Recently, I re-discovered the fateful magazine article that ignited my passion for lucid dreaming. It's from Encounters (issue 11, September 1996) and is called Life is But a Dream by Chris Kenworthy.
The British magazine by Paragon Publishing (now defunct) hosted some pretty whacky stories in this particular issue:
The Hunt for The Chupacabras... The Secrets of Egypt... Lucid Dreams... New Theory About Loch Ness... It's Crop Circle Season...
In those days I was completely enchanted by all things paranormal. Although I would later discover that lucid dreaming was about the only subject covered which, by definition, is not paranormal, and has in fact been verifiable through scientific experiments since 1975.
Despite the curious mash-up with the occult, the article on lucid dreaming was, on the whole, objective and informative. It totally sparked my 14-year-old imagination. Given the nature of my career as editor of World of Lucid Dreaming for the past six years, it has taken on a personal significance to me.
Today I'd like to dust-off that 90s magazine and share this fascinating landmark article with you.
Note: Although this article contains a lot of solid and usable information on lucid dreaming, there are a few unscientific statements with which I disagree. These have been briefly [highlighted as such] for the record.
by Chris Kenworthy
Everybody dreams, but sometimes, it is possible for your dreams to shift a gear. In a lucid dream, you are fully conscious and it is possible to control the dream, You become aware that you are dreaming, while still within a dream.
In dreams, we normally accept the bizarre dream world as reality, running from nightmares, believing we can fly and so on. In a lucid dream you know it is a dream, which gives you power to enter the state more deeply and become fully awake.
In most dreams, no matter how clear and beautiful, there is the sense that you are only semi-conscious, partially aware of what is going on and unable to think clearly. In a lucid dream you wake up, but only within the dream.
To the outside world you're still fast asleep, but inside you may be experiencing a bright, imagined world, more real then the waking world and much more intense. Many people describe it as a form of enlightenment, waking up to reality for the first time; the clarity of mind is akin to a religious experience.
"In lucid dreams, you know it is a dream, which gives you power to enter the state more deeply and become fully awake."
When you wake from a lucid dream, there isn't the feeling of, 'Oh that was just a dream', but simply that you have been conscious for a while and one reality has been exchanged for another. There is no sense of waking up because you were already awake. All that has changed is that you have left the unpredictable world of dreams for a more predictable reality.
Many researchers have compared the clear, conscious awareness of lucid dreams to the state of consciousness achieved through deep meditation. This could be why lucid dreaming is a gateway to paranormal experience. It is a state of mind that would take years of practice to attain through ordinary methods and yet it can happen to anybody at any time, almost by accident.
During dreams the laws of physics are abandoned, which is why they seem so weird. We usually just accept this weirdness, but sometimes there is a realisation that something peculiar is going on. In the dream you may notice that a message you write as changed, or that the mountains are moving, or that your mind will think logically and you will say to yourself, "This must be a dream." That moment of realisation brings on lucidity in a flash.
The lucidity referred to is the clarity of mind, not the clarity of the images. The dream may be vague and full, but your mind will be clear. In most lucid dreams however, the dream world is as real as in waking life, making Technicolor movies seem bland by comparison.
It is common for people to claim that an ordinary dream was 'just like reality', but this is an exaggeration. In a lucid dream, all the senses can be employed. If you stand in the rain in a lucid dream, you feel every drop, the breeze on your skin, the shoes on your feet; you can smell the grass, the river, hear the birds and cards in the distance, taste any food you eat. The colours are incredibly rich and intense, with the dimensions of objects feeling extreme and detailed.
At first, this state can be confusing, because although you know it is a dream, it is genuinely as real as waking reality, in ever sense. If you look around the place you are now while you are reading this and feel how real it is, that is how lucid dreaming feels. In a lucid dream there is also a strange eerie feeling. After all, you are dreaming.
"At first this state can be confusing, because although you know it is a dream, it is as genuinely as real as waking reality in every sense."
For some people, dreams are a distraction or even a problem, if they are bothered by nightmares. It has been shown that nightmares and frustrating dreams are probably the result of trying to solve everyday tasks in the dream world. By applying ordinary thinking to the dream world, you end up in a pointless loop. The best was to use dreams is to let creativity flow freely; this allows for new ideas and thoughts, with creative solutions.
Lucid dreams are a way to ensure that your sleep is used productively. Rather than simply trying to solve problems, you can use the dream time creatively, to free your mind. In lucid dreams the monsters can't hurt you. You can tell anybody to do anything you want and with an act of will, it will happen, If you want to fly, or build a cathedral, create a planet, write a symphony or visit alien worlds, it will happen in a moment.
It is this vast potential that has led many people to use lucid dreams as a jumping off point for paranormal experience.
We tend to think of the real world as being 'out there', solid and tangible, while dreams are seen as a hazy by-product of a fuddled mind. The truth may be more exciting.
Tests have shown that dreams may be a cross-over point between internal and external reality. An experimenter asked lucid dreamers to perform certain tasks, such as clicking their fingers while dreaming and noticed that slight muscle contractions occurred in the relevant muscles.
Conversely, it is possible to influence dreams from the outside. If you touch a sleeping person's face, they may dream of being touched, or even punched. If you played sounds of the sea, they may dream about being at the seaside. External cues can influence a dream in a direct way.
This shows that there is no absolute dividing line between dreams and the waking world; the two are capable of interacting.
This could be why dreams allow us to access paranormal power. If dreams interact with the real world, the lucid dream state can allow you to experiment with paranormal activities.
One of the most pleasant ways to utilise this is for people to share dreams. This can occur in ordinary dreams, when two people dream of being in the same place, experiencing exactly the same dream. This usually happens when two people are emotionally close, such as lovers. This experience is quite common and it is perceived as a real form of telepathy, a meaningful contact.
Some scientists dismiss this, saying that dreamers have vaguely similar dreams, and then convince themselves of the connection once awake, by altering the details of their confused dream recall to fit the picture. In some cases, it has even been observed that lovers have talked to each other out loud, while asleep, this influencing each other's dreams. This is not however, paranormal.
When people do meet in dreams, by [alleged] paranormal connection, it can be experienced over long distances and both people independently remember, word for word, image for image, every detail. To them it is the most direct and workable form of psychic contact that exists.
As the lucid dream state is controllable, it can be used to experiment with such forms of contact.
When you first learn to have lucid dreams, the temptation is to fly (the most common lucid dream experience), or meet famous people, or play with characters from your favourite movie but more advanced dreamwork is soon tempting.
To make this more effective, people seek out a dream guide. This may take the form of a friend, an imaginary person you've never met, or even an animal. If you ask a dream guide to reveal information to you, they will do so. Wise dreamers realise that this is their own inner mind answering back, so it's wise not to trust everything a guide says as fact.
Ordinary dreams often [appear to] predict the future. You dream of an aeroplane crash and then see it on the news, exactly the way you dreamt it. Statistics now show that every few years, this is bound to happen to you, just by chance. In some cases however, dreams are so complete and accurate, that paranormal intervention cannot be ruled out.
You can [try to] use lucid dreams as a form of divination, to see the future. Again, guides can be useful for aiding in this, but it is also possible to just hold an idea about a time and place in mind, and see what happens. Any predictions will be based on the [alleged] psychic abilities of your inner mind, however, so be cautious.
"More adventurous dreamers will use the lucid state as a form of magic. In many types of magic, visualization is seen as the key to causing change."
More adventurous dreamers will use the lucid state as a form of magic. In many types of magic, visualisation is seen as the key to causing change in the world. If you visualise wealth, it will come to you. These visualisations should not be used as power other over people, but to attract things that you desire. Many people however, find it is difficult to visualise clearly. In the lucid dream state, the imagination is at its best. If you want to imagine a different future, you can do so with total clarity, making it the most powerful form of visualisation.
Perhaps the most exciting use of the lucid dream state is to induce an out of body experience (OBE), also known as astral projection. In this state, the mind [appears to] leave the physical body, floating above it, observing calmly.
OBEs are experienced by people by chance, especially during accidents or moments of stress. Studies show that between five and thirty five percent of the Western population have experienced this sense of being 'out of body' at some time in their lives.
Although some people claim that OBEs are a form of lucid dream, this seems unlikely. In a lucid dream you know that the event is not real; you are awake and you know that you are dreaming. In an OBE you feel that your mind has left your body and that it is a real experience. This is an entirely different type of perception. It is possible however, to use the altered reality of lucid dreams to step out of your body, inducing an OBE.
The simplest way to achieve this, is to direct your dream so that you are back in your own bedroom, looking at your sleeping body. You are then free to roam the real world at will, passing through walls or rising above the trees.
In cases of OBE people often report seeing everything with a silvery hue, whatever the real lighting conditions, and there is much [anecdotal] evidence to show that it is possible to see real events which could not [apparently] be perceived by the dreamer. It is possible to convince yourself that you are having an OBE, when in fact it is just a clear dream, so discretion is advised.
There are several methods for inducing lucid dreams. Firstly, you should improve your dream recall. Each morning, write down your dreams as soon as you awaken. This is also a good way to check whether your dreams are predicting futures, or reflecting important aspects of your life. You will notice recurring themes which are personal to you; study anything which recurs closely, because it may reflect an aspect of your personality. Take an interest in your dreams and they will become more memorable and clear.
When you can remember at least one dream a night, you can try to induce a lucid dream. Lucid dreams occur when you realise that you are dreaming, but how do you switch this critical faculty on while asleep?
Dreams tend to play with reality, using the recent events as source material. This being the case, you can train yourself to perform certain actions in your dreams, by repeating them while awake. During the day, ask yourself every hour or so, "Is this a dream?" If you like, find a cue which will make you ask this. Every time you see a seagull, hear a person sing, or look at a clock, ask yourself, "Is this a dream?" Pick a cue that will work for you, and don't just ask the question blankly, but test your reality. Try floating, or try to change the scenery through will power. If possible use something electric, such as a calculator, or a light switch, as these tend to fail in dreams.
This may sound ridiculous, but if you practise this while awake, the same will happen in a dream. At some point, you will dream about your cue and you will automatically check your reality. You will find that perhaps you can float, or a light switch will refuse to switch on. At this moment you will realise that you are dreaming and become lucid.
"Each morning, write down your dreams as soon as you awaken. This is also a good way to check whether your dreams are predicting futures or reflecting important aspects of your life."
Research has shown that most lucid dreams occur a couple of hours before waking, and you can use this knowledge to your benefit. Set your alarm to wake you two hours earlier than normal and however tired you feel, get up for ten or fifteen minutes. Allow yourself to become fully awake and think about your dreams. Then, without too much effort, go back to sleep. This will be easier than you think, if this is genuinely earlier than your normal waking time. The technique stimulates your consciousness, bringing it to the surface, vastly increasing your chances of dreaming lucidly.
It is even possible to buy dream machines, from a company called Life Tools, which you strap over your face while asleep. When the machine detects that you are dreaming, by sensing rapid eye movements, it flashed lights in your eyes to stimulate consciousness and thus lucid dreams.
Lucid dreams are safe, but be wary of sleep paralysis. When we dream, the body's muscles are restrained. If they weren't, we would act out our dreams, causing untold havoc. For lucid dreamers, it is possible to wake up, being fully aware of your paralysed body, when in fact you are still dreaming. Your body cannot move; you are awake but paralysed. This is frightening, but not dangerous. Try breathing deeply, or moving your mouth and eyes, as this can break the paralysis and wake you up. Remember, it is an illusion; you aren't genuinely paralysed, just asleep.
For people with an interest in the paranormal, lucid dreams are the safest and most accessible way of experimenting with ESP, predictions and OBEs. Take the time to observe your sleep, and you will wake up in your dreams.
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?