What is a Lucid Dream?
A lucid dream is any dream during sleep in which you become aware that you're dreaming. This simple realization snaps your waking consciousness into the dream, enabling you to:
Explore your dreamworld with total clarity. Everything you see, hear, touch, taste and smell can be as authentic as reality. It is truly mind-blowing to discover this virtual world.
Fulfill any fantasy. Fly over mountains, have dream sex, go base jumping, shapeshifting, time traveling, dinosaur spotting, ninja fighting, meeting your hero and visiting alien planets.
Overcome personal psychological issues. In the safety of the lucid dream environment you can face your fears, phobias, anxieties, nightmares, past traumas and recurring dreams.
Tap into your inner creativity. In surreal and unexpected ways, you can make music, seek original artistic imagery and solve technical problems.
Experts agree that everyone has the potential to lucid dream. But only a small fraction of people learn how to do it on a regular basis.
Is lucid dreaming scientifically proven?
Yes, there are many examples of scientific research that prove the existence of lucid dreaming, the first of which was generated in a UK sleep lab 1975.
Researchers have used brainwave, bloodflow and eye movement data to validate higher levels of consciousness during lucid dreams ever since.
In fact, lucid dreams provide credible explanations for night-time phenomena which until recently had no scientific explanation - such as alien abductions and astral projection.
The first scientific proof of lucid dreaming emerged in 1975 from the British parapsychologist Dr Keith Hearne. He recorded a set of pre-determined eye movements from his lucid volunteer, Alan Worsley, via an electro-oculogram (EOG). It was a basic communication between the dreamer and the outside world.
More recently, this 2009 study by the Neurological Laboratory in Frankfurt revealed significantly increased brain activity during lucid dreams. An electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded brainwave frequencies up to the 40 Hz (or Gamma) range when lucid.
This measure is far more active than the normal dream state (which takes place in the Theta range, or 4-7 Hz). Indeed, some argue that it supports the need to classify lucid dreams as a new and separate state of consciousness.
Intruiguingly, the research also showed heightened activity in the frontal and frontolateral areas of the dreaming brain. This is the seat of linguistic thought and other higher mental functions linked to self awareness.
In 2014, this remarkable study out of Frankfurt University revealed that lucid dreams can be induced with "zaps" of harmless electrical stimulation of the brain.
When non-lucid dreamers were given 30-second jolts of electrical current to the frontal cortex while asleep, they reported spontaneously vivid dreams in which they fully recognized they were dreaming.
Incredibly, stimulation at 40 Hz was effective 77% of the time.
What can I do in a lucid dream?
A fully lucid dream can be perfectly tangible, rich and visually detailed.
When probed, it can generate seemingly impossible levels of self awareness - such as 360-degree vision, multiple simultaneous dreams, and even visual representations of the fifth dimension.
Because all of this takes place in your mind, the dream world is infinite. No laws. No boundaries. No limitations. Anything you can conceive of comes true.
You can take control of your dream and warp The Matrix like Neo. Fly and soar over cities like Iron Man. Slow down time like the dream levels of Inception. Have sex with celebrities. Fight like a ninja. Re-live childhood memories. Base jump. Survive death.
But a lucid dream is not merely a fantasy playground.
Dream theories suggest it's a chance to interact with other parts of your psyche (by talking to different dream characters) and even your co-conscious inner self (by talking to the very fabric of the dream).
Once you know how to become lucid in dreams, you will discover a strange new world - an entire universe, no less - of which you are fully aware and can manipulate with the power of thought.
How do I control my dreams?
Dream control kicks in the moment you become lucid (when you recognize that you're dreaming).
The more conscious you become of the dream environment, the easier it is to manipulate. There are a few different ways to shape your dreams as they occur, for instance:
Actively will what you want to happen, like waking life (eg, you walk up to a wall and will your arm to push through it). This is the most intuitive method but not always the most effective if your lucidity is waning.
Say your desire out loud and let the dream present it (eg, say "I have super powers and am the sole survivor of a zombie apocalypse"). You'll be empowered by your own words and the dream will oblige.
So, it takes a little getting used to controlling your dreams. That's because lucid dreams are a completely new and unique environment to you - in which your conscious and unconscious collide.
When fully lucid, you'll find that you can exert considerable control over your lucid dreams. Or you can passively enjoy this state of heightened awareness, watching the dream unfold in its originally intended state.
The golden rule for lucid dream manipulation is this: making it real in your mind... makes it happen in the dream.
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How do I stay lucid?
Beginners sometimes find their lucid dreams end prematurely. Usually it's the sheer excitement and adrenaline rush that causes you to wake up.
Other times, you can simply forget you're dreaming (remember, the brain functions differently during sleep and it's easy to forget things).
To make your lucid dreams last longer, cultivate a calm and focused mind set in the dreamworld. Remind yourself that you are dreaming often to stay mentally grounded.
A simple way to enhance your lucidity (and thereby prolong your lucid dream) is to rub your hands together while saying "I'm dreaming". This kinetic sensation stimulates the conscious brain, while drawing awareness to your dream body and away from your physical body asleep in bed.
Such techniques have enabled me to experience lucid dreams as long as an hour in real time.
How do I summon dream characters?
In your lucid dreams, you can seek out or summon any person, dead or alive, fictional or real.
A good way to do this is to heighten your lucidity, then visualize and expect the person you want to meet just out of sight. Ask the dream out loud to manifest that person too.
Don't be afraid to ask for unexpected consequences: "show me myself in 10 years", "show me my ideal partner", and "show me how my great-great-great grandchildren will live" are all valid requests of the creative lucid dream state.
How do I change the scenery?
Making the dream scene morph in front of your eyes can sometimes be difficult. Your conscious self simply doesn't expect it to happen, because that is its experience of waking life.
This mental block is typical of a beginner complaint because it requires more confidence and a lucid state of mind.
Not to worry. Established lucid dreamers have been working the dreamworld long enough to have come up with some excellent solutions. In the case of changing the scenery:
Locate a "dream door": one that stands randomly in the middle of any landscape, and step through to another world.
Pass through a mirror portal: a liquid-like mirror that leads to another dimension, and emerge in any scene you choose.
Change the channel on a TV - then jump into the screen and allow the image to become 3-dimensional around you.
Turn away from the scene - and imagine a new location emerging behind you. When you turn back, everything will look different.
Spin around and imagine a new scene appearing when you stop spinning.
In fact, there are lots of creative solutions to issues of dream control. The important thing to remember is that your conscious expectation plays a major role.
Stay confident in your ability to summon dragons, teleport to the Bahamas, and fly like an eagle. You'll soon find that absolutely anything is possible inside a lucid dream.