What It Means To Lucid Dream And How To Try It Out Yourself Tonight
Once you drift off to sleep at night, what kind of dreams do you typically experience? Are you watching fantastical scenes play out in front of your mind’s eye like a “Harry Potter” movie, running from nightmare after nightmare or snoozing so deep in your REM sleep cycle that you don’t remember any of your dreams at all? Regardless of which category you fall into now, there’s another kind of dreaming that we can all access, and it can be one of the most enlightening experiences of both your waking and sleeping life. It’s called lucid dreaming.
The simple definition of lucid dreaming is being aware that you are dreaming while you’re in the middle of a dream. You don’t have to be able to control, change or direct what’s happening in the narrative. You just have to be able to acknowledge that what you’re experiencing at that moment isn’t based in reality. Lucid dreams occur in your REM sleep cycle, which is most closely associated with wakefulness and induces all other kinds of dreams as well.
Lucid dreamers often find that this dream state helps them better connect to and process their waking life obstacles, struggles, questions and decisions because they get to translate them into the dream world and watch scenarios play out without any lasting consequences in real life. Lucid dreaming is also an amazing tool for people with highly active imaginations because they get to access and explore these deeper parts of their brains in a way that doesn’t create physical, mental or emotional risks.
One of the key components of reaching the lucid dream state is a strong sense of awareness in the waking world. When you are able to spend time acknowledging the details of your surroundings on a daily basis, you’re much more likely to notice when things are slightly off in your dream, therefore cueing your brain that you are, in fact, dreaming. For example, you may experience a very vivid dream set in your apartment, but if you’re able to notice that the couch is located in a different spot than where it sits in your living room in real life, your mind will be able to discern that you’re in a dream and, therefore, move through the space and scenario more openly and curiously.
For many people, the idea of lucid dreaming is exciting because it grants them the opportunity to control and even create what happens to them in their dream scenarios. Like we mentioned earlier, control isn’t required for lucid dreaming — it’s just often desired. It’s not uncommon for lucid dreamers to choose how they navigate a dream once they arrive there, as opposed to watching it pan out like an omniscient observer. Say there’s a campfire in the person’s dream. They might decide to walk through it just because they can. Or if they’re looking out over the Grand Canyon, they might test their ability to float in the air and then “fly” over the gorge simply to experience what it’s like. This is the “fun part” of lucid dreaming. It can help unlock your inner creativity and even grant you the power to reroute some of your worst of nightmares.
If you’ve never had a lucid dreaming experience before but desperately want to now that you know what it entails, there are a few steps you can take to set your mind up for a hyperaware dream scenario.
1. Pay close attention during your waking hours.
As explained previously, the more you practice being aware of yourself and your surroundings during the day, the better equipped your mind will be to do the same in your dream state. Start out by selecting a few times each day to go quiet and simply pay attention. Notice the physical arrangement of your space, who’s sharing it with you, the kind of energy that’s filling the space, what it smells like and how you feel being there. From your commute to your office to your home, the opportunities for brain training in this way are endless.
2. Meditate before you go to bed.
Regardless of whether you’re hoping to work through an issue in your real life or simply explore your subconscious on a deeper level, settling down with your thoughts (rather than the TV or your smartphone) before bed is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for a lucid dream. Mindfulness practices help you achieve awareness of your inner self while also turning off the distracting chatter that gets in your way. Just remember: It doesn’t have to be about problem-solving — it’s not a task to check off your list. It’s a mental state to arrive in before you drift off.
3. Keep a dream journal.
When you wake up, record any and all details you can remember from the dreams you just experienced. And they don’t have to be lucid dreams specifically — regular dreams count, too. The idea here is to help you fine tune that ability to be highly aware and observant so your mind can arrive there naturally more frequently when you’re asleep. In that regard, no dream is too small, too short or too insignificant to be considered.
It might take you one night to experience a lucid dream, or it might take you months. So just remain patient and open to what your mind is offering you when the time comes. Many people end up lucid dreaming “by accident,” or unintentionally, but that doesn’t mean those experiences don’t count. It just means that they were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of what their dreams are capable of when they choose to pay attention.