I had spontaneous lucid dreams as a child. Some of my earliest memories (maybe age 3 or 4?) are of being inside a dream, hiding behind a brown couch from a giant sort of wolfman character. I had control and remembered knowing that I was in "another place", but at the young age I didn't know that this place was in fact a dream! I used to wonder what the place was and why I always ended up there. It was rather confusing as far as I remember!
I remember having various spontaneous lucid dreams throughout my childhood. Probably once every month or two. I just assumed everybody had them. Never really did much with them, other than flying, sex, etc.
I was about 12 when I first encountered the phrase "lucid dream" and realized that I was a lucid dreamer... I often used to ask people if they ever had "lucid dreams" as it was something that fascinated me, but I never really encountered anybody who knew anything about it. I did not realize that it was a learnable skill until much later in my life when I was about 35. As soon as I realized, I jumped in the deep end and became involved with WOLD around 2016.
In terms of intentional lucid dream induction, I picked up the skill pretty easily - probably because I have always been into meditation and mindfulness, so the techniques and ideas were not so foreign. It probably took a couple of weeks or so before I induced my first intentional lucid dream. The first one was actually from a WILD during a daytime nap and I recall it very clearly.... I snapped into focus in my living room and was astounded at how clear the dream environment was. I remember testing my kicks (I am a martial artist) on my plasterboard wall and feeling the sensation on my toes etc., just as realistic as consensus reality. Then a giant rubber "weeble wobble" appeared covered in thousands of tiny rubber probosci. Go figure.
Yes. There was one particular dream that surprised me as it clearly had significance. This was one of the triggers that led to me researching Carl Jung and shadow work. I am copying here for you the entry from my dream journal:
I stepped out of bed, it was almost a false awakening. My room was perfect, but there was a dream like quality to it - so I knew this was a lucid dream. I decided to open my bedroom door and explore the house. And there it was. As soon as I opened the door I saw it. A hideous goat staring up at me. Its wool was dirty and matted, its eyes black and shrivelled. It resonated evil and malignancy. I was paralyzed by fear. There was something so innately repugnant about this goat. I did not know why. I was so shocked, awed and utterly terrified by this hellish image that my very soul wanted to flee. I woke up immediately.
It took me some time to figure out the significance of the goat. The image had been so powerful that it would keep coming back to me for months afterwards. In fact, I was afraid to lucid dream again for some time.
There were questions I had, like, 'Why had I been so repulsed by the goat? What was it about this creature that was so terrifying?' It had not been the sight of the animal itself that was terrifying, but its presence. I was scared merely to look at it.
I eventually realized that I was afraid to confront the goat because the goat was the part of myself that I was afraid to confront. It was a part of my shadow. It represented toxic ego and narcissism that had been subconsciously driving my behaviors in life. It was literally the devil. Only later on did I come to realize that this was a classical Jungian archetype. I am now grateful for this nightmare because it helped me to understand that I had been heading down a bad pathway in life and that I needed to open my heart more to love.
To me, lucid dreaming is interesting at two main levels, 1) for self improvement and self reflection, a "gateway to the inner self" to quote you, and 2) as a tool to help us consider the nature of reality. I have always been a philosophical sort. To me lucid dreaming is similar to psychedelics, which are tools applied for these same reasons,
Mostly WBTB and MILD. What I have found most helpful is not "forcing things" but waiting until those moments when you wake naturally during the night, when the hypnogogia is naturally ripe and lucid dreams are more easily plucked. While I have probably less lucid dreams than if I was to push a little more, this helps me to "balance" lucidity training and life.
I now recommend a MILD technique to beginners for a number of reasons. First, it's the most studied of all structured lucid dreaming induction techniques, and it's the easiest for a beginner to replicate by following simple written instructions. Often with techniques for inducing lucidity, there are elements that are purely subjective. For example, with a WILD technique, most beginners don't tend to 'get it' or take a long time to find the 'knack'; part of this is the difficulty in translating various different people's descriptions of the WILD process into your own personal experience of reality, depending on how 'your mind works'. WILD can be a hit or miss process that takes practice to refine over time.
Whereas, a MILD technique, as documented by LaBerge, and its effectiveness and procedures scientifically confirmed and clearly documented by Aspy in a large population of lucid dreaming naive participants (2017, 2020), can be followed more logically by a beginner and without the margin for error caused by interpretation. Rather than hinging on an underlying ability to meditate, like many lucid dreaming techniques, MILD hinges simply on prospective memory - something that all beginners have by default and can more easily be leveraged.
My personal 'favorite' technique, if I have to pick one, is to take 8mg galantamine in the early hours of the morning, stay awake for a while, and then lay on my comfy sofa 'drifting in and out of sleep' for a few hours. I liken this to 'surfing' the waves of the dream world. As I lay on the sofa, I maintain a background level of awareness in my mind, but allow the tiredness to wash over me and send my body to sleep, as I feel myself physically descend into my particularly soft sofa (I don't normally sleep on the sofa often). Often the galantamine will trigger memories from the past, and I allow myself to 'surf' these memories, exploring them as my unconscious dictates. I throw myself open to the whims of the dream world and allow the waves to carry me.
From time to time a new 'wave', i.e., new memory or dream scene, will burst upon me, which is particularly vivid - and if I have done my job well of maintaining that background awareness I mentioned earlier - then I know I am ready to step into this dream with my conscious mind. I look for my hands at this point - and if I see them manifest (without accidentally jolting myself awake - which I do about 50% of the time) then I just do my standard reality check of pushing my finger through my palm and then calling out to the dream, "Give me Clarity!!" to cement the lucidity. I will then enjoy this lucid dream for as long as it lasts, until I either wake or transition into the next 'wave' of a potentially lucid or semi lucid dream. Perhaps it is the sofa, but I find I wake often during these galantamine inspired early morning sessions, dipping in and out of wakefulness, sleep, dreams as the surf dictates.
Interesting question. I always say personally that there are no rules in the dream world... and I feel this to be the case. Besides, rules were made to be broken ;-)
While there are themes that seem to be repeatable and consistent, to an extent, just when you think you have something figured out - the dream world will throw a curve ball.
I've had a number of dreams in which I've done this. One springs to mind, in which I had firstly had a false awakening in my bedroom (a common starting scenario for me). I'd then decided to jump off my bedroom balcony as a kind of reality check. When I landed on the porch outside my front door, the dream scene was so incredibly lifelike, vibrant and realistic I wasn't totally 100% convinced that it was a lucid dream at all! (Even though I'd just jumped about 12 feet off my balcony and landed perfectly on the porch - go figure). In any case, I was examining the scene around me, comparing it to waking reality, looking for potential dream signs. Everything was so absolutely lifelike, I was somewhat confused and befuddled - until I looked over at my neighbor's house and saw her looking across at me. Of course, she had the head of cartoon pig!
I've always been fascinated with the nature of our conscious experience - or what forms the fabric of 'reality' as we know it. One of the philosophical approaches that resonated with me most when I was younger was that of 'consensus reality', or in other words - the simple notion that we look to what others experience, to validate what does or doesn't 'exist'. As an example, if 99 of 100 people camping in a forest see a large rock, we can be confident the rock exists and has a concrete 'reality' outside of own human mind.
It's an interesting thought experiment. You can take it in all sorts of directions. And naturally, the concept of dreaming is key to all of this - philosophically speaking. What would happen if 99 out of 100 lucid dreamers in a forest successfully incubated and induced a common dream about a totem pole in the forest? What if that totem pole didn't have a physical manifestation outside of the dream? Yet, memories of the totem have now been carved into the lucid dreamers’ neuronal networks, it's become a shared common experience, a massive talking point for years or even lifetimes to come, slowly becoming a part of the collective unconscious of that group. How far can you take this thought experiment?
What of the ancient civilizations for that matter and their gods? The Roman gods Jupiter and Saturn - and their influence on weather and agriculture for example - were just as "real" to them as the images of Jupiter, Pluto and Saturn that NASA beam to us online today are "real" to us. If you believe "you" go to Valhala, perhaps that is where "you" go. Can you imagine a religion based on lucid dreaming? How about an entire civilization based 10,000 years in the future where dreams are revered more than the waking state itself? Can you imagine it? What would be "real" to these folks, thousands of years after all of us and the Internet are but dust?
We've landed in a very logical and waking state-based zeitgeist in this century - it's not a bad thing, it's enabled some great progress, but it also has its limitations. There's a very shallow spirituality in our culture these days. We tend to only accept that for which we have direct waking visual "evidence" as "real". But what of the Xhosa tribe of South Eastern Africa? Their entire culture is based on ancestral visions from the dream state; there is no doubt of how "real" their experiences are to them.
Of course, there are no answers to any of this! I'm not a dogmatic sort of person, I like to change my views and perspective as I stumble around exploring life. I like to hope that lucid dreaming is a tool that can help anybody and everybody be more open minded.
I have had some lucid dreams where I experienced a degree of 'ego dissolution'. I wouldn't say it was technically absolute ego death, but I have had experiences where I certainly had no awareness of my physical body or awareness of the box of various mental constructs that make up my everyday 'self'. In one such dream I was floating in black space, in a kind of peaceful 'void' absent of any experience. I did have a background level of awareness, not of who "I" was (not that I consciously tried to invoke an "I"... perhaps I would have been able to, had I tried) per se, but of that basic entrained mind habit of thinking in English semantic constructs. What happened? In this particular dream, I decided to call out for wisdom "show me something I need to know". Next thing, a series of shimmering, pixelated purple letters began to assemble in front of my eyes, spelling out a cryptic message (don't ask - I still haven't figured it out).
It goes to show, we don't necessarily have to mimic our everyday mode of consciousness in our dreams. That's just something that has been 'entrained' in us since birth.
I have. Bear with me here. An organism is a collection of cells. An animal is a collection of organisms. A species is a collection of animals. I'm using language very broadly here, but try to follow my train of thought. All these things have consciousness to some degree, after all, they all experience and react to the Sun in some way or another, just as we do. Let's try to divorce ourselves a little from the human condition here. The level of consciousness increases, the larger a conscious body gets. Humans are quite small, in the scheme of things. The planet Earth has its own consciousness, surely? It's just the next step up the ladder, a collection of species and other things, is it not? A solar system is a collection of planets and things. Does our sun have consciousness? How about our galaxy?
My suggestion is, for lucid dreamers, to try to push the boundaries of your lucid dream goals. There are some mindbending experiments you can conjure up in the sandpit of your mind. Try to induce consciousness as algae, as zooplankton, as our planet Earth, as our Sun with the planets circling around it, experience the aeons old and vast consciousness of our Milky Way. How does it feel to exist as a Galaxy? How tightly is your everyday consciousness tied in to your sense of time? How do things change when you operate on the timescale of a planet - or an amoeba?
The best part about running WOLD is being exposed to so many cool, opened minded people and being on the cusp of breaking news about a subject that intersects across so many fascinating topics: ethnobotany, psychology, consciousness, spiritually, psychedelics, technology and science to name but a few.
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