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.
Rebecca Turner is the founder and editor of World of Lucid Dreaming, where she offers valuable first-hand experience and advice. Learn more about Rebecca. Take her home study program. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and the lucid dreaming forum.
Get access to the hit e-course, 10 Steps to Lucid Dreams, plus email updates when new web content is released. Unsubscribe at any time. 30,000+ people are already on board.
For centuries, Tibetan Buddhists have been working on waking up in their dreams, so that they can "wake up" at the moment of their death. They also believe that whatever cultural assumptions you have during life will become true upon death. Can lucid dreaming prepare us for the dying process? What might happen at the actual moment of death? Why are we scared of death and how might bodiless lucid experiences help to reduce our fear? In this interview, Dr Clare Johnson and Dr Keith Hearne dive into the lucid void, Tibetan Buddhism, and lucid dreaming as an emotional and spiritual preparation for death.
Does this face look familiar? It should. This is the result of image averaging - a technique in which multiple headshots are averaged out into a single face. In this case, our composite guy was generated by psychology student and photography enthusiast, Bill Lytton. Lytton averaged out 32 attractive male celebrity faces. To avoid personal bias, he referred to Maxim's Hot 100 and other opinion polls. He also averaged out a bunch of unattractive male faces for comparison.
It's a myth that you could exhaust yourself having a great big run in a lucid dream. After all, your real muscles are paralyzed during sleep. Your body isn't really running or burning up energy. So why would you feel depleted? So, in terms of physical energy depletion, there's really no logic to this argument. But what about dreams being mentally or emotionally tiring? The best way to test this is to survey lucid dreamers themselves. Go ahead, take our poll. My intuitive response is no - and that's based on my 17 years of personal experience. Lucid dreams aren't tiring for me at all.
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?