Art by Paam Sustaita.
Art by Paam Sustaita.

It was 1911 when Frederick van Eeden bestowed the name “lucid dreaming” upon the dream phenomenon with ever-growing popularity. But what is lucid dreaming? According to the dictionary: lucid dreaming (n.) is a dream state in which one is conscious enough to recognise that one is in the dream state and which stays in one’s memory. Since dreams are creations of the subconscious, lucidity allows dreamers to guide their subconscious into creating the things they realise they want consciously. This means lucid dreams have meanings, just like “normal”dreams.

Though many people lucid dream naturally, most cannot – or don’t realise they can – and must train themselves to accomplish it. In recent years an interest in doing so has arisen, with smart phone apps designed to “teach people how to lucid dream.” Though it is common to come across these apps, it isn’t quite so common to come across helpful ones, and many are flagged for spam or false advertisement.

As the desire to be able to control one’s dreams grows, many people put out information on how they have learned to reach an induced-lucid state, and the dreams they’ve had. Cody May spoke to me about her ability: “I always have dreams about being at a show where my favourite band are playing, or about meeting them. In these dreams I believe I control myself getting to the front row or running through corridors. Yet throughout this I can tell my self I’m just dreaming I can carry it on but sometimes I wake up. Also when having nightmares I can tell myself it’s just a dream and panic and wake up.” She went on to tell me about being able to fly in her dreams at a young age and how the tingling in her legs would help her to be aware of her state. “It’s happened so many times,” she said. “I used to always get lost in dreams when I was younger and wouldn’t be able to find my way home; I’d get home by telling myself I was just dreaming and waking up.”

John Benes spoke on his experience with lucidity, which he induces. To start the process, he lies down with his arms to his side, breathing deeply; when the urge to move comes, he resists it. This continues for him for about 20 minutes and then he’s in total control of what he wants to see or happen. When I asked him to describe a dream that stood out to him, this is what he said: “One lucid dream that stands out is that I made a world out of nothingness, from the ground; buildings rose and I populated it with people, automatic cars and basically, a very retro-future world. People were dressed extravagantly, talked in a language that I made up, used the money that I made. I was a creator. And destroyer. When I saw a flaw, I dismantled that world and erected a new one, in the middle of an ocean. A floating city.”

The descriptions raise many questions. What aspects are involved in lucid dreaming? How can a lucid dream be induced? If I know I am lucid, how can I control it? An important aspect of lucid dreaming is the sleep paralysis. Since sleep paralysis is a safeguard against dream movements happening while one is asleep, it is also something that happens during a lucid dream – your body is asleep but your mind is awake. Sleep has multiple stages NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, which lasts four stages, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Lucid dreaming most often occurs during the fourth and fifth stages of sleep: REM and the small time frame before. This is why one cannot move physically despite realising they are “awake”.

Lucid dreams are not always what one would consider good. During lucidity, one can experience lucid nightmares. Whether you are naturally lucid or induced-lucid, these nightmares can be especially frightening if you cannot make them change or physically wake up because of sleep paralysis.  A lucid nightmare can be ended much like a lucid dream, by demanding it be so. But like all lucid dreams, there will be that time when the dreamer will have absolutely no control and will have to wait until the end of REM sleep. Because it is biologically impossible to get stuck in a dreamscape – per sleep stages – one must remember that they will wake up, no matter how frightening the nightmare may be.

For those of you who lucid dream/induce, but need some tips on control, here’s a few tips and tricks I have picked up myself:

Any form of commands can be used, as some people might need to use longer commands where others would only need two word phrases to control their dreams. A Google search of “how to lucid dream” brings up many popular results. A 16 step wiki page, a YouTube video from just a few months ago, a Dream Moods page on the benefits of lucid dreams, and even websites based solely on lucid dreaming – like this one. So where is a good place to start? From the beginning. Learn how to recognise the difference between being awake and being in a dream, your sleep patterns, and even how long you sleep with the average number of times you wake in the night.

My biggest recommendation for any dreamer is to have a journal and to get a book or dictionary that will tell you about the things in your dream. Tony Crisp’s “Dream Dictionary” is phenomenal for those who would like to have a physical copy to look through when they wake. Included are loads of symbols you might come across and multiple meanings for each, and even entries on things like lucidity. Personally, I like to use Dream Moods because I’m often out of the house when I dream or drift off. Dream Moods has been excellent in helping me to decode my dreams, and since it is an electronic dictionary it is easy to use and can be accessed anywhere – in the android app store they even have a free app in which you can save symbols for that day and even have a passworded journal about your dreams.

A dream journal is a definite yes, because with it you will be able to keep track of the things your mind is showing you and make sense of  them. I have both a physical journal and the dream moods app. For me, the dream moods app helps when I am lucid and not under sleep paralysis. This has been happening very frequently lately and I am now to the point where I can get up, go to the bathroom, save symbols from the dream I was just in and go back to sleep so it can continue. Some nights will be filled with endless amounts of symbols that stand out, while others might not. And these dreams might not always make sense.

Here’s one of mine from earlier in the month:

9 December 2013 – No journal entry(s) – Saved symbol(s) for the day: fighting, lettuce, keyboard. None of these symbols seem to have anything to do with each other, and since I was not aware enough to write out an entry I have no more to go on in my decoding than these symbols. Using the dictionary attachments to each symbol I’ve narrowed down to this (with what I’m remembering in my mind that I cannot put in to words – which will happen):

  • Fighting: To see others fighting in your dream suggests that you are unwilling to acknowledge your own problems and turmoil. You are not taking any responsibility or initiative in trying to resolve issues in your waking life.
  • Lettuce: The dream may also be a pun on “let us”. Is there some situation where you are seeking approval or permission?
  • Keyboard: To see or play a musical keyboard in your dream represents harmony. Your life is well balanced.

From this I realised that with a friendship that ended badly, I had finally taken initiative. Instead of relying on working things out with the person who had always tried to cause trouble for me, I had to learn how to let it go instead of always seeking the approval and permission of this person who was becoming very hazardous to my well-being – I had recently done just that, and in doing so erupted  a vast amount of things like online attacks. Though my breaking away from this person and taking control of myself had caused problems, those would later subside because I had welcomed balance back into my life.

Though all of these things are confusing or may seem overwhelming, they are all connected; they are all meaningful. Every day one has three or more dreams, all of which they may never remember. With training to simply realise a dream is a dream, one can start to remember these things that their minds create and eventually maybe even how to control these things.

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December 23, 2013