Your waking life is actively intentional, but what happens when your conscious mind winds down? Lucid dreaming is a nearly magical technique that allows you to tap into your unconscious mind to access and express the deepest parts of your psyche.
With practice, Adriana Ayales tells us that lucid dreaming can be an incredible tool for deep emotional healing and heightened manifestation potential. Ayales is the NYC herbalist behind Anima Mundi and offers a unique lucid dreaming botanical elixir we’ve been curious about for some time. Discover how tapping into the power of lucid dreams can enhance deep rest, boost immunity, support the nervous system and enhance brain function…
What is Lucid Dreaming?
A lucid dream is when you wake up to the fact that you’re dreaming, but you still remain in the dream. Meaning, you’re dreaming and you know it. It is in this magical instant of awakening that everything changes. The conscious mind is winding down, and the subconscious mind is activating, creating a bridge and you’re standing in the middle.
A moment ago your conscious mind, in control, was aware that it was laying on a soft pillow about to go to sleep. Suddenly, a world of possibilities beyond your conscious understanding presents itself—the dream world. Instead of being driven away by the abnormal constructs of a dream, you’re there, present and awake, somewhat like your normal day-to-day reality. This is a powerful moment where you can literally take full control of the dream and create anything you want.
Dreams are truth-tellers | Dreams reveal our deepest unconscious tendencies, as any psychoanalyst or dream interpreter can attest. Ongoing symbolism and patterning hold deep truths about the nature of our personality and natural intuitive gifts and provide great insight into our purpose and beyond. When the subconscious mind is forefront, we become what is referred to as “the witness,” a term usually referring to the part of our consciousness that neutrally observes the mind’s constructs. It tends to be a highly insightful experience as it accesses deep parts of our psyche.
Dream Yoga | Tibetan Buddhists and yogis have been adepts and aware of lucid dreaming for centuries, classically referred to as “dream yoga.” In Tibetan Buddhism it is believed that the coarsest state of consciousness—the one with the least potential for spiritual development—is our ordinary waking state. The dream state is the one with most potential, but if we fail to recognize the dream state for what it is, we inevitably mistake it for the waking state and proceed through the dream in the state of delusion (as in, waking life). Tibetan dream yoga practices, along with other Native American and South American shamanic practices, all integrate similar elements within dreamwork. The common thread is that they see them as platforms of total manifestation, a way to heal oneself, access boundless creativity and receive highly insightful information “from the Gods” or our highest self.
This sounds amazing, right? But if one of these techniques works immediately for you, don’t get excited. It’ll wake you up and out of the dream. Remain calm and act as if you’ve done this a million times before. Start projecting ideas and manifestations of any kind right as you remember that you are dreaming.
8 Western Lucid Dreaming Techniques
If practiced diligently, techniques like the ones below will eventually enable you to engage in lucid dreaming frequently (or whenever you want). To extend or stabilize lucid dreams requires that you keep the dream going and not wake up or maintain lucidity (don’t fall into ordinary, non-lucid dreaming). Once you’re able to maintain a lucid dream for a few seconds, you may notice the dream scenario begins to break up. The images lose their sharpness and cohesiveness. There are a number of techniques you can apply via your “dream body” to stimulate your senses and revive the integrity of dream contents. Techniques derived from meditation for creating a vividness of consciousness can also be applied to your dreams to enhance their intensity.
Below are classic beginner-to-advanced techniques within the more modern practices of lucid dreaming, ones that naturally integrate more ancient techniques, such as those of dream yoga.
The power of motivation | Make positive affirmations throughout the day in regards to lucid dreaming; this can generate significant accomplishment. It not only reminds the mind about your dreams but helps you access your intention with precision. Say your intention is to see an aspect of your future, your mind state throughout the day should be I want to see my future tonight. Say it out loud and often throughout the day. At the beginning some people set a timer on their phone as a reminder (for example, every two to three hours) to check in on your night’s intention.
Prospective memory | Planning ahead and imagining an outcome during the day helps you imagine becoming lucid in a dream. Imagine it as if you’re in the Avatar movie, and imagine the sensorial difference that world would be compared to your current waking life. Try programming your mind on the sensorial difference in particular. What does it feel like? What does it look like for you? Lean into what that feeling might be, imagine yourself immersed in it, and receive what you intend to receive.
Noting dream signs | Set small symbolic moments where you tap into the dream. A classic one is to look at your hands. For some reason when you look down in a dream the veils slim enough that it’s an easy reminder that you’re dreaming. A classic tool is an intention of looking at your hands (or feet) to instantly recall that you’re dreaming. It’s helpful to set it in your mind and every time you look at your hands or feet repeat, I’m dreaming or This is a dream. Every time you become successful at a dream sign (whether it was pre-planned or spontaneous) write it down the next day in your dream journal.
Performing state checks | Throughout the day ask yourself, Am I dreaming? This is very helpful as sooner or later you’ll be asking yourself the same question in the dream. If you happen to ask yourself if you’re dreaming while in your dream, don’t overthink it—just go for whatever you’d like to do. For example, try to fly, or look at your hands, or jump off a cliff to see what happens (this might be a hard one if you’re a true beginner). But it all will help you open the lock and set your intention into immediate play.
MILD > Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams | When you become skilled at remembering your dreams, you will begin to easily notice oddities and anomalies—things that are so bizarre that it’s surprising you don’t question them as you dream. Anomalies ranging from flying elephants to green sunsets, to the appearance of deceased relatives, to being inhabited by fantastic creatures—all occur in most people’s dreams but our normal dream state dominated by dullness prevents us from questioning them. This helps awaken our critical reflective attitude in dreams, and training your mind to see oddities is a trigger to know you’re dreaming.
DILD > Dream-Initiated Lucid Dreams | One variation is to use an alarm clock to awaken yourself periodically during the night. This involves setting an alarm clock to wake up, and put yourself back into sleep with awareness that you’re going back into the dream. I recommend setting an alarm for 3 or 4 am, as usually, the last two hours of sleep are the easiest to enter lucid dreaming. (Note: This goes for the DILD and WILD techniques.)
WILD > Wake-Initiated Lucid Dreams | This is waking at night, reading a bit and falling back asleep and re-entering sleep lucidly. Another version of this practice is to follow the hypnagogic imagery that often appears as we fall asleep. These images range from partial dreamlike scenes to elaborate geometric patterns. They are very subtle, requiring relaxation and sensitivity to perceive, but if you can maintain gentle attention to them once you see them, you can fall asleep consciously and experience both dreams and non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep lucidly.
Reconstructing fading dreams | This technique involves spinning your dream body vertically or horizontally to give yourself an energetic rub-down. This one is a bit more of advanced practice, yet once you’re in the groove it is excellent to shift gears within the dream, and one of my all-time favorites. Stay tuned for a more advanced review on how to enter the second level of dreaming.
Approach this practice as a dream laboratory where you’re exploring your mind. Enter it without expectation, and create the practice around it to program the mind. This practice engages with the most intimate aspects of our own story to the collective matrix that encompasses the mind. Lucid dreaming is a remarkable tool for accessing the deepest constructs of reality that enable powerful healing for mind and body.
This practice will allow you to explore your fears, neuroses, psychological obstacles, insecurities and so forth. Even unfinished business with a deceased relative can be reenacted in a lucid dream because of the dream space you can bring that person—as you conceive of or remember that person—back to life. In the process of such explorations, you can learn new things about yourself, to say the least. Try practicing this daily and don’t lose enthusiasm if you don’t see results fast. One day you’ll be pleasantly surprised when the experience arrives when you least expect it.