Lucid Dreaming Basics: What You Need to Know

What is Lucid Dreaming?

One definition of lucid dreaming, according to Gackenbach and LaBerge, is “the rare but robust awareness that we are dreaming and that we are not really awake.”  In a lucid dream we are in a somewhat liminal space between waking and dreaming, an ethereal midpoint between waking consciousness and unconsciousness.  In psychological terms, it is related to dissociation, which is the capacity of the psyche to break off into islands of separate consciousnesses, while still maintaining a certain sense of wholeness.

The spontaneous occurrence of lucid dreaming varies across individuals and it also varies with age within individuals. It is notably susceptible to pre-sleep autosuggestion. That is to say, the relatively rare spontaneous incidence of lucid dreaming can be increased by training. Young subjects may not only learn to become lucid but can also perform intentional self-awakenings, and even institute plot control by introducing voluntary decision making into the normally involuntary dream experience.

This means lucid dreaming is the ability both to recognize that one is having a dream while still in the dream, and to participate actively in the dream’s drama as it plays out.

Historically speaking, lucid dreaming has been associated with enhanced spiritual awareness, self-healing at both the psychological and physical level, and even enlightenment. Contemporarily speaking, neuroscientists are excited by lucid dreaming because the progress in brain imaging offers the possibility of measuring the physiological correspondences to three different states of consciousness -waking, non-lucid dreaming, and lucid dreaming – in a laboratory.  Some neuroscientists even think lucid dreaming may help them “finally establish a brain basis for consciousness.”  We’ll see how that works out for them.  Modern psychologists tell us that lucid dreaming is a “way to put the deepest areas of your brain to good use while you’re sleeping.”

What is Dreaming?

In the world of depth psychology, particularly the Analytical Psychological approach developed by Carl Gustav Jung, dreams are the bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness.  Though we like to think we are the masters of our own minds, we are most certainly not. According to Jung, dreams are a way to find out what is lurking beneath the surface of our awareness, causing us to do things we do not mean to do, say things we don’t want to say, or feel things we do not want to feel (like fear, negativity, or self-doubt).  The dream characters, processes, and objects are images of those unknown aspects of ourselves – aspects which have a certain sense of autonomy over us.  Sometimes they are parts of our personality that want to emerge. Other times they have parts of our personality that hold unresolved emotion or trauma. Once we understand what the image means, it no longer has the power to override our thoughts and actions. This is not because we have overpowered it, but rather because we have integrated the lesson or meaning behind the image.

Writing down your dreams is essential to understanding them. The more you understand them, the more you will understand yourself. When we combine this meaning of dreams to the idea of lucid dreaming, we can see how they would work together to establish communication between the dreamer and the dreamworld.  As a matter of fact, lucid dreaming is very similar to a practice Jung called active imagination. In active imagination, a person is able to watch the contents of the mind organically unfold in a sort of drama, just as if he or she was dreaming.  As the person becomes more accustomed to accessing this space, he or she can start to engage in the drama, again with the intention to understand the meaning of the imagery.

Lucid Dreaming Requires a Profound Sense of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is something most people automatically assume they have. Most of those people are profoundly mistaken. Every one of us has self-consciousness, but not all of us have self-awareness.  Self-awareness requires that our brain be well-exercised in meditation. Meditation has proven to strengthen grey matter in all areas of the brain associated with higher thinking, namely the left hippocampus, the temporal-parietal lobe, and the frontal cortex.  Higher thinking includes perspective taking, compassion, empathy, introspection, and self-awareness. Along with increased grey matter in those brain areas comes increased neuronal connectivity with the area of the brain called the default mode network. For most people that default mode is associated with mind-wandering, but for those who meditate, it is associated with an ability to maintain laser focused attention, something which one needs to practice lucid dreaming.

How to Have Lucid Dreams – Three Basic Disciplines

The art of lucid dreaming is something you must practice daily to get good at it.  The foundation of lucid dreaming according to V.H. Frater Justificatus’ book Lucid Dreaming, is grounded first in three basic disciplines, all of which you can practice on your own.

Dream Recall

Learning to recall your dreams is very similar to both learning a new skill and learning a new language. As a skill, dream recall is about developing a daily practice.  You start by keeping a dream journal or a voice recorder by your bed and faithfully recording your dreams every night – preferably the moment you wake from them. That is the time when the most detail can be recalled. If you fall back to sleep, you are likely to forget important details.  When you record your dreams, note any feelings or emphasis you sensed in the dream.  What stands out as most significant? Is it an image, a feeling, or a character?

The second part of learning dream recall is to study symbols – not from a cheesy dream symbol dictionary, but by doing honest-to-goodness research on them.  Every image is a symbol of some kind. Some are personal symbols, while others are archetypal. Write down what you learn from your study in your dream journal.

Each night before falling to sleep, take a moment with yourself, preferably in a dedicated meditation, and set the intention to remember your dreams.  This practice is called a coueism.  Coueism is a cross between auto-suggestion and a Hindu mantra.  It is a method by which wishes are converted to unconscious suggestion.

One suggested coueism for lucid dreams is the following, again from Justificatus’ book Lucid Dreaming:

I want to be happy.

I want to be healthy.

I want to be confident.

I want to remember my dreams in detail.

I want to be a lucid dreamer.

You can actually use any affirmation you wish, these are only suggestions.  Emilie Coue, the man who developed the idea of the coueism, suggests repeating your affirmations 20 times before falling asleep.  You will remember that we said meditation was essential to lucid dreaming and here is where it comes into play.  The more you meditate, the better you are able to focus on your affirmations.

Directed Dreaming, also called, Dream Incubation

When you have gotten really good at dream recall, writing down your dreams, and using Coueism, you are ready to begin the practice of directed dreaming.  Again according to the book Lucid Dreaming, there are three basic methods for this practice. Work with each until you have a feel for them, then you can choose which one suits you best or use all three for maximum benefit and versatility.

The Basic Method

Pick a topic for your dream, something which can be described in one sentence, or even one word.  It is suggested that you choose something to which you are not emotionally attached. For example, you can choose to travel to a far-away place or to dialogue with someone you have never met.

Now, take this dream idea and write it in your dream journal in the following format:

I will dream about _______________.

Underline the word will several times.

Follow the same steps as you have every other night for your dream recall.  You can even use the coueism to support your dream subject. Follow this method until you have dreamed the subject of your intention.

Method Two:  The Image/Picture Method

With this method, you follow steps similar to that of method one, except you will use an image of your intended subject.  The internet makes obtaining that image very easy. Find one that really strikes you, something you can feel viscerally.  You should study the image carefully so that when you close your eyes, you can remember every detail with as much precision as possible.

Again, write your affirmation in your dream journal.

As you are falling asleep, hold only the image in your mind – meaning, do not engage in a mental dialogue about the picture.

Method Three – The Visualization Method

Justificatus considers this the most powerful method of the three. You can use both of the previous techniques for this method. Upon lying down to fall asleep, you are first going to use deep breathing techniques to relax your entire body. Once you have attained a state of relaxation, bring your awareness to each body part, and allow it to relax with your suggestion. Do this until your body feels like it is covered with a lead blanket.

Next you will visualize your intended subject matter as though you were watching a film or taking part in an activity.  Let this imagery be fluid and smooth rather than single images with no animation.  Try not to allow any thoughts to interrupt this vision. Again you can see how a meditation practice can help you stay focused.

Don’t be surprised if you fall asleep and start dreaming of your subject!  Once you get really good at these techniques, you are well on your way to maintaining lucidity while dreaming.

The Science Behind Astral Projection (Out of Body Experience)

Astral projection, also known as an out-of-body experience, is when a person has the feeling of departing from their physical body in order to observe their world in a different realm. When the “astral body” or “soul” separates from the physical body, it is able to travel in the astral plane to higher realms and other dimensions.

During the separation, your consciousness stays with the astral body while your physical body rests, which allows new experiences that wouldn’t have been possible in the physical body. The astral projection will last as long as you want, and then the astral body will return to your physical body when the astral travel is complete.

People have different goals with astral projection, which may include things such as talking with deceased relatives, time travel, visiting other realms and planets, and visiting other parts of the world. The experience of speaking with angelic beings and gaining a better understanding of the universe can be the reasons that you might be interested in astral projection.

The Science of Astral Projection

During astral projection, there is a connection between the astral body and the physical body, so that you can return when you are ready. This connection is often referred to as the “silver cord,” which is like an umbilical cord that tethers the astral body so that it can return to the physical body. Many people have wondered about the scientific basis of this experience: what happens to the physical body when the astral body separates?

In the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, researchers reported information about a woman who had out of body experiences. The researchers studied the physiological data while she was sleeping, and found that her out of body experiences happened when the body was in a non-awake, non-dreaming stage of brain wave activity. The alpha activity of the brain was slowed, and there was no indication of activation within the autonomic nervous system.

Other evidences of astral projection occur when a person has been medically tested as non-responsive, unconscious, or declared clinically dead. In these instances, doctors indicated that the body was unresponsive, but after awakening, the person was able to share details about the activities that occurred in the room. While the body was unresponsive, astral projection made it possible for them to observe the other people in the room, as well as the procedures that were completed.

The truth is that scientists can only measure the physical responses that are happening within the body, there is not a way to measure the supernatural experiences that are occurring to the astral body. Science can’t fully explain all aspects of astral projection at this point, and much of the information on the topic is based on personal experience and anecdotal evidence.

When you are on your own, it is difficult to scientifically measure when the astral body leaves your physical body. But, anyone who has experienced astral projection knows that it must be real, because of the vivid experiences they have during the projection. Because there is limited scientific information about astral projection, the best proof that you can find is to experience astral projection for yourself.

How to Initiate an Out of Body Experience

There are different methods that can be used to initiate an out of body experience, and it takes practice to master this experience. Sometimes, it may happen spontaneously, which is more common when someone experiences physical trauma such as severe injury or surgery. An out of body experience can also occur intentionally, and you can learn how to initiate an astral projection on your own.

Some people suggest that you begin by mastering lucid dreaming, because it allows you to learn how to stay conscious in your mind while allowing your body to sleep. Waking the mind while the body is asleep makes it easier to allow the astral body to leave your physical body.

Other methods involve deep relaxation and visualization to help you achieve a deep meditation in order to reach the vibrational state, which is your opportunity to move out of the body. Raising your frequency to a high enough virbrational state will make it possible for you to leave your body. Many people experience white noise or buzzing in this state, although the sensations may be unique from one person to the next.

For many people, it will require patience and practice as you learn to initiate astral projection. Some people are able to achieve it quickly, but most people will need to give it some time before they master the experience. Remember, that the body doesn’t want the soul to leave for extended periods of time, so it can be hard to separate them. With high levels of conscious awareness and commitment to your practice, you will be able to learn astral projection.

7 Effective Techniques for Experiencing an Out of Body Experience

An out of the body experience, sometimes also called astral projection, is an occurrence whereby a person’s consciousness is experienced fully outside of his or her body. Sometimes people experience it as the momentary awareness of floating above one’s body, and others, such as shamans, psychonauts, and yogis, speak of traveling to faraway places – in both the spirit realm and in the physical world. These may sound like encounters that only a mystic would have, but this is not true. You can learn how to do this. It just takes dedication and concentration.

Engage Deep Belly Breathing

All effective astral projection techniques require a relaxed body and a silent mind; therefore, the first step in any technique is deep, belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing. Whenever you engage your diaphragm with a deep belly breath, you also engage your parasympathetic nervous system. This system signals your body and mind to slow down and relax.

Progressive Relaxation Technique

As you start to feel yourself relaxing, going deeper and deeper, you can bring your awareness to each body part, starting with the feet and moving up the body, step by step, focusing your attention on relaxing your entire body. By the time you reach your head, you should be feeling very heavy.

Silencing the Mind

If you have a meditation practice, which is advised if you really want to get good at this, then you probably are already familiar with silencing the mind. Don’t try to fight any thoughts that arise, just try to watch them. See if you can make them pop! like bubbles.  Continue with these first three techniques until you get really good at reaching a place of total relaxation of mind and body.

The key phrase for triggering astral projection is exit technique. There are many approaches for exiting the body, so you can try them out and see which one is most effective for your personality type.  Don’t be discouraged if it does not work the first time. Just continue to practice with an open mind and a focused intention.

The Rope Technique

The Rope Technique was developed by Robert Bruce, one of the world’s most famous practitioners and teachers of astral projection and out of the body techniques.  In this technique you create dynamic tension on a single point on your astral body, in an effort to try and force its separation from your physical body.

Attach a length of string, ribbon, or rope to the ceiling right above you. Make sure it is arm’s length from your lying position. You should be able to reach up and touch it.  You are not really going to hang from it with your full body weight, but rather you are going to use it to create proprioceptive awareness, a sense of awareness of your body in space/time in relation to the position of the rope. You will reach up and pretend to grab and hold the rope, pulling yourself up and up, until the sensation is imprinted in your mind. By the end of the exercise, you should be able to feel yourself doing it without actually doing it.

When you start to feel dizzy from doing this, you know you are getting somewhere!  You really want to tap into this vertigo. It is the first sign of astral separation from your physical body.

No matter what you feel, continue focusing on climbing the rope.  Eventually you should feel a sense of full-bodied vibration. You might even feel paralyzed. Don’t worry, just keep repeating the action.  Eventually, you will be able to pull your astral body out of your physical body. Your concentration may break the first few times this happens. When it does, you will feel like you are snapped right back into your body. Just start again until you get better at it.

The Monroe Technique

This method was developed by Robert Monroe, also famous for the Monroe Audio Series entitled Hemi Sync.  As with any other method, he suggests first starting with relaxation of the mind and body.

Step Two: The Hypnagogic State

In this state you are trying to consciously enter and stay in the state just prior to sleep.  It is a sort of midpoint between waking and sleep. With your body relaxed and your mind cleared, you pick an object on which to concentrate your attention. Hold it there until other images begin to emerge. Just watch these images passively. Do not follow them.  This is called Condition A.

Step Three: Deepening Condition A

In this stage you want to clear your mind of imagery. See if you can lock your awareness into the blackness. Just focus on the depth of this blackness. If you start to see color or light patterns, do not be alarmed.  Once the light/color patterns stop and there is only darkness, you are in Condition B.  Condition B should feel like a deep void, where you experience no sensation whatsoever. This state is Condition C, and even deeper state.

Step Four: Playing in the Vibratory State

Once you can maintain condition C, you are ready for the Vibratory State.  In working with this state it is essential that you not be disturbed.  Tell yourself you will remember all that happens. The next steps according to Monroe go as follows:

  1. As you breathe, concentrate on the void in front of you.
  2. Select a point a foot away from your forehead, then change your point of mental reference to six feet.
  3. Turn the point 90 degrees upward by drawing an imaginary line parallel to your body axis up and above your head.
  4. Focus there and reach out for the vibrations at that point and bring them back into your body.

Step Five: Controlling the Vibrations

Here you are going to try to pull the vibrations into your body and move them around with awareness. Start by pulling them into your head and pushing them down to your toes.  Get good at it.

Step Six: Partial Separation

Play with separating only one body part at a time. Feel it disconnect from your physical body.

Step Seven: Full Separation

Similar to the idea of the rope technique, try lifting your vibrational body out of the physical body.  Start with something easy like hovering. Once you can do that, you are ready to take off.

So, there you have it. Tried and true methods of leaving your body.  Time to go out there and explore!

Third Eye Science, Metaphysical and Spiritual Views

The third eye, an ancient mystical, metaphysical concept has finally opened itself to understanding in the minds of Western science.  When you consider what science has discovered about the pineal gland and add that to what the mystics have known since they were painting ceremonial cave walls, things start to get interesting.

Third Eye Science:  The Pineal Gland

The pineal gland is a pinecone shaped endocrine gland located in the center of our brain. It helps to modulate our sleep patterns by producing the hormone called melatonin. The interior lining of the pineal gland is composed of retinal tissue, having rods and cones, i.e. photoreceptors, just like the eyeball; and, it is even “wired” to the visual cortex of the brain. How can this be?  Because both the pineal gland and our eyeballs come from tissues of the embryonic brain. It has been further speculated that the pineal gland was actually a functional, primitive form of an eye in earlier vertebrates, suggesting that all organic beings descend from the same ancestry.

Now, let’s consider just how old that ancestry really is.  Fossil evidence from many sources suggests that life on earth is somewhere around 3.7 billion years (Evidence of Archean life: Stromatolites and microfossils). So, it is possible that we possess a “perceptual” organ, deep within our brain, which has seen quite a lot in its lifetime, so to speak. If we consider further that some neuroscientists believe our brains actually hold the memory of our entire evolution, then can we consider the possibility that we have access to that memory through the pineal gland?

Now consider this. Regarding it as the “seat of the soul,” this tiny organ played a significant role in Descartes philosophy.

My view is that this gland is the principal seat of the soul, and the place in which all our thoughts are formed. The reason I believe this is that I cannot find any part of the brain, except this, which is not double. Since we see only one thing with two eyes, and hear only one voice with two ears, and in short have never more than one thought at a time, it must necessarily be the case that the impressions which enter by the two eyes or by the two ears, and so on, unite with each other in some part of the body before being considered by the soul … Since it is the only solid part in the whole brain which is single, it must necessarily be the seat of the common sense, i.e., of thought, and consequently of the soul; for one cannot be separated from the other.

The soul has long been regarded as that part of ourselves which is eternal. Could this concept be related to the possible memory of the pineal gland?

Metaphysical and Spiritual Views of the Third Eye

Mystical traditions have long since posited the concept of an inner eye, and many even consider the pineal gland to be the intersection between the physical and spiritual world. We have all heard of the concept of spiritual awakening.  Awakening often symbolically refers to the opening of the inner eye (not to be confused with the pineal gland at this point). In Hinduism, the mystical eye of Shiva represents Cosmic vision, or perception that is beyond ordinary dualistic awareness – that is, through the mystical eye, you are able to see or experience the non-ordinary reality beyond all concepts and thought constructs.  In Hindu and Buddhist tradition the third eye is associated with the sixth, or ajna, chakra. The word ajna loosely translates as “command” or “unlimited power”.  The metaphorical “opening” of this chakra puts you in touch with your deepest voice of wisdom, allowing you to overcome self-doubt, confront negative experiences from a transformative perspective, and see the unity in all life. In other words, the third-eye opening is a direct experience of your highest Self.

The Third Eye and Shamanism

The Ayahuasca medicine ceremonies of South America are indigenous healing ceremonies led by shamans. Those who enter the ceremony drink a tea brewed of the sacred vine of Ayahuasca and the bark of many other trees. The tea has profound psychedelic effects. The word psychedelic comes from Greek and means soul /mind manifest. People report having profound visionary experiences, such as drinking from the Grail, bathing in the waters of the infinite, and seeing the divine.  Others have re-experienced past trauma and healed their wounds, while others still report seeing the primordial past. Shamans and those who have had these kinds of direct experiences say that these are not hallucinations, but rather experiences of other aspects of reality, those normally veiled to anyone trapped by limited dualistic vision.

So, what’s the connection here? Well with Ayahuasca, the visionary “ingredient” is Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Visionary-minded medical doctors like Rick Strassman, have written books about the profound healing that can occur with DMT administration. In his book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule. A Doctor’s Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences, Dr. Strassman posits that the pineal gland produces DMT, suggesting that visionary experiences actually have a biological locus. This does not meant that these experiences are merely chemical, but rather that we are as biologically meant to have these inner visions as we are outer ones.