One of the most exciting ways to enhance the quality of your sleep is to practice lucid dreaming. But what exactly is lucid dreaming, and—aside from improving your sleep—why would you want to do it?
What Is Lucid Dreaming?
Lucid dreaming means while you're dreaming, you consciously know that you're dreaming. In other words, you're aware of being in a dream. As Andrew Holecek—one of the foremost experts on lucid dreaming—puts it:
"A lucid dream is when you wake up to the fact that you're dreaming, but you still remain in the dream—that is, you're dreaming and you know it."
Accounts of lucid dreaming go back as far as Aristotle. And the first lucid dream report—from Western culture—was written in 415 CE by Saint Augustine.
When you get good at lucid dreaming, you can intentionally create a specific dream environment, in the same way, a playwright or movie producer creates a particular set and script for the characters. And this is fun! But what else happens in lucid dreams?
What Happens In A Lucid Dream?
The moment when you "wake up" within a dream is quite magical. Instead of being tossed around by dream-events that seem utterly random, you now can maneuver around within the dream, based upon your interests and creative inspiration. Instead of being a helpless victim of the dream (as in a nightmare), you now consciously dictate the dream.
The sky is the limit in terms of what you can choose to do within your lucid dream. Researchers have shown the two activities most frequently engaged in by lucid dreamers are (1) flying, and (2) having sex. But you could also ascend Mount Everest, rob Fort Knox, meditate in a Himalayan cave—or anything else you can imagine.
You can even do things in lucid dreams that completely defy the waking-state laws of physics, e.g., walking on water, breathing underwater, walking through walls, time travel, talking with animals, or visiting another planet.
And as it turns out, lucid dreaming is not only really fun—but also has a wide range of health benefits.
The Benefits Of Lucid Dreaming
The physical, mental, and emotional benefits of lucid dreaming are extensive. Along with supporting deeper and more restful sleep, lucid dreaming can enhance creativity, get rid of nightmares, help you access your subconscious mind, and deepen spiritual insight.
Here's a complete list of lucid dreaming benefits:
- Getting more restful sleep. As mentioned above, lucid dreaming tends to facilitate more profound, more healing and relaxing sleep. So if you're looking to improve the quality of your sleep, learning lucid dreaming skills is one great way to do this.
- You have empowered choice and agency. When you lucid dream, you get to decide how to dream. It's empowering! It's a beautiful way to exercise your free will, agency, and creative intention.
- Nourish and supercharge your creativity. In a lucid dream, the dream-space becomes something like a painter's canvas, with a full palette of paints—in every color of the rainbow—at your disposal.
- Dissolve fears and phobias. One of the most transformational aspects of lucid dreaming is how it can resolve deep-seated worries. You create, within the lucid dream, the scenario that (in waking life) you're afraid of—and get to interact with it in a completely new way, knowing nothing harmful can happen to you. Over time, this can dramatically transform your relationship with the fear in your waking life also.
- Practice and improve waking-state skills. Lucid dreaming works similarly to visualization practice. In the same way that a basketball player might visualize making free-throws, or a musician might imagine performing a problematic musical passage perfectly—as part of their training regimen—the same can happen through lucid dreams.
- Communicate with your subconscious mind. The reason you can use lucid dreaming to resolve fears and phobias or to practice a waking-state skill is that lucid dreaming interfaces with the subconscious mind.
- An endless source of inspiration. Because there are no physical limits within the space of a lucid dream, you can move, play, experiment, explore, and strategize in any way you can imagine.
- Have fewer or no more nightmares. Within the creative agency of a lucid dream, you can turn terrifying fantasies into inspiringly beautiful lucid dreams. That's right—you can stop having nightmares or disturbing dreams, by learning some simple, lucid dreaming skills, which allow you to enter into a conversation with the scary images, ask what they represent, and release the negative emotions associated with them.
- Reinvent yourself. Within a lucid dream, you can reimagine yourself—in the same way; an actor can decide to play a different character. By exploring different ways of acting within the dream, you can become the best possible version of yourself.
- Enhance spiritual practices. Lucid dreaming is sometimes referred to as "dream yoga." When it's called dream yoga, it often involves intentionally doing spiritual practices within the dream. For instance, you might meditate within your dream, or pray, or go on a pilgrimage to a sacred site. And such practices performed within a lucid dream can be much more transformative than the same methods completed in the waking state.
Have a lot of fun for free! Perhaps most importantly, lucid dreaming is just a great adventure—which requires nothing other than your human body-mind.
Now that you've learned about the various benefits of lucid dreaming, the chances are good that you're feeling at least a little bit curious—and interested in trying it on your own. Here's how.
How To Learn Lucid Dreaming
There are some simple techniques you can use—during the day and right before falling asleep—to increase your chances of having a lucid dream.
One of the most basic is to actively intend to have a lucid dream, right as you're drifting off to sleep at night. This intention might take the form of saying (either out loud or to yourself) I intend to become lucid in my dreams tonight. Repeat this with conviction, four or five times as you fall asleep.
But there are many other exciting and powerful techniques you can learn, for instance through the course with Andrew Holecek or via the engaging interview Lucid Dreaming 101. Like any skill, lucid dreaming requires practice—but the benefits make it well worth the time and energy you invest in it. Have fun!Questions or comments? Please feel free to contact us.