Learning to control dreams can change awareness of reality

Have you ever realized that you were dreaming while having a dream? These are called lucid dreams, and they allow you to take control and maneuver through the dream world.

Lucid dreaming is a dream that is more than just vivid and memorable, they are lucid because you are consciously aware of the fact that you are sleeping,

Dax Urbszat, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, became interested in the topic after reading Dr. Stephen LaBerge’s book, Lucid Dreaming.

Lucid dreaming tends to be more bizarre and emotional than regular dreams. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, Creative Commons public domain licence.

Urbszat has studied steps since then to attain a conscious coherent state in sleep, and research how these dreams can create positive effects in the waking world.

“There’s lots of positives,” says Urbszat. “I would say the first is just joy, waking up after a lucid dream is quite invigorating.”

As well as having more pleasure-based dreams of “adventure and excitement,” Urbszat says, regular lucid dreamers who are referred to as oneironauts have used dreams in the past to practice for upcoming musical performances, public speaking events, or to overcome fears. Urbszat even describes positive dream experiences in which he has seen and communicated with deceased loved ones.

Learning lucidity

For some, lucid dreaming is a learned reaction to overcoming a troubling dream that they experienced in childhood. Tim Kessler, a lifestyle consultant, describes a reoccurring dream he had when he was four-years-old, in which he was out of his body, floating through darkness towards a stream of white light. He would enter into one of the streams of light and find himself in another person’s body, in a chaotic and explosive setting. He would awake from these dreams quite upset, so he eventually approached his parents about it. They recommended that he should try and tell himself that he’s dreaming and that everything is alright.

At 13, Kessler began researching new age philosophy and came across the concept of dream control, at which point he learned to induce lucid dreams y at will. In the first few years he used lucid dreaming for fun and pleasure; flying, having romantic encounters, and creating wealth and prosperous situations in his dream world. It got to the point where Kessler was beginning to compromise the quality of rest he was getting every night, so he slowed things down, but continued his research into the subject.

“Probably the most emotionally satisfying experiences ever I find is in lucid dreaming, because there’s such a feeling of vigor and possibility and power, and so I became what I would say, a little bit addicted to it,” says Kessler.

Dreaming methodology

Interested in lucid dreaming? Here’s how you get started:

1. Start a dream journal. Keep it beside your bed and remember to record everything you can remember from your dreams as soon as you wake up every day. If it is a vivid dream, write it down in the greatest detail you can. If you only remember vague details, jot those down as well and try to recall what feelings you and specific details.

2. Begin reality testing. While this may seem like a silly practice, it is a crucial step in linking your dream and waking worlds.

3. Consider downloading dream apps such as DreamZ and begin paying greater attention to your sleeping patterns.

4. Another practice is to set an alarm for four hours after you fall asleep. When it goes off, get up and move around, perhaps do some meditation or read a book, and then go back to sleep. This will assist in entering proper R.E.M. sleep.

5. Before sleeping, focus on your current feelings and surroundings and hone in on your six different senses. This will help create a good headspace for vivid dreaming.

6. Remember that this is not necessarily an easy, linear or streamlined process. It can be different for everyone. You may, after simply reading this article experience a lucid dream, but this may just be a fluke encounter, and further research and practice may still be needed. Consider picking up books on the subject matter, as they will outline numerous different methods, and you can choose one that best suits your schedule and attitude towards the subject.

Since then he says he has around two lucid dreams a month and is familiar with numerous techniques for attaining a lucid state such as a dream journal, legal herbal blends, and phone apps. Kessler describes a simple process of staring at your hands until you fall asleep. Similar to reality testing, this will help you to become aware in the dream-world, because after you fall asleep you will again look at your hands and notice that they seem a little peculiar. Kessler, describes seeing an aura surrounding this hands when he uses this technique.

Books like LaBerge’s Lucid Dreaming or Robert Waggoner’s Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, are useful starting points for anyone interested in this subject. They outline methods for attaining lucidity and address many of the concerns faced by novice oneironauts. LaBerge also started the Lucidity Institute, an online resource. Many of the methods require devoting a great deal of time.

“It’s probably different for everyone,” Urbszat explains. “Some people can do it spontaneously (and) they’ve always done it without effort, some people have to work harder at it. I think we probably all have the capacity to do it, but the minimal effort required I think is starting a dream journal and writing down your dreams every night for at least a couple weeks just to try and get yourself familiar with the dream and bring your consciousness and attention more to this state of consciousness. And you do reality testing as well.”

Am I dreaming?

Reality testing refers to getting into the habit of regularly asking yourself throughout the day if you are dreaming or not. While this may seem absurd, this practice will ultimately translate into asking yourself if you are dreaming while you are asleep.

For example, every time you walk through a doorway, try to remember to ask yourself if you are dreaming when your hand touches the door knob. Challenge your consciousness to assess your surroundings and make sure everything is as it should be.

The idea being the next time you walk through a doorway in a dream, you will remember to ask yourself the question again, and you will find that things are a little strange and realize that you are not awake. Other habits to get into are looking at a digital clock. If the numbers are askew or impossible to read, you are likely dreaming.

There’s an app for that

There are also mobile apps available for download such as DreamZ, which monitors how much REM sleep the user is getting. REM stands for rapid eye movement, and is the stage of deep sleep where the most vivid dreams occur. Learning how to keep track of when this state transpires, as well as just being more aware of how you go to sleep, and when you wake up, is another important step in the process.

“Probably the most emotionally satisfying experiences ever I find is in lucid dreaming, because there’s such a feeling of vigor and possibility and power, and so I became what I would say, a little bit addicted to it,”- Tim Kessler

Although the process of attaining a lucid dream can sometimes be complex, the positive effects these dreams can have are very real effect. Kessler, when trying to determine what career path he should take, had a revelation come in a lucid dream that guided his decision and ultimately altered the course of his life.

“At one point I was floating in the air. There was a big, blue sky in the dream, and I just asked myself what is my purpose, or what is the meaning of my life, and the big answer that I got back was ‘truth and youth,’ and that was it. But it hit me so hard that I woke up crying and in elation and epiphany,” describes Kessler.

Kessler at that time was working as a lifestyle coach, and he had not yet given serious consideration to working with youth. The inspiration he felt after that one dream motivated him to seek new employment and he has been working with youth ever since, and according to him he is, “absolutely loving it.”

Thumbnail courtesy of Shair Anna Heck creative commons licensed

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This story was edited by Kelsey Solway ksolway@cjournal.ca