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The World of Lucid Dreaming

The Wonders of Lucid Dreaming
I realized I was dreaming. I raised my arms and began to rise (actually, I was being lifted). I rose through black sky that blended to indigo, to deep purple, to lavender, to white, then to very bright light. All the time I was being lifted there was the most beautiful music I have ever heard. It seemed like voices rather than instruments. There are no words to describe the JOY I felt. I was very gently lowered back to earth. I had the feeling that I had come to a turning point in my life and I had chosen the right path. The dream, the joy I experienced, was kind of a reward, or so I felt. It was a long, slow slide back to wakefulness with the music echoing in my ears. The euphoria lasted several days; the memory, forever. (A. F., Bay City, Michigan)
I was standing in a field in an open area when my wife Pointed in the direction of the sunset. I looked at it and thought, “How odd; I’ve never seen colors like that be­fore.” Then it dawned on me: “I must be dreaming!” Never had I experienced such clarity and perception— the colors were so beautiful and the sense of freedom so exhilarating that I started racing through this beautiful golden wheat field waving my hands in the air and yelling at the top of my voice, “I’m dreaming! I’m dreaming!” Suddenly, I started to lose the dream; it must have been the excitement, I instantly woke up. As it dawned on me what had just happened, I woke my wife and said, “I did it, I did it!” I was conscious within the dream state and I’ll never be the same. Funny, isn’t it? How a taste of it can affect one like that. It’s the freedom, I guess; we see that we truly are in control of our own universe. (D. W., Elk River, Minnesota)
Iam studying to become a professional musician (French horn), and I wished to remove my fear of performing in front of people. On several occasions I placed myself in a state of self-hypnosis/daydreaming by relaxing my en­tire body and mind before going to sleep. Then I focused on my desire to have a dream in which I was performing for a large audience by myself but was not nervous or suffering from any anxiety. On the third night of this ex­periment, I had a lucid dream in which I was performing a solo recital without accompaniment at Orchestra Hall in Chicago (a place where I have performed once before, but in a full orchestra). I felt no anxiety regarding the audience, and every note that I played made me feel even more confident. I played perfectly a piece that I had heard only once before (and never attempted to play), and the ovation I received added to my confidence. When I woke up, I made a quick note of the dream and the piece that I played. While practicing the next day, I sight-read the piece and played it nearly perfectly. Two weeks (and <* few lucid dream performances) later, I performed Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony with the orchestra. For the first time, nerves did not hamper my playing, and the performance went extremely well. (J. S., Mt. Prospect, Illinois)
Strange, marvelous, and even impossible things regularly happen in dreams, but people usually don’t realize that the explanation is that they are dreaming. Usually doesn’t mean always and there is a highly significant exception to this generalization. Sometimes, dreamers do correctly realize the explanation for the bizarre happenings they are experiencing, and lucid dreams, like those recounted above, are the result.
Empowered by the knowledge that the world they are experiencing is a creation of their own imagination, lucid dreamers can consciously influence the outcome of their dreams. They can create and transform objects, people, situations, worlds, even themselves. By the standards of the familiar world of physical and social reality, they can do the impossible.
The world of lucid dreams provides a vaster stage than ordinary life for almost anything imaginable, from the frivolous to the sublime. You could, if you chose, revel at a saturnalian festival, soar to the stars, or travel to mysterious lands. You could join those who are testing lucid dreaming as a tool for problem solving, self-healing, and personal growth. Or you could explore the implications of teachings from ancient traditions and re-Ports from modern psychologists that suggest that lucid dreams can help you find your deepest identity—who you really are.
Lucid dreaming has been known for centuries, but has until recently remained a rare and little-understood phe-noinenon. My own scientific and personal explorations, together with the findings of other dream researchers around the world, have just begun to shed light on this unusual state of consciousness. Recently, this new re-
search field has captured the attention of the population outside the world of scientific dream research because studies have shown that given proper training, people can learn to have lucid dreams.
But why are people interested in learning to be con­scious in their dreams? According to my own experience, and the testimony of thousands of other lucid dreamers, lucid dreams can be extraordinarily vivid, intense, plea­surable, and exhilarating. People frequently consider their lucid dreams as among the most wonderful experiences of their lives.
If this were all there were to it, lucid dreams would be delightful, but ultimately trivial entertainment. However, as many have already discovered, you can use lucid dreaming to improve the quality of your waking life. Thousands of people have written to me at Stanford tell­ing how they are using the knowledge and experience they have acquired in lucid dreams to help them get more out of living.
Although the outlines of a practical art and science of lucid dreaming are just beginning to emerge and the sys­tematic use of lucid dreaming as a tool for psychological self-exploration is still in its infancy, most people can safely use the available knowledge about lucid dreaming to conduct their own explorations. Probably the only people who should not experiment with lucid dreaming are those who are unable to distinguish between waking reality and constructions of their imagination. Learning lucid dreaming will not cause you to lose touch with the difference between waking and dreaming. On the con­trary, lucid dreaming is for becoming more aware.
Why This New Book?
In Lucid Dreaming, I collected the available knowledge on the subject from both ancient and modern sources.
Since that book’s publication, some ten thousand people have written to me describing their experiences and dis­coveries, and requesting more practical information about lucid dreaming. In response to those requests, I decided to collaborate on a new book with Howard Rheingold. Howard has written extensively on topics such as creativ­ity, consciousness, and dreamwork.
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming is a self-teaching curriculum, a step-by-step method for learning to have and use lucid dreams. You can learn at your own pace, and to your own depth, how to explore your lucid dreams and use them to enrich your life. You will read a rich variety of examples of actual lucid dreams excerpted from letters to the Stanford program, like the three quoted at the beginning of this chapter. While the kind of “an­ecdotal evidence” offered by these nonprofessional dream explorers cannot replace the carefully controlled experi­mentation that is required for testing scientific theories, it does offer invaluable inspiration for continued explo­ration of the world of lucid dreaming.
Since Lucid Dreaming, my research team has continued its laboratory work at Stanford University, mapping mind/body relationships during the dream state and, in Courses and workshops with volunteer oneironauts (pro-nounced oh-NIGH-ro-knots, meaning “explorers of the ream world”), studying techniques for inducing, prolonging, and using lucid dreams. 1 This book draws on a number of sources of knowledge about lucid dreaming, including the Stanford research, the teachings of Tibetan dream yogis, and the work of other scientists. The investigations of the German psychologist Paul Tholey, who been studying lucid dreams for the past twenty years, have been particularly valuable in writing this book.
Our Approach
This book strives to present, in a step-by-step manner, everything you need to know in order to learn the skill of lucid dreaming. All the many techniques and exercises presented work for some people, but how effective each exercise will be for you depends on your individual psy­chology and physiology. Experiment with the exercises, test them for yourself, and see what works best for you.
The basic structure of the book is as follows: You will be guided through preparations for learning to have lucid dreams, provided with plainly spelled out techniques for learning lucid dreaming, and then shown how lucid dreaming can be applied to your life. If you practice dil­igently, the lucid dream induction techniques should sig­nificantly increase your frequency of lucid dreaming. Chapter 5 presents the relevant scientific background and theory to help you understand the basis for the applica­tions. The remaining chapters are devoted to describing how you can use lucid dreaming to enhance your life, both waking and sleeping. Examples selected from our compendium of lucid dreams illustrate what others have achieved, to model for you some of the potentials of lu­cid dreaming.
As far as we know, this is the first time that detailed instructions on lucid dreaming have been widely avail­able to the general public. However, you are not likely to learn lucid dreaming by quickly skimming through this book. Like most anything else worth learning, lucid dreaming requires effort. Motivation is an essential pre requisite; you have to really want to do it and make suf-ficient time to practice. If you persevere with the exercises and procedures, we are confident that you will increase your proficiency at lucid dreaming.
Outline of the Book
This chapter reviews reasons for learning to become lu­cid in your dreams and describes the contents of this book.
Chapter 2: “Preparation for Learning Lucid Dream­ing” provides necessary background information on sleep and helps you overcome any reservations you might have about lucid dreaming that could inhibit your progress. Next, it helps you get acquainted with your dreams. You will learn how to begin a dream journal and how to in­crease your dream recall. You should be able to recall at least one dream per night before attempting lucid dream induction techniques. When you have a dream journal with several entries, you will be ready to build a catalog of dreamsigns. These are the characteristic features of dreams that you can use as signposts to lucidity.
Chapter 3: “Waking Up in the Dream World” discusses techniques for realizing you are dreaming from within the dream. The two major techniques presented are the reflection-intention technique, which is based on the practice of questioning whether you are awake or dreaming, and MILD, the technique I used to learn to lucid dreams at will. MILD trains you to remember to notice when you are dreaming.
Chapter 4: “Falling Asleep Consciously” describes techniques for entering the lucid dream state directly from the waking state.
Chapter 5: “The Building of Dreams” provides a solid background on the origins and nature of the dreaming process and discusses lucid dreaming in the context of dreams in general.
Chapter 6: “Principles and Practice of Lucid Dreaming” shows you how to gain control over the dream: how to remain in a lucid dream, how to awaken when you wish and how to manipulate and observe the dream world. In addition to explaining methods of exercisingpower over the dream, we discuss the benefits inherent in taking an open, flexible, and noncommanding role in lucid dreams.

Chapter 7: “Adventures and Explorations” shows how you can use lucid dreaming for wish fulfillment and the satisfaction of your desires. Examples and suggestions are provided to help you explore new worlds or enact exciting adventures in your dreams, and show how you can tie your dream adventures into your personal self-development.
Chapter 8: “Rehearsal for Living” explains how lucid dreaming can be a practical tool for preparing for your waking life. Lucid dreaming can be used as a “flight simulator” for life, a way in which you can test new ways of living, as well as particular skills. Practice in the dream state can contribute to enhanced experience, improved performance, and deepened understanding in waking life.
Chapter 9: “Creative Problem Solving” discusses lu­cid dreaming as a fruitful source of creativity for art, science, business, and personal life. Diverse examples show how people have used lucid dreaming to find a name for a soon-to-be-born child, to repair cars, and to under­stand abstract mathematical concepts.
Chapter 10: “Overcoming Nightmares” helps you use lucid dreaming to face and overcome fears and inhibi­tions that may be preventing you from getting the most out of your life. Lucid dreamers can overcome night­mares, and in so doing learn how to make the best of the worst situations imaginable.
Chapter 11: “The Healing Dream” shows how lucid dreamers can achieve more integrated, healthier person­alities. Lucid dreams can help those who have unresolved conflicts from past or present relationships, or with de­ceased friends or family members. Also, in lucid dreams, we can learn mental flexibility. Because nothing can harm us in dreams, we can try to solve our problems in unusual or unheard of ways. This helps us to increase our repertoire of possible behaviors in the waking world, thereby decreasing the probability of getting stuck in situations we don’t know how to cope with.
Chapter 12: “Life Is a Dream: Intimations of a Wider World” takes a step beyond the application of lucid dreaming to your everyday life, and shows how lucid dreams can be used to attain a more complete under­standing of yourself and your relation to the world. In the dream you are who you “dream yourself to be”, and understanding this can help you see to what extent your waking self is limited by your own conceptions of who you are. Examples of transcendental experiences in lucid dreams will show you a direction that you might wish to explore in your own inner worlds.
The book ends with an afterword (“The Adventure Continues”) inviting you to join the Lucidity Institute, a membership society devoted to advancing knowledge on the nature and potentials of lucid dreaming.
Life is Short
Before we get into the specifics of how to have lucid dreams, let’s take a closer look at the reasons for learning to awaken in your dreams. Do the potential benefits jus-fy the time and effort required for mastering lucid dreaming? We think so, but read on and decide for your­self.
Proverbially, and undeniably, life is short. To make matters worse, we must spend between a quarter and half of our lives asleep. Most of us are in the habit of virtually sleepwalking through our dreams. We sleep, mindlessly, through many thousands of opportunities to be fully aware and alive.

Is sleeping through your dreams the best use of your limited lifespan? Not only are you wasting part of your finite store of time to be alive, but you are missing adventures and lessons that could enrich the rest of your life. By awakening to your dreams, you will add to your experience of life and, if you use these added hours of lucidity to experiment and exercise your mind, you can also improve your enjoyment of your waking hours.
“Dreams are a reservoir of knowledge and experi­ence, “ writes Tibetan Buddhist Tarthang Tulku, “yet they are often overlooked as a vehicle for exploring reality. In the dream state our bodies are at rest, yet we see and hear, move about, and are even able to learn. When we make good use of the dream state, it is almost as if our lives were doubled: instead of a hundred years, we live two hundred.”2
We can carry not only knowledge but also moods from the lucid dream state to the waking state. When we awaken laughing with delight from a wonderful lucid dream, it isn’t surprising that our waking mood has been brightened with feelings of joy. A young woman’s first lucid dream, which she had after reading an article about lucid dreaming, provides a vivid example. Upon realiz­ing she was dreaming, she “tried to remember the advice in the article, “ but the only thing that came to mind was a notion of her own: “ultimate experience.” She felt herself taken over by a “blissful sensation of blending and melting with colors and light” that continued, “opening up into a total ‘orgasm ‘ “Afterward, she “gently floated into waking consciousness” and was left with “a feeling of bubbling joy” that persisted for a week or more. 3
This carryover of positive feeling into the waking state is an important aspect of lucid dreaming. Dreams, remembered or not, often color our mood upon awakening, sometimes for a good part of a day. Just as the negative aftereffect of “bad” dreams can cause you to feel as if you got up on the wrong side of the bed, the positive feelings of a pleasant dream can give you an emotional uplift, helping you to start the day with confidence and energy. This is all the more true of inspirational lucid dreams.
Perhaps you are still thinking, “My dream life is in­teresting enough as it is. Why should I make an effort to enhance my awareness of it?” If so, consider the tradi­tional mystical teaching that holds that most of humanity is asleep. When Idries Shah, the preeminent Sufi teacher, was asked to name “a fundamental mistake of man’s, “ he replied, “To think that he is alive, when he has merely fallen asleep in life’s waiting room.”4
Lucid dreaming can help us understand Shah’s words. Once you have had the experience of realizing that you are dreaming and that your possibilities are far greater than you had thought, you can imagine what a similar realization would be like in your waking life. As Thoreau put it, “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
The Experience of Lucid Dreaming
If you haven’t yet had a lucid dream, you may find it difficult to imagine what it is like. Although you have to experience it to really know what it is like (“’Those who taste, know”), it is possible to get an idea of the expe­rience by comparing lucid dreaming to a presumably more familiar state of consciousness: the one you are in right now! The following experiential exercise will guide you through a tour of your everyday waking state of con-ciousness. Spend about one minute on each of the steps.

Become aware of what you see: notice the richly varied and vivid impressions—shapes, colors, movement, di­mensionality, the entire visible world.
2. Listen
Become aware of what you hear: register the various sounds taken in by your ears—a diverse range of inten­sities, pitches, and tonal qualities, perhaps including the commonplace miracle of speech or the wonder of music.
3. Feel
Become aware of what you touch: texture (smooth, rough, dry, sticky, or wet), weight (heavy, light, solid, or empty), pleasure, pain, heat and cold, and the rest. Also note how your body feels right now and compare that to the many other ways it feels at other times, tired or energetic, stiff or limber, painful or pleasant, and so on.
4. Taste
Become aware of what it is like to taste: taste a number of different foods and substances, or remember and viv­idly imagine their tastes.
5. Smell
Become aware of what you smell: the odor of warm bodies, earth, incense, smoke, perfume, coffee, onions, alcohol, and the sea. Remember and imagine as many of them as you can.
6. Breathing
Attend to your breathing. A moment ago you probably were not consciously aware of your breathing even though you have inhaled and exhaled fifty times while doing this exercise. Hold your breath for a few seconds. Let it out. Now take a deep breath. Notice that being conscious of your breathing allows you to alter it delib­erately.
7. Emotions
Become aware of your feelings. Remember the difference between anger and joy, serenity and excitement, and as many other emotions as you care to feel. How real do emotions feel?
8. Thoughts
Become aware of your thoughts. What have you been thinking while doing this exercise? What are you think­ing right now? How real do thoughts seem?
9. “I”
Become aware of the fact that your world always in­cludes you. As William James noted, it is / see, / hear, / feel, I think that is the basic fact of experience. 5 You are not what you see, hear, think, or feel; you have these experiences. Perhaps most essentially, you are who is aware. You are always at the center of your multidimen­sional universe of experience, but you are not always consciously aware of yourself. Briefly repeat the exercise with the following difference: At the same time you at­tend to each of the various aspects of your experience, be aware that it is you who is noticing these things (“I see the light...”).
10. Awareness of awareness
Finally, become aware of your awareness. Normally, awareness focuses on objects outside ourselves, but it can itself be an object of awareness. In the light of or­dinary experience, we seem to be distinct and limited centers of awareness, each alone in our inner worlds. In the light of eternity, mystics tell us, we are ultimately all one—the unlimited awareness that is the source of being. Here, experience cannot be adequately expressed by language.
Lucid Dreaming and Waking Life
How does your renewed appreciation of the richness of your ordinary waking state of consciousness relate to the experience of lucid dreaming? Much of what you just observed about your present experiential world applies as well to the dream world. If you were dreaming, you would experience a multisensory world as rich as the world you are experiencing right now. You would see, hear, feel, taste, think, and be, just as you are now.
The crucial difference is that the multisensory world you experience while dreaming originates internally rather than externally. While awake, most of what you perceive corresponds to actually existing people, objects, and events in the external world. Because the objects of waking perception actually exist independently of your mind, they remain relatively stable. For example, you can look at this sentence, shut the book for a moment, and reopen to the same page, and you will see the same sentence.
But, as you will see in chapter 3, the same is not true for dreaming. Because there is no stable external source of stimulation from which to build your experiential world, dreams are much more changeable than the phys­ical world.
If you were in a lucid dream, your experience of the world would be even more different from waking life. First of all, you would know it was all a dream. Because of this, the world around you would tend to rearrange and transform even more than is usual in dreams.”Impossible” things could happen, and the dream scene it-self, rather than disappearing once you know it to be “unreal, “ might increase in clarity and brilliance until you found yourself dumbfounded with wonder.
If fully lucid, you would realize that the entire dream world was your own creation, and with this awareness might come an exhilarating feeling of freedom. Nothing external, no laws of society or physics, would constrain your experience; you could do anything your mind could conceive. Thus inspired, you might fly to the heavens. You might dare to face someone or something that you have been avoiding; you might choose an erotic encoun­ter with the most desirable partner you can imagine; you might visit a deceased loved one to whom you have been wanting to speak; you might seek self-knowledge and wisdom.
By cultivating awareness in your dreams, and learning to use them, you can add more consciousness, more life, to your life. In the process, you will increase your enjoy­ment of your nightly dream journeys and deepen your understanding of yourself. By waking in your dreams, you can waken to life.
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