A Guide to Lucid Dreaming, Part 2

lucid dreaming guide

Hitchhiker’s guide to the dreamverse

Last time we explored a few ways to have a Lucid Dream – how to find yourself, more or less awake, in a dream, finally able to do…

What, exactly? Now that I’m here, you may ask, what do I do?

Well, first thing, if you’ve used the “laundry alarm” method mentioned in the previous post, you’ll probably want to do whatever you had decided to do (looking at your hands, flying, plucking the sun out of the sky…). There’s no better test to confirm you’ve actually achieved dream lucidity than checking if you can actually do what you had set off to do in the first place.

4. What now, though?

My suggestion is: enjoy yourself. The more you make this experience pleasurable, the easier it will come as you repeat it. Apart from this, just explore your surroundings, look around, and be a light-hearted tourist. One of the main issues with the first lucid dreams is getting overexcited and waking yourself up. Idle curiosity is a good mindset to start from. Too much attention concentrated on something will wake you up, too little and you’ll slide back into a regular dream. A peculiar balance between concentration and distraction is the key.

Castaneda suggests looking alternatively to your hands and your environment, without stopping on the same subject for too long. In dreams, attention behaves a bit like energy: it’s the currency of the dream world (in pretty literal ways, in some systems). Learning how much of it to give is useful and, in a way, fun. There are tricks to help balancing attention; an easy one is just moving very fast – running, flying, jumping around like a kangaroo or an anime character – instead of walking.

Exploring and sightseeing are extremely satisfying activities in a dream; so are flying, playing with your senses (eating, drinking, touching… and yes, indulging in erotic fantasies as well); shapeshifting is also fun, though challenging for some (I, for instance, suck). Another fun activity is testing the limits of the rules of the game. Will a mirror work, or will it show you something else? Will written words behave differently? How will dream characters react to your sudden lucidity? Will dying in a dream wake you up, or will you go on dreaming something else?

Sometimes playing around with the settings can get scary, even to the point of waking up. In that case, better keep the attitude of a curious scientist, have a laugh, and write it all down in your journal. Some authors (e.g. Castaneda) like to scare their readers by listing terrible dangers at every corner. Some others will insist on the total safety of the experience. My personal suggestion is, don’t get paranoid and trust your instinct. If something feels a bit eerie, it might be worth exploring. If something feels like a BIG FAT NOPE, there’s no dishonour in running the heck away.
Interacting with the “locals” can get especially weird – sometimes they’ll just freeze, sometimes they’ll act like they’re other dreamers, sometimes they’ll have less than friendly reactions to your “awakening”, while other times they might help you question your dream, or even be the ones that trigger lucidity. The possibilities are wide and worth exploring. The most common risk here is getting distracted by the characters and losing control of the dream; still, never forget to trust your gut if something feels off. If your spiritual practice includes safety measures such as banishing, or even if you’re a fantasy reader or gamer, you might find many of those defensive methods pretty effective in a dream setting, were things to get nasty; however, they’re most often unnecessary and have a chance of getting you captured in the plot even more… which is sometimes pretty fun in itself, so don’t let me stop you.

Some random tips:

  • Conversations can be a trap: get too involved and you might forget you were dreaming, or get lost in the plot. Same goes for reading long texts or staring at pictures.
  • Making things appear out of thin air is possible, but expecting them to already be around the next corner is easier.
  • If the dream is dissolving, try going to a smaller place, easier to conceptualize.
  • If the dream does dissolve, try to maintain lucidity until a new one starts; even if you wake up, do a reality check: chances are it might be a false awakening.

5. Where do we go from here? (Literally and figuratively)

The applications of lucid dreaming are pretty wide and diverse. You may be looking into this merely for the entertainment value, or looking for an instrument to support introspection, or even hoping to find an alternative approach to “astral” work; you might just be curious about what it is all about. Whatever your reasons, one of the first skills to develop if you want to do something with a lucid dream, is the ability to move between different dream settings.

Castaneda calls it the “second gate of dreaming” and makes a big fuss about it, but it’s mostly hype. Regular dreams tend to change a lot – one moment you’re in your old classroom, the next you’re on a spaceship, and you don’t think anything of it. Lucid dreams tend to be more stable when it comes to setting, because your attention make them so; however, they’re still as pliable as non-lucid dreams, as long as you can keep a balance between letting them shift, and not losing lucidity. There are tricks to do it with more ease.

My favourite, as a child, was jumping into the shadows (I was an edgy kid). Some suggest spinning around very fast until your vision blurs; another one I kinda like is letting myself fall backwards, through the ground. Opening portals in mid-air, although cartoonish, can be pretty effective. Falling asleep within a dream can have its own peculiar effects – good and bad – both on the quality of the dream and the amount of awareness you manage to maintain. Even something as simple as blinking might just work. Use your imagination and make up your own, and be ready to write down the results.

If you’re ok with looking a bit weird, you might also try dream doors. I’m talking about real doors, drawn (maybe with a bit of chalk, Beetlejuice style) or even actually built in the room you’ll use for dreaming. In general, physical tools designed to help with dreams can be pretty effective, if only because they help reinforce your resolve tremendously. If they are in your room, they can also be of help whenever you happen to get lucid during a false awakening. Of course, if your belief system includes the chance of potentially unfriendly company coming through “portals” of any sort, you will want to implement as many security measures as you see fit (such as wards and protective objects).

Venturing further into the woods of the “less mundane” applications of lucid dreams, we get to the whole “astral” thing. I doubt there’s ever been much of an agreement upon what this “astral” really is; even less so about which experiences have more or less to do with it. Exploring lucid dreaming, you’ll quite probably stumble upon dreams that bear some resemblance with “out of body experiences” (OOBEs), or have interactions that seem to take place somewhere other than your own mind – sometimes with what feels or acts like other dreamers. You might even happen to have other dreamers report eerie “coincidences” in your dreams – whether or not you did it on purpose.

My personal experiences suggest that, whatever it is, the “shared” space out there can be accessed through dreams; a same “place” might be reached through dreams, “astral projection”, trance states induced by playing shamanic drums, etc. I also think that not all dreams, lucid or not, take place “somewhere else”. However, I think opening a door between a “regular” lucid dream and a “place” you want to visit is pretty doable. That’s part of why mastering switching between settings is so useful. Dreams provide a strong and relatively “economical” (energetically speaking) interface to the “weird places”. However, it is not without danger: whoever has gone through an edgy teen phase has met, sooner or later, some skilled dreamer who got lost in their own fantasies, believing just a bit too much in all those mythical adventures. Given it’s always going to be very hard to tell gold from glitter, it’s very important to maintain quite a bit of sobriety.

This said, there are nice experiments to attempt. You will probably want to try shared dreaming; Chances are it’s going to take a bit more effort than expected, but it doesn’t look impossible either. Some dreamers also share a common dream setting – not unlike an “astral temple”, in a way. I’m not sure if the creation process works as good from the dream side, compared to classic “astral” work, but dreams are certainly a great way to access a place that already exists.

You can also “mark” a physical place to visit later in a dream. Try walking around, holding on to the feeling of dreaming (just like advised in the previous post, when you were trying to reinforce your command while falling asleep). Look around like you would do in a lucid dream – pretend the amount of attention you give will influence what you see, look at your hands, lightly touch the things around you, concentrate on the light and the air and how they feel; then formulate the intent of leaving your mark – like a recall rune in a RPG, if you like: your next dream task will be going back to that place.

6. Troubleshooting

Of course, it all might also not work.

You might have trouble getting any lucid dream at all; there are a few “cheats” you may try. A slightly unpleasant one is taking advantage of those annoying dreams you have when you are so worried about being late for some early morning event, that you end up dreaming you overslept, missed it and got in trouble. They’re close cousins to the “woops I thought I’d had breakfast and everything, but it was just a dream and now I have to get ready to work again” false awakenings, and the buggers deserve to be taken advantage of.

Some foods, smells and flavours might also help (though I have no idea why), such as chocolate milk, apple juice, small amounts of caffeine. Drinking water before sleep may cause an impromptu WBTB through forcing a toilet break. Sleeping upside down (with your head where you usually keep your feet) also helps in combination with WBTB.

Last but not least, you might try with music, or look into brainwave training software, apps and gadgets, not to mention a whole range of supplements, herbs and nootropics. Google away, and (this bears repeating), if you are a smoker, take a break from weed.

Even once you do get lucid dreams, your brain may find ways to troll you. For instance, you might have a false awakening in which you write your lucid dream down on your dream journal (hence forgetting half of it, because you’re no longer making an effort to remember it); you may waste your dream trying to persuade a character that he is dreaming too. You may wake up and feel like the dream you just had was entirely irrelevant, or even “better forgotten”, just to realise later that it was just your brain trying to trick you into not getting out from under the blanket. My only advice is, stay zen, double check false awakenings, and if you get trolled, chalk it up to experience.

Don’t be afraid to experiment; never take another dreamer’s word on what can or can’t be done, go test it yourself; follow your instinct when it comes to walking the line between safety, recklessness and paranoia; be creative, always be curious and keep taking notes. There’s lots of weird, wonderful things to see on the other side of the night.

Arianna likes dreams, fiction, cats, nerd stuff, magic, and finding out what happens when you mix them all up. She studies neo-pagan movements for academic and personal interest, and is trying to figure out Chaos Magick because why not?

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