When you're determined to actively control your lucid dream, it's really important that you stay focused and lucid at all times.
Without this mental focus, you will experience continual wavering of your level of consciousness. The dreaming self will keep trying to engulf your dream with its own imagery, and you'll end up in a frustrating battle of conscious ego vs dream.
Here is one such example from my dream diary:
I'm running along a beach somewhere in Asia when I notice the colors are all wrong. The sand is too yellow, the sky is too deep blue; it's like someone turned up the contrast on a picture. I realize I must be dreaming.
I see a cave at the end of the beach and run towards it, knowing that Pete is inside. As I enter, he's right there waiting for me, looking exactly how he does in real life. As I start to think what we should do next, I sense danger is lurking outside the cave...
There are three guard dogs closing in on the entrance - growling, drooling and baring their teeth. I didn't want this! I panic, semi-lucidly closing the doors to my cave as Pete comes to see what's happening. He forms a gun with his fingers and starts shooting the angry dogs through a gap in the door: PIAOW! PIAOW!
The absurdity hits me and I become fully lucid. I open the doors, feeling confident in my ability to deal with the dogs, and smudge them out with my fingers like I'm erasing pencil marks. The dogs disappear.
But then I start to lose my lucidity again... Now, three giant purple gorilla monsters start closing in on us. I remember Pete's trick and shoot them down with my fingers - PIAOW! - and they get actual bullet wounds in their chests. Instead of falling down, they look sheepish and walk away.
Finally, I feel in control and start my adventure. I say out loud "I know I'm here - now what shall I do!" I drop my glasses into the sand [NB: glasses used to be my reality check; you don't need them while dreaming] and dive into the sea. I open my eyes underwater - for a second it is murky, then I open my real eyes by accident!
I see the pillow next to my face as my awareness shoots back to the real world. I immediately close my eyes again and manage to stay in the dream - unfortunately my lucidity is all but lost. Now people are shouting "Shark! Shark!" at me so I swim back to the shore.
Instead of washing up on the beach, the sea is now a giant swimming pool and I climb out. Something scratches my leg and causes pain - the shark? - so I turn around and grab the tail fin. I pull him out with super strength. It's a great blue whale with one big sad eye looking at me. I let him go and, my lucidity lost, I soon wake up.
I lie very still in bed and start to visualize my next lucid dream. I'm thinking space would be a good setting, and that I should practice spinning to stay lucid. I drowsily think "Oh no that will feel like space-gravity is crushing me!" Before I can think of anything else, I'm semi-lucidly floating in space...
A little man is packing a 3D jigsaw sphere around me, slowly trapping me like a chick inside an egg. There is room to sit up, but my legs curve upwards impossibly around the inside. The last piece is put in place and I am fully enclosed. The sphere starts rolling in space, this way and that, until eventually the dream fades to black.
So what did I do wrong on that occasion? I can think of three things:
(Incidentally, opening my real eyes was just unlucky. I already knew that closing or opening my eyes while lucid would cause this. Sometimes I still can't help myself.)
These three simple actions, taking just a few seconds to implement in the dream world, would have changed the entire course of my lucid dream. Instead, it became a frustrating struggle to maintain control against my dreaming self.
However, this isn't all bad... While at first glance I failed to stay in control and do all sorts of ego-gratifying activities in my lucid dream, I did get to have a potential learning experience with my unconscious dreaming self. And this can be a good reason to relinquish control of your next lucid dream altogether...
As we've learned, lucid dreaming doesn't have to equate directly to dream control. While being able to willfully manipulate your dream world is fun, many experienced lucid dreamers prefer to just consciously observe their dreams lucidly. This gives your dreaming self the opportunity to send you all kinds of messages and life-changing insights via the medium of a fully conscious dream. It can be far more profound than interpreting any non-lucid dream.
In the example above, I kept fighting this. My goal for this dream was to have full control. But perhaps my dream didn't want to be controlled on this occasion. Perhaps it had something more important to tell me...
My inability to control the nightmarish elements not only suggests a lack of consciousness; it also suggests my dreaming self was trying to tell me something important. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to speak to the dogs and the gorilla monsters and ask what they wanted and whether we could work it out. Instead, I killed them - which is the lucid dream equivalent of simple denying a problem exists.
We can also interpret the possible meaning of the little man packing me into an egg. Despite re-entering the dream lucidly, I quickly lost control to my dreaming self. Perhaps the reason I was regressed to a fetal form trapped in an egg, was so I could waste no more time running around influencing my dream for gratuitous reasons.
As a lucid dreamer, I encourage you to notch up experiences in both camps. At first, you'll probably be drawn to dream control and there's no denying it's a whole lot of fun. But when you decide you want to delve deeper into your own mind, try just being a passive observer in your lucid dream.
You'll see that the dream evolves on its own quite readily, and you can ask questions along the way if you choose, or just enjoy the experience. It will be miles more memorable than the observation of non-lucid dreams, as you have all the clarity of mind and vivid sensory experience provided by a lucid dream.
Just remember, whether you choose to maintain dream control or observe without interaction, you must always ground yourself in a lucid dream when it begins. Then keep reminding yourself that you're dreaming. This is essential for ongoing dream consciousness or you risk fading to the ranks of non-lucidity.
If we're completely honest, lucid dreaming isn't really known for being the most social of interests. In fact, often it's a lone pursuit - just you, your dream journal and the landscape of your mind. But this technique called PAL (or Partner Assisted Lucidity) breaks down that wall and turns lucid dream exploration into a social event.
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?