It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream.
― Edgar Allan Poe
Dreaming spawns an altogether different realm of existence where reality takes a back-seat and the subconscious goes full throttle. It is a world that cannot be explained but can only be experienced. A dream is often seen as a gateway to the unconscious mind and can range from normal to overly bizarre. Dreams are often involuntary, but they can also be controlled. Want to know how?
Imagine this: you're asleep and dreaming peacefully when suddenly you consciously realize that you're actually in a dream. You have two options: one, to wake up or two, to dream on!
If you choose the latter, the phenomenon that you're welcoming is known as lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming, as the definition states is 'the ability to consciously observe and control one's dreams, i.e. to be aware that you're dreaming and to have the power to control your dreams.
Lucid dreaming can be achieved by putting the deepest areas of the brain to good use while you're sleeping.
And it is not an exaggeration when I say: Welcome to the world of dreams where you can bend the laws of physics according to will, control objects, stopping bullets like Neo from The Matrix and even fly!
Lucid dreaming occurs in a state of altered consciousness and transforms your dream into an alternative reality. Everything you see, feel, hear, smell and even taste is as authentic as in real life. Almost everyone at some point in time has had a lucid dreaming experience.
Quite like Inception meets Johnny Quest!
Normal dreaming v/s lucid dreaming
Unlike normal dreaming, where self-awareness is shut down, lucid dreaming spawns an alternative state of mind which pricks the brain to awaken during sleep.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, the state of lucidity is natural and safe. There is nothing "paranormal" about this and in fact, out of body experiences are explained by the lucid dream state.
Quoting my personal experience, I tried lucid dreaming a few years ago after I started meditating. I meandered through a forest on a mountain, exploring every nook, right to the peak of the mountain-top. It was quite a refreshing experience and was a much needed break from the everyday mundane. The altered state of consciousness took me on an adventure where I disconnected from reality to venture into a far-fetched dream state where I was in control of everything.
Is lucid dreaming scientifically proven?
Tibetan Monks have known to control dreams for more than a thousand years, in tandem with the philosophy of dream yoga.
However, the term 'lucid dreaming' is of recent origin and was coined by Marquis d'Hervey de Saint-Denys, a passionate dream researcher. The concept of dreaming in an altered state of mind became popular courtesy the efforts of Celia Green, who took into perspective the scientific potential of self awareness while in dreams. The first scientific evidence of the phenomenon was produced in the journals by a British parapsychologist named Keith Hearne (in 1975) who recorded the pre-determined conscious eye movements from one of his lucid dreaming volunteers.
How can you lucid dream?
Paradoxical as it sounds, lucid dreaming is the activation of brain activity, resembling full waking consciousness even when you're fast asleep. Lucid dreaming is both challenging and fun, once you've mastered it. Before you learn how to do it, you must totally commit to learning this mental skill. It doesn't come early and isn't easy to inculcate and requires a lot of conscious effort on your part.
What do you need?
There are a set of disciplines that you must adhere to, the most important ones being adequate sleep time and practice and mental conditioning.
Here's how even you can control your dreams:
1. Keep a dream journal
Each time you wake up, try remembering the dream you just had and record them. This practice will get you in the habit of remembering your ordinary dreams. Recording your dreams also opens up the possibility of looking for 'dream signs' in your dreams.
2. Pick out dream signs
Your ordinary dreams would have people and objects that could act as cues to you waking up in your dreams! For instance, if you talk to Michael Jackson in your ordinary dreams, this is a dream sign and can be used to separate dream from reality because you know Michael is dead.
3. Notice your waking world
In order to be fully conscious in your dream world, you have to be consciously focused in your waking world. Pay heed to each and every detail around you and this would work like magic when you start your practice! When you dream, you cannot read text for more than a few seconds, so try reading text to know whether you're dreaming or not!
Meditation and the mindfulness that arises as a result, works well with lucid dreaming practices. The act of meditation is an integral part of the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dream (MILD) and Wake Induced Lucid Dream (WILD) techniques and enhances the in-dream skills like visualization (for changing the scenery) and inducing focused states of awareness that help prolong your lucid dreams.
Foraying into lucid dreaming is quite an arduous task and requires patience and practice.