A lucid dream is one in which the dreamer is aware of dreaming. Humans have been conscious of this phenomenon since time immemorial.
In Hinduism, this ancient practice is called Yoga Nidra, and it was practised by early Buddhists.
The early Greeks wrote about it. Aristotle (384–322 BCE) says that often when asleep and dreaming he would realise that he was not awake. The Greek physician Galen of Pergamon (129–216 CE) used it as therapy.
Samuel Pepys, in his diary entry for August 15, 1665, says, “I had my Lady Castlemayne in my arms and was admitted to use all the dalliance I desired with her, and then dreamt that this could not be awake, but that it was only a dream.”
In 1913, Frederik van Eeden, a Dutch psychiatrist, published an article titled “Study of Dreams,” in which he coined the term “lucid dream.” Celia Green, an English philosopher and psychologist, conducted scientific research into the concept. In 1968, she published Lucid Dreams, further developing the field of study.
In the early 1980s, the American psychophysiologist Stephen LaBerge was doing research into lucid dreaming and popularised the phenomenon among the general public.
That included me. I had bought a book on the subject, and decided to give it a try. Following the instructions in the book, I made the suggestion to my subconscious that I have a lucid dream, and I fell asleep convinced that it would happen. It did, and it felt very strange.
My situation at that time was not a totally happy one. I was living in a small mining community in the Canadian north. The economic recession of 1982 affected the mining industry badly, and the mine would be closed in early 1984.
The future seemed rather bleak, because the mining world was collapsing as the price of minerals fell. This was the background to my experimenting with lucid dreaming.
I dreamed that I was in a dark and dreary house that was in need of renovation. In my dream, which was in black and white at that stage, I knew I was dreaming. It felt horrible. I began to make improvements inside the house, and as I did so, my dream changed into vivid colours.
I woke up knowing what I needed to do. The house was representative of my life. I had to change my own attitude, knowing that I would be able to do what was necessary, and that the future would be brighter than it appeared at that time.
My subconscious mind was giving me a strong message. This is what lucid dreaming can give us. It’s not frightening or scary. It’s a natural process we can use. It can be highly beneficial, as it was in my case.
The dreamer is able to exert some degree of control over the dream, and their control will become stronger with practice. The object can be to change dreams from losing to winning. I was losing out in my life, a fact depicted by the house’s initial appearance. I began to win as I changed its state into one full of colour and improvement.
Nowadays, lucid dreaming is used in cognitive behavioural therapy. Therapists recognise that there are many benefits to lucid dreaming, including:
Nightmares can be controlled if the dreamer recognises that what they are experiencing is only a dream. The positive outcome of the dream can transfer into reality.
Athletes can improve their performance by rehearsing in their dreams. Many creative people can use lucid dreaming to help solve a creative problem, or even create an original piece, by accessing their subconscious minds and calling on knowledge they didn’t know they had.
If you’d like to learn more about the subject, an excellent book is Are You Dreaming? Exploring Lucid Dreams, by Daniel Love (2013).
When you go to bed, you can use your rational mind to tell your subconscious mind that you want to have a lucid dream. Don’t let this interfere with your sleep, but let it happen naturally if it will.
Not everyone is predisposed to have lucid dreams. If you aren’t, don’t let it worry you. Even without dreaming, at bedtime you can still program your subconscious mind with strong suggestions and images which will affect your reality. Perhaps you might like to try it!
If you’re looking to find a book on practicing mindfulness in a group, I am writing one. Sign up for the waitlist here.
Have you experienced lucid dreaming? What was the experience like for you? Do you think you can will yourself to lucid dream?