The belief and precognitive types of dream may be rich sources of information from which we might be able to learn much of value, but is this a one way street? Are we, when dreaming, only receivers of information from the unconscious or is there a way in which we can inform the dream? Can we take the dream helm and control our dreams? The answer, of course, is yes and that ability occurs in the type of dreaming known as lucid.
Lucid dreams are generally more vivid and the world we inhabit in them tends to appear more substantial and more solid, though it remains as malleable and free from the constraints of the physical as in other dreams. The difference is that we can take full advantage of this plasticity by taking control of the dream. No longer merely experiencing the dream as the audience in a kind of sensory immersion movie we can make decisions and effect change not only in our own behaviour but in the fabric of the dream world itself. Controlling scenarios , events and their outcomes.
Lucid dreaming can happen spontaneously but for most that’s a rare occurrence. On the plus side, we can train ourselves to dream lucidly. Regular relaxation exercises, meditation and taking yourself on creative visualisations can help towards training the mind for lucid dreaming. There are also certain herbs that can help. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Calea zacatechichi has been used by Mexican and South American shaman for many centuries. Another is Mugwort and I personally discovered quite by accident that burning Storax resin on charcoal in my bedroom was quite effective, although I’ve never seen any mention of it having those properties, a friend I suggested it to reported similar experiences.
So what do we get in return for the effort it may take to achieve lucid dreaming and our patience as we wait for our endeavors to bear fruit? Apart from the obvious attractions of developing a kind of inner playground or built in Star Trek type holodeck, can anything of significance be achieved in the direction of our development?
At least one answer to this question may have been provided by a study conducted in 2008 which noted that when lucid dreamers undertook tasks in their dreams that required physical exertion their heart rate increased, as though they were exercising in real life. Yep, you can exercise while you sleep. This of course opens up other possibilities. It may well be possible to use a lucid dream state as a training ground for other activities, a place to practice. Some pretty vast sums of money are being invested by the military and various industries to produce holographic, virtual reality training grounds for their operatives and staff. Through the development of lucid dreaming we may well find that we have our own, on board virtual reality training ground.
There may also be therapeutic uses. Whilst some nightmares may bear useful messages for us and disappear once we pay heed to them, others can be the result of the stresses that arise from living in today’s unnatural environment or being temporarily stuck in a stressful situation. Even when we realise their cause and acknowledge their direction it may be impossible for us to change the real life situation immediately so they stubbornly persist, outliving their usefulness and becoming detrimental to sleep quality and health. Techniques for realising during a nightmare that we are dreaming and then becoming lucid and taking control of the dream can effectively exorcise such nocturnal demons.
So from learning to use that phaser safely on a confined starship to the, let’s face it more useful for most of us, extra bit of cardiovascular or finding relief from exhausting nightmares, improving our capacity to change the reality causing them, lucid dreams certainly show promise as a useful tool.
How useful might it be? How far can we take the dream helm and what are the limits? Lucid dreaming is the combined product of our immensely powerful unconscious mind and our imagination, can or should we speak of limits? This seems like very fertile ground for experimentation for once again the beautiful mystery stretches before us. One thing that is for certain, however, is that this can take you far beyond the confines of your physical body. Lucid dreaming is an excellent stepping stone to out of body experiences, or astral travel, which I’ll be discussing in my next post.
For source material of the 2008 study mentioned: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/drm/18/2/112/