What is Lucid Dreaming?
Wikipedia defines a Lucid Dream as; “Any dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming.” In a lucid dream, the dreamer can exert some degree of control over their participation within the dream or be able to manipulate their imaginary experiences in the dream environment.
I suffered from nightmares as a child that resulted from a traumatic “Home Invasion” experience around the age of eight. I never saw the face of the intruder, only his shadow against the curtains as he tried to peer into the house. And then his outline as he ran down the street when my Father chased after him.
The same nightmare haunted me until my early 30′s. My dream was always the same. It always took place where I was sleeping so it further substantiated to me that it was really taking place.
I would wake up in bed and hear someone trying to break into house. Outside the window would be someones shadow. I would tiptoe across the room to the bedroom door and listen. Then I grab the doorknob of the bedroom door to check the rest of the house and it would turn from the other side. Someone was on the other side of the door trying to get in!
A jolt of fear would shoot through my body like an electric current. I would wake up terrified unable to move my body, paralyzed by the fear. Often the dream would continue with my eyes open. I called it “waking dreams” because the dream would play out for several moments while I lay there unable to move.
Even as I fell asleep again, knowing it was just a dream, I would dream it again. The cycle would repeat sometimes a half dozen times a night. After the first dream I would wake my wife. She knew to hold my hand. I learned to move one hand and would squeeze hers while the rest of my body was paralyzed. It was a cue for her to shake me awake. It was a frightening experience for both of us.
In order to rid myself of these nightmares I tried Lucid Dreaming. I had read somewhere that sufferers of nightmares could benefit from the ability to be aware they are indeed dreaming.
I practiced daily by asking a simple question repeatedly. “Is this real or is this a dream?” I would then look at something written such as a book cover or a street sign or billboard. I would read it then look away and then look back and read it again. In a dream the words will change or just be a jumble of letters. If the words didn’t change I would say out loud, “This is real.”
I was in the backseat of my cousins car driving down a highway. I looked at a billboard then looked away and said “Is this real or is this a dream?” When I looked back the words had changed and I realized it was a dream and immediately became conscious in my dream. I was amazed at the fact that I had taken for granted it was real. This realization was a huge breakthrough for me.
One night while visiting my parents I awoke to the sound of an intruder. I saw his shadow pass the living room window towards the side of the house where there was a backdoor. I crept quietly into the kitchen where the door was located. The door had a glass portion with a curtain over it. I could see his shadow against the curtain and I froze for a moment until I noticed the “Home Sweet Home” sign hanging in the kitchen written in words that didn’t make sense. It was a dream.
I went over to the window and pushed back the curtain. The shadow figure was on the other side of the glass. I leaned forward to see his face and he mirrored my movements and leaned in as well. When both our faces were almost touching the glass when I finally saw his face. It was me peering back at myself!
From that day forward I have never experienced the nightmare again. I was free.
Those dreams that on the silent night intrude, and with false flitting shapes our minds delude … are mere productions of the brain. And fools consult interpreters in vain. -Jonathan Swift, On Dreams
Lucid Goal Technique
One day, many years later, after waking from a Lucid Dream a quote from Edgar Allan Poe popped into my mind;
- All that we see or seem
- Is but a dream within a dream.
- -Edgar Allan Poe, A Dream Within a Dream
For some reason that got me thinking about all those moments in my life when instead of working towards my dreams I was doing the opposite and just wasting time (sleeping on my feet). I needed to do a reality check. That’s when I came up with a technique I called “Lucid Goals.”
Here’s how it works; I would set alarms to remind me to work on a goal. When the alarm went off I would ask the question “Is this real or is this a dream?” I then would look around me and if I was working on my goal I would say “This is real.” If I was doing something other than working on my goal I would say to myself “This is a dream.” Then I would wake up and get going on whatever project it was I needed to be doing.
This surprisingly simple question almost always motivated me to action. To this day I occasionally use it to give myself a kick in the pants. Do you think this technique could work for you? What do you do to prompt yourself to action? I’d love to hear what others are doing.