Drop the books, stop all the research, and simply do. Follow these few simple steps (which require only discipline), and unlock a potential that every one of us was born with; the capability to lucid dream.
Lucid dreams present the potential to be fully conscious in a reality that truly is indistinguishable from our waking reality. What’s even more incredible, is that while fully conscious inside a lucid dream, anything we imagine to be, can be. But, this article isn’t intended to discuss what lucid dreaming is, it’s to offer the lucid dreaming techniques that have worked for me, time and time again over the past 20 years of exploring this incredible world that exists within our own minds.
STEP 1 – DISCIPLINE
It’s a busy world full of flashing lights and Facebook and Twitter and caring about every detail of our friends’ lives as well as making sure everyone knows every detail of our own. Within a few short years, we’ve been plunged into a mainstream dream come true: We’re all obsessed with the material world, and have become avid consumers of material things as a result.
As a result, who has time to sit quietly and meditate on the dreams we had the night before when there is an alarm going off and so much to do and see an experience on blinking screens in our workplace, in our pockets, and on our desktops at home? Little do we realize that our worlds are becoming compartmentalized, separated from the natural world of plants and animals, a connection with this precious planet earth, and to the power of our own minds.
Without stepping onto my soapbox: With my busy world of so many blinking lights and shiny new things around me, the simple act of remaining disciplined to follow the next few steps has been my biggest impediment to successful lucid dreaming.
It not only takes passion to learn the art of lucid dreaming, it takes the discipline to follow the steps on a regular basis, to make it part of your routine, to be conscious of lucid dreaming during your waking hours, in order to more fully explore a fully-conscious dream world.
STEP 2 – DREAM JOURNAL
For me, the single-most important step towards having a lucid dream (next to discipline) is to keep a dream journal. As is in our waking world, something we’ve heard our whole lives is that practice makes perfect. Why would this be any different in our dream world?
A dream journal helps you to get familiar with your dreams and to recognize the landscape of the dream world. It helps you recognize patterns within your dreams. It helps you to learn when you’re most likely to dream, what foods you may have eaten and when that seemed to help induce vivid dreaming, as well as the state of mind you may have been in before going to sleep, what you were wearing, how warm or cold or loud or quiet the room you went to sleep in was.
These are all important details that can help you have vivid dreams more frequently as well as dreams that turn lucid more often. If nothing else, though, the simple act of keeping a dream journal has been proven to increase the frequency of dreams. Dream journals also help to build the discipline needed to increase dream recall and to increase the vividness of dreams.
My dream journal consists of a few key points in addition to the dream itself. I include what dreaming herbs I ingested the night before (if any), as well as my state of mind, as well as any dream signs that I recognized. Your dream journal can have as much or as little as you need to help you recall your dreams more consistently.
STEP 3 – DREAM SIGNS
A dream journal is indispensable for finding your personal “dream signs.” Dream signs are nothing more than themes or patterns or situations or objects that appear more often than others in your dreams. For me, flying (like Superman) has been a recurring theme, as has been (long before video games) shooting or being shot.
These are powerful dream signs that can be key to waking up within one’s dreams. When I realize I’m flying, it often spontaneously triggers me to wake up within my dream, giving me the freedom to continue flying while fully, vividly awake!
Mind you, sometimes when I realize I’m dreaming, I suddenly lose my ability to fly, or, more typically; I instantly get very bad at flying. I start to lose altitude, tying to figure out how to fly, rather than simply flying. As one of my favorite books; “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” describes: “If you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment…then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.”
The point is that recognizing what elements appear in your dreams more than others can be a powerful way to recognize that you’re dreaming. Luckily for me, in my waking reality I can fly by holding my arms out, and I don’t shoot a gun (and have never been shot at). So, when these themes appear in a dream, it’s easy to wake up to the fact that I’m dreaming, catapulting me into a lucid dreaming experience.
STEP 4 – WAKING REMINDERS
In the studio, I have a little sign on my mixing console that’s been there for many years. It says; “If I see flashing lights of any kind, I’ll know I’m dreaming.”
For me, one of the most powerful tools I’ve had at my disposal to help induce lucid dreaming, is the Nova Dreamer. It’s a sleep mask device that recognizes when the sleeper enters REM sleep. A timer can be sent, and after a set amount of time, lights start to flash. The idea is that these lights will be visible within the dream, and that a thought will have been planted in one’s consciousness: If I see flashing lights of any kind, I’ll know I’m dreaming.
This device has been incredibly successful to me, and so much so, that it seems impossible for my mind to not have known the lights were going to start blinking before they actually did. Planting thoughts into our subconscious while awake can be powerful tools for helping to wake us up in a lucid dream.
In the same vein, you can plant similar trigger by associating your dream signs on the same way. If one of your dream signs is a bus, tell yourself that whenever you see a bus, you’ll know you’re dreaming. This technique has worked for me in relation to both seeing guns as well as another powerful trigger is telling myself this: If I’m flying, I’ll know I’m dreaming.
I lost count of the number of times I’ve told myself that, only to realize that since I was flying, I was dreaming.
STEP 5 – TEST REALITY
One of the other powerful techniques that has worked for me on countless occasions has been to test my reality while I’m awake. Flying is another favorite reality check for me. At random times throughout my day, and in as many situations as I can, I make a very serious and concerted effort to see if I can fly. I don’t just think it, I try, as hard as I can, to fly.
What this does it plant that trigger in my subconscious mind. The hope is that while I’m dreaming, that subconscious trigger will occur to while I’m dreaming. The only difference is that if I’m dreaming, I might just be able to fly. And if I can fly, that must mean I’m dreaming!
Another great test for me is to do this same test with electronic devices, including light switches. In my dreams, switches never seem to work. To turn a light on or off, I can’t flip a switch; I have to think it on or off.
So, during the day, flip a light switch to see if it has any effect. And check. Really check. Think about what you’re doing and what result you’re checking for.
STEP 6 – THE TWILIGHT STATE
Lucid dreams typically happen when one side of the brain is in a Delta State, which equals a state of deep sleep, with the other half of the brain in Theta state, where dreams and vivid imagery happen.
This state of the brain occurs most often in that elusive “twilight” state that most experience just as they’re drifting off to sleep, or when they just wake up in the morning.
For me, the most likely time for me to experience lucid dreaming is in that morning twilight state. And, although I haven’t woken up by an alarm for many years, I’ll set an alarm to wake me up after about 5 hours of sleep. Since I typically get about 4-6 hours of sleep per night, this allows me to get enough sleep, but will allow me to experience that half-awake, half-asklep state in the morning. It’s during this time, where I’m drifting in and out of sleep, where lucid dreams come find me.
For you, it may be different, but that’s part of the personal journey; to find out your own patterns, to create your own path to lucid dreaming. For you, it may be going to bed a little earlier than usual, while relaxing or meditating for a while before setting off to sleep in order to get into that twilight state. For others, it may be setting an alarm in the middle of their sleep cycle, hoping to wake yourself during one of those REM sleep times.
STEP 7 – SETTING AN INTENTION
Something that has worked well for others has never really worked for me, is setting an intention to dream. the idea is before you go to sleep, to tell yourself that you’re going to dream. I’ve tried this myself, but haven’t noticed a difference in the likelihood of dreaming, the intensity, or having a dream turn lucid.
I mention it because I know it’s worked for others, and it might be helpful for you.
STEP 8 – WAKING WITHIN A DREAM
Quite often, realizing that you’ve woken up in your dream is enough to wake you up from that dream! If this happens to you, don’t get discouraged, and certainly don’t give up. I can’t count the number of times my excitement has woken me up, but then, as I’m drifting back off to sleep, my dream either picks up where it left off, or I find myself lucid the moment I fall back asleep.
If you happen to wake up in your dream, simply enjoy your time! It’s not the last time you’ll have a lucid dream, so there’s no need to do everything at once. For me, when I’ve just gone with the flow of the dream, they’ve lasted the longest and been the most vivid.
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If you take the time to practice each one of these steps, truly working at them and thinking about them, the minimum reward is an increase in the frequency of your dreams, coupled with an easier time of remembering them. For many, the reward is vivid dreams that rival reality, with the eventuality, sometimes in the first night, sometimes after months of effort, of a lucid dream or a dream with lucid moments.
And, one of the keys to this journey is not to get discouraged. The more triggers you set for yourself during the day, the more you become familiar with the twilight state, the more you write in your journal; these will all help lead you towards lucid dreaming.
Lastly, little do most dream explorers know that there are some powerful herbs that have a long history of aiding in inducing lucid dreams. I’ve got my favorites, especially when coupled with the Nova Dreamer, so take a look through the “Dreaming Herbs” section of this blog for additional tools that might aid in your quest for becoming lucid within your dreams.