
- You don’t need to speak your questions or requests aloud as the dream will hear your thoughts anyway, but sometimes this can help to add power – try shouting, or singing!
- Be respectful of the dream – try not to force things as this rarely works. If a particular desire, such as flying, doesn’t seem to be working out for you, relax and see what the dream offers instead! There’s no point in persisting with a failing plan and waking up frustrated – why waste precious lucid time?
- Try picturing a new scene and feel yourself being pulled there, or it materialising around you.
- Open a door: this is a simple lucid dream trick to get something to appear. Look around in the dream for anything that could serve as a portal – a window, a large rock to look behind. Then say, ‘behind that rock I will find…’ Fully expect to find what you’re looking for.