Becoming lucid while you dream is actually the easy part, oneironauts. Now we're going to learn how to hold on to it and make our nightly adventures last. Welcome to Week Four of our Lucid Dream Workshop.
Photo by Melissa O'Donohue.
How to Stay Asleep and Maintain Lucidity
If you've managed to become lucid for the first time, it probably didn't last very long. For most people, the process goes a little like this:
Critical state test.
"Wow, I'm dreaming!"
This usually happens because novice oneironauts get too excited when they realise they have finally achieved lucidity. Don't feel bad if that keeps happening to you. It's hard not to be excited about it, after all.
Fortunately, getting past that barrier is easy to do as long as you're persistent. The more often you can reach a lucid dream state, the more you'll get used to it and find it less surprising. But there are other helpful tricks you can do within your dream as well. Try these three things in this order:
- First, stay calm and look at your hands. If looking at your hands is part of your critical state test (like mine), do it again. Stay focused on the fact that you're dreaming, but let yourself ease into it. Don't immediately go flying into the air shouting, "I'm dreaming!"
- Now, practise some inner speech while in your dream. Develop a mantra of affirmation you can repeat over and over in your head, such as, "This is a dream, this is a dream, this is a dream…" If you have to say it "out loud" in your dream, that's OK, but it's better to do it in your head so it doesn't dominate the dream experience.
- Once you have your mantra going, perform some kinesthetic actions or movements to stimulate the brain. Something as simple as rubbing your hands together like a dastardly villain is more than enough. Actions such as hovering or pushing your hand through objects are useful actions as well, but they might also jolt you awake if you're still not used to the dream state. Make your actions subtle.
Practise those steps and you should have an easier time staying asleep and lucid. If that isn't enough, you can also try a technique called "dream spinning". But we'll go over that in the assignment section.
You should consider active engagement as a key player when trying to maintain lucidity. More often than not, oneironauts lose their focus and wake up because they weren't stimulating their brain enough. The more you can participate in your dream the better. It helps to establish intention for the dream before you go to sleep. That makes it easy to get right into it as soon as you realise you're dreaming. If dreaming is like watching a movie, lucid dreaming is like starring in a movie. You need to act, not gawk.
We've discussed how much sleep you need (at least seven hours, for most people), but often our real question is the flip side. Can you get away with less than the optimal amount, or even replace your night's sleep with a series of round-the-clock naps?
How to Wake Yourself Up From a Lucid Dream
If you find being in a lucid dream state is too much for you, there are a few simple ways to back out. Losing your lucidity tends to be much easier than maintaining it, so don't fret. Here's what you can do:
- Withdraw your attention, focus and participation from the dream. Basically, get bored. Stop doing whatever cool thing you're doing and let go. As soon as you're not actively engaged, the dream will fade and you'll probably wake up. Or as Beverly Kedzierski, PhD puts it, "go to sleep to wake up."
- Part of staying actively engaged in a lucid dream is looking around in wonder at all the things your mind has created. However, if you fixate your gaze on a single point in your dream, you can not only help induce boredom, but you may also keep your real eyes from doing their thing during REM sleep, which will also help you wake up.
- Last but not least, you can startle yourself awake. You don't need to leap off a cliff or kill your dream self in some way — you just need to give yourself a jolt. I've had success with trying to catch something in a dream or yelling out loud. In the latter case, my real body actually made noise and it woke me up.
Before you try these methods, however, be aware that these techniques are not ideal for escaping nightmares. If you're in a state of fear or confusion, these tricks can lead to "false awakenings", or the state of thinking you've awoken but you're still dreaming. You see these "dream within a dream" bits in movies all the time, but they are real, and they can be much more unsettling than the original nightmare. Don't worry, though, we'll go over better ways to conquer your nightmares next week.
Assignment: Try Dream Spinning
Since active, physical engagement is the key to long lasting lucid dreams, you need a quick and easy method to make your body feel a lot of things at once. Enter "dream spinning", which is exactly what it sounds like. The trick was discovered by Stephen LaBerge, PhD, and is now widely used by oneironauts everywhere.
The first thing you need to know is how it feels when your lucid dreams begin to fade. This process feels different for everyone, and can only be learned through experience. For me, a fading lucid dream is like having my vision's contrast turned way down, followed by a loss of colour, then the objects and people around me begin to lose shape.
When your lucid dreams start to fade, do this:
- Stretch out your arms and spin around in circles, over and over. Don't imagine yourself spinning, actively spin in your dream so you can feel the sensation of it.
- While you spin, remind yourself that you're in a dream and that the next thing you see will be also be a dream.
- Once you feel things have come back into focus, perform your critical state test to once again prove that you're dreaming.
This process can be performed repeatedly throughout your REM cycle to maintain your lucid dream state. Remember, spin to win.
Do you have any special tricks for maintaining lucidity? If so, sound off in the comments below.
OK, oneironauts: Sleep tight and dream on.
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