Take control of your dreams while you sleep and your could change your waking life for the better, says expert Charlie Morley
What is lucid dreaming?
It’s the art of becoming conscious within your dreams. A lucid dream is one in which you think, ‘Aha! I’m dreaming!’ while you’re still asleep. Once you become conscious within a dream, you can interact with and direct it at will, dancing with your unconscious mind.
Lucid dreaming is a form of mind training in which we learn consciously to recognise we’re in a dream, while we are in it. As with all forms of mind training, the aim is to be more aware and more awake, to switch off the autopilot and to wake up to life. To dream lucidly is to live lucidly.
Studies from Frankfurt University’s neurological clinic and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry have found that specific alterations to brain physiology appear once a dreamer becomes lucid. Using brainimaging technology such as magnetic resonance tomography and EEG, scientists can now pinpoint the actual ‘Aha! I’m dreaming!’ moment of lucid awareness and its neurophysiological correlates. So basically, lucid dreaming is for real. Most people have had a lucid dream at some point in their lives, but through the process of learning the art of lucid dreaming we can come to experience this amazing phenomenon intentionally and at will.
What are the benefits?
There are so many benefits to lucid dreaming, but in a nutshell, once we become conscious within our unconscious mind, we can optimise the functioning of our body and mind while we sleep.
A few of my favourite benefits of lucid dreaming are:
• Exploring the unconscious: you are literally walking around a huge virtual-reality simulation of your own mind.
• Engaging in spiritual practice while asleep – this is the main aim of Tibetan dream yoga.
• Physical healing: a very powerful placebo effect can be engaged from within the lucid dream.
• Asking questions/problem-solving – the unconscious has access to huge amounts of data, which makes it a great place for creative thinking.
• Integrating the inner child – psychological integration of childhood trauma can be effected by invoking and embracing the archetype of the inner child
Once lucid, we have the ability to interact with the dream and co-create the narrative. We can choreograph our dream experience, calling out for what we would like to happen and intentionally healing parts of our mind from within.
I’ve heard from people around the world who’ve all used their lucid dreams to unpack different aspects of their psychological baggage. One man used his lucid dreams to explore his sexual behaviour – by meeting a dream character who told him he was ‘the physical manifestation of your fear of commitment’, while a young woman used her lucid dream to meet and forgive the memory of the abuser from her childhood. This potential for healing is one of the deepest benefits of the practice.
How to start doing it
Dream recall is one of the most important aspects of lucid dream training. Some say that until you regularly remember your dreams you might be having lucid dreams every night without realising it! Although that’s a possibility, it’s actually far more likely that if you don’t remember your dreams you probably aren’t going to have many lucid ones. Why? Because the more conscious you are of your dreams, the easier it will be to become conscious within your dreams.
Five steps to boosting your dream recall
1. Set your intention to recall your dreams before you start dreaming. Before bed and even as you’re falling asleep, recite over and over in your mind: ‘Tonight, I remember my dreams. I have excellent dream recall.’
2. If you want to remember your dreams, try waking yourself during a dream period so that it is fresh in your mind. How do we know when these occur? The last two hours of your sleep cycle are when your longest dream periods occur.
3. Often, the memories of our dreams are felt in our bodies rather than our minds, so don’t forget to explore any feelings in your body that you wake up with. Sometimes my recollection of a dream is as simple as: ‘Can’t remember much of the dream but I woke with a feeling of happiness in my belly.’
4. If you can recall just one fact or feeling from your dream, you can work backwards from that point, eventually gathering the rest of the dream. As soon as you wake up, ask yourself some questions: Where was I? What was I just doing? How do I feel?
5. Don’t give up on your dream if you can’t remember it straight away. Often, my dreams come back to me while I’m having a cup of tea over breakfast, or sometimes even as late as the following afternoon when I become drowsy and my mind edges back to the dream state. Give yourself space to remember.
The most important of these five steps is the first one: as you fall asleep strongly set your intention to remember your dreams.
Once you start to recall your dreams you can then begin to spot patterns: ‘Oh I often dream of my dead Grandma,’ or ‘I always dream I’m back at school.’ By recognising these patterns we can create lucidity triggers by telling ourselves before bed: ‘The next time I see my dead grandma I know that I’m dreaming!’ for example. This trigger will then be activated when you next dream of Grandma leading (with practice!) to you recognising that you are dreaming from within the dream.
For dozens of in depth techniques check out my teo books on the subject Dreams of Awakening and Lucid Dreaming: A Beginners Guide.
For the past nine years Charlie has run retreats and workshops in more than 20 countries and continues to teach internationally. He has lived at Kagyu Samye Dzong Buddhist Centre in London with his wife Jade for the past seven years. For info on workshops and retreats see charliemorley.com
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