How to have a lucid dream

Lucid Dreaming is the ability to be aware of your dreams, and control them. This lets you sleep better, experience the impossible, and practice real life skills. Here are some powerful techniques you can use to have a lucid dream FAST.

If you’re looking for a way to lucid dream tonight and it’s your very first one, (how exciting!) then we just need to explain a couple of things. Lucid Dreaming is very intense, and the experience is different for everyone. If you don’t want to try it, then don’t. It’s no more dangerous than just going to sleep normally, but emotionally, you may experience things you aren’t prepared for.

Dream lucidity is the awareness that you are dreaming. This awareness can range from a faint recognition of the fact to a momentous broadening of perspective. Lucid dreams usually occur while a person is in the middle of a normal dream and suddenly realizes that they are dreaming. This is called a dream-initiated lucid dream. A wake-initiated lucid dream occurs when you go from a normal waking state directly into a dream state, with no apparent lapse in consciousness. In either case, the dreams tend to be more bizarre and emotional than regular dreams. Most importantly, you will have at least some ability to control your “dream self” and the surrounding dream.

1. Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD)

Colloquially referred to as WILD, Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming is really an umbrella term for any lucid dream entered directly from a waking state. They all follow the same general protocol: After sleeping for several hours, you wake up — either naturally or by setting an alarm — and then remain alert as your body drifts back to sleep.

Ideally, you’ll see hypnagogic (events that happen in the realm between sleep and wakefulness) imagery dance against the back of your eyelids. Allow these images hypnotize you into a state of relaxation. You may find that you can’t move your muscles — that means your body’s fallen asleep, which is exactly what you want to happen. Stay relaxed, and try shaping the hypnagogic patterns into a scene of your own imagining. Boom: You’re (hopefully) lucid dreaming.

“Lucid dreaming is tied to REM sleep, and the second half of the night in general is when that starts getting good.”

Ryan Hurd, a lucid dreaming expert and teacher who runs dreamstudies.org, recommends trying this in the second half of the night, or even after you wake up in the morning. “Most people tend to have lucid dreams in the extended morning, ” he says. “Lucid dreaming is tied to REM sleep, and the second half of the night in general is when that starts getting good. And then what happens in the early morning is melatonin decreases as cortisol increases — the brain is waking up.” That sweet spot between awake and asleep is prime WILD time.

2. Wake-Back-To-Bed

One’s capacity to lucid dream is directly linked to their intentionality. It’s not a matter of trying hard, but trying consistently over the long term — conditioning your brain to enter that dream state without resistance. “It’s about not giving up, ” says Hurd.

To that end, he recommends what he calls the “Wake-Back-To-Bed” technique. Set an alarm for sometime in the latter half of the night; when it goes off, get out of bed and stay awake “for up to an hour, ” he advises. Think about lucid dreaming — write in your dream journal, review old dreams, repeat affirmations like “I will lucid dream tonight.” Then, go back to bed and practice the WILD technique.

Beverly D’Urso, who participated in Dr. Steven LaBerge’s pioneering lucid dream research, suggests choosing specific goals for your dreams. “In my lucid dreaming classes, ” she writes, “I suggest that my students start with a simple goal to accomplish in their lucid dream. I ask them to decide the first steps that they can accomplish from wherever they might find themselves, and I tell them to do this ahead of time, while awake. I find that a goal of ‘becoming lucid’ does not work as well as a goal of doing something fun in the limitless world of dreams.”

Want to soar through Saturn’s rings? Ride a Tasmanian tiger in the Amazon? Or simply relive that childhood trip to the beach? It’s your dream — all that matters is you develop clear, precise intentions, and repeat them to yourselves in waking life.

3. Scent-Induced Lucid Dreaming (SILD)

 

For the adventurous, this olfactory exploration involves surrounding yourself with herbs, spices and oils designed to activate your limbic system — the part of your brain that governs emotions and memories. Visual and auditory input pass through the thalamus, which regulates consciousness, before hitting the limbic system. Olfactory input skips this step, which means we process scent unconsciously before we even realize it. That’s why even the most unassuming odors — say, freshly-cut grass on a summer afternoon— are such powerful, if inexplicable emotional triggers.

What does this have to do with lucid dreaming? Well, everything. The limbic system is involved in dreaming as well, and dreams are basically memories (and emotions) on acid. By evoking long-dormant mental scenes, scent has the power to shape vivid dreamscapes.

Dreams are basically memories (and emotions) on acid. By evoking long-dormant mental scenes, scent has the power to shape vivid dreamscapes.

There are a few ways to practice SILD. The easiest method is placing a few drops of essential oil — Hurd recommends mugwort or lavender — on your pillow, then breathing in the aroma as you fall asleep. If that sounds too tame for your sensibilities, then you could go the extra mile and craft a dream pillow loaded with sandalwood, rose petals, cloves, mugwort, anise and other scents of your choosing.

The inherent flaw in this method is habituation: The brain gets used to new odors, and stops responding to them as the novelty decreases. So by the time you reach those crucial REM cycles in the early morning, your pillow’s potency may have worn off. One way around this is with a time-release fragrance diffuser, which you can program to spray an aromatic mist at whatever hour is best for you.

4. Finger-Induced Lucid Dreaming (FILD)

 

One of the more unusual induction techniques, FILD is another subset of WILD. It’s pretty straightforward, if a bit onerous. Once you’ve woken up and settled in for Sleep Round 2, imagine that your hand — whichever you prefer — is resting on a piano keyboard. Press down your index finger, then your middle finger, as if playing two notes in alternation. Keep alternating, but let each new motion be gentler than the last, until you’re just barely contracting the muscles. (It’s important that you don’t count the repetitions, as that additional level of attention will probably keep you awake.) Simply focus on the repetitions themselves. After a short while, perform a reality check — if you’ve done it right, odds are you’ll be dreaming.

Given the steps involved, Hurd advises holding off on FILD until you’re familiar with the basic techniques it builds on. “I’ve found that Finger-Induced works for some people but not for others, ” he says. “It’s got a lot of moving parts, so it’s not something I would recommend for beginners.”

And as with everything to do with lucid dreaming, the key to FILD is commitment and a light spirit. “It’s about trying over a period of weeks, ” Hurd reiterates. “Don’t try too hard — if you try too hard, you’ll frustrate yourself. But don’t give up too easily, either.”

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    First of all I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question which
    I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and
    clear your head prior to writing. I have had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there.
    I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally
    wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or
    tips? Thanks!

    1. Rain says

      Thank you for your kind words! As for centering, I find that a few minutes of meditation helps me clear my mind. Keep in mind that meditation can be as simple as a few focused breaths or as complex as timed free-writing. Good luck with your writing! 🙂

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