Lucid dreaming

This weekend I attended a lucid dreaming workshop at the Tibetan Centre, presented by Charlie Morley.

Charlie is a wonderful teacher, knowledgeable (in spite of claims to the contrary) and full of enthusiasm.

I became interested in lucid dreaming again not after watching Inception, but after discussing nightmares with my son, now 6. I told him not to be afraid of his nightmares, to let them be. He wasn’t very impressed with this advice, and we got into talking how one could influence their dreams. He liked this more, and decided that next time he’d fight them. Asking him later whether he still had nightmares, he told me he didn’t any more, and was now beating them all the time.

Lucid dreaming is essentially being aware that one is dreaming while dreaming, and then being able to influence the dream.

Lucid dreaming goes back a long way, probably since the dawn of consciousness. Until 1981 it was rejected by the most of the scientific community, who believed it to be a paradoxical impossibility, with the most likely explanation that one dreams, then wakes up, then falls back into the dream, confusing the two states.

In 1981 Stephen LaBerge published the first peer-reviewed proof that lucid dreaming was an actual phenomonen, and since then there’s been much scientific research into the topic. It’s been used as treatment for nightmares, as therapy, as training for athletes.

The Tibetan tradition has a highly sophisticated understanding of lucid dreaming, developing practices such as Tibetan dream yoga.

In my early twenties, I used to keep a dream journal. The longer I kept the journal, the more dreams I recalled, until I was writing 6 or 7 dreams in great detail every day. I eventually stopped because it became too time-consuming, and I decided that I’d remember the important dreams anyway.

Slowly my dreams faded, unrecalled, until I was hardly remembering any, at most one every two weeks, and only the most blurry of images.

The first stage of lucid dreaming is to recall your dreams. You cannot remember to recognise that you are dreaming until you are remembering your dreams well in the first place.

So, Friday night I kept a journal next to my bed, ready to remember. I was determined to have a lucid dream, although at that point we hadn’t been taught any techniques, and spent much of the night sleepless imagining what I’d get up to. Flying, doing great physical feats, meditation, sexual fantasies, embracing my shadows – I went through it all, enentually becoming disappointed at my limited imagination.

The experience was interesting when I woke up the next morning. In the confused hypnapompic state, I still had an image of my dream, and I remembered I had to write it down. Holding onto the one fleeting image, I wrote it down, and in the process of writing it down, I could recall more. I know that if I had woken up normally, I would have forgotten the dream quickly, perhaps not even remembering I had dreamed, and it was interesting to watch the mind focussing attention on the dream, and to see more revealing itself.

One of the techniques is to train your mind to look out for dream signs – unmistakeable signs that one is dreaming. Charlie mentioned talking to one’s dead grandmother as an example.

In another sign of my limited imagination, I dreamt of my dead grandmother.

The next night I was prepared with a number of techniques to add to my enthusiasm. I spent the night not (just) fantasising, but preparing.

I woke up this morning, not having had a lucid dream, but having opened the floodgates of my dream recall, remembering 5 dreams in detail. And with some faith in my unconscious imagination restored.

If the topic interests you, I highly recommend attending one of Charlie’s workshops. He’s doing a 3 or 4-day retreat in March.

Related posts: