Lucid Dreaming‎ > ‎

Lucid Dreaming Exercises

by Malcolm Godwin

Keeping a Dream Journal

Keep a pen, paper, or a tape recorder by the bed, and if you have a partner be merciful and use a small flashlight to prevent waking them. The journal should be small enough to keep under your pillow or carry around during the day, in case something triggers a memory of an earlier dream. Both pen and pad should only be used for recording dreams. Rituals even as small as these create a sense of something unique, personal and special. It also means that even the sight of these objects, having their special purpose, can be a focus which prompts memory. These are, after all, your passports into another world.

Make a point of consciously deciding that the journal is the place where you will be recollecting your experiences in the dreamworld.

However odd the details might appear, they are only a device to help jog your memory. Most of us have spent our whole lives ignoring our dreams and now you will be carefully recording every detail of them, so do not be impatient.

Pre-Sleep Activities

Directly before going to bed, there are a number of useful tips. The first is simply to go to bed with a clear head, unbefuddled with alcohol, sleeping pills, or just being too tired. Sit and relax, and allow the mind to clear itself of all the junk accumulated during the day. Of all exercises, relaxation is probably the most difficult for a Westerner under the usual stress of daily life. The most important element in calming the body, to allow an easy entry into sleep, is through regular and rhythmic breathing exercises. Simply breathing slowly or breathing in to the count of five and out on the second five, does seem to be beneficial to many would-be dreamers who find it difficult to drop off. One method is to tense each muscle throughout the body, starting at the feet, as you inhale and let it relax as you exhale. Continue this until you reach the head.

Calm Atmosphere

If you are to make any progress on the royal dream road then it is essential to create an atmosphere of calm. It is almost useless to try any of the methods if you cannot set aside a peaceful time for them.

The room itself where you sleep should be filled with light and calming colors, or for those with more exotic taste, candles and incense. If you have a sympathetic, as well as compassionate, partner, then a gentle foot massage usually works charms on even the most hardened insomniac.

Herb such as rosemary, thyme and lavender beneath the pillow are noted for inducing a quiet and natural sleep, as will a hot bath immediately before retiring. Some psychics recommend a handful of powdered ginger thrown into the water, which according to them cleanses the aura.

Whatever the case may be, it certainly relaxes any tension in the muscles. If you find these instructions a little daunting, you might remember that a mystic would have probably taken years to enter a deep and meditative state where he or she could access their dreams, while a shaman would have gone through elaborate rituals or a long and often dangerous initiation to be worthy enough to meet the spirit-world. It is common, however, that armchair-shamans tend to expect instant gratification. If we pay for a book on dreams, then surely it should deliver the goods on demand. But the realm or particular aspect of ourselves that we are about to enter does not allow for quick solutions or forced entry. So you might as well relax and prepare for what might be a long wait. Now, in a quiet, calm but clear state tell yourself that you will recollect your dreams during the night.

And to really implant the suggestion firmly into an otherwise often reluctant brain, write it down.

Remembrance

This is a very powerful technique, especially known in Indian Tantra. Before going to bed sit with closed eyes and slowly unravel the day which has passed. Start from the evening and travel back through the whole day until you remember the very way you woke up and what thoughts you encountered in doing so. It is important to be completely accepting and non-judgmental of anyone's behavior, including your own. Be as dispassionate as possible - an observer on the hillside who does not identify with the dramas and passions of what he or she watches. This is an excellent way of ridding the mind of unwanted and irrelevant clutter. The quality of your dreams increases and the number of simple rubbish images which are collected during the course of the day seems to diminish. At the end of the procedure some practitioners visualize compressing the whole day's experience into a hot air balloon and letting it rise skyward or popping it in a bottle and throwing it out into an imaginary ocean. This discipline also helps you to attain a far greater dream recall than normal.

It is known from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the religious Essene communities of biblical times believed that sleep was a small death, and treated it with as much respect. As members of the community went to sleep there was an acceptance that they might not awaken, so when the next morning dawned it was greeted as if it were a new life, a new birth. It appears that these people made it a point to leave nothing undone or unsettled at the end of the day. All arguments had to be resolved, wrongs forgiven and quarrels settled so that each person might be released from the life-day to enter the dream-death-night. Such a way of entering sleep would mean that one is unburdened by unresolved garbage, so that dreams would be free to pick up deeper and richer threads.

Upon Awaking

The culminating part of all the previous preparations comes at dawn. Do not open your eyes immediately upon waking, or if you forget, have some object by the bed to cue or jog your memory. Prepare this before going to sleep the night before by telling yourself that when you see it in the morning you will remember your dreams.

Otherwise, with eyes still closed, try to remember even a fragment of the dream which will act as a magnet for the rest. We all know just how ephemeral dreams can become when you really want to remember them. They seem to evaporate, leaving a general feeling of something having happened in an otherwise empty space. To recapture those memories, they must be allowed to emerge gradually and spontaneously into your consciousness. To attempt to hunt them down ruthlessly is futile. So simply relax with eyes closed and wait for a stray clue to arise. Avoid following any thoughts which bring up all the habits of the morning - like what the mail will bring or whether you forgot to pay the electricity bill last week. Just lie quietly, gently fishing for a hint, and the dream will suddenly rush back. If there is no image forthcoming, write in your journal the sort of images which appear in your waking moments instead. There is no hurry.

Give each dream a title in your journal and record the date. List all the details of who was in it, what they wore, and particular objects or obvious symbols present in it along with your general emotional state. Don't be surprised if what you dream seems a bit dull at first. Only when you have written it all down will you suddenly realize that in some peculiar way it was unique and revealing. They invariably are.

These methods are only a preparation for the subsequent techniques, and are designed to break through the amnesiac barrier. Inducing lucid dreaming is certainly not easy but without preparation the reader will discover it is impossible.

The simple practice of keeping a dream journal also gives you a fascinating record of your inner workings. If you also keep a diary at the same time, you will begin to see immediate correspondences between the daytime and nighttime realms.

A Visualization

For visualizations it is always useful to have the recording of a drum beat or a sound that is repetitive . Before sleep the participant relaxes in darkness, or with a blindfold, and visualizes passing through a long tunnel towards a light that is visible at the other end. Through the insistent drumbeat one feels propelled through the tunnel at greater and greater speed. As you enter the luminous haze you can call upon an ally, or guide, to assist in the exploration of the realm entered. This might be in the form of a mythic creature, an animal or a spirit. Take your time waiting for the ally to appear and do not be surprised at its form. Just allow it to take shape in your mind and do not be fearful if it appears in a frightening guise. In fact many shamans claim that the more ferocious the ally or the totem animal, the greater will be your vision quest. Allow the imagined event to unfold, and when you feel it is complete, make a point of bidding the ally farewell, thanking it for taking you into the realm and requesting it to join you in sleep.

Return along the tunnel and await sleep with the resolve that this sequence will be continued in a dream; that you will once again enact the sequence, but that this time, the moment you see the ally, you will immediately awaken within the dream.

If, later in the night, you manage to invoke a lucid dream, use exactly the same waking procedure in the dream. The power and reality will be of a radically different dimension from the earlier guided visualization when awake. So be alert and prepared, when a very real totem animal or ally appears, not to be any more fearful than when you were guiding a daydream. Avoid trying to control the dream past the point of meeting your guide; just follow the dream as attentively as you can, remaining a witness who remembers it is all a dream and yet who can marvel at the details and unexpected turn of events. Entering the "crack between worlds" or the rent in the inner veil, the world of spirits is an archetypal surprise. But remember it is a dream which you can change if the direction it takes is not one you enjoy.

MILD

This is the most effective method devised by Stephen LaBerge. MILD stands for Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams and is simplicity itself. It is based upon our ability to use context to remember something. When I look at the knot in my handkerchief, I will remember to pay my car tax. We form a mental connection between what we want to do and the future circumstances in which we intend to do it. LaBerge goes on:

"The verbalization that I use to organize my intended effort is: 'Next time I'm dreaming, I want to remember to recognize I'm dreaming.' The 'when' and 'what' of the intended action must be clearly specified.

I generate this intention either immediately after awakening from an earlier REM period, or following a period of full wakefulness, as detailed below. An important point is that in order to produce the desired effect, it is necessary to do more than just mindlessly recite the phrase. You must really intend to have a lucid dream. Here is the recommended procedure spelled out step by step: 1. During the early morning, when you awaken spontaneously from a dream, go over the dream several times until you have memorized it. 2. Then, while lying in bed and returning to sleep, say to yourself, 'Next time I'm dreaming, I want to remember to recognize I'm dreaming.' 3. Visualize yourself as being back in the dream just rehearsed; only this time, see yourself realizing that you are, in fact, dreaming. 4. Repeat steps two and three until you feel your intention is clearly fixed or you fall asleep."

LaBerge makes an interesting connection: the mental set involved in this practice is very like the one we adopt when we decide to awaken at a certain hour. The ability to set an internal alarm clock to wake up from our dreams can be as easily utilized to awaken in our dreams.

Hand Visualization

George Gurdjieff's technique predates by over seventy years the one described by Carlos Castaneda as being given to him by his Yaqui Indian teacher, Don Juan. It is very simple in essence. The object of your attention is irrelevant, just so long as it is familiar. In this case it is your hands. During the day make it a point to look at them frequently. Close your eyes and visualize them whenever you have a spare moment. While awaiting sleep, remember what you have been doing all day and re-visualize them. Take this image with you as you fall asleep and tell yourself that if you see them again you will be dreaming, and that you must become aware enough to awaken in your dream.

This is a simple habit-forming routine which admittedly takes time to take effect, but it is probably the most successful trigger mechanism of all. Gurdjieff's disciples record that it usually took about three to six months before there was any success, but it does work. By associating your hands with being in a dream, it also has the added effect of undermining your habitual assumptions of the waking state.

Self-Hypnosis

In the field of holistic therapy there must be dozens of methods of self-hypnosis. The simplest is to make yourself comfortable in whatever way best suits you. Starting at the feet, feel each muscle and every part of the feet and ankles tense up and then relax. Feel the tension/relaxation slowly spread up the body as if in rippling waves. Do this slowly, allowing each part of the body to become completely relaxed. When you get to the head, tell yourself to count down from ten to zero and that when you reach zero you will be in a light trance state. Know that you can come out of it by reversing the countdown from zero to ten.

Once in the trance state you can instruct yourself in the simplest terms possible that you will both recognize and remember your dreams. You can tell yourself that at some time in the night you will dream of an object. It is good anyway to have a dream object by the bed to remind you of your resolve to dream lucidity. The moment you see the object in your dream, you will awaken within it. Keep the object in a special context and every time you look at it while awake tell yourself you are dreaming.

When you have given the instruction to your entranced consciousness, gently reinforce the command by simple repetition. Feel confident that your message has got through.

Healing Dreams

Perhaps those who might benefit most from any lucid dreaming program would be those who are physically disabled in some manner or are bedridden. For anyone who is restricted in their ability to move around their environment, is infirm, blind, or has any other sense impaired, lucid dreaming can give an extraordinary sense of freedom. Within the conscious dream realms sight can be restored, youth regained, and the delight of renewed energy allow the waking disabled to once again run across the fields, feeling the power of their limbs. By offering such transformations, which appear so real and which can embrace all the senses, lucid dreaming can heal both the spirit and the body.

Anyone undergoing a biofeedback program, in which, for instance, they are visualizing healthy cells replacing cancerous growths, can gain immeasurably by lucidly dreaming such a process. Just as a meditator can slip into the deepest of states while consciously dreaming, in ways which are very difficult while awake, so the patient who is trying to visualize healing often finds too many outward distractions which prevent entering the visualization deeply enough. Lucid dreaming avoids all distractions, for once the direction of the dream is established through an inner intention then the episode unfolds with an intensity which precludes any diversions.

One method which could prove of help to anyone physically disabled is to choose some activity which you regret you can no longer do. This might be anything from running fast under a warm sun across the beach into the sea, to making love. Choose something which will engage all your senses to the full, and at regular intervals during the day close your eyes and visualize whatever scenario you wish to enact. If you can find a postcard, a photograph or some object like a pebble which brings the whole beach alive in your mind, have it by you. Before going to sleep hold the image as clearly as you can and intend to consciously dream about it that night. If you give it your undivided and single-minded attention it will eventually happen. The neural connections need to be strengthened by repetition and persistence in order to build a pathway to lucidity.

Once the dream appears and you have enjoyed the sense of physical freedom and a new found health, you might take time to consciously examine your waking body to see if there is anything which you can do to help it heal in some way.

One way of doing this is to wait on the beach, feeling overflowing with energy which you would like to share. You walk towards someone on a bed which looks somewhat odd as it sits by the sea. You recognize yourself lying there and feel that you can, by running your hands across the body, diagnose the deepest physical malady. You gently stroke the part of the body which needs your overflowing energy, knowing as you do so that there is healing in the touch. Continue until the figure responds, but do not interfere with the process by willing the figure to rise or sprout an amputated limb. Allow your disabled doppleganger, or physical self, to act on his or her own. You might find that the other "you" springs out of bed and rushes into the sea, or just stirs a little and smiles at you. Allow whatever happens and wait. If you can repeat this procedure through regular dreams of this nature you will have acquired the most powerful healing method possible, for you will have intended your own recovery, which cannot but enter the waking state. Although the preparation and persistence might be difficult, the rewards are truly overwhelming.

False Awakenings

Any readers who have managed by this point to have had a few lucid dreams will probably also know of the false awakenings and will know the difficulty of recognizing them for what they are. You appear to awaken and go about your morning business only to discover that you are still dreaming. It is a curious quirk of the process that the more one has lucid dreams the more one experiences these unreal wakings. There seem few satisfactory explanations for this phenomenon. Maybe it happens because dreamers already believe that they are awake, or that the expectancy of really waking up as the lucid dream fades, triggers the effect.

Whatever the cause there are a variety of methods of overcoming these false awakenings and which allow the dreamer to continue dreaming with undiminished consciousness and alert attention. All have one factor in common -- the sensation of rapid or vivid movement. Some lucid dreamers favor whirling or spinning like a top, while others prefer to throw themselves backwards into an abyss or off a cliff.

The two methods which most appeal to me are simply flying and performing the most spectacular aerobatics, or creating a hanging veil or a door through which you charge at full tilt.

I have read somewhere that there is indirect evidence that there might be a connection between the vestibular apparatus (the balancing mechanism of the inner ear) and the production of bursts of REM during dreaming. If there is some link, then this might account for vivid dream movements fooling the brain into stimulating more REM sleep and thus more lucid dreaming.

Summoning the Demon

As we have been examining the raising of demons it seems useful to look at any methods of dealing with them in a lucid dream. There usually comes a point in dreaming when we must face our worst fears. In a lucid dream the reality of this can so shock the dreamer that he or she comes to believe in the particular monster and invariably falls from any state of alertness, usually waking from the dream immediately. However real the horror may appear at the time, it remains a dream, and this understanding is usually enough to dispel any fear. But sometimes the dreamer is not so convinced when facing down a twenty-foot demonic presence. At such times the thought goes through anyone's head that perhaps they have entered some hellish separate reality, a parallel realm in which one can really get hurt. The principle to understand with all such apparitions is the simple equation that their substantiality is in direct proportion to your belief. So first of all remember that it is a dream image and probably some unacceptable aspect of yourself. Love, laughter and light seem to be the best weapons against such entities. Keeping a sense of humor in a dream is perhaps the most precious talisman you can possibly take with you to the other realm. But the same could be said for the waking world as well. Loving the beast is another strategy often tried by dreamers. Embracing the monster and accepting it usually brings an immense sense of relief, as if you have been repressing a part of yourself and creating your own Minotaur in the center of your private labyrinth. Often it is reported by lucid dreamers that in embracing the monster the dreamer discovers the unacceptable part of themselves. Talk to it, asking it who it is its name is often revealing. Ask it why it is trying to threaten you or what it is trying to do and how you can help it.

If you are of a particularly courageous and foolhardy disposition you can summon up your worst fears in a lucid dream. However, this can be almost as fearsome as the experiences of the dancer of Chod if the dreamer is not prepared for the reality of the summoned. Your pet demons will appear only too easily by themselves, and will be far more true if they happen by themselves. Summoned entities in lucid dreams often bear a curious mark of empty artificiality, quite regardless of whether they are the embodiments of good or of evil.

And yet a nudge in the right direction can yield real insights. Summoning your favorite person, your worst enemy or a wise old man or woman, can reveal unexpected delights of real wisdom, humor and compassion. If you can remember in the midst of all this activity to do a reality check on whomever you have summoned or intended, you will be able to discern revealing differences between the original and your dream replica. And there is always a very real chance that you might somehow have invoked the actual person from their own dreams. Personally, I have shared dreams with others on a number of occasions, and yet I can not really confirm that what both of us experienced was the same thing or whether it was just wishful thinking.