I’ve recently discovered the wisdom of Tibetan writings on lucid dreaming. For those interested in a new paradigm for lucid dreaming, come back often as I start a new blog series focused on mining the teachings of these seasoned oneironauts.
Continual practice of mindfulness. The main draw for lucid dreaming from the Tibetan perspective is the uninterrupted practice of mindfulness. I have been exploring mindfulness for the past year at my company. If I am honest, I have experienced more benefits in 10 months of mindfulness practice than I have in 20+ years of lucid dreaming. Yet, I believe this is about to change.
Lucid dreaming has always be fun for me. Yet, something has always eluded me. The “Why.” I get asked this question a lot. And it annoys me. I think, “How can you ask the why question when I just told you it is a virtual reality in your head where the laws of physics don’t apply and there are no social consequences to your actions?!” Yet, this question annoys me because I’ve never had a good answer to it myself.
The answer is dawning on me as I read why the yogis have practiced Dream Yoga for centuries. It relates back to mindfulness or “pure awareness” as they refer to it. In “Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep” the author, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, writes (paraphrasing) that not many of us in the West have a couple years to spend in a meditation retreat. Yet in the next 10 years, each of us will spend 3 years asleep. Through lucid dreaming, one can continue the practice of awareness throughout the night. This is exactly what the yogis do when they sleep. Why? Because the benefits of mindfulness are enormous – more compassion, reduction of karmic reactions (reacting to situations instinctively, without ability to control one’s emotions or actions), increased clarity & focus….the benefits of mindfulness are spreading everywhere in today’s business world.
What they are not talking about in mindfulness articles is that you can continue your practice, and even elevate it, by practicing when you sleep. You can develop the flexibility of mind by staying present in the dream world. There are many practices that develop this mindset for dreaming as well as activities to do in the dream itself that increase the mind’s ability to more skillfully respond to difficult situations. Check back frequently or subscribe for updates as I chronicle my journey through this new paradigm of lucid dreaming.
There are several lucid dream devices on the marketplace. REMEE stormed the marketplace thanks to $500K fundraising drive through kickstarter. REM-Dreamer is the other major device on the market. Both fall short in my opinion, but lets discuss the pros and cons of each.
REMEE. The strengths lie in its marketing and consumer appeal. Lucid dreamer evangelists, like myself, should thank those at REMEE for putting lucid dreaming on the map for thousands of consumers. It is affordable ($100) and easy to work (but does it work?) I will purchase one soon and try it out. I’ve held off because I’m skeptical given that it doesn’t know when you are in REM sleep like other devices. For a $100, I’ll give it a try and report back.
REM Dreamer. This is a Nova Dreamer knock-off. The Nova Dreamer is the original lucid dreaming device designed by Stephen LaBerge. It is no longer available (though he has been promising a follow up for 10 years now). The REM Dreamer can tell when you enter REM and then flashes lights or plays a sound (REM Dreamer Pro). This technique causes lights or sounds to occur in your dream that in theory make it easier to know you are in a dream. I own two of these devices, the original and the recently released Pro version. So far, I cannot recommend them for $185 each. I do tend to have more lucid dreams when wearing them, but in over 50 attempts, I’ve never gotten lucid through the intended mechanism. Rather the fact that I am wearing the mask seems to help in that it shows my intention for getting lucid is high.
I’ll let you know how REMEE works out. Feel free to post comments to my FB page and I’ll respond there. If you find other devices or have an experience to report on one of these, let me know!
Lucid dreaming is easy. Despite contrary opinions, the worst thing you can do is think that it is hard. If you do, it will be. Lucid dreaming is one of those quirky things in life that as expectation goes, reality follows. Say you want to meet someone in a lucid dream. You need to expect them to show up. Is that best my saying “Rico, appear!?” Not really. That doesn’t work for me and according to the expert, Dr. Stephen LaBerge, it doesn’t work for most people.
Instead, when attending one of his lectures at Stanford, he told me the best way to meet someone is to connect a story from the current dream scenario. If I want to meet my friend Rico, it might look something like this. Say I am dreaming I’m at my house in Mountain View. I become lucid and then remember my dream task to meet my friend. I might think, “I’m in Mountain View and Rico is planning to come over to my house soon. I bet if I open the front door, he’ll be there.” Or say I become lucid and find myself at work. I might say in the dream, “Hey, I’m in Mountain View, it wouldn’t surprise me if Rico were right around the corner.” This has worked far better for me than anything else. Thanks, Stephen.
Check out my G+ or FB page to leave some comments, happy to reply to individual questions any time.
I’ve been holding back. And there is no excuse. There is a short-cut to lucid dreaming that some of you will want to try tonight. Stephen LeBerge’s research showed this method to be 40% effective in the sleep lab. Below is the step-by-step guide that I personally believe will work for 90% of my readers within 3 nights.
1. Set an alarm to wake up up 5 hours after going bed tonight.
2. Get up after 5 hours of sleep. Read about lucid dreaming for 10 min.
3. Get back in bed and mentally rehearse the lucid dream you want to have for 5 min. Eyes open.
4. Close your eyes and repeat this phrase a 4 – 5 times silently, “Next time I am dreaming, I want to remember that I am dreaming.”
5. Be patient and don’t look at the clock. You will fall back asleep. It may take up to an hour.
4/10 people who try that method are successful in entering a lucid dream. If this doesn’t work for you, there is one more way to supercharge this. Of course you will need to wait for the next post to find out….
You are remembering dreams. At least some of the time. OK. Now you are ready for the second step in learning how to lucid dream – reality checks. Remember the scene in Inception when Dom is talking to Ariadne and she doesn’t know it is a dream? We never question our state of consciousness because 99.99% of the time we live in consensual reality. We have no discernment that there are other realities. Yet there are. Stephen LeBarge describes dreaming as “perceiving without constraint” whereas normal perception is “dreaming with constraint.” He is talking about sensory input. As you have experienced for yourself at some point in your life, dreams feel as real as real life when you are in them. It is amazing and unexplained how the mind can create reality so “real” without the help of sensory input. Thus, it is quite easy to see why we are duped each time a dream happens, even when incredible events occur that defy logic.
A reality check is a step you take while awake. Right now, while reading this, pause and ask yourself this question: am I dreaming? Then ponder your answer, how do I really know? You must test reality. For me, I prefer trying to float. I just tried to float, but did not, so I must be in consensual reality right now truly writing my blog. However, tonight if I dream of this same occurrence, when I try to float, something unusual will happen. This will trigger lucidity. Another friend likes to pinch his nose and try to breathe through it. In a dream, you will continue to breathe. Try anything you like. The key is to do is about 5 to 7 times a day and to really question reality. It won’t work if it is a automatic or rote action.
After a few days of reality checks, expect to find yourself doing a reality check in a dream. This should be your first trigger for a lucid dream. Let me know how make out with this.
When I talk to people about getting lucid in their dreams the number one objection is: “But I don’t remember my dreams.” We can fix this…tonight.
Learning to lucid dream comes down to intention and willpower. Before you go to bed each night, you need to send a strong message to yourself of your intention to remember your dreams. Taking specific action helps solidify intention. The first step is to place a specific dream-capturing pen and notepad next to your bed. It is also quite helpful to have a small flashlight nearby for middle of the night recordings.
Now that you have the physical set-up ready, there is one more important thing to do before you sleep: tell yourself 5 times that you intend to remember your dreams tonight. Don’t just go through the motions, really put your willpower behind the intention. In the same way you would try to put meaning into the words “it will never happen again” to someone you’ve upset, do the same with yourself on your intention to remember your dreams.
When you wake up, don’t open your eyes. Ask yourself “what was I just dreaming?” Give it a minute. Don’t move, not even for the flashlight. Open your eyes and move only after you’ve rehearsed in your mind several times the dream or dream fragment you remember.
Capture as much as you can as fast as you can. Don’t worry about spelling. You can create a more coherent version later. When you are writing down right after awakening, you are still accessing the subconscious so all the word choices are relevant (don’t censor). Capture the characters, the storyline, the feelings in the dream, the feelings you have now awake and lastly, put a title down for the dream. That’s it – you’ve recorded your first dream!
In the next post I’ll tell you how to move from remembering dreams to having really interesting, vivid dreams that relate directly to your life.
One of the most fascinating things you can do with lucid dreaming are planned experiments. Most people probably think this is impossible, but it is not. You can plan to do a certain thing, or experience a certain activity the night before. Here are some of the experiments I’ve done over the last couple years:
1) Shape shift – I turned myself into another animal to see what it feels like.
2) Meet my younger self – I met a younger (much younger) version of myself.
3) Conversations my subconscious – My all-time favorite lucid dreams are conversations with this unconscious self
4) “Show me something amazing” – this command issued to no one in particular results in truly incredible scenes being created
5) “Show me unconditional love” – lucid dreams potential for spiritual exploration is untapped by most lucid dreamers I know or have read about
6) Talking to God – it took me a number of attempts, but finally had a conversation with “God,” who I believe was a projection of my subconscious, but interesting nonetheless
7) Summoning – I have been able to meet with people I wanted to meet with.
For 2014, here are my top dream experiments I plan to conduct during lucid dreams:
1) Experience “cosmic consciousness” as described by Alan Watts in “This Is It”
2) Dream telepathy with a friend
3) Pray for healing for a friend
4) Another conversation with God
5) Conversing a famous person in history
I’ve launched a Facebook page today to allow it much easier for comments and discussion. Unfortunately, about 99% of the comments on this blog are Spam, apologies if you have posted and I missed it.
With the slowdown of the holidays I’ve been able to enjoy some nighttime reading. I completed Oliver Sack’s book, Hallucinations. He was the author of the book, Awakenings, which was made into a popular movie by the same name. The main point of the book is that hallucinations are much more common than we suspect and usually happen to people who are completely sane and free of psychosis.
Another book I am reading is the Irreducible Mind. This is fascinating. I cannot believe this book did not garner more attention when it was published in 2009. Its basic thesis is that the body of scientific evidence refutes common understanding that the mind and brain are essentially one in the same. He explores subjects that most scientists would consider charlatanry such as faith healings, automatic writings and telepathy. Much of the work was inspired by F.W.H Myers, who is one of the pioneers of psychical research. Myers brought Freud’s work to the British public at the turn of the century and coined the terms supraliminal and subliminal for essentially the conscious and subconscious minds respectively. For those that don’t know, academic research into these types of areas still exist at the Rhine Institute, originally part of Duke University’s parapsychology department.
One of the most interesting points in the book for lucid dreamers is Myers belief that through dreams everyone accesses the spiritual world of the subliminal. He also wrote that we should strive to become conscious in dreams to perform experiments. He personally tried 3000 times and only achieved lucidity 3 times. How he would love access to the thousands of oneironauts who can do exactly this! I am inspired to put the books down a get a bit more sleep to try some of these experiments. My next post will be the top 5 experiments I plan to do in 2014. If you have suggestions, don’t be shy. Send me an email or post a comment.
There are lots of blog posts around creating a habit. Various pundits will tell you it takes 45 days, others 3 weeks and others a full year. They break down the habit into bite-size chunks as if doing something completely new and foreign would easy if only the task small enough. I have a completely different view
I think habits are forged when in difficult circumstances the tough choice is made. When I used to run track in High School, I would throw up after each 800M race I would run. Win or lose, my lunch would pour forth on the ground. This was not a fun part of the experience for me. However, it was as unstoppable as my desire to drink the cold Pepsi on the bus ride home after the meet was over. Something happened to me over those years. I formed the impression that running was worth it. The only bite-size chunks in this habit forming activity were the processed bits from 4 hours before.
This morning I had to think of this as I ran into work. I had a bad headache last night. I woke up in the middle of the night with splitting pain in the back of my neck. I haven’t had a headache like this in probably 3+ years. Yet, I wanted to run to work this AM. No, I had to run to work this morning. Headaches are so universal (I have met 2 people in my life who said they have never had a headache) let me generalize and say this: when you can carry through on an activity with a headache, you know you’ve got a habit. Let me know if you spot any habits this week.
I recently read this article in the NYT about Ev Williams new start-up post-Twitter, Medium. I read a few of the articles they recommended to me based on my interests. I found them useful, the right length and thought-provoking. So much of what I see online is reduced to bite-sized chunks because of our ever shrinking attention span. ADHD has risen 41% according to the NYT in the last decade. Twitter feeds and Facebook posts aren’t helping. However, if Medium takes off, perhaps the right balance between thoughtful writing and respecting our attention will be struck.
I’ve continued mindfulness practices leveraging a new app called, Headspace. I highly recommend checking it out if you’d like to make progress with a daily practice of meditation or mindfulness.
For lucid dreaming, I’ve been able to practice meditation twice now with the same result – total dream collapse. I am looking for a new dream task and when I have it, I will let you know. If you’d like to see me try a dream experiment, just post a comment. I welcome all ideas. As strange as it might sound, with an infinite array of possible things to do in a lucid dream, it is hard to actually know which to try.