Step 5 – the MILD method

Perhaps the most famous method of introducing lucid dreaming is the MILD (mnemonic induction of lucid dreams).  Stephen Leberge discovered this method when working on his PhD on lucid dreaming at Stanford.  He wanted a reliable method to have lucid dreams at will.  This method has worked for him and 100s others (Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming).

The idea is that we best remember something without any external aids when we have two things: 1) have a strong desire to remember it and 2) a trigger that reminds us by association.  This type of memory is called prospective memory.  It is a lost art in our world of smartphones and digital to do lists with reminders.  However, developing your ability to remember to do something at a future time without an external device is key to inducing a lucid dream within a dream.

Here’s the MILD method in a nutshell:
1) By now, you should have recorded a fair number of dreams and found certain objects or people or settings that seem to reoccur (we call these dream signs).  For me, my dreams often take place in my home state of Indiana with people that I haven’t seen in years.
2) When you go to bed, give yourself a strong mental “to do” to “remember that you are dreaming the next time you are dreaming.”  Then, tell yourself, “I will know that I am dreaming when I see my friends from Indiana” (or whatever your dream signs are).  This is where motivation plays a big role.  You are much more likely to remember something that is really important to you than a nice to have.  If you don’t believe me, try it during waking life!
3) When you first wake up, don’t move.  Replay the last dream in your head.  It might be that you wake up at 3 AM.  Will yourself to replay the dream and not fall immediately back to sleep.  After you have the dream firmly in your mind, go back through it and now imagine yourself becoming lucid in it.  What are you going to do?  Are you going to fly?  Meet some cool person?  Imagine that happening.  After about 5 min of this, allow yourself to fall back asleep but firmly tell yourself, “The next time I am dreaming, I will remember that I am dreaming.”

This is a method I am trying to perfect.  It does not involve segmenting sleep (which is my sure fire way of having a lucid dream) and seems to be a way that could allow lucid dreams at will.  From his studies, just telling yourself before bed each night “I want to remember that I am dreaming when I am dreaming” might be enough to have a lucid dream or 2 every month.  But, for the MILD method, studies show that people often have their first within a couple nights practicing.

My own experience with MILD is that I fall back asleep too easily and I don’t think I fully lodge the “I will remember I am dreaming when I am dreaming” into my mind before I do.  Last night, I woke briefly at 3:20.  I replayed the dream and then told myself to remember I am dreaming in the next dream.  However, I woke up at 4:45 out of a nice long and drawn out dream, but I was not lucid.  So for me, I think I need to turn on the flashlight and actually write the dream down before falling back asleep.

Try it!  Lets see if we can master one of the most well-known and effective way for master lucid dreamers to have lucid dreams at will.

Step 4 – Short-cut to Lucidity

If you’ve been reading from the beginning, you have been patient in learning how to lucid dream.  We’ve been taking small steps with each post.  Today, I am going to reward that patience and tell you about a method that works 40% of the time according to Stephen LeBerge’s studies.  It is like hyper-drive for lucid dreaming.

This past weekend I had a lucid dream where I was able to practice “shape-shifting” (if you ever watched True Blood or Twighlight, think of the shifters and werewolves).  In the dream, I was watching a television show on lucid dreaming.  The show was talking about how you could transform yourself into an animal and see what it feels like.  Within a few seconds, I realized this was a lucid dream and I immediately transformed myself into the animal I saw on the screen (a panther) and started racing down a row of trees.  I had heard about shape-shifting in lucid dreams, but this was actually my first.  Put it on your list of things to do – it was amazing!

How did I achieve lucidity?  That night I had been woken up by my 2 year old son and was awake from about 3 to 4.  At 4, before going to bed I spent about 5 min thinking about lucid dreaming.  When I fell asleep, I went almost immediately to REM sleep and thus the suggestion of lucid dream was easily incorporated into the dream.  This is sometimes called “segmenting sleep.”  In over half of my 56 lucid dreams recorded this year have been a result of disrupting my sleep pattern.

You can try this over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  Set your alarm to wake you about 5 hours after you’ve been asleep.  Stay up for at least 30 min, but probably not more than 1 hour.  During this time, try to do things like read, meditate or browse websites on lucid dreaming ( is a very nice one).  After doing this for awhile, wind back down and head to the bed.  As you drift off to sleep, tell yourself you will have a lucid dream.  Because you are so close to REM sleep, the suggestion is much more likely to reach your subconscious then when you say the suggestion before your normal bedtime.

The only downside of this approach is that sometimes it is hard to fall back asleep.  Honestly, this is the only reason why I don’t have a lucid dream when I do this approach.  When I do this either intentionally or unintentionally (like my son waking me up), I lucid dream over 90% of the time.  When I don’t, it is because my to do list keeps me up and I just can’t fall back asleep.

Play around with what time you get up and how long you are up.  Find the sweet spot of enough time to wake up your brain and yet being able to fall back asleep.  As always, let me know how it goes and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

First Lucid Dream this Month

This weekend I was able to crack open the subconscious with a brief lucid dream about driving a car.  I had been practicing the reality checks throughout the day (about 5 to 6 times).  On Saturday night, the work paid off.  I was in the middle of a town I did not recognize looking for a car (perhaps my car?)  I said to myself, “If only this were a dream….hey, it is one!”  I did not actually perform a reality check, I just “knew it.”  So I then used intention to create a really cool car.  I did this by simply saying outloud – “Hey, I bet around the corner will be a really cool car for me to drive.”

Intention and suggestion are the key to controlling a lucid dream.  Also, for some reason making something appear out of thin air is much harder then using a natural bridge to a new scene, such as my “around the corner.”  I’ve also used “on the other side of this door, I bet I will find….”  I talked to Stephen LeBerge once about this and he said it was because even though literally anything is possible, our dream world still like to imitate our real world in many ways.  Thus, seeing a really cool car around the corner is infinitely more likely to happen in the real world than one appearing out of thin air.

So, back to the dream.  The car was silver and looked like something batman would drive than any car I could recognize.  It had fancy doors and probably looked most similar to Lamborghini.  Once inside, I was a bit startled to find no steering wheel.  Instead, it looked like the cockpit of a plane, with levers on either side.  I think I could move the car left or right by pressing one of the levers.  But I also wonder if it is a driverless car, like the ones from Google?

The dream did not last much longer than 60 seconds, but I enjoyed the futuristic car while it lasted.  In sharing this dream with a friend, she pointed out that often a car represents the ego.  Here is a good example how lucid dreams can still be fruitful places for dream exploration.  Even though I was “in control” – my subconscious mind was still doing most of the work.  Why a car without a steering wheel?  What does this say about my ego?  Am I in the process of evolving my ego into something more sophisticated or is it “out of control?”  Another friend of mine expressed concern about lucid dreaming and losing the value of natural dream interpretation.  This is a good example of how you can still have both.

Keep up the reality checks.  You will soon have an experience like mine where wondering if this is a dream will works its way into the dream itself.

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Step 3 – Reality Checks

Ok, by now you’ve recorded some dreams.  You are tuning into your subconscious mind through effort and intention.  The work we’ve done so far is laying the foundation of the bridge between the conscious and unconscious.  We are now going to start working on the road of the bridge.  The first piece of the road is the Reality Check.

Several times throughout the day you need to question reality.  Am I awake?  The trick to make this really work is to actual question and not assume you know.  The problem we all have is we just take things for granted.   We assume we really are at work, really are talking to real people, really are getting tired and looking forward to the weekend.  We might be.  Or we might be in a dream.  We are not critical enough of our everyday existence.

So you will need to find a reliable, yet socially acceptable way to test what state of consciousness you are in.  A friend of mine likes to hold his nose and try to breathe.  In a dream, you will have no problems breathing.  I sometimes try to fly – just by mentally shoving myself off the ground (I don’t actually run and jump – though perhaps that would be even more effective if I had the courage!)  The most respected way to do it is to look for text to read.  In studies, this is the most effective reality check being accurate over 90% of the time.  Read some text, look away, and then read again.  In a dream, it almost always changes.  The same thing can be done with a digital clock.  The numbers will change.

Since you’ve probably noticed that at least some of your dream content comes from the day, the working principle behind reality checks is that if you do it 4 to 5 times a day, chances are some time in the next week, you will incorporate the check into a dream.  However, as long as you have been doing it authentically (and not just going through the motions) you will pleasantly find yourself lucid in your first dream.

I look forward to hearing about your adventures!  Feel free to post.  If you have a really cool dream, let me know and I’ll be happy to post for you as a guest blogger.

Lets use the weekend and get the extra sleep.  Happy dreaming tonight!

Some Tips on Dream Journaling

As I’ve been following along with you, I’ve realized some good tips I’ve learned along the way.

1.  Title your dreams.  For example, I had one dream a couple a night ago about being back in school.  I titled, “Back to School.”  The next night, I had another dream about being with friends in our Freshman year.  Not so creatively, I named it “Back to School 2.”  This makes it easy to capture the essence of the dream and easier to find dreams if you want to quickly search your dream journal.

2.  Try to list all the characters in your dreams.  This is helpful to start identifying who typically shows up in your dreams.  I’ve noticed that many of my dreams contain people who are from the high school or college years.  I do not often dream about current people. This is helpful for later stages when we start identifying dream signs.

3.  List the emotions you feel upon wakening.  Do you feel sad?  Nostalgic? Happy?  Capturing your emotions, even if you can’t remember the dream content itself, is helpful in connecting your dream life with your waking life.

So far, my dream recall has been much better since I’ve been practicing intentional recall. I am also finding that after exerting the will power to record dreams a couple nights in a row, regardless of the time, it is becoming a habit.  Fortunately, I do not have any trouble falling back asleep, so I don’t mind recording a dream at 3 AM.  How about you?  How has it been going so far?  Post comments and questions and I’ll be happy to answer them!

Lucid Dreaming Step 2 – Record your dreams

I am not a natural at this.  One of my friends recently asked me if I thought I had a particular gifting in lucid dreams.  The only unusual quality I possess in this realm is the passion to explore the dreamworld.  I’ve met plenty of people who naturally have more vivid dreams, more spontaneous lucid ones and more easily remember their dreams.

To test this, I decided to follow the steps as I write them and nothing more.  Since I started this series this month, I have not implemented any of the techniques outside of the first two I shared with you – find my motivation and get some extra sleep.  The result?  I have not remembered any of my dreams nor have I had any lucid ones.

Until last night, when I employed today’s techniques to record your dreams.  For this step you need to arrange for the following to be next to your bed – 1) Dream journal  2) Flashlight 3) Pen.  Dream journals are best if they are only dedicated to the recording and analyzing of dreams.  There is something symbolic that sends a strong message to your subconscious that you want to learn more about your dreams.  The flashlight is also important because it can be used in the middle of the night to record a dream without flooding your room with bright light from a lamp.  Pick a good pen.  Something that writes easily and bonus if it has some special association with it.

With all these in place, you are ready for the 2 most crucial steps.  Before you fall asleep, tell yourself “I will remember my dreams” several times.  Internally, you must commit to recording the dreams immediately upon waking.  This internal commitment, the summoning of your will power, is what makes the difference.  Telling yourself to remember your dreams but not having the commitment to actually write them down at 4 AM won’t cut it.  I did this last night and I’m not sure when it was that I woke in the middle of the night, but I got the pen and wrote on the paper next to my bed at 2 different times.  If I had not, I wouldn’t be able to tell you a thing about my dreams last night.  Dreams are like cobwebs. Beautiful and intricate, but easily brushed away with the hubbub of the morning routine.

One last tip for maximum recall – do not move a muscle once you awake.  Review the dream in your mind, play it back a few times before you reach for your flashlight, pen and journal.  This helps cement the dream.  Especially fragile ones can vanish even before you write them down without this technique.

To summarize:
1.  Arrange for a flashlight, pen and journal to be bedside
2.  Tell yourself “I will remember my dreams” before falling asleep
3.  Commit internally that you will record your dreams no matter what time you wake up
4.  Don’t move when you wake up.  Replay the dream in your mind before writing it down.
5.  Write the dream down as fast as you can – focus on the key parts

This will work for you even if you claim to never remember your dreams.  It takes will power and determination, but reflecting on your dreams, lucid or not, can be a fascinating tool for self-discovery.  Happy dreaming!