How to experience a lucid dream?
If you want to experience lucid dreams I recommend taking on the "30 day lucid dreaming challenge".
There are many different techniques and, nowadays, also many external aids, which assist in experiencing a lucid dream. Beyond the thousands of instructional videos on YouTube, you will also find apps, special music for lucid dreaming, various medications, nutritional supplements, herbs, masks, watches, rings and more. However, few people actually succeed in experiencing a lucid dream. Why does this happen?
First, it is important to understand that learning how to experience a lucid dream is more like honing a skill through practice and is related to the particular character and the current living conditions of the dreamer. We can compare this to gymnasts who use a technique to achieve somersaults in the air. Every time they want to perform a somersault, they take into account the external conditions like: the mattress, the temperature et., as well as the internal conditions such as their mental and physical state at the moment of performance. Practicing lucid dreaming requires the same persistence, adaptation and effort. Without these elements, the right “muscles” won’t develop and it will be difficult for the brain to adopt the new skill.
For those who really want to start experiencing lucid dreaming I recommend taking on the “30 day lucid dreaming challenge”. The challenge is quite simple but requires what is perhaps the most difficult thing in today’s world: choosing one technique and sticking with it! I have summarized the main techniques below. Choose one, mark 30 days in your calendar and be sure to perform the technique you chose every day. Meeting the challenge increases the chances of success to about 90%!
Techniques for Lucid Dreaming
DILD Dream Induced Lucid Dreams
In these techniques, the aim is to cultivate the ability of the dreamers to realize that they are in a dream while events are occurring in a dream, by realizing that these events contradict our known reality. This approach, which for many is easier to follow, begins with learning about dreams and getting to know them. The purpose of this stage is to identify what characterizes your dreams and makes them “dream-like”. After this, you need to recognize that these are indeed dreams while they are happening. Studies have found that the mere intent to recognize that you are experiencing a dream greatly improves the chances of success.
This technique uses elements of the dream content as a trigger for a reality check in order to identify your current state of reality. The reality check is practiced while awake in order to accustom ourselves to perform it, and in order to raise doubt about the state of reality. In this technique, some use external stimuli that activate one of the senses (such as lights from a mask, a recording, etc.) that can serve as a reminder to dreamers to check if they are experiencing a dream.
Techniques for Memory-Based Lucid Dreaming
MILD Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams
This method is based on our ability to remember that we want to do something in the future. This, by creating a mental connection between our desire to do something and the future conditions in which we would like to do it. Creating this mental connection is possible by creating a visual memory and using our imagination in regard to what we are going to do. It is recommended to ingrain our intention using a specific sentence, for example: “Next time I dream, I want to remember to check if I’m dreaming.” It is important that the intention includes a clear “when” and “what”.
It is recommended to use this method in the early morning hours when the REM sleep phase (rapid eye movements) is longer. Another suggestion is to wake up and do an activity that requires wakefulness such as writing, reading or even getting out of bed and then going back to sleep. The type of activity doesn’t matter but rather the wakefulness that these activities transfer into the dream that follows.
Wakefulness Techniques for Lucid Dreaming
WILD Wake Initiated Lucid Dreams
This technique is aimed at the time of transition between wakefulness and sleep. The goal is to let the body fall asleep while the mind stays awake. Using this technique, we lie in bed in a calm and relaxed but alert position and perform a repetitive or continuous activity aimed at focusing attention. Performing the task allows for maintaining concentration and internal awareness, while external awareness decreases until it disappears completely.
In the relevant literature, there are many different examples of repetitive activity that can be performed in order to glide with a wakeful mind into a dream, while the body falls asleep. Among them:
Asking ourselves every few minutes during the stage of falling asleep, what did I dream about a moment ago? With enough practice, this reflection will continue in the dream. Another method is to allow ourselves to be carried passively with the help of hallucinations that characterize the falling asleep stage (hypnagogia) into the dream and not try to enter it deliberately which tends to make the dream disappear. The Tibetans suggest imagining various symbols such as a lotus flower with fire at its center, in the throat area. With this method, intense focus and concentration allow awareness to persist even in the dream phase. Stephen LaBerge invented a technique in which the dreamers count and tell themselves that they are dreaming after each number, for example, 1-I am dreaming, 2-I am dreaming, 3-I am dreaming, etc. This counting is carried out while maintaining a certain degree of wakefulness. The idea is that at some point you will find that you are really dreaming. This method is usually suitable for those who fall asleep quickly and experience hypnogogic hallucinations.
Lucid Dreaming Techniques from the East
Tibetan yogis were the first to document methods of lucid dreaming in the eighteenth century. In their method of study, which is mainly suitable for Tibetan monks, two techniques are suitable for Western dreamers. The first instructs us to think continuously throughout the day that all the things we experience are the stuff of dreams. Practicing mental flexibility while awake allows for a transition to lucidity in a dream. The second method is to make a concrete decision. At night, before going to sleep, the dreamers must decide that tonight they will realize that their dreams are not reality. Tibetan monks seek the help of their gurus in achieving this goal. Lucid dreams rarely happen without prior intention.
Osho, the famous Indian guru, describes three techniques for achieving a lucid dream. The first is a breathing technique in which, at the moment of sleep, one imagines the breath in the center of the forehead as it flows to the heart. Osho claimed that with the help of this technique one can control dreams and even death itself. The second technique is to remember the “I AM” and its goal is to achieve a state of “self-remembering” consciousness, which is defined as a different awareness from what we do, think and feel. The symbol of this split is a double-headed arrow that suggests dual awareness. That is, there is an actor/actress and an observer. Observation is objective awareness of the self. There is a feeling of being outside the boundaries of the body, a feeling of disconnection and a lack of identification. Identification and self-remembering cannot co-exist just as light and darkness cannot co-exist in the same room. This is very similar to a lucid dream state. The essence of the third technique, similar to the technique described above, is to remember for three consecutive weeks that everything that happens is a dream. According to Osho, one who can remember anything during this period continuously is capable of “everything” and therefore can easily achieve a lucid dream.
Recommendations for Lucid Dreaming Techniques from Other Experts in the Field
Beverly D’urso, a lucid dreaming expert, explains that the best method for lucid dreaming is to be more aware of details in your waking life, because during a dream, when we notice that something does not correspond with reality, this is a sign that we are experiencing a dream. Since waking mental patterns tend to repeat themselves in dreams, when we examine our surroundings while awake there is a better chance that we will also do so during a dream and thus develop lucidity in the dream.
In 1983, German psychologist Paul Tholey described various techniques based on more than a decade of research with more than 200 subjects. According to him, the most effective method is to ask yourself whether you are dreaming or not during the day. If we do not question reality while awake, according to Tholey, the chances that we will do so during a dream are very low. He emphasizes the importance of asking this question frequently and at least 5-10 times a day and in any situation that feels like a dream. He also recommends asking this question while falling asleep. According to his research, those who follow this method will reach their first lucid dream within no more than a month, and some will even succeed on the first night.
Who Should Not Engage in Lucid Dreaming
It is very important to note that engaging in lucid dreaming is not recommended for people with one or more of the following conditions: a skewed perception of reality, mental disorders, personality disorders, active trauma, major depression, acute anxiety attacks, etc. In these cases, you should consult your physician and an expert in the field of lucid dreaming before starting to engage in this practice.