The Art of Lucid Dreaming
By Clare R. Johnson, PhD
Lucid dreams are dreams where we know that we are dreaming, while we are dreaming. This insight enables us to experience the gloriously rich imagery and compelling events of our dreamworld with full conscious awareness. We can explore the dream, go with the flow of events, actively guide the dream, and react fearlessly to scary dream situations. Lucid dreaming is a magnificent adventure open to each of us every single time we lay our heads down and sleep. Here’s one lucid dream where everything changed for the better the second I knew I was dreaming:
A huge tidal wave is hurtling towards me; a mass of towering unstoppable water. Terrified, I turn and run as fast as my legs can carry me, but I know I won’t be fast enough… I glance behind me and gasp: the sun illuminates this wall of water, turning it silvery-blue and causing each tiny droplet to glimmer like diamonds. It’s terrifying, but it’s the most astoundingly beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
Suddenly, I understand: I’m dreaming this! All my terror vanishes in a flash. As the sparkling wave barrels towards me, I leap into the air, elated. I leap so high that I land right on top of the wave, all its power beneath me. Fully lucid, with my arms outstretched, I surf this giant wave with the sun warm on my head and the taste of salt on my lips. It’s so exhilarating! I surf the wave all the way down until it’s foaming over green fields and I feel the ground beneath my feet.
The most common question I get asked on the subject of lucid dreaming goes along these lines: “I got lucid just the one time and it was the most awesome experience I’ve ever had — HOW do I do it again?”
But there is no single answer because the thing is, we’re all different — we have different sleep rhythms, different lifestyles, different stressors. Some of us are visual thinkers while others are more analytical. We each enjoy different dream recall, different thought patterns, different beliefs about the nature of reality. We even have different reasons for wanting to become lucid in our dreams. All of these factors have an impact on how we respond individually to lucid dreaming induction techniques. That’s why I had the idea of writing the most practical and flexible lucid dream induction book out there, to help people to discover their own best ways of becoming lucid in their dreams.
What can we do in lucid dreams?
This question might be better formulated as “what can’t we do in lucid dreams?” There are no limits. Some people say that imagination is the only limit in lucid dreaming, but I disagree. Lucid dreams can go well beyond the bounds of the human imagination, which is why even after over 40 years of lucid dreaming, I’m not bored yet! There is no state of consciousness quite like lucid dreaming—– a state where we can have wild, joyful, or transcendent experiences that we have never experienced while awake, such as flying into the sun or transforming into a raindrop.
The amazing thing is that all of this is experienced with incredible reality, clarity, and super-vivid sensations. I turned into a dolphin once and felt the torpedo strength of my body underwater, the brief flash of sunshine as I leapt powerfully over the waves, the splash as I dove back into the water. It felt so real. A man told me that in one lucid dream, he chose to experience the wonderful sensation of being a pregnant woman and hugged the round tight drum of his belly. In lucid dreams, we can expand our life experience — we can change gender or be genderless, we can breathe underwater, shapeshift into an ant, or see what it’s like to embrace a shadow man or give birth to a baby (if we’re feeling brave). We can also ask the dream questions about the nature of reality, life, death, and consciousness — and receive answers from our unconscious mind. We can hug a deceased loved one and smell their familiar perfume again. We can hone physical skills, overcome phobias, have awesome sexual encounters, and learn to know ourselves from the inside out. Seriously, there are no limits!
Lucid dreaming is a fabulous tool for self-knowledge and exploring the nature of reality and conscious experience. It is also a creativity elixir — never have I seen such rampant, alive creativity as within the lucid dream state, where our thoughts, emotions and expectations are instantly translated into vibrant streams of imagery so bright and colourful you can almost taste them on your tongue. We can learn to mine this rich creative source and bring it into our art, our writing, our current project. We can meditate in lucid dreams and experience profound interconnected oneness (if we manage not to wake up!), and lucid dreaming has massive healing potential that we are only beginning to uncover, as evidenced by psychological studies into trauma work and nightmare resolution. There is also a growing number of anecdotal reports of healing physical illness and injuries in lucid dreams.
Scientific studies show that we can actually improve waking sports performance after practicing in a lucid dream — people improved their darts throws and one kickboxer slowed time down to perfect a complicated kick and could do it when he woke up, while a swimmer created a pool full of honey to test his muscle resistance! We are still discovering the immense potential of the lucid dream state. Lucid dreaming can support and nourish us while we process the painful emotions of bereavement, and it can raise our spirits any day of the year by providing us with moments of playfulness, excitement, and astounding beauty.
Dr. Clare R. Johnson was the first person in the world to do a PhD on lucid dreaming as a creative tool. Past President of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, she’s a well-known lucid dream author and international speaker. Her most recent book is The Art of Lucid Dreaming, and her huge lucidity guide is Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming. Her other books include Mindful Dreaming (Dream Therapy), and the novels Breathing in Colour and Dreamrunner.
Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.
This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 11: Mindfulness & Meditation Summit