James Wadman – The Complete Lucid Dreaming Guide
Lucid dreaming is when we suddenly come to a conscious realization within a dream that we are, in fact, dreaming. Those who remain in a dream state will have access to the controlled state of lucid dreaming in which anything and everything is possible. Lucid dreaming occurs as a result of the physical barriers of sleep (discussed in my series Dream Dualism: part one, part two) remaining undisturbed while the conscious mind is awoken within a dream. This places the dreamer in the heart of the dream with access to the limitless capability of the creative mind.
Given the chaotic nature of dreams, lucid dreaming may happen by chance, but more likely by practice, trial, and effort. My methodology of lucid dreaming stems from the ability to comprehend how dreams feel, and how well reality and dreams can be differentiated. To build this sense of awareness, I always ask myself while awake, am I dreaming? and answer immediately with, no I am awake. After awhile, the mind gets used to wondering this question and suddenly the subconscious mind begins to ask the same question, only this time the answer is yes.
You will most likely wake up immediately after this realization is made during your first few times. You will learn from practice to not get too anxious when you lucid dream once you become accustomed to the altered, magnifying, and even paralyzing sensations of your dreams. Sometimes you will realize that you are stuck in place or your legs become too heavy or uncontrollable. Other times you will be overcome by magnified feelings of desire or fulfillment that make it difficult to stay asleep. Remember that as you become closer to your dreams, you will become closer to conquering these sensations.
Once you have found yourself aware in a dream, the choice is yours. You are in a frontier of the human mind that extends far beyond just the dreams you wake up and remember. Here you can create with conscious ingenuity, free of all physical limitations. The essence of lucid dreams is to seek the opportunity to capture the purest form of free will.
II. Active Lucid Dreaming
Active Lucid Dreaming, as I call it, is the state of pure lucid dreaming in the conventional sense (as described in part one). This variation of lucid dreaming begins when the dreamer becomes aware in the dream and begins to take control. Many reports of lucid dreaming involve the dreaming having the ability to fly, combat mythical creatures, or create massive buildings and landscapes. With a little practice, the dreamer can even script a plotline for the dream and be a character within an original story. However, before you get to this point, you will most likely face what I call the time bomb effect for a while until the art of lucid dream is mastered.
The time bomb effect occurs when you first come into the realization that you are dreaming. When your conscious mind becomes active, it is natural that you will gradually begin to wake up. Many people will choose to do as many things as possible before the dream collapses, but this is unwise. The overstimulation of the mind when first starting out lucid dreaming is a good way to deconstruct your dreams and wake up immediately. Instead of being anxious and vigorously trying to take advantage of your lucid dream—and, of course, this comes with experience—try to stay relaxed and take a few deep breaths. Staying calm in light of the new frontier of infinite possibilities is crucial to taking the next step forward in lucid dreaming. Once you have surpassed the moment of the time bomb, you will be welcomed into the lucid dream.
III. Transitional Lucid Dreaming
Transitional Lucid Dreaming is my preferred technique, although it is far more difficult. Transitional lucid dreaming occurs when the body fades into a state of half-sleep and half-conscious awareness within its natural environment. Although I apply this technique for dreaming quite often, I have no idea what the science is behind it (not for lack of trying), and I will proceed to explain based solely on experiences. I can relate this technique to out-of-body experiences such as astral projection, but for me it is far simpler. I focus on my thoughts as I fall asleep, holding on to an idea as I acknowledge my body preparing itself for sleep. Slowly my mind will fade away from my conscious thoughts, but I remain in a unique state of awareness. I hold on to my awareness as best as I can and all I can do is hope that I will enter my dreams with a conscious mind. In the next instant, I am awake again in my bed, unable to remember what I was just thinking about but I know there was an idea I was trying to hold on to. That is my indicator that I am in a transitional lucid dream. And this is just the beginning.I am in my own world that mimics the world I perceive on a daily basis, sometimes with some deviations or diversions. It is here that I can create whatever I wish just as I would in an active lucid dream. However, I am always overcome by a sensation that makes me just sit at my bedside and ponder my unification with the universe. When I become aware in my own version of the world I become overwhelmed by how intertwined my mind is with the world around me, how even the smallest observations, the corners of rooms, the slight details of the walls, the dust on the windowpane, can be replicated within an instant. I will stop just to converse with myself to seek the answer for why the human mind and soul is so powerful. I ask myself why I am able to do this.When I awake, I often see that no more than 30 minutes have passed. Then I usually shake my head and wonder why everyone in the world doesn’t try this.
IV. The Nightmares in Lucid Dreaming
To be in touch with yourself to a point in which lucid dreaming is possible, you must expect to face your nightmares. This is something no one wants to hear, but to be a lucid dreamer you must be able to master both your dreams and your emotions. Nightmares are the manifestation of negative energy in your dreams, often an idea or a memory that is begging to be acknowledged. I do not fear my nightmares, and that is perhaps the greatest reason for my success in lucid dreaming.
Consider the most vivid nightmares as forms of insight into what you may be feeling, withholding, or fearing in your life. There is never a need to run from what you fear, for you are invincible in your dreams, and there is always a way back into a peaceful state. For whatever reason, I find the provocation of nightmares to be the most beautiful facet of dreams, and I would not believe so strongly in dreams without them.
Here is where it gets interesting: every nightmare gives an opportunity to lucid dream. I used to have recurring dreams of getting robbed and assaulted, which I identified the underlying meaning and resolved long ago (I may or may not share the story behind these dreams one day), and I learned a valuable technique from these experiences. A lucid dreamer often relies on a conscious spark to assist in the realization that the environment is the creation of the mind and not reality. Each recurring nightmare caused me so much fear that I would want to escape my dream, but so much intrigue that I wanted to stay. In many of these nightmares I entered a state of control, and my lucid dream would begin with me overcoming the fear I had before my awakening. I would be victorious in my nightmares because I could lucid dream.
V. The Step-by-Step Lucid Dreaming Guide
Step One: Learn to run before you fly
The most important part of lucid dreaming is the ability to recall and understand your dreams. This is the most strenuous part of lucid dreaming because you cannot begin to lucid dream until you have learned how to make your dreams important. Think about your dreams often, do reality checks (ask yourself if you are dreaming), and when you wake up try to remember your dreams. Many people would suggest keeping a dream journal, but that is quite a bit of responsibility. When I was first beginning to interpret my dreams, I would write down a sentence or two that would remind me of what my dreams were about and that seemed to work just fine. Keep in mind that this is essential for lucid dreaming and can take anywhere from a day to a couple weeks to fully grasp.
Step Two: Understand that your dreams are biological
Both the conscious and subconscious minds are components of the biological nervous system, which is regulated by hormones, nutrition, and electricity. This means that what you put into your body impacts the strength at which your brain functions during REM sleep (the stage of sleep in which you dream). Caffeine, alcohol, and high levels of stress are the worst enemies of a dreamer. To avoid stress, don’t tell yourself you are going to lucid dream. Just let it happen, and I can assure you it will eventually. A tragic mistake I see quite often is when people try to plan out their lucid dream experiences. It will greatly increase your chances if you allow your chance to lucid dream to come naturally, but when your chance does come, seize it. On the other hand there are a variety of nutritional products that can be very beneficial to sleep and dream recollection (please ask me directly for a list).
Step Three: Establish peace of mind
Meditate into sleep and release your reflections of the day. Focus on the serenity of your thoughts, the dismissal of your consciousness, and the nullification of your body. Think in color, not in language. Avoid thinking about people or your day. Just take deep, calm breaths and feel the transition to sleep. If you feel that journey from being awake to being asleep, you will almost certainly have the chance to lucid dream.
Step Four: The Lucid Dream
The lucid dream will happen as a sudden moment of realization. You will face an eerie feeling when you are awoken into a state of lucid dreaming. The physical sensations and mental stimulations will be beyond anything you have ever experienced. The surreal visuals of an environment constructed solely by your subconscious will surround you. Do not panic, do not get overly excited or afraid. Steps one through three are preparation, and this step is merely seizing the opportunity.
Step Five: The choice is yours
Suddenly, you will feel at peace with yourself, and in that serenity you will realize you have a choice to make. With enough practice you will be able to stay within a dream for extended periods of time, perhaps even for what feels like hours. You will learn your ability and your limitations (or lack there of). From here on, the choice is yours.
VI. Conclusion, Final Frontiers
If you have made it this far, I offer you my congratulations. Ahead of us is the final frontier, as we stand in a vivid dream on the brink of the unlimited exploration within our creative minds. Herein lies one of the most challenging feats known to any dreamer. In this guide I must confess that the science is muddled in the unlocked mysteries of human consciousness and there is no evidence I can support other than trial and error. However, this last technique is one that few people can execute, and those that can often stumble upon it by chance, but I want to offer advice that few people possess.
I spoke of the time bomb effect in my second guide, where I blamed consciousness for why we wake up so swiftly after the lucid dream begins. While this is not untrue, it is not the whole story. I recently had a lucid dream in which I was caught in a purely white world, a world that allowed only observation. Yet I was conscious in this dream and there was no direct threat of waking up because of it. It seemed almost as if I were gingerly placed in the purgatory of dream states. I was without emotion, and I was without the physical structures that make me human. I could only observe, as a transparent mind floating in an abstract vision. What I took from this was the simple idea that consciousness and dream states do not have to be mutually exclusive. While consciousness triggers wakefulness, it is not the only the dominating force in the termination of our lucid dreams.
So, now I ask, what was missing from my lucid dream purgatory that protected me from waking up? There are many factors, perhaps too many to count, that can be a danger to the stability of lucid dreams. Lucid dreaming is exciting, maybe a little frightening. They inspire wonder and happiness. All of these factors play a role in the time bomb effect, but still all of these factors were predominantly absent in my white world. Then it hit me. Movement. The key is movement.
Now for the best kept secret of lucid dreaming. In To Lucid Dream, part 5 I addressed the first step of lucid dreaming as Learn to run before you can fly, not yet knowing the importance and literal significance of these words. In a dream you are a construct solely designed by your mind, meaning you are independent of the physical structures that make you human. You a pattern of plasticity, a consolidation of relevant systems in your brain, but you are not your arms and legs. Your arms and legs, your fingertips and toes, are all tools of the conscious mind and have no use in dream state landscapes. Therefore, if your conscious mind tries to utilize these tools of the physical world, you will almost certainly wake up and the boundaries between your physical self and your dream self will dissipate. Staying awake in lucid dreams is only possible if you learn to fly. Don’t try to run from point A to point B, simply imagine yourself being at point B and the rest will work itself out. Imagine yourself as a videogame character and you are holding a controller. You do not need to use the legs of the character; you only need to signify the direction or the destination.
I understand the challenges and the potential for skepticism in this final step. However, as I have said before, with my experiences in lucid dreams and the inspiration I have gained by seeing beautiful worlds so unique from our own, I often wonder why more people don’t try to lucid dream. Sleeping patterns and dreams are not fully understood biologically and evolutionarily, but as humans we have the opportunity to explore hidden worlds every single night.
As always with my guides and posts on dreaming, I will address all questions and comments by either responding or writing new posts that provide answers. You can also reach me through email or send a message on Tumblr. Good luck and safe travels.