Over the next week I’m going to do some exercises that should aid me in lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming occurs when you’re aware you’re dreaming and can exert some control over this alternate reality. It’s a technique much admired by new agers, lovers of hallucinogens, and fans of Avatar and The Matrix. (Not to be confused with astral projection, which is an out of body experience brought on by meditation and/or psychedelic drugs.) Even though the Skeptic’s Dictionary has a pop at lucid dreaming, there have been plenty of clinical trials and scientific bumf that back up the concept.
Benefits of lucid dreaming:
Face fears safely; improve problem-solving skills; fly to cool places; try out conversations that might not go very well; rehearse public speaking in front of an audience; practise brain surgery (or whatever it is you do); ask questions of your unconscious mind, which is infinitely wiser than your critical mind (the critical mind constructed the person you believe yourself to be and is responsible for you buying into your own legend/feeling intense self-loathing. Thus you want to transcend it whenever possible).
The three types of lucid dreaming:
DILD (dream induced lucid dream), in which the dreamer suddenly realises they’re asleep; WILD (wake induced lucid dream), in which you go directly from being awake to being asleep but aware you are dreaming; and MILD (mnemonically induced lucid dream), in which the dreamer carries out reality checks to ascertain whether or not they are asleep.
Exercises to aid lucid dreaming:
* Use your alarm to wake up after five hours, get out of bed, then back in. Hopefully you’ll slip straight back into REM sleep – this is the WILD technique.
* Alternatively, aim for a long stint of sleep and use the snooze button to keep slipping in and out of hypnopompic (awakening) and hypnagogic (falling asleep) states. This won’t last as long as lucid dreaming in the REM state, but it’s surreal, semi-controllable, and good practise.
* Use the Hypnagogic Imagery Technique (HIT) when falling asleep by trying to stay thoughtless, letting images flow past without focusing on them and being passively drawn into the dream while trying to stay aware. A bit like watching telly in a trance.
* Write your dreams down the moment you wake up, building what you remember up to a few pages over a few weeks. This is to become accustomed to your dreamland terrain and aid the DILD technique.
* Buy an REM Dreamer Device. I cannot vouch for this.
* ‘Lifestyle designer’ Tim Ferris suggests trying melatonin, nicotine patches or ‘brain booster’ Huperzine A. Others suggest caffeine. ‘Cap’n Weird Beard’ on psychoactive drug forum Erowid suggests Valerian, Passion Flower, Kava and Holy Basil. I cannot vouch for Cap’n Weird Beard.
* Identify cues that you frequently see in dreams and carry out reality checks. Get in the habit of asking yourself if you’re dreaming when you see them in real life, even when you’re pretty sure you’re awake. This is the MILD technique.
My cues Question Answer Dreaming?
Water Is it forming a tidal wave? Yes Yes
Elevator Am I pinned to the ceiling? Yes Yes
Vodka Have I just noticed I’m drinking it? Yes Yes
My reflection Do I have a pink bob? Yes Yes
Having sex Is it with a woman? Yes Yes