No matter your previous experience, you can have a lucid dream. If you’ve never had one, to do so, however, may require a new way of thinking about dreams and dreaming.
When we think of dreaming, we think of sleeping. To our way of thinking, they’re closely related.
We lay down. Dreams come. You often know you’ve been dreaming when you wake up but the memories of the thoughts you’ve been having gradually recede.
There’s a fancy descriptor for this mental state: the hypnopompic state. This mental state is the best time to try to remember dreams. As we’ve taught, it’s a good practice to write the dream down once you wake. Alternately, you can try tape recording a description of the dream. One method of recording or the other might be the best method for you. Once you remember, you can try to understand what the components of the dream mean.
To appreciate how this relates to lucid dreaming, one needs to get away from always associating dreams with sleep.
It’s true that one definition of dreaming is “a series of thoughts and images that occur during sleep.” Dreaming is also defined as “the contemplation of something that might be the case.”
Neither of these definitions is perfect. While science doesn’t know exactly why we dream, a fuller definition would incorporate the communication with the subconscious that occurs. You don’t necessarily have to be asleep for this communication to occur. This communication can go on while you’re awake very easily.
That communication gets a bad name, often with good reason. You don’t want to be communicating with your subconscious during a meeting at work or during class. You wouldn’t be paying attention. Everyone would know it. The priority needs to be the meeting.
In order for waking dreams to be a good thing, you need to have them when others aren’t counting on you to have paid attention to what they’re saying. You need to not have them when you’re behind the wheel of an automobile. You need to have them when you’re free to have them.
What is lucid dreaming?
Simply put, lucid dreaming is when the person having the dream is aware they’re dreaming.
During the first year of its existence, much of this blog has been dedicated to the remembering and interpretation of dreams that occur when you don’t know you’re sleeping. We’ve mostly deemphasized lucid dreams. We’ve also done very little on guided dreaming. That’s because powerful personal breakthroughs can occur when you give your subconscious free reign and then pay attention to what it focuses on.
However, the Dream Recovery System, used in that way, may not directly help you solve problems or create. You also may forget large swaths of your dreams despite your best efforts, despite using the PACTREPS mnemonic. In those cases, it’s good to have some kind of control over your dreams.
That’s where lucid dreaming comes in.
With this method for lucid dreaming, your conscious mind sets up the milieu. Your subconscious generates the activity within that milieu. Your subconscious generates the dream.
An example of a lucid dreaming milieu
Lucid Dream Milieu #1
You’ve noticed movies based on comic books aren’t realistic. More than the powers the people have and the laws of physics they regularly defy, the characters don’t behave like anyone you know. You wonder what it would really be like if there were certain people who had superpowers.
That’s the base assumptions you make. You contemplate this. Your lucid dream starts to populate with people. You think of a girl you know who wants to be popular. A man you know who wants to have his own business. Another man who’s an extreme idealist. Now they have superpowers. What are the powers? What motivates them?
In comic books and movies based on comic books not everyone has superpowers. Some of them are humans with normal abilities. Some of the people in your lucid dream have superpowers and others don’t. They interact.
Your subconscious fills in the blanks if you relax.
Or it doesn’t. This is dreaming while awake.
Lucid Dream Milieu #2
You’d like to do something with your front yard. It’s small. You wanted a garden but it doesn’t get enough shade. What would make it better?
As you dream lucidly, you focus on the amount of noise that comes from the street that runs alongside your house. Your mind imagines building a wall that goes up, up, up. It’s not just the fact that the yard doesn’t get sun, but it’s also bothersome how much noise comes from cars passing by on the street.
The key is to realize your conscious mind sets up the parameters, the guidelines, the rules of engagement, what’s called the milieu. That’s the conscious controlling aspect of the lucid dream.
Your subconscious then picks up “the ball” and runs with it. The subconscious mind fills in the blanks within the milieu that the conscious mind has created. That’s the subconscious controlling part of lucid dreaming.
In our first example, we wondered, What would the world really look like if some people had superpowers? You can have a lucid dream about anything that interests you.
What would it look like if we gave everyone unlimited sick days and vacations at the business?
What would it be like if I won $400,000 in the Texas Two-Step Lottery?
What would it be like if I had married Miss. So-and-so?
What would it be like to bring George Washington back from the dead and hang out with him?
You get the idea. Practicality comes with setting the milieu.
Don’t be a hostage to practical matters. Many incredibly practical observations at first don’t seem practical at all. You shouldn’t stop your mind from moving on from that milieu. There may be something more important for you to deal with than what your conscious mind declares as the priority.
You don’t need to set a milieu, however. Your mind is capable of freestyling too. That’s also known as wandering. That’s okay, there’s no right or wrong way to do this. There’s only effective and ineffective.
There’s a certain percentage of freestyle lucid dreaming you’ve got to do for mental health. It’s probably related to the same principle that makes the Pordromo Technique so effective. The mind is like the body when it does mental work. It needs to take a break. The way the mind takes its breaks is to let it focus on whatever it needs to focus on that allows it to feel joy.
So let it think about real-life superheros, think about colors, singers who sing with flat voices and cardboard boxes. Let it roam.
Maybe the rest-work cycle is parallel, in a way, to the wet-bulb index. The hotter it is, the more rest time it takes to work outside safely. Sometimes life is very “hot.” You need to let your mind rest more, let it freestyle.
Set the milieu, give your subconscious free reign.
The next step is to consider how you can set your subconscious free.
Physical activity for lucid dreaming
Some people are able to sit still for extended periods of time. An awful lot of them have mental and physical blocks to this. Some of these blocks include feelings they’re wasting time by sitting; Or they get sore sitting; Or they get feelings of boredom.
There’s a long list of reasons that are highly individual.
Frankly, people aren’t ideally made to sit for a long time. As a society, we do far too much of it. Our ancestors did a lot of work with their hands and backs. Humans lived that way for thousands of years building buildings, clearing forests, plowing the field, making their own clothes. The fact that we’re more depressed than ever is reflective of this reality. There are plenty of studies relating exercise to mental health and whether it’s the exercise itself or something more esoteric like “grounding” means that there’s something about it that makes a difference.
We’ve progressed technologically. It’s pretty hard to justify plowing a field with an ox when modern agriculture can produce millions of acres of wheat. Yet you need to do something physical.
Be sure that your great-x5 grandfather behind an ox and plow had time to think. I guarantee he thought about more than whether it was better to use a horse or ox to plow a field. Your great-x5 grandmother that had time to think when she was washing clothes in the river and spinning cloth at a loom. Your great-x10 grandfather and grandmother and their brothers and sisters had more in common with their lifestyle than they have in common with yours.
Your body was made for a lifestyle like that. Mentally, if you went back to those days you most likely wouldn’t have the skills to survive unless someone was sympathetic and showed you how. Even if you need medication to stay alive, you’ve got a lot of the raw materials.
You might be alive today thanks to medical science, but for day-to-day life, that’s what you were made for.
You need to find a physical, almost automatic activity that allows you to dream lucidly.
When it comes to types of activities, there are a number of candidates. We’ll have lots of suggestions in an upcoming e-book. For now, we’ll limit it to one very good suggestion. Shooting hoops.
Shoot hoops in order to dream lucidly
The key here is to shoot hoops, not to play one-on-one basketball with someone else.
You’re not trying to beat anyone. You’re not focusing on improving basketball skills at all.
When you’re shooting hoops to dream lucidly, you’re alone just like you are when you’re dreaming when you’re asleep. Nobody is bothering you. That will bring you out of the trance.
You’re not thinking about a sports strategy. You’re not focusing on burning calories or exercise or anything.
None of that.
Further, you’re not out to have fun. It’s not particularly fun to zone out while throwing a ball repeatedly at a hoop and backboard. Why would that be fun? If you think it’s fun, you’re going to get too engaged in the activity. Your goal here is to disengage your mind and body.
All you’re doing is occupying your mind with the thought of putting the ball through the hoop.
The ball and basket are tools. Nothing more.
Don’t make any challenging shots. Put the ball up, let it bounce back at you. Do it again.
Do this enough and you’ll probably become quite good when you do play Horse, Pig, or Knockout. You’ll develop some muscle memory that will enable you to sink a ball effortlessly. This will be by accident. Don’t focus on this at all if you want to dream lucidly.
Occasionally the ball will bounce out of your reach. Walk over to where it has bounced and pick it up. Shoot it again.
Depending on your physical state, that might be taxing for you. If it is, realize that in order to use this method as a pathway to lucid dreaming your physical condition is going to have to improve.
The pain that comes from sore and inflamed muscles is very real and very distracting. The reason why we’re recommending this is that muscle use is more dispersed than with some other physical meditation methods. Walking and dancing heavily utilize the legs, potentially making them very sore and making you unable to get in the mental state that allows you to dream lucidly.
Bluntly put, soreness will screw up your ability to dream lucidly. You’ll have to get in better condition.
If it isn’t particularly taxing then this method can work for you if you approach it the right way as described above.
Ditch distractions for lucid dreaming
The other thing you need to do is to get rid of all distractions. Don’t go on the court with your smartphone, a clock, nothing but the ball. This is meditation, after all.
You aren’t likely to injure yourself playing basketball this way.
When you walk in a lot of areas you need to pay attention to where you’re going. You don’t want to get hit by a car. If you’re in the brush, you don’t want to fall in a ditch or trip on something.
It’s completely socially acceptable, too which is a problem for a lot of these methods.
I’m fully convinced that’s why the whirling dervishes dress so fancifully. If you dress more plainly you’re a fool spinning around in a circle. The dress is part of an attempt to be socially acceptable. So is doing it in a group.
Shooting hoops is perfectly respectable in a coat and tie and in shorts and a tank top. You just look like someone who’s clearing their mind. Big deal. It’s the perfect vehicle to start lucid dreaming provided you can do it for an extended period time without soreness.
You can do it in the middle of fairly cold weather with a coat and gloves. You can do it in the middle of the afternoon, for bit, when it’s above 110.
The only time you look strange is when you do it in the middle of a downpour or a full-on storm.
It’s like learning to sit and meditate for extended periods, though sitting is always easier to build up to than doing any kind of movement. The kind of mental disengagement that promotes lucid dreaming is far easier to achieve with shooting hoops, however.
How you look while doing the activity is very important to most people. Without the clothes, the whirling dervishes look strange, like mentally ill people spinning in a circle.
Also, nobody does tai chi in the middle of a park by themselves. They do it with others all the time.
Shooting hoops carries none of these stigmas. It’s the almost-perfect activity for disengaging mind from body and allowing one to lucid dream, allowing one to have the most vivid fantasies possible.