When I was 22, I was reading a couple of books that accidentally tripped me into the world of lucid dreaming - in two completely different ways.
The first book was A Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford. As a passionate meditator, I found its workbook of 365 daily practices appealing. I was intent on following the book daily as part of my spiritual practice.
The other book was Carlos Casteneda's The Art of Dreaming. At the time I had no real intention to explore lucid dreaming or the dream world, but my interest was piqued nonetheless. I was reading it for fun.
Yet the simple act of thinking about the content of these books was enough to trigger multiple lucid dreams. I wasn't doing any special lucidity practice and had never done so in the past. This is how it happened.
That summer I was spending the warm nights sleeping next to a fire in the backyard, staring up into the night sky as I drifted off.
One particular night I had just gotten done reading a chapter in The Art of Dreaming where Carlos Casteneda is given the challenge of focusing his gaze on his palms while dreaming. His first attempts are futile, and it takes him a good amount of time to learn to complete this task.
As I started to doze off that night, I was wondering to myself just how hard doing something like that would be. I had had a few spontaneous lucid dreams in my life up to that point, with no particularly profound or exciting outcome. I began to doze...
The next thing I knew... I was in a lucid dream. At first my awareness was overcome with the excitement of being conscious in the dream, and my mind was racing over the different possibilities of what I could do to explore this state. There was little lucidity or focus at all.
And then I remembered the idea of looking at my palms. So I stared down at my own palms, and, very surprisingly, I was able to fixate on them until they became crystal clear! I could literally read the individual lines on each palm. They were vividly fixated and solid, and very real.
So real in fact that it frightened me. This burst of fright woke me up.
It was absolutely shocking to me that I had managed to get into a lucid dream, with no training, or even much intention, just by thinking about the possibility of it.
But even more shocking was how easily able I was to perform this task that seemed to take good amounts of practice in The Art of Dreaming.
I could hardly believe it, but I was very excited. The clarity that I had seen in this experience had absolutely blown my mind. My palms, and my awareness of them, had been just as clear as if I'd been awake, and I'd never gained such vividness and clarity in a dream before. I didn't even know it was possible to do that! I was hooked, and all the more fascinated with the idea of exploring the lucid dream world.
But I still had no idea how to get into a lucid dream, and yet, the next night, there I was again! I found myself lucid in a dream, and remembering to look at my palms.
This time I was able to maintain the gaze without being overly surprised. It was so interesting that I could see the lines in my palms so clearly, and realize that the lines on my palms in the dream world were completely different from the lines on my palms in the real world. (I had dabbled in palmistry at one point in my life, and I spent a good portion of the dream giving my dream body a palmistry reading.)
But even more interesting than that was the realization that focusing my awareness on my palms had also made everything else in the dream just as vivid!
It felt so real that I could have been fooled that I was awake. I was in a house, looking at the details of a cotton sweater, leaning against a wall in a closet, pressing my face and hands up against a wall and it all felt very real. I could see the subtleties of the lighting in the room reflecting off of the semi-gloss white paint. I could see the orange peel texture of the wall. And then again, this began to frighten me in its reality, and I woke up.
Over the next few weeks I continued to experiment in this way. I still had no idea why I was all of a sudden able to enter lucid dreams regularly. But I was beginning to understand "dreaming attention", and that I happened to have a good amount of it for someone who didn't really know what they were doing.
I didn't understand why at the time, and was very curious. In my waking life I was diligently practicing A Course In Miracles daily. To generally describe the daily exercises: I was given a phrase or statement each day, and would practice remembering it and repeating it to myself as I was going about my daily life. I would also meditate on it for a certain amount of time each day.
This started out as just 2-3 minutes spent with the phrase, and built up to 5 minutes, then two 5-minute periods, then one 15-minute period, and eventually got to the point where I was repeating the phrase of the day multiple times to myself per hour.
The thing to understand about these statements is that they're almost in exact opposition to the way that the mind automatically tends to think. It is a different thought system. Thus, it took a good deal of concentration and intention to remember to stop throughout the day, intend to say the phrase, and then recall the phrase to memory after being absorbed in regular daily tasks.
This intense focus would bring about a potent moment of awareness at the time. It was also building my ability to be aware of my own thoughts and silence the mind at will.
So one night I was dreaming, not lucid at all, and all of a sudden the habit I had developed of practicing these phrases kicked in. I thought "What is my exercise today?" like I'd been doing regularly throughout the day for several weeks, and BAM! I was lucid.
At this point I had a revelation. My awareness practice was enhancing my ability to be lucid and focused in the dream world!
It seemed that by building and developing my awareness in the waking world, I was simultaneously building my dreaming awareness as well. This only added fuel to the fire of my passion. I kept practicing daily, which led to gaining more and more clarity in the dream world, and an ability to perform some pretty strange feats and exercises while lucid.
These were very good times. I began to give myself goals to accomplish, made up games to play, experienced things I'd always wanted to experience. I would fly up into the atmosphere, sleep with attractive women, and even better, explore strange facets of dreaming that I'd previously never known to exist.
This biggest feat I was able to accomplish was to wake up from one dream into another dream. This was a mind blowing experience to me.
And just as my activities in my waking life were spilling over into the dream world, my activities in the dream world were spilling over into my daily life. The vividness that I was able to experience in dreams had such a huge irreversible impact on me. At times my dreams seemed just as real, just as solid as the "real world." This led me to realize the real world can have a very dream-like quality about it. The two are not so different when your level of awareness is the same.
These experiences changed my life, and brought to a whole new level at understanding and experiencing the idea that "life is but a dream", and that mind creates reality. I did not really ask for these experiences, but felt more like they were given to me.
And then, one day, just as spontaneously as they had arrived, they disappeared, after a very startling and shocking experience in my last of several months of lucid dreams at that time. But that's a whole other story...
The Art of Dreaming is Carlos Cateneda's eighth book about his apprenticeship with the Yaqui Indian sorcerer Don Juan Matus. Here he tells how he gained control over his dreams and them as a launching pad to a pervasive but unseen realm of ancestral spiritual forces. He goes through tunnels, enters into the consciousness of trees, meets scouts, emissaries and form-changing blobs of energy. Aided by Don Juan's companions and fellow apprentices, Castaneda penetrates a realm of inorganic beings who set traps for him and attack him, as if to illustrate Don Juan's teaching that consciousness is compelled to grow through life-or-death confrontations. For those who believe this is a work of non-fiction, Castaneda's quest offers a tantalizing glimpse of alternate worlds beyond the rational parameters of our mundane reality.
About The Guest Author
Ashton Aiden is the founder of Brainwave Love, a website to help people discover practical, accessible ways of reaching that next level of self-awareness, manifesting positive experiences and outcomes in their lives. He is also in the process of launching a meditation program called The Missing Link which combines brainwave entrainment with other techniques to achieve transformation at the deepest level.
Rebecca Turner is a science writer, illustrator, explorer of consciousness - and founder of World of Lucid Dreaming. She is currently studying for a biology degree in Auckland and blogging at her site Science Me.
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