I first realized it was possible to become aware in a dream when I was in my mid twenties. Like for many others, it was through Carlos Castaneda and the teachings of Don Juan Matus. I read Don Juan's straightforward yet mind-warping instructions to Castaneda in Journey to Ixtlan (1): “Tonight in your dreams you must look at your hands.”
Those words struck me. I trusted Castaneda's books were not a work of fiction but that idea was difficult to fathom. And if indeed it could be accomplished, I thought it was something reserved for Shamans and the highly advanced few. In any case, it felt far beyond my reach.
One afternoon in Boston, a few years later, the cover of a book caught my attention. On it was a detail of The Enchanted Realm, a painting by René Magritte, with the words “The Lucid Dreamer” (2) in large white type printed below. It had a strong effect on me. The combination of the words and the image drew me in. I felt a change of focus take place. It was as if an inner doorway, that mirrored the one on the cover, were opening and beckoning me forward. It was magnetizing. The feeling lasted only a few seconds. But I'm sure that that book cover was functioning, at that moment, as a lucid dream induction.
A few days later in a hotel room in downtown Montreal I sat contemplating the dark urban landscape of the city bellow me. It was late at night and the scene had a sci fi, Blade Runner quality that was mesmerizing. There was something slightly unreal about it. The combined effect of the cover of the book seen previously, and that I now had with me, and that futuristic midnight view from behind thick glass, triggered my first lucid dream.
“I'm in a pitch black room. More than a room, it's the energy structure of one. It's completely empty but I can sense the walls around me. There's a small, square window high up on the wall in front of me. The window is open and beyond it there's a glowing source of light... The fluorescent white curtain of the window is blowing towards the interior of the room, moved by some cosmic breeze. I realize I'm dreaming. What I feel at that moment is hard to describe. I experience an instantaneous sense of connection with my surroundings. We are not separate but part of the same live energy field that forms the dream. That field is reactive. It's sentient. In an instant I realize my power over the dreamscape and the infinite possibilities at my command. I can do anything I want... literally.
Standing now fully aware at the center of the dream, I try my hand at manipulating the dreamscape for the very first time. I summon a friend, who immediately appears, and a short interaction takes place. But what I do is secondary to the feeling that's coursing through me, of disbelief in the face of a power I realize I possess and that's contradicting everything I've been told about dreaming and the limits of dream consciousness. I'm totally awake in the dream and able to interact with it in a way that's not supposed to be possible.”
For many years Malcolm Godwin's The Lucid Dreamer was my only book on dreams. It worked as a powerful ally, a kind of talisman. It's full of images related to dreams and dream techniques. But it was more the images that captivated me. To this day when I think about that cover I feel the original pull into dreaming that I felt that afternoon in Boston. I’d like to experiment further with using images as a lucid dream induction method.
The lucid dreams that have most impacted me are the lucid dreams in which I interacted with the awareness behind the dream for the first time. They completely changed the way I view lucid dreaming and relate to the dreams. The awareness has opened countless doors for me and is constantly pointing towards new ones.
Other lucid dreams that stay with me for days are the ones in which I'm given instruction on the nature of dream reality and, by extension, the physical one. Most of these dreams take place in what I feel are deeper levels of the dreamscape. Often it's movement of energy and/or vibration through sound or music which produce an intense sensation that are at the heart of the dream. Not so much the action or setting. They're more a sensory experience than a narrative. They're like vibrational keys or blueprints I'm given that I then have to replicate and figure out how to use. Their effects are profound and long lasting.
“I'm lucid. I'm in a spacious café, sitting at a square, wooden table. Terence McKenna walks in. He's wearing a long sleeve T shirt with a symbol on it. I think it's a sun. He raises his hand to touch me. He places it on my shoulder. The moment he does so our energy fields explode. They expand. A secondary screen appears in my mind, over the main dream image. It gives me more information on what's taking place. Two fields of energy are coming together. The screen fills up with yellow white light. It's an extraordinary experience. Extremely strong. The feeling of the energies coexisting is blissful. Overwhelmingly so.
At first I think the word 'complete' might describe it. Two energy fields that 'complete' one another. But it's not exactly that. It's more like two notes that are playing simultaneously and somehow overlapping in spacetime. The harmony produced between them as they vibrate enhances them both. It's an energy chord.” (April 2 2019 / Manhattan)
There is very little action in the dream and the dreamscape is minimal. What's important is the electromagnetic exchange that's taking place and what it implies. The dream is showing me, on the parallel screen, the dialog of frequencies that's taking place below the visible surface of the dream before it's translated into dream images. It's letting me see the energetic essence that's giving rise to the dream.
I understand this because, at that moment, I'm experiencing it corporeally but also because the dream is making a parallel statement on the secondary screen to guide me, so I'll be able to fully grasp it. These secondary screens sometimes appear in my dreams. They are like footnotes that explain or shed light on the main action unfolding in the dream so I'm sure to understand it when awake. The dream is also addressing my waking aspect then. It knows I'm going to look back on this when I wake up so it's giving me the information that I'll need to correctly interpret it. It's communicating with my dreaming self but also with the waking counterpart.
As I walked through Central Park later that morning, still immersed in the sensations of the dream, I realized that the energy interchange I'd just witnessed is also taking place beneath the world of matter and bringing it forth. It's all around me. In physicality the frequencies of all beings and of the inanimate world, are constantly communicating, connecting and playing off each other producing different effects. We call these “encounters” or “interactions”. But what we perceive with our physical senses is only the surface of a very complex, much more intense energy play. The dream gave me a much deeper understanding of dream interactions but it also changed the way I perceive the waking world.
The state itself fascinates me. The merging of conscious awareness with the malleability of the dreamscape offers limitless possibilities in any area the dreamer may want to explore. I want to know more about the nature of reality. I can delve very deeply into that through lucid dreaming by directly questioning the dream, interrogating dream guides when they're present or calling them in. Much can also be inferred about this through the structure, content and unfoldment of any given dream. There are no limits.
Many of my lucid dreams are related to sound and music. I love music and the way I experience it in lucid dreams is more intense than in waking. Sound has more texture. It's richer. I can hear tones or chords that I can't when awake. I often hear myself gasp within the dream at the beauty of some of the images I encounter. So I also want to explore lucid dreaming as an aesthetic, acoustic and/or visual, experience. This can be a way to gain insight into the nature of perception through the inner senses and how they relate to the physical ones. Healing is another area that's wide open to investigation. Whether it be physical or emotional healing, there's a lot that can be done there.
I could go on...
I use the WBTB technique very often. It's become a ritual for me. I get up at dawn, have a cup of coffee, work on dream related things and then go back to the dream world.
Recently I've been focusing on becoming more stable in the hypnagogic state. It seems key. In that interface where wakefulness and sleep meet, the psyche gradually lets go of the structures and constraints of waking consciousness. Many possibilities open up then. I feel it's a lot more than an in between state. It's an incredibly rich terrain, far more complex than I'd realized, and that has great value in and of itself.
There is an imagery that is unique to it. Hyperreal dream images and image sequences that baffle me unfold there, many of them charged with meaning. They're not the usual hypnagogic images. And they have a quality that's different from those in dreams or lucid dreams... The colors are greatly enhanced, the way the characters move is different and they're hyper detailed. I want to see if I can interact with them from within hypnagogia before falling asleep. Or, if they're connections or points of entry into dreams that are opening up briefly, I might be able to enter those specific dreams.
Hypnagogia can also function as the starting off point for lucidity. But not only as passageway. I think that once a certain steadiness is attained in that state, the exact balance needed to remain and move in it without either being ejected into wakefulness or falling into sleep, I'll be able to look for and open the precise dream door I want, i.e., enter the dream that I choose, or to construct the dream I desire around me from scratch.
There is also a category of dreams, some of them lucid, in which the dream provides me with dream techniques I can later apply to induce or improve lucid dreaming. This amazes me. It's as if a circuit were being created between the lucid dream and the dreamer, the waking counterpart who later applies the lesson learnt and back to the dream that is born from this interaction.
“Another dream on dreaming. I'm being taught lucid dreaming techniques. There are guides there. I can feel them. I'm lying on my back in some kind of lush garden or forest. I'm surrounded by vegetation. Nearby... a body of water. The entire dreamscape is a sketch like black ink outline over parchment background. It's as if the dream were an illustration on thick, aging paper. The only thing in color is a red lotus that's glowing in my neck and throat area. A dream guide reminds me to chant the sound 'Ah...' which I have forgotten to do. I can feel my throat vibrate and my whole body react as I generate the sound. It's a delicious sensation. It gives me a sense of liberated expansion. It's as if I were being amplified, as if I were stretching out through the sound. The experience is profound. But more in a literal sense. It's taking place at some very deep level of the psyche.” (November 11 2019 / LA, California)
The dream was visually stunning and it had a powerful effect on me. It came shortly after I'd heard the description of a Tibetan Buddhist technique for inducing lucid dreaming, as described in David Jay Brown's Dreaming Wide Awake (3). The dream is taking the induction further, letting me experience it within the dream state and with an intensity I can't reach through visualization alone.
“Dream on lucid dreaming again. I see a large, semi translucent image of Robert Waggoner's two books side by side in front of me as if projected on a screen. I focus on the watercolor night sky on the cover of Lucid Dreaming, Plain and Simple (4). I love that image. The book describes, among other things, induction techniques. I feel the unmistakable sensation of becoming lucid rising up in me. It takes me over until I'm completely immersed in it. I'm shown a symbol so I'll better understand what I'm feeling. It's a horizontal beam of light running through a glowing energy sphere. The beam of light is the dream flow with the glowing sphere it traverses representing the very intense period of lucidity I'm currently moving in, as if swimming in an encapsulated energy sea. At some point, the lucidity recedes and I'm out again, back in a non lucid dream.” (16 June 2020 / Brienon sur Armançon)
The dream is pointing out the sensation of lucidity. It's drawing my attention to it. It wants me to feel its every nuance, to absorb it corporeally so I'll memorize it. I'll then be able to invoke it more easily at will. It's an energy blueprint for me to follow and repeat.
Yes. I've experimented with using the inner awareness as an entryway into lucid dreaming. I summon the sensation of the awareness and hold it as I move through hypnagogia and into sleep. This creates a pathway my consciousness can follow to enter the dream directly, without losing focus. The awareness becomes a portal between wakefulness and dreams. I described this in a previous issue of the LDE (5).
“I tune into the awareness behind the dream and hold it in my body. Hypnagogic images begin to take form. I see a room in the house I grew up in. The dream is opening up in front of me though I’m not yet asleep. I move forward and into the room with determination, attempting to enter the dream that’s beginning to solidify. As I’m doing this I clearly feel how my waking consciousness morphs into dreaming consciousness. I feel the moment of transition, the exact point where the waking self yields to its dreaming counterpart and lets it take over. It’s amazing. An unbelievable sensation. I’m now surrounded by the dreamscape, fully lucid. I know my body sleeps.” (25 March 2019 / Mexico City)
In this case I was able to feel the precise moment of transmutation when one form of awareness morphed into another. On other occasions, there’s a short gap between hypnagogia and the re-emergence of conscious awareness within a dream:
“It's close to dawn. I decide to practice calling the awareness behind the dream to bridge me into lucidity. I conjure it and hold the connection with its presence. I let myself sink into it. Once I feel I have a firm grip I turn my focus to the hypnagogic images that have started to emerge. They rise and fall. The closer to sleep I get the more detailed and meaningful they become. This is a sign for me to hold onto the sensation of the awareness so I won't drift into non lucid sleep.
I break lucid into a dream. I realize I've succeeded in connecting with the awareness prior to sleep because I erupt into the dreamscape in mid-flight. I'm flying over an old city. I think I'm on the wings of a dragon. I can only see the back of its head but I can feel its power beneath me. There are roman ruins on the ground below us and ancient buildings of all kinds. People are moving around but the place looks semi abandoned. We land. I'm now on a small boat moving along a canal. I focus my eyes on the water. It's dark. I fear falling in. It might be polluted. Or there might be some creature lurking under the surface. But then I remember I'm dreaming. There's nothing to fear there at all. I feel the dream wants me to let myself fall into the canal. I do this. I feel the fresh water on my skin and the joy and freedom of swimming in a liquid atmosphere. The dream goes on...” (12 August 2020 / Muret)
Yes, it has. From my first dream encounters with the awareness I realized that the communication with this intelligence is not limited to the dream state. It can be accessed in wakefulness. By calling upon the precise sensation of connection to the awareness while in a meditative or dissociated state, where consciousness is no longer bound by the linear constructs of spacetime, I can activate the same sentient energy field I encounter in dreams and interact with it. It works like an energy bridge. The interaction then takes place through the physical.
“The key was to bring forth the exact energy imprint as in the dream state. My body has memorized it and I’m able to replicate it almost exactly when awake. It feels similar to calling upon the inner self in dissociated states. But it’s not exactly the same. The presence of the dream awareness in waking is stronger, steadier. It’s a deeper, more informed, less filtered version of it. This might be because it’s coming directly from the dreamtime. The sensation that’s triggered when it emerges is akin to that of becoming lucid in dreams. Only here, I’m becoming hyper awake in wakefulness.” LDE (6)
I can then ask the awareness for information or guidance. It responds almost immediately. The time that elapses between my query and the answer is decreasing. The response comes through a knowingness that emerges in my stream of consciousness, a word or an image. Or it's given to me through symbols, i.e., objects or events that are present in the physical world that has become dreamlike.
A shift in perspective takes place. A witnessing of reality from an alternate point of view much closer to that of lucidity. The waking self cedes to the dream awareness. But not completely. The two forms of consciousness coexist. A hybrid state results as they come together. The presence of the dream awareness makes itself felt in the physical. The objects and interactions that unfold there take on the quality and mobility of a dream. The waking world, from the new viewpoint, transforms into a temporary dreamscape. The awareness communicates through the available symbols. I then read the symbols of the surrounding landscape and the scenes that are taking place there as I would a dream. They are just as powerful and poetic as their dream equivalents and the insights gained are of the same richness.
Yes, it was a very potent sensory experience. I had trouble processing the amount of visual input and the beauty and intricacy of the imagery. I was deeply moved while in the dream because I was so overwhelmed by the sensorial encounter with the dreamscape I was presented with but also because I knew full well that the whole experience was taking place in the dream state.
“I'm traveling. I’m in a medieval city. The city is under attack. People are seeking refuge, gathered under thresholds for protection. The danger passes. I want to get back to my hotel for my luggage but I can’t remember its name or location. I ask a woman for help. She doesn’t understand how it’s possible that I don’t know the name or address of the hotel I'm staying at. I explain to her that it's quite natural as I’m in a dream and people aren’t usually aware of that sort of information in dreams. As I say this I realize I’m dreaming. I become lucid.
I ask the dream to take me back to my hotel. The dream complies and a force starts to pull me through the narrow streets of the city taking me there. But then I remember I'm lucid. Why go back to the hotel? Better to use the lucidity for something else. The dream comes to an abrupt halt, waiting for new directions, as I decide what to do next.
I ask to meet my inner self. I feel its familiar presence immediately. I ask it to teach me something. The dream starts to move again. My inner self flies me out of the town to a field of flowers that stretches out in every direction. I’ve been there before, twice at least, both times lucid. There are flowers of all kinds. A very large one that looks like a prehistoric sunflower stands out because of its beauty and detail. It’s incredible.
I’m airborne again and being taken to what feels like a higher dream level. I find myself on a beach, a vast ocean before me. Standing in the ocean, close to the shore, are all sorts of fantastic buildings, foundations under water but the rest of the construction visible. The one right in front of me has an Amsterdam feel to it, beside it a pyramid, behind it a cathedral and so on. They are all in motion, as if carried by the movement of the waves and their rhythm. I’m fully lucid and in wonder at the beauty of the vision. It’s so vivid, so alive, so full of intricate detail. Unbelievable. Is my psyche producing this? Or is this another reality I’m witnessing?
As I’m pondering all this, lost in my reflections on the dreamscape, I turn my sight upwards. Standing on a cloud, half lost in mist, is a lighthouse, white and red spiral shooting up towards the heights. It’s simply magnificent. My heart skips a beat. My eyes fill with tears at the overwhelming beauty of the image. It’s breathtaking.
I realize my inner self is letting me see that it is in everything. It’s the force that is sustaining it all, giving it form, both in waking and in dream state. It’s the presence that is powering everything. It’s a significant moment for me. I’m totally aware that all of these reflections are going on within me, fully conscious, fully lucid, as my body is sleeping. I wake up. I close my eyes again and let myself bask for a while in the intense sensations and magical imagery I’ve just lived through.” (August 22 2017 / Muret)
The dream strengthened my bond with the dream awareness and with the dreamscape. I could feel how they responded to me immediately. The flow and direction of the energy of the dream depended on my volition. I could feel it come to a stop when I hesitated and instantaneously move again when I made my wishes known.
It was also an inner deliberation on lucid dreaming, a dream reflection on lucidity from within lucidity. I wondered about the nature and the origin of the dreamscape and was given a fuller understanding of the force that's generating reality both in waking and in dreaming. What's wild is that all of these reflections took place while I was completely aware but my body was sleeping.
The scene has added meaning in retrospect. The buildings, carried by the ocean waves, are signaling energy points that are relevant for me, places and moments that have significance in my current existence and that I might wish to explore. I can feel the energy link that binds us. But the field of consciousness is limitless. There are an infinity of points accessible to me. How to not lose my way? The lighthouse is my beacon, the light of a higher awareness pulling me towards center. It gives me direction, keeps me on course, both in waking and in dreaming, through a sea of consciousness that has no bounds.
Yes, that happens a lot. The dream awareness often communicates with me through shifting dreamscapes. Another way of saying this is that the awareness provides me with information that's coming from different levels of dream reality. The whole dream environment and atmosphere can shift in an instant to provide me with whatever it is I'm seeking at the dream level it originates in or where it can best be explored.
Yes, I do. Lucid dreaming opens the door to the inner landscape. Through it we can perceive the underlying configurations and rhythms that are at the source of our waking world. We can come face to face with the powerful forces that are at play within, the conflicts, the obstructions, the leakages that are hindering the flow of life energy. That energy is creative. It seeks expression. Through lucid dreaming we have the opportunity to interact with our inner visions, to establish dialog and find solutions and guidance that bring expansion. This can lead to real fulfillment which, in my mind, is the most profound healing of all.
Thank you, Robert for the charts of the lucid dreamworlds you've so carefully drawn and that you share with such generosity and passion. They are invaluable.
(1) Castaneda, Carlos, Viaje a Ixtlán (Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1975).
(2) Godwin, Malcolm, The Lucid Dreamer: A Waking Guide for the Traveler Between Worlds (Element Books Ltd, 1995).
(3) Jay Brown, David, Dreaming Wide Awake: Lucid Dreaming, Shamanic Healing, and Psychedelics (Park Street Press, 2016).
(4) Waggoner, Robert and McCready, Caroline, Lucid Dreaming, Plain and Simple (Brilliance Audio, 2015).
(5/6) Lucid Dreaming Experience, Vol. 8, No. 4, March 2020.
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