My dream life is pretty intense. And over the years I've categorized my dreams into five broad types. Here's how to identify the nature of your dreams and how you can turn any of them into lucid dreams.
Studies reveal that the average person daydreams for a whopping 70-120 minutes of their waking day. Daydreaming is an important part of dream research. As with all types of dreams, you enter a kind of hypnotic trance and allow your unconscious thoughts to rise to the surface.
During daydreams, you are semi-awake. Clearly not asleep - but not fully checked-in with reality, either. A daydream starts with a compelling thought, memory or fantasy, and your imagination runs away. The longer you daydream, the deeper you becomes immersed in your private fantasy land.
It's been suggested that people who daydream a lot find it easier to lucid dream. That's because daydreaming is like practicing lucid dreaming while you're awake - observing imagery in your mind's eye and directing the course of your fantasy. In fact, visualization is one of my main lucid dreaming practices.
In daydreams, the creative brain becomes dominant and you have less awareness of your physical reality.
Deeper worries or concerns can surface from the unconscious mind by acting themselves out in the daydream. This serves to reinforce negative beliefs about the future or bad memories of traumatic events. So next time you find yourself fantasizing about a bad situation, actively turn it around and create a positive outcome for yourself.
Conversely, daydreaming is good for rehearsing positive outcomes too. An athlete might visualize winning their next competition, a business leader might mentally rehearse an important speech. I use daydreaming to visualize all sorts of goals actually happening to me. I really think this helps affect the outcome. Not in a spooky law-of-attraction kind of way but just hardwiring my brain to believe in myself and stay motivated.
Daydreams are awesome. They are psychologically healthy, helping you temporarily escape the demands of reality, release frustrations, and plan for a better future.
Daydreaming is part of the mnemonic (MILD) method of lucid dream induction, as well as the wake-induced (WILD) method of lucid dreaming. It's more often referred to as visualization, but it's the same thing.
I use daydreaming to set my next lucid dream goal. Either during meditation or while I fall asleep, I daydream about a lucid dream seed situation - a location and any key characters. The more juice that goes into the daydream (intensity of the visualization and my desire for it to happen) the more likely I'll achieve it when lucid.
That way, the next time I become lucid, I'll automatically recall my plan and it'll come to life easily. Without this preparation, I tend to get distracted by flying and poking around the dreamscape and its characters - which is of course heaps of fun but I have a lot of cool waking goals I want to fulfill as well.
These are your bog standard dreams where you have no idea you're dreaming until you wake up. In a typical dream, you could be doing a rap duet with the Pope and think nothing of it. You accept your dream reality as it is.
Everybody has normal dreams every single night. These dreams arise mostly out of REM sleep and are essential to our survival. In fact, we would eventually die without them. Assuming you get eight hours of shuteye, you will dream for about 100 minutes, with longer and more vivid dreams occurring at the end of your sleep.
Normal dreams offer insights from the unconscious mind, or even a second conscious self; a silent observer (depending on which psycho-philosophy you subscribe to). These insights are based on your thoughts and experiences from the day before, sometimes memories from long ago, repressed fears and anxieties, and your strongest desires and urges. It arrives in the form of conceptual imagery - the coded language of the unconscious mind - which is what makes your dreams seem so weird.
In the dream-induced (DILD) method of becoming lucid, you'll use your normal dreams as a springboard to lucidity. All you need to do is recognize you're dreaming. Simple, no?
Spontaneous lucidity can happen to anyone, anytime they're dreaming. But you can significantly boost your odds by getting into the mental habit of checking whether you're awake or dreaming. Reality checks are a fine example. But it's not a superficial question-answer game. It's a permanent mindset.
Once you realize you're dreaming, it awakens the conscious brain and the sensory system, so that your normal dream becomes a lucid dream. It can look, feel, sound, smell and even taste as authentic as anything you experience in reality. Which is frikkin awesome. Even bizarre experiences - like shrinking yourself down to the size of an atom - feel astonishingly real.
Lucid dreams are the best types of dreams, hands down.
They are rich and immersive and you can guide them into infinite and beautiful worlds of your choosing. Lucid dreaming is the ultimate freedom.
What defines a lucid dream? It's any dream in which, while physically asleep, you also:
Sometimes I control lots of aspects of the dream - like the locations or characters or plot. But my dreaming mind still fills in a lot of details on its own.
Other times I let the dream guide me and show me whatever it wants. I'm still lucid because I can think clearly, acknowledge I'm dreaming, and experience the dream in real-life intensity.
Most people use lucid dreams to fulfill personal desires. But once you look outside this feature, you'll realize lucid dreams offer brilliant insights into the unconscious mind. Read Robert Waggoner's Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self for some extraordinary applications of lucid dreams.
Ever watched Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? False awakenings are a bit like that. You wake up as normal and plod into the bathroom, get dressed, eat breakfast, and maybe even get half way to work before you realize "oh my god, I'm still dreaming!" And then you wake up.
False awakenings are basically very vivid types of dreams. Like any normal dream, you assume you're awake, and you certainly don't know you're dreaming (if you do, you're already lucid). It begins in your bedroom, or the last place you went to sleep, or even a different bed altogether. You dream that you've woken up for real and somehow your brain mimics every detail of the room, exactly as it should be. Unless you question your reality (remember that reality check thing I mentioned earlier) you don't stand a chance...
It usually takes something quite obvious to shock you out of these types of dreams. Maybe you look in the bathroom mirror and see yourself 20 years from now. Or maybe you're driving down the road and realize there are no other cars on the road.
Some people report multiple false awakenings, one after the other in quick succession. They get trapped in a seemingly never-ending cycle, tired of getting dressed for work for the seventh time that day.
If this happens to you often, it's a big fat sign for you to start doing reality checks. Especially when you wake up in the morning. The habit of morning checks will slide right into your false awakenings and BAM - a lucid dream.
Just be warned. If you become only semi-lucid it can get frustrating. I once had a false awakening that was so real, I couldn't accept I was dreaming, even after doing a successful reality check. I wrestled with the question - am I dreaming? - for several minutes, banging on the glass of my bedroom window, trying to figure out if I could push my hand through. I just couldn't get myself to full lucidity. The environment was so perfectly real.
In the end, the dream revealed its true nature when I walked into the kitchen and found my partner cooking a roast dinner at 7am. I became lucid immediately and flew out the window.
False awakenings may be frustrating at times but aren't at all harmful. They are also extremely vivid but not nightmarish in content. And if nothing else, they provide a fascinating talking point the next day.
In the Western world, nightmares are any normal dreams with a very scary twist.
In nightmares, you don't know you're dreaming so the unconscious mind processes everything as if it were really happening. Some nightmares can be so vivid that the sensory system is triggered and you can feel certain types of pain. It can be very unnerving.
According to dream analysis, being chased in a nightmare represents our evolutionary fear of being hunted. Children - who arguably feel more vulnerable than most adults - report this type of dream the most. Studies show that nightmares are usually caused by sickness, stress, trauma, and drugs or alcohol.
One brilliant way to start having lucid dreams is by being shocked into lucidity by a really bad nightmare. Ever have that moment where you're being butchered by a madman and are screaming, "WAKE UP! WAKE UP!"
No? Just me then.
Technically, at that point, you're lucid. If you're shouting "wake up" then you know you're asleep. But you need to get a grip in order to snap this into a lucid dream. Instead of trying to end the drama, be still for a moment and say, "I'm dreaming" instead. Just saying it out loud brings clarity to everything.
Your nightmare figure may disappear, or begin to whimper like a child, or look embarrassed. At this point, instead of waking yourself up, go and seek out your ultimate desire. It's a much better use of your time.
(Even better than dismissing a nightmare lucidly is to engage in conversation with the source of your fear. In the calm light of lucidity you can have a meaningful exchange that helps explain the cause. Not only does this help you on a conscious level, it can also cancel out future nightmares, as now the issue has been heard.)
To learn more about the nature of your dreams and how to turn them into lucid dreams, check out my definitive home study program, the Lucid Dreaming Fast Track.
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?