Since it has existed, music has been used by humanity as a tool to enter altered states of awareness. Even the common example of a teenager hooking up to their iPod to relax and forget the fight they just had with their parents is a way of changing self perception, by shifting attention away from certain situations.
The central nervous system (CNS) has two different functions: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). They are not separate neural pathways, but two distinct, complementary functions.
The SNS is activated by adrenaline and is needed in extreme situations to ensure our survival. It helps us react faster when we need to fight or flee. When it is active our heartbeat and breathing accelerate, and our visual and auditory perceptions become sharper. Our muscles tighten.
The PNS is activated by noradrenaline and is needed to help us rest and recover. When it is active, all our muscles relax, and our breath becomes deeper and slower. Our heartbeat decelerates.
These systems work in the same way that a complementary pair of muscles work. Both have to play their role so that we can be balanced. But if we are stressed all day long - if our SNC is active for longer than it should be - this depletes our energy. We run out of adrenaline, and when we need it, it's not there.
As adrenaline and other substances related to the SNC accumulate in our muscles, we enter a state of perpetual stress. Our muscles are chronically contracted - and this takes a LOT of energy!
Naturally, the PNS should be primarily active during sleep. Our capacity to remain alert in our dreams depends largely on how deeply we can relax. But if our muscles are permanently stressed out, there is no way we can achieve profound relaxation, and there is no way for our dreaming attention to flourish.
Playing, singing, dancing, or simply listening to music is a very direct way to shift into the PNS. In this sense, it can be described as a direct pathway into the world of dreams and enhanced self perception - even during wakefulness.
It can be no coincidence that so many cultures have made music and sound the focal point of their search for the indescribable. For these traditions, sound is the border that divides the physical world and an underlying world of energy.
Traditions from the world over have used music, chants and dance as ways to glimpse other realities. From the Aboriginals of Australia, to the Shamans of the steppes of Russia; from the Sufis to the Hopis, we can find this search for the unknown through our intrinsic connection to sound. Although the musical styles, instruments and specific interpretations and cultural edifices around music and sound vary immensely, the basic truths remain constant.
Music has always been a basic part of human culture, a basic building block of society, and a channel to achieve a deeper connection to ourselves and the universe. Sadly, music in the western world, and everywhere else, through its influence, is becoming merely a commercial product, with no deeper significance, and its true power goes unperceived by more and more people every day.
Alexander Cortes is a composer and guitarist, with a keen interest in exploring all the facets of human consciousness. He is editor of Guitar Theory in Depth, a website that explores musical theory as it relates to the guitar, from a fresh perspective. He currently lives in Mexico, and can be contacted via his website.
Rebecca Turner is the founder of World of Lucid Dreaming. She is currently studying for a science degree in Auckland and becoming famous as a science writer. Try our free lucid dreaming course and connect with the team on Facebook and the lucid dream forum.
Lucid dreaming, like any advanced skill, requires a considerable investment of time, energy and dedication in order to master. Yet, as a lucidity researcher, I'm regularly asked by those new to the subject, for an easy and low-effort technique. Something that
Members of our lucid dream forum have been asking how to create dream characters in lucid dreams. The most common problem is having characters who look nothing like they should. Or they seem disinterested in your company. Or they fail to show up on command altogether. So, how to combat this? It's a matter of finding creative solutions that bypass logical expectations.
To lucid dream, I recommend being able to remember at least one vivid dream per night. That will boost your self awareness in dreams (making lucidity more likely) and also means you can actually remember your lucid dreams. Which is nice. Here are four detailed tips on how to remember your dreams more frequently. And if you don't think you dream at all - trust me, you almost certainly do. It takes an extraordinarily rare sleep disorder to deprive someone of dream sleep.
It is estimated that these wise and wily Indians have been using mugwort in their healing and ritual practices for 13,000 years, where it is known as the ‘dream sage’. They use the herb to promote good dreams, which they consider an essential aspect of normal human functioning! But that’s not all...
Silene Capensis has been used for millennia by the Xhosa shaman of the river valleys in the eastern cape of South Africa, where it is known as Undela Ziimhlophe or 'white paths'. It's fragrant white flowers open only at night, when they emit a fragrant and almost hypnotising aroma. Also known as African Dream Herb or Ubulawu, Silene Capensis induces spectacularly vivid dreams - yet has never entered the mainstream and remains a fringe taste within western culture.
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?