When did you first learn about lucid dreaming?
I actually first became interested in Near Death Experiences (NDE’s) and their associated Out Of Body Experiences (OBE’s) before I even heard of lucid dreaming. I started my career as a Respiratory Therapist at a children’s hospital in the early 90’s and working there I witnessed a lot of grief and suffering. I reached a spiritual crisis and began searching for answers to life’s biggest questions.
I became especially interested in what happens to our consciousness after we die. Is there indeed an afterlife? I read many of the popular books on the subject such as Life After Life by Raymond Moody and Closer To The Light by Melvin Morse. The more I read, the more I became interested in OBE’s and I was amazed to find out that it is possible to induce an OBE without having to die in the process! I then discovered such wonderful books like Robert Monroe’s Journeys Out Of The Body and D. Scott Rogo’s Leaving The Body.
While researching OBE’s I did eventually learn about the phenomenon known as lucid dreaming. I then read the classic book Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge which introduced me to practical techniques for a beginning lucid dreamer. I personally think that all of these phenomena (NDE’s, OBE’s, and lucid dreaming) are related and quite possibly the same experience but at different levels of awareness.
Did you have immediate success with lucid dreaming, or did it take a while? What happened in your early lucid dreams?
I practiced meditation and visualization exercises for several weeks before I was able to induce what
I thought was an OBE. Looking back at those early experiences and now years later with dozens of lucid dreams under my belt, I think that my first OBE was a form of a wake induced lucid dream or WILD.
I am not a “natural” lucid dreamer - I had to work for it! It took several weeks of focus and determination before I experienced my first lucid dream. In addition to the visualization exercises I also began practicing reality checks quite frequently. Considering the fact that I washed my hands many times a day working at the hospital I decided to draw in ink a “D” for “dream” on the top of my wrist where it could be easily seen. Whenever I viewed the “D” I would perform a reality check. I would ask myself “Am I dreaming?” I would then usually look at a clock or try to read something. If my environment stayed stable and the clock or written words did not morph into something illegible then I determined that I was awake and not dreaming. The theory behind this technique is that if a practitioner performs frequent reality checks and they become a habit then the reality checks would eventually carry over into normal dreams. Hopefully performing a reality check in a dream would cause the dreamer to become lucid.
I also kept a detailed dream journal, where I would often sketch a scene or object from my dreams. The simple act of writing in a dream journal helps a person stay focused on dreaming and will improve one’s ability to become lucid.
My earliest lucid dreams involved exploring my environment and learning how to fly. One of my first lucid dreams involved me becoming lucid in a dream when I noticed the furniture in our living room was different than what we actually had in physical reality. I became lucid and very excited! I immediately wanted to go outside of the house and attempt to fly. But instead of using the front door I decided to pass through the large living room picture window to go outside. I had read that in a lucid dream a person’s dream body could pass through objects like a ghost and I wanted to try it for myself. After all this was my dream and I could do what I wanted! What happened next surprised me. Instead of simply passing through from one side of the window to the other the glass wrapped around me like cellophane and clung to my body.
It always amazes me how the subconscious mind finds a way to creep into a lucid dream and produce an unexpected result! This was also true of my first attempt to fly in a lucid dream. In the dream I would run and jump into the air Superman style, but I would only hover for a brief moment and then float back to the ground like a feather. The force of gravity is embedded deep in our minds and was for me a struggle to overcome while lucid dreaming.
As you went along, did you have lucid dreams that surprised you? Tell us about those.
Lucid dreams never cease to surprise and amaze. As Robert Waggoner discusses in his book Lucid Dreaming – Gateway to the Inner Self a lucid dreamer does not control the dream like a sailor cannot control the sea. As I mentioned I had difficulty learning to fly initially. This frustrated me because I knew it was a dream and I should be able to do anything I could imagine.
I then began to think of the dream for what it was - mental space. My mental space! At first when trying to fly, I would flap my arms like a bird as if I were trying to swim in the air. This produced poor results. Using the concept of mental space, I approached flying differently. I would look up into the air a distance away. I would tell myself that was where I wanted to be and I would imagine myself there. Soon I found myself soaring through the air up to that location. Slowly, with experience, I became more proficient at manipulating my mental dream space. Even after I became more successful at flying in my dreams, I would sometimes find myself being pulled towards power lines and become entangled in them. This seems to be totally out of my control and its meaning still puzzles me.
The creativity of my lucid dreams is also sometimes surprising. Being a struggling artist I often look for inspiring imagery in dreams. Some of the landscapes and creatures I have encountered while dreaming seem to go beyond what I could conjure up with my own imagination while awake.
During one lucid dream, I was on a sunny beach gazing out into the calm, blue ocean. Towering above the water were several species of life-sized whales floating vertically in the air. I later tried to capture this surreal scene in a painting.
In another dream I became lucid while dreaming I was at the house on a lake in northern Michigan where I spent my summers as a child. I became lucid and decided to take a boat out onto the lake. I rowed out to an island that didn’t actually exist on the physical lake. The island had what looked like old Roman ruins on it and was overgrown with trees and vines. It was a very majestic and beautiful site to behold! Familiar places can often morph into something spectacular thanks to the creativity inherent in lucid dreaming.
In my lucid dreams I have traveled through beautiful mountain-scapes with jagged snowcapped peaks and through post apocalyptic cityscapes. I sometimes find it hard to believe that all these amazing environments are being created in the deep recesses of my brain. I have also encountered strange wildlife and alien creatures. During the early years of my lucid dreaming I was a wildlife artist and animals would frequent my dreams. For some reason large bears were the most common animal that appeared in my dreams. Perhaps because I was an avid camper and hiker in our national parks and seeing a bear was always in the back of my mind.
I also enjoy toying with the power of telekinesis in my lucid dreams. In addition to flying, telekinesis is one of the first things I attempt once I become lucid. I do this to prove to myself that I am indeed dreaming and also for the pure fun of it! It is quite entertaining, and nothing makes you feel more like a superhero than pointing at an object in the dream, such as an automobile, and making it levitate.
Lucid dreams often produce unexpected results. As I became more proficient at lucid dreaming, I began to attempt interacting with some of the dream figures. In one dream I was in a shopping mall like setting and I noticed an interesting looking woman. She wore a long trench coat and a large hat with feathers. I walked up to her and asked her who she was. She looked at me curiously and then proceeded to “dissolve” into hundreds of glass shards and disappear. In the dream I was expecting the woman to at least verbalize some vague answer but this did not happen. Perhaps this was the dream’s way of telling me that the woman was only an immaterial dream figure with no personal identity. The creativity of lucid dreams and our minds “hidden” ability to create fascinates me.
What was it about lucid dreaming that seemed so interesting?
I first became interested in alternate states of consciousness such as OBE’s and lucid dreaming because of my search for life’s meaning and spiritual hunger. By their very nature lucid dreams are a spiritual experience. In my lucid dreams everything seems to vibrate with energy! Not to sound too Yoda-like but objects such as trees, animals and people all seem to have their own internal glow. The very air crackles with energy! I would say that this spiritual aspect of lucid dreams is one of the main reasons I continue to lucid dream. Sometimes the joy that I feel upon awakening from a lucid dream stays with me for days.
Many of my lucid dreams have spiritual imagery within the environment. My first successful WILD was one such experience. In the dream I found myself exploring our neighborhood. The lighting was a mystical twilight. As I explored, I came across a parade going down the next street over. A group
of beautiful women were walking slowly down the street single file. They were dressed in brilliant white gowns and each holding a candle. They were followed by a procession of elephants which were adorned with golden tapestries. I was touched very deeply by this imagery and I can still see it clearly in my mind. I think this was the dream world’s way of congratulating me on my first successful WILD and welcome to the club!
Like many people I have interacted with deceased relatives in my lucid dreams. Whether I have contacted the actual spirit of these persons could be debated, but some elements of the dreams are very intriguing. In December of 2006 I had a dream where my family was having a Christmas party on the front lawn of our house. In the dream I realized that it was ridiculous to have a party outside in the cold of December. I became lucid. I decided to go along with the dream and participate in the festivities with
my family. I found a string of old fashioned Christmas lights with the big bulbs. I noticed that one of the lights was broken and so I replaced it with a white bulb. After I hung the lights, I plugged them in and only the white bulb that I replaced lit up! I fussed with the lights for a while and I could still only get the white bulb to light. I then sat down in a chair and my Uncle David walked by dressed in his finest denim outfit. He had a content smile on his face. My uncle David was killed in an automobile accident about two months before this dream. My interpretation of the dream is that the white bulb represented my Uncle’s spirit and perhaps he was trying to communicate his presence through the bulb.
I sometimes think that perhaps the creativity and astonishing elements of lucid dreams can only come from a source much more powerful than our own minds.
I must admit too that I enjoy lucid dreams simply for their entertainment value. I sometimes get the sense that I am a Jedi or a wizard in my dreams and I can move objects and shoot fireballs from my hands! I think that if everyone could lucid dream there would be no need for movies or video games. You have all the entertainment you need in your dreams!
What techniques were you using to become lucid? What did you find most helpful?
In the early years the most common technique I employed was the reality check during waking hours.
Eventually this became less effective probably because its novelty wore off and my subconscious mind was less influenced by it. I then returned to afternoon meditation and visualization where I would visualize leaving my physical body and exploring my environment with a dream body. I would then use the wake-back-to-bed method where I would wake up usually at about 3 a.m. After reading for a little while I would go back to bed and repeat the visualizations. This would sometimes induce a WILD as my mind entered that hypnagogic state between full wakefulness and sleep. Once I was in the lucid dream state I would look at my hands and say “Clarity now!” This was done to increase my mental sharpness and improve the visual quality of the lucid dream.
Again, I do think that writing down my dreams in a journal almost every morning definitely helped me stay focused on dreams. The journal can also be used to look back on previous dreams and determine what a person’s most common dream signs might be. A dream sign is anything that might trigger a person to realize that they are dreaming. Recognizing a dream sign while dreaming is another powerful tool that I learned to use to become lucid.
Did lucid dreaming seem to have rules? Or did it seem random and chaotic?
There do indeed seem to be some rules regarding the “mechanics” of lucid dreaming. For example, there are some techniques that can be used to increase the vividness of the dream and lengthen the time of being lucid. As I mentioned, at the beginning of the dream I look at my hands and say out loud “Clarity now!” The result of this is a much more vivid and detailed dream environment. Sometimes when I feel my awareness fading, I employ the spinning method. Simply spinning in place like an Olympic skater can return the dreamer to a sharpened state of awareness. The spinning can also result in the dreamer finding themselves in a totally different environment once they stop spinning. Passing through a dream mirror can also have this result. There are techniques and methods that can be used to influence the quality of the lucid dream but there are also aspects of lucid dreaming that seem to have a life of their own. I might be able to spin and change the environment, but I might not have any control over what that environment will be!
Expectations and emotions also seem to have an influence over the narrative of the lucid dream. This is true in my case especially with fear. I’m not sure how many times I have found myself in a dream forest and my thought is “this looks like a good place to see a bear!” Sure enough, guess what comes lumbering out of the shadows - a giant grizzly! If you think that a person in your dream is a threat then chances are that person will be a threat as the dream scenario plays out.
We tend to attract what we are emotionally feeling in our dreams. Lucid dreaming has the advantage over non lucid dreams in that a person can consciously make decisions and take action to flip the narrative in the dream. We can face our fears with purpose. This is a concept that I explore in my graphic novel Lucidity where a young college student attempts to overcome his own demons while lucid dreaming.
For years, you have been creating artwork about your lucid dream experiences -- some of which you have allowed the LDE to use on our cover page. What prompted you to begin to draw and visually create your lucid dreams?
I started drawing and painting as a young boy and well before I started practicing lucid dreaming. Ever since I can remember I have appreciated the natural world and all of its beauty. I have always had an urge to express this appreciation by reproducing some of its imagery with my artwork. In the past I have focused on creating wildlife and science fiction artwork.
I first started creating lucid dreaming related artwork with quick sketches of my dreams in my dream journal. As I progressed with lucid dreaming, I experienced an abundance of amazing imagery and inspiration that I naturally desired to express through my artwork. About the same time in my life that I became interested in lucid dreaming I was transitioning from more traditional forms of artwork, such as acrylics and oil paints, to digital illustration. I fell in love with Adobe Photoshop!
Digital art is much more forgiving than traditional drawing and painting. With digital art it is much easier to fix mistakes and make changes to the composition as the artwork is being rendered. This comes in handy when creating images from my dreams which are often very surreal. I also use a Wacom drawing tablet and an Apple computer. I think art is a way and means for the artist to share their inner world with the public. Creating lucid dreaming related art is simply my way of sharing my own personal inner world explorations with others.
As I look at old covers of the LDE, (at https://www.dreaminglucid.com/past-issues/) I see one called, 'Learning to Fly' and one called, 'Dream Door.' Were these specific lucid dreams of yours, or just a composite of past experiences?
“Learning To Fly” was a composite of all my experiences of flying during my lucid dreams. In this painting I wanted to depict the joy of flying during a lucid dream by the happy expression on the figure’s face. I also wanted to represent some of the surreal landscapes that I have experienced in my dreams with the jagged mountains and lots of green. I have experienced this type of landscape many times and for some reason, even in the dead cold of a Michigan winter, it always seems to be summer in my lucid dreams!
“Dream Door” is more of a concept painting that expresses the ability to discover almost any type of environment that you can imagine while dreaming. I think of lucid dreaming as a metaphorical gateway to amazing places and experiences. The dream door will play an important role in future chapters of my graphic novel.
In another lucid artwork, called 'Telekinesis', you seem to be connecting with a powerful light, as a giant pyramidal shape with ancient symbols gets blown apart! Was there light in your lucid dream? An explosion? Or did you include this element to symbolize the power of lucid dreaming?
“Telekinesis” is another concept painting where I was attempting to depict my experiences with telekinesis in my dreams. I sometimes use telekinesis as a reality check while dreaming. If I suspect that I am in a dream I will point to an object and attempt to make it levitate. Obviously if I am successful then I know that I am dreaming. Once I have formed the thought that I wish to perform telekinesis during the dream, suddenly there seems to be several objects in my dream environment that are suitable for levitation.
The geometrical shapes depicted in the painting are very common in my dreams and they are a lot of fun to toss around! I think these different shapes and symbols are Jungian archetypes that inhabit the hidden reaches of my mind. The light emanating from the figure’s hand represents the mental energy the dreamer uses to control and move the objects. The dream environment can be thought of as the mental space of the dreamer and it is possible to learn how to control this environment with one’s mind.
I hear that you are beginning a graphic novel on lucid dreaming -- cool! Tell us a bit about the novel, and the creative ideas or questions behind it?
“Lucidity” is an online graphic novel that explores the phenomenon of lucid dreaming. The main character, Jaden Armstrong, is a young sophomore at a large university where he begins to experiment with conscious dreaming. Jaden has recently suffered trauma and loss in his life and he is using lucid dreaming as a means to determine if there is more to human existence than the material world. He experiences many adventures and travels through many amazing dreamscapes. He also encounters some interesting dream figures including a young woman named Kira. Kira seems to be lost and is so “human-like” that Jaden believes that he might be sharing his dreams with another living person.
I first had the idea for this novel slowly developing in my mind at the time in my life when I was pursuing wildlife art and participating in many shows and art fairs. The shows were a lot of fun but they were also a lot of work and very time consuming. After deciding to no longer participate in the art fair scene I found myself at a crossroads and I needed to decide which path to follow with my art. I had the idea for creating a graphic novel in the back of my mind for some time. During this period, I had a lucid dream where I was once again at the lake up north. I asked the dream to “give me direction”. After flying for a while (of course!) I ended up on a porch of an old cabin. There was a table there that was covered with comic books! I even recognized the covers of some of my old Marvel comics that I had collected as a young man. After waking up I thought to myself, “Well that could not have been more clear!” I soon drifted away from the wildlife art and started to develop “Lucidity”. Lucid dreaming can indeed influence the dreamer’s waking life and can contribute to self-development!
It seems that the phenomenon of lucid dreaming is just now becoming known to the general population and I want to help it become more popular. I’m excited about the endless possibilities of adventure and personal growth that the characters of “Lucidity” will experience. The novel will explore metaphysical subjects such as the connection between physical reality and the dream realm and also the potential of human consciousness to travel separate from the physical body. Unlike other fantastic stories such as Star Wars with its Jedi or the Avengers with all their superpowers, any person can participate in a lucid dream and have incredible powers and adventures of their own! I truly believe that lucid dreaming has the potential to become an incredible cultural phenomenon.
Where can people learn more about your graphic novel?
“Lucidity” can be found online at https://www.luciditynovel.com. I am planning on releasing a new chapter frequently to keep readers interested.
When you think about 'big' lucid dreams, have you had any that made you really wonder about the depth of lucid dreaming?
I find it astonishing that my mind alone is capable of creating the detail and subject matter of many of my lucid dreams. During one lucid dream I decided to pass through a wooden door ghost-like. As I passed through the door I could actually see the microscopic cells of the wood grain and I could also taste it!
In another lucid dream I heard glorious music that seemed to be emanating from the sky as dozens of colorful beach ball sized crystal spheres floated to the ground. Where does this creativity come from? I’m not sure that my physical brain has the capacity for this level of imagination. It seems to me more likely that while lucid dreaming we are indeed in contact with another level of consciousness. There are many in the scientific community that think that all altered states of consciousness (lucid dreams, astral projection, and out of body experiences) are simply a type of hallucination created by the human brain. And others believe that perhaps the human brain is a type of receiver for consciousness much like a television receives airborne signals. I must admit that I am torn between these two schools of thought. However, some of my own personal experiences strongly indicate that human consciousness must be more than an epiphenomenon of the material brain. I will continue searching.
Lucid dreaming also offers the potential for personal growth. A person can overcome fears such as public speaking or become a better athlete by practicing their sport while dreaming. Physical healing has also been reported by some lucid dreamers. Perhaps lucid dreaming and out of body experiences are the next significant phase of human evolution as we expand our mental awareness into new and exciting frontiers!
Anything else that you would like to share about your lucid dream explorations? Any advice for beginners?
In our society where alcohol and drug addiction runs rampant, it seems to me that many people are searching for meaning. Altering one’s state of consciousness by unhealthy chemical means is practically a national pastime. I have personally experienced some of these vices and addictions myself. We also love our entertainment, such as movies and television, as a form of escapism. I think lucid dreaming can be a much more healthy means of dealing with our own inner demons and also a much more exciting and personal form of entertainment. Although inducing a lucid dream can take much time and effort for some, it is well worth the time spent.
My advice for beginners is to keep a dream journal and immerse yourself in the subject. Make lucid dreaming a part of your life! There are many quality books on the subject to help you find which techniques will work best for you. But remember that half-hearted efforts usually only produce half-hearted results. Once you experience your first lucid dream, your world view will be forever changed for the better.
Where can people find out more about your art?
My artwork can be found at https://www.kemeny.pixels.com. I also have a shop at https://www.cafepress.com/moondialart where you can find lucid dreaming related merchandise. I developed some products to help beginning lucid dreamers with daily reality checks. Thank you so much and I wish all your readers exciting dream adventures!
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