Friday, December 7, 2007

Lucid Dreaming

by Arthur Gillard

Lucid dreaming may be simply defined as dreaming with awareness that you are dreaming. It may occur spontaneously or as a result of the dreamer noticing incongruities or impossibilities in the dream. Although it has been noted in the West at least as far back as Aristotle, awareness of the phenomenon of lucid dreaming did not enter the public consciousness on any large scale until relatively recently, notably following the publication in 1985 of Stephen LaBerge's groundbreaking book Lucid Dreaming: The Power of Being Awake and Aware in Your Dreams. In the East there is a rich tradition of lucid dreaming in certain meditation traditions, but here we will focus on the Western approach – although it is worth noting that studies have shown the incidence of spontaneous lucid dreams tends to increase in long-term meditators.

The degree of lucidity one may experience varies widely, from low-level or tacit lucidity – enough to use magical powers, for example – all the way to high-level lucidity in which you realize everything you are experiencing is occurring in your mind while your physical body is safe in bed. Generally your ability to control the dream increases with the degree of lucidity, but it is up to you to choose how much control to exert – including choosing to simply witness the dream as it unfolds.

The experience of lucid dreaming is limited only by your imagination, and can be used in a variety of ways, including fantasy/adventure, overcoming nightmares, rehearsal of skills, problem solving or creativity, healing, experiencing psychedelic or transcendent states, shadow work, and insight into the illusory nature of reality.

Lucid dreaming is an easily learnable skill, given motivation and effort. The most fundamental element is good dream recall, which improves readily if one sets the intention to recall dreams when going to bed, and gets into the habit of writing down whatever can be recalled upon waking up. Many exercises have been developed to cultivate the skill of lucid dreaming, but one of the best for beginners is State Testing.


1. Make a habit of seriously asking yourself several times during the day, “Am I dreaming or awake, right now?” Particularly do this if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

2. Test your state. There are several ways to do this, but one of the easiest is to read some text, look away, then read it again – in dreams writing will almost always change in some way. Or jump up and try to prolong the time you stay airborne. Another very reliable technique is to look twice at a digital time display, which never behave correctly in dreams.

3. If your state test reveals that you are awake, then imagine what you would do in the same situation if it turned out to be a dream: this will help motivate you and also help set intentions to carry out while lucid dreaming.

A final tip: for beginners, it may be difficult to stay in the dream state for long once you've become lucid. However, should you feel yourself beginning to wake up, spin rapidly while focusing your attention on your dreambody; almost invariably this will stabilize the dream.


1. Lucid Dreaming FAQ:

2. Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D. & Howard Rheingold, Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming (New York: Ballantine Books, 1990)

3. Patricia Garfield, Ph.D., Pathway to Ecstasy: The Way of the Dream Mandala (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1979)

4. Malcolm Godwin, The Lucid Dreamer: A Waking Guide for the Traveler Between Worlds (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994)

5. Celia Green and Charles McCreery, Lucid Dreaming: The Paradox of Consciousness During Sleep (New York: Routledge, 1994)

6. Kenneth Kelzer, The Sun and the Shadow: My Experiment with Lucid Dreaming (Virginia: A.R.E. Press, 1987)

7. Stephen LaBerge, Lucid Dreaming: The Power of Being Awake and Aware in Your Dreams (New York: Ballantine Books, 1985)

8. Robert L. Van de Castle, Ph.D., Our Dreaming Mind (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994)

9. Rick Veitch, Rabid Eye: The Dream Art of Rick Veitch, Vermont: King Hell Press, 1995)

10. Charles T. Tart, Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1986) [The focus of this book is neither dreaming nor lucid dreaming, but many students of lucid dreaming have found it invaluable.]


This article was written and contributed by Arthur Gillard.

see also:
Lucid Dreaming and Awakening: an Interview with Robert Augustus Masters
Dream Tripping: Dream Drugs as Metaphor
Dream Yoga

see also:
The Integral News and Views blog aims to explore accessible and practical integral perspectives for people who are interested in getting beyond fragmented worldviews, who desire intimacy with all that they are, and who wish to help the world, themselves, and others evolve and thrive in a mutually beneficial and sustainable manner.

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