Here’s a brief look at some of the best techniques for bringing the light of lucid awareness to your dreams.
It isn’t meant to replace a committed, consistent study or focus such as the opportunity offered by our course, but perhaps it can serve as a jumping off point for those who want to efficiently focus their efforts without delay.
Some techniques are less suitable to a regular daily work schedule, however, the more you can focus on the various techniques and lucid dreaming in general, the more frequent will be your lucid dreams.
[ Master dream recall: No other practice is more effective. The main barrier to realizing when one is dreaming is that our waking and dreaming minds are not connected nearly as much as they could be with simple intention, practice and focus. Making a consistent effort to remember dreams will help your waking mind to ally itself more closely with your dreaming awareness and will also allow you to become more familiar with your personal dream content – characters, settings, feelings or sensations that seem odd (though only after you awaken) because they’re often not a usual part of your waking experience. This will then allow your waking reasoning and reflective capabilities to be more present in dreams so that you recognize unfamiliar or unlikely surroundings or feelings while you’re still actually experiencing them in a dream. Success with lucid dreaming is most likely if you recall one dream or more per night, in fact you may already be having lucid dreams and simply not remembering them. So, to increase dream recall: As you go to bed, clearly ask yourself to remember your dreams when you awaken in the morning or during the night. When you do awaken, keep your eyes closed (or shut them if already opened) and remain as motionless as possible. Gather as many images, feelings or impressions as you can and then rise and quickly jot them down in a notebook (which you keep bedside), no matter how brief or vague they may at first seem. You’ll be surprised at how much more you begin to remember as you write. This is also an excellent way to increase intuitive capabilities, since dreaming and intuition are closely related.
[ Arise during the night: Research has proven that morning naps after a period of wakefulness are extremely productive times for lucid dreaming. This is for (at least) 3 reasons: (a) We have more REM (dream) activity per sleep cycle as the night progresses (i.e. more dreams, more chance of a lucid dream), (b) There’s much less time between when we fall asleep and when REM sleep begins than at the start of the night (about 90 minutes compared to 5-20 minutes during a morning nap), so we have more chance of bridging the wake-sleep “forget-as-you-pass-by” barrier, (c) we tend to sleep more lightly (with much less or no deep sleep) as the morning approaches.
This technique probably requires the most motivation, but also provides the best pay-off. Week-ends or vacation are a particularly good time to try it. The best method is to arise either 1½ or 3 hours (1 or 2 sleep cycles) earlier than usual, stay awake for 30-90 minutes, and then return to bed for the remainder of your postponed sleep. During the period of wakefulness, it’s important to “get awake” to some degree. Some of the best activities for this period are: taking a midnight walk (lots of fun!), love-making, and especially meditation (vipassana technique is particularly good). Ideally, anything that brings or maintains presence of mind.
[ Visualization (MILD) technique: This technique is extremely effective, although it can be difficult to focus upon since it’s practiced while falling asleep. The basics are: Before going to bed, use the autosuggestion method for promoting good dream recall and the occurrence of lucid dreams, and then (ideally) use the following technique on a previous night’s dream: When you awaken after any REM period, arouse yourself and recall as many dreams as possible using the dream recall methods. Before returning to sleep (while sitting on the side of your bed is best so as not to doze off before finishing the technique), tell yourself “The next time I’m dreaming, I want to remember that I’m dreaming“, then imagine you are back in the dream from which you just awoke, remembering it step by step, scene by scene, except that this time you see yourself recognizing that you’re dreaming (ideally when something odd occurs) and carrying out some planned activity (see below). Then lay down, and focus upon your intention followed by the visualization as many times as you can until you fall asleep.
[ Stay present as you drift asleep: As you lie ready for sleep, especially after waking during the night, focus upon your breath and simply observe any thoughts that arise, without getting caught by them. If you do, and later “snap back”, focus right back on your breath.
[ Autosuggestion: As you go to bed, or if you awaken during the night, put yourself in the frame of mind of genuinely expecting that tonight or sometime soon you will become conscious within a dream. Clearly convince yourself in a friendly, assured (rather than pressured) way, and then let it go like a seed planted in your subconscious.
[ Plan a lucid dream activity: Realizing that you are dreaming is exciting – the thrill is great, but can also awaken you, especially if you’re not sure what to do next. Imagine you’ve really been focusing for three weeks and all of sudden you realize you’re dreaming, only to awaken from excitement. It’s quite common – unless you have some specific activity to focus on right away. To continue past those first few moments of lucidity, plan in advance something specific to do in your next lucid dream. Many people choose flying, but the options are truly limitless. Let your imagination take you. The best activities for maintaining a lucid dream are those that engage you in the dream scenario.
[ Perform reality checks as a habit: Always Test First and then Decide when you have even the slightest inclination that you might be dreaming. In this way you won’t miss valuable lucid opportunities. Also, throughout the day, ask yourself as often as you can remember, whether you are dreaming, and perform a test to find out. This may seem silly, but it will carry over by habit to the dream state, and you will be very glad (for once) when you find that your check has bounced! The best test is to read some text, look away and quickly look back. If the words change – you are dreaming! It helps to try to get the words to change. A digital watch is excellent for this. If there is no text nearby, look at your hands for a good 5-10 seconds to see if they appear wavy or odd in any way – as they most often do in dreams.
[ Be patient and persistent: Although many people experience success the first night or during the first couple of weeks, lucid dreaming is a skill that requires time and focus to master. In this regard it’s more like learning a sport or musical instrument rather than learning to ride a bike where you get it from one day to the next for good. Try to maintain a relaxed and playful attitude of looking forward to your dreams while being willing to let it happen all in good time. Trying too hard or being too serious can be limiting factors. Dream recall, lucid dreams and even motivation all tend to come and go naturally in cycles, and also depend upon what else is going on in our lives. Continued practice of these techniques over at least a few months is more likely to bring mastery than a few intense but sparse attempts – a weekly study group of people with a like interest is unmatchable for sustained motivation and inspiration. Once you start on a cycle of focusing on some of the exercises, stick with it for at least a four or five days, because consecutive nights seem to have an additive effect.
[ Keep your life in balance: The subtle energies, ideology and realizations connected with lucid dreams and related experiences are very powerful and often of profound waking influence, at least psychologically. The approach of “as-much-lucidity-as-possible-as-fast-as-possible” is strongly discouraged. Such an approach can bring great imbalances and even unnecessary calamities into your waking life. There’s no need for fear, but do remain aware of this important point. Remember that trees stand as tall and withstand storms only as deep as their roots go, so stay grounded and maintain a healthy outward daily focus. To help regain balance if trouble arises, eat and sleep well, and maintain social connections. Other suggestions include getting a massage, going for extended exercise outdoors, and focusing on simple day-to-day tasks and therefore removing your focus from dreams and inner life for a while.