Have you ever been aware that you are taking part and directing a dream and that you are stage-managing what happens next? This is called lucid dreaming, scientifically accepted as fact despite the strangeness of the concept. After all, how can anyone gain control over a normally “nonvolitional process”, as sleep scientist Matthew Walker points out in his book Why We Sleep? Is functioning at two different levels really possible?
Walker describes how habitual lucid dreamers were taught in laboratory tests to give pre-defined eye movements to inform the researchers once they had gone to sleep.
Three deliberate eye movements to the left, for example, showed the dreamer entering thelucid state and then (pre-arranged) two to theright, plus – incredibly – a clenched hand.
Fewer than 20 percent of the population can dream lucidly – these gifts are tantalizing potentials through which, perhaps, we may one day reach a more accessible connection between inner and outer worlds.
So what happens in lucid dreaming? Sometimes it is possible to see the person from whom you want an answer and then conduct a helpful conversation. It may be possible to shortcut the waking process of recording and decoding, and learn about your dream while you sleep. If you are one of the lucky small percentage who often dream lucidly, think then of the creative possibilities open to you.
Learning to be lucid
You could experiment by imagining some everyday object in meditation, focusing on it several times daily. Tell yourself you will see it in your dreams and be able to touch it. Now you have begun the process to command lucid ability – but it needs dedication to keep up the practice.
Some people manage to teach themselves lucid dreaming by checking out during the night whether they are awake or dreaming, then commanding themselves to re-enter the dream. Bizarre as it sounds, this “reality testing”, as Stephen LaBerge of Stanford University and founder of The Lucidity Institute suggests, helps you move in and out of your dream world, recognizing from clues whether you’re dreaming or awake. Ultimately, you might be lucky and become one of the hundreds of thousands of people who claim to be able to dream lucidly, potentially experiencing rarefied levels of mental activity and learning how to problem solve during your sleep