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How to Lucid Dream (And Why You’d Want To)

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Have you ever given your unconscious workings conscious thought? Have you ever extended the realm of physical performance into mental performance?

If you haven’t (and you probably haven’t), you’re missing out. Lets start with a simple, yet incredible fun, domain: dreams. We dream every night. So why not have a little fun with them?

How much fun can you have toying with your dreams? I’ll leave it up to you to answer that question. But I suggest saving your answer until you learn how to control your dreams…and fly like Goku.

 

Lightning bolts dismantled the Colosseum as I weaved through its arches. Each bolt sparked further wonder. How was I narrowly escaping a certain electroculatory death? It was a rather illogical thought at the time, as I was simultaneously flying through the sky like Goku, watching the spandrels being sent every which direction. But then it hit me. I was fighting it, but it was too strong. Before long, I was beaten.

*

On my computer, in a folder named “MISC,” there’s a Word document that contains every single dream I had during the summer of 2006. (It’s a .doc file, not .docx. We’re talkin’ old school here.)

It was a joint venture. My friend and I make a pact. We’d send each other our dreams every morning. It retrospect, it sounds a bit weird. But it was one of most interesting self-experiments I’ve ever done. The whole gig was under my friend’s direction. He wanted to get into lucid dreaming. That is, recognizing that you’re dreaming within a dream itself.

Dream recollection—the conscious process of remembering your dream—is an important part of lucid dreaming. By writing down a dream, you’re apt to remember the both the dream and dream consistencies (seeing the same people, objects, events, etc.). This creates triggers—things that tip you off that you’re dreaming. And that’s the magic sauce.

Trigger or no trigger, lucid dreaming isn’t easy. Even under the slim chance that you do recognize that you’re dreaming, you’ll probably wake up soon after.

The idea of lucid dreaming may seem out of place here. But it’s very much in place. As this site continues to expand and full encompass my ethos, more and more psychological-mental-philosophical content will appear. Exploring the limits of the human body is more than questing for a six pack. And let’s face it: if you can lucid dream, you can fly around like Goku. Need I say more?

This is where I differ from meatheads — and I this is where you differ too. (At least, I hope.) My physical capacity is a vehicle for personal growth. It isn’t the totality of my being. There’s little difference (t0 me) between tricking, training, or lucid dreaming. It’s all in the name of exploring the limits of your capabilities.

The mind so underrated in all of this. Jujimufu and I once talked about how we approached new tricks and maximal effort lifts with the same process. The energy, the hype, the ritual—one in the same. Both have times of of rigorous visualizations—seeing your body perform in your mind—followed by times of near mental blankness, as over thinking (among the experienced) tends to paralyze.

Your psychological-emotional condition is sister to peak performance. And this is a huge part of The Skinny-Fat Solution. Skinny-fat syndrome isn’t just physical, it’s also mental-perceptual. In this field of “fitness” (you’ll fully understand the air quotes soon enough), people often reduce things to their simplest parts in an attempt to better understand them. But I tend to take a step back and appreciate the whole as a complex, intertwining, dynamic system.

So say, for instance, that you injured your shoulder throwing.

You can play the reduction game. Niche your way down to a specific muscle that might have been “imbalanced” or “weak” or “dysfunctional.”

Or you can look at it and say…

  • Was there any circumstance that might have encouraged injury on this specific day?
  • Was there an emotional trigger?
  • What’s the mileage/stress over time? Did it poop out from lack of recovery as opposed to lack of strength?
  • Is there anything that would have prevented normal recovery?
  • Is the injury an inherent risk to the movement? (Yes, I believe that a lot of injuries are simply “made up.”)

The more we play the reduction game, the stupider we become. And that brings us to this: the more you separate your mind from your body, the stupider (worse) you become. Thinking, pondering, philosophizing, and expanding your mind is just as important as expanding the physical body.

So with something like lucid dreaming, the biggest perk is being aware of every day experiences (that have the potential to be fun, complex, interesting, and entertaining — dreams are your own novels) that the majority of people routinely ignore.

  • What do dreams mean?
  • What kind of effect would they have if you can control them?
  • How would taking an interest in dreams effect your sleep?
  • Would you want to go the sleep then?
  • Is there some kind of psychological or mental power to be gained from this?

These are all important questions—questions you’ve probably ignored, or never thought of. Questions that impact your performance and progress. Consider lucid dreaming a good way to start expanding your mind. It’s time to discover the other half of yourself — the half that you’ve been missing.

The Steps to Lucid Dreaming

Before getting into this, it’s important I tell you that I’m no expert. I’m just a goonie (as I am with most things I write about). I was actually the third man in the chain of information. Books and websites being first, my friend being second, and myself being the third. I’m simply regurgitating what I remember, and what worked for me.

Step 1: Get in the right mood pre-sleep

Translation: what should you be thinking about when you’re trying to fall asleep? I’m sure there’s a “best practice” for this, but I think experimentation is best.

My friend and I started out visualizing ourselves in a Duke Nukem, first person shotter-esque mode. We’d play through some sort of scenario in the first person, in hopes that — fingers crossed — it continues as you fall asleep.

We eventually progressed into the complete opposite — a blank, black, and bereft mind. This seemed to work better. (It also helps you fall asleep better, in my experiences. You can see other sleep tactics I use here.)

Step 2: The recall

I know, I know. You never remember your dreams. At least, that’s what you tell yourself. But it’s likelier that you simply don’t make a concerted effort.

You won’t remember every dream you have. It’s a tough process at first. But as you grow the habit, you’ll recall like crazy. Waking up becomes an adventure. You’ll probe your mind’s walls for the latest unconscious story that unraveled. It’s like waking up  to a new movie every morning. With every recall, detail recollection increases, as does vividness.

All it takes is one. So anytime you wake up, search your mind for a minute. If you recall anything, write it down. If you wake up in the middle of the night (as I usually do from  terrible habit of drinking too much water in the immediate pre-sleep hours), jot down details. Keep a small pen and pad at your bedside. Be as detailed as possible. If you aren’t, here’s what happens: you recall a killer dream — the dream even a fantasy would be jealous of — and tell yourself, “There’s now way I can forget this!,” only to forget it when you wake up in the morning. And it will happen even with your notes. Don’t get too frustrated. The mind is a complex thing.

What it all comes down to  is recognizing you’re in a dream. And to do this, you have to create triggers that hint of your conscious state.

Say you jotted down ten dreams. Say, in every one of those dreams, you’re somehow walking on the same sidewalk. Get in the mindset of, “If I ever see this sidewalk again, I know that I’m dreaming.” So find similarities—people, places, things—across dreams, and then create triggers. And do that by spending five to ten minutes every morning barfing your dreams into a Word document.

Step 3: Body graffiti trigger

Scouring your dreams for triggers is tough. Dream recollection is sporadic. It might not happen nightly. And even if you do catch a few here and there, you might end up with ten dreams and no similarities between them.

The solution?

Create your own trigger.

We used to write the letter “C” on the palm of our hands every morning, and we’d make sure to peak at it frequently.

The rationale?

When you see the “C,” you know you’re awake. But if you ever look down and the “C” is gone, you know you’re dreaming.

Step 4: Controlling the freak out

After some weeks (probably more like  months), you’re going to recognize you’re in a dream…only to take up milliseconds after said recognition. It’s like a vacuum pulls you out of your dream and into reality — probably because you’ll legitimately freak out about it.

“OH EM GEEEEEE I’M DREAMMINNGG.”

So stop doing that. Breathe slowly. Don’t make a big scene about it. Act like you’ve been there.

This is called “stabilization,” and there are smart people out there that can tell you how to do it better than I can.

Step 5: Creating your own movie

Once you stabilize, the unconsciously conscious world is yours to command. I flew through a lightning storm during my first lucid dream. It won’t be a clean process. You’ll fight stabilization the entire way, so don’t think that it just “clicks.”

There’s little reason not to lucid dream. It doesn’t take much effort, and the journey is really fun. My dream book brings back many memories, and I’m glad for having done it. (It’s even compelling me to start another one.)

But the best part?

The feeling when you lucid dream for the first time.

You’ll never forget it. You’ll wake up just like you did for Christmas when you were six years old. How awesome is that? You’ll always remember it. So get out there. Start working on the “other side” of performance.

+++++

Have you ever had a lucid dream? Or tried to lucid dream? Drop a comment below with more tips or experiences. I’d love to hear ‘em.

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34 comments… add one

  • i tried lucid dreaming once but it never worked everytime i figured out im dreaming i woke up. Never knew about step 4, hopefully it works this time, thanks for sharing.
    i wonder if its possible to while dreaming to have a dream within a dream and dreamer forgets which reality is real and gets lost in one of the dreams thinking it is reality and lost forever or for a long period of time.

    Reply
  • Oh, man.

    I remember my first (and only) flying dream to this day. I was about sixteen at the time and dreamed of swooping around my house and through my school. It was so completely a part of me, so effortless.

    Waking up was a wrench. It honestly took me a few days to get over what felt like an abrupt ripping away of something dear to me, like losing a limb. Reality was a cold place for a little while. Even now, alongside the euphoria of that dream memory is a tiny voice of regret that I can’t just take off out of my chair right now.

    The kicker? In real life I’m scared of heights. Until I had my flying dream I couldn’t understand why anyone would want that.

    I would love to be able to experience it more often. If it happened only one more time, learning to lucid dream would be totally worth it.

    Plus, as you said, it makes sleep less of a “if I do this then no more fun and it’ll be time for work” and more of a “can’t wait to get a solid 8 hours of dreaming in” proposition. Much easier to convince myself to go with that kind of persuasion.

    Reply
  • Dude, I’m glad you posted this. I’ve been playing with creating/controlling my own dreams since I was young – it’s a lot of fun… The odd thing is though, that this is probably the first time I’ve spoken to anyone about it, it’s always been just something I did and never thought too much about…

    One of the greatest feelings is knowing you’re in a dream and then altering that dream world to your liking and feeling like you can do anything with your mind… I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve flown around like Goku and just with a thought caused things around the dream world to move etc., not to mention fight scenes with all sorts of weird creatures…

    I’ve never however written anything down about my dreams, it might be an interesting experiment…

    The worst thing is however when you wake up (to use the washroom or whatever) and then can’t get back to the same awesomeness… I need to train more to do this… ahah…

    Good post, its got me day dreaming at work now… thanks…

    Raman

    Reply
  • Man this is some Inception-esque stuff right here. It’s funny that you wrote this post when you did. I was just reading the latest post on Tim Ferriss’ blog when the author talks about writing down your dreams in the morning. It’s a great ideal and one I think I’m going to start implementing.

    Nice post man.

    Reply
  • Another good practice is trying to visualize your hands while falling asleep. The trick is to fall asleep with that “thought” and dream that you can see your hands. When you can fully do this, you should try to remove your hands from your sight, slowly. That’s when your dream scenario kicks in. Every time you feel like you are loosing control and not lucid dreaming, try to raise your hands so that you can see them again, turn them around, observe them slowly, grasp control of yourself. This focuses your mind on yourself. After doing this, try to see whats going on behind your hands, in the dream scenario, then move them out of your sight once more. Go crazy with whatever is going on in your beautiful (or maybe not) world creation. With practice you won’t need the hand technique, but its good practice.

    Reply
  • This is fascinating! I can’t wait to try this. Do you know of any books or websites to go to for more info? I wonder if there’s a way you can make yourself have a certain dream before you go to sleep? I hope you post more on this.

    Reply
    • You always dream, it’s just a matter of remembering. Some supplements tend to make dreams more memorable. No books, sorry. I’d just google around.

      Reply
  • This was a big reminder for me to start writing my dreams again haha. I don’t have much trouble becoming lucid when I actually try. My only problem is that the dreams never really feel “real” as most people would describe them, and I end up blacking out / losing lucidity after ~5 minutes.

    Have you heard about the Dreamer app? I’m usually too lazy to write my dreams down down, and it’s much easier for me to just type it all out on the app.

    Reply
  • To anyone who’s having difficulties or believes that they’ll never get the hang of lucid dreaming, please don’t give up because like any skill it takes copious amounts of practice.

    Start small with a dream log whether it’s a notebook or your smartphone. Wear a watch frequently and constantly remind yourself of the time, it will reflect in your dreams and eventually you will notice the numbers (or roman numerals depending if you’re a watch connoisseur) distort and with enough recollection you’ll get that “aha!” moment where things get more consistent.

    Reply
  • And another thing I can’t stress enough is to love the process of learning to lucid dream more than the goal itself. You learn so much about how your visual mind works and it makes for a anxiety-free journey. Read “The Practicing Mind” by Thomas Sterner it’s a fantastic book for anything practice related.

    Reply
  • One effective technique I tried to recall your dream is asking to yourself, “What was my dream a while ago?”, “What question can I ask myself that can lead me to recalling my dream?”, etc….

    Reply
  • I enjoyed the article. I’ve been interested in lucid dreaming ever since seeing the movie Waking Life. You can watch it for free here: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/waking-life/

    I have not kept up with my dreams for quite some time but this has motivated me to get back into it. Thanks.

    Reply
  • Hey,

    as if there weren’t enough reasons to lucide dream yet a friend of mine told me about a study that if you do stuff in the lucid-dreaming-state-of-mind you can actually transfer that in ‘real life’.
    So if you train or rather ‘just do’ (because everything is possible – right, flying ant goku?) a complex movement while dreaming, you will have improved when awake. -> http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22036177
    Another tip to get into lucide dreaming: just ask yourself a few times per day ‘Am i awake or am i dreaming right now?’ After a while your subconcious does ask that question all by itself, as you said lucid dreaming is nothing more than beeing aware of dreaming.

    Cheers :)

    Reply
  • I’ve done it before. I was in the middle of my neighborhood and was looking for someone. When I entered my street a woman was standing there an she started a huracaune. When the water and wind blowed me away I realized than I was dreaming. The time slowed down and mi eyes opened in the middle of the night seeing the blackness of my room and the rain of my dream at the same time. I turned my head and the dream was over.

    Reply
  • My very first lucid dream was in grade 1. I was standing by the backpack area with my classmates. I thought to myself, “go super saiyan” and I did. Golden aura was flowing and my mind simulated some interesting physical feelings.

    Now that I think about it, I have some other dreams that have permanently stayed with me.

    1. Having sex with a girl in my class. Was grade 3 at the time, didn’t really have a clue but I can vividly remember the area. A grey swirling floor surrounded by darkness from all angles. If you’ve ever seen that movie insidious where the guy goes into the spiritual realm to confront the demon, it looked like that.

    2. Running through a field as a wolf/dog with a hundred other dogs charging at an enemy army of dogs. Grade 5.

    3. Banging Nicole Richie against a fence. Grade 7 so I had a fuller understanding. I remember this dream being really long.

    4. Saving this blonde girl and her blonde mom from something serious. I was the getaway pilot of a space ship. Think Han Solo. I remember being profusely thanked after I landed the ship and they said their goodbyes.

    5. Running through a heavy jungle, my limbs feel like they’re in mud, my heart is pounding, I am aware that the guy chasing me is right behind but he never catches up. If I turn to confront him, the dream ends. I had this one all the time as a young lad.

    6. Falling off a massive cliff and waking up when I hit the water. Only once.

    For some odd reason, I have extremely vivd memories associated with these 7 dreams. I can conjure images of them better than I can recall yesterday’s dinner.

    Reply
    • Grade 1 hahah!?

      You’re crazy. How do you remember? But I also remember the golden thing when I was flying. Interesting.

      Reply
  • I have had several lucid dreams when I was in my early teens, but havent really put effort into it since then. After reading this article though I’m going to work at it again. I used to really enjoy having nightmares, I figured if I’m going to lay there unconscious I may as well try and make it exciting. But then a strange thing happened, during a nightmare I became aware that I was dreaming. I didnt wake up right away either. During that time I had a few others but I woke up shortly after. Anyways I’ll never forget it and I’m going to give it a shot again.

    Reply
  • I have always been able to lucid dream from the time that I was a kid. It’s an amazing experience and each dream is very intense. I have a very vivid memory for dream recall now. When I wake up in the morning usually I feel really groggy upon awakening. It becomes really helpful for writing stories and recharging your creative flow.

    Reply

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