In a lucid dream you’ve not woken up – in fact, you’re still sound asleep – but part of the brain has reactivated (the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, in case you’re wondering), allowing you to experience the dream state consciously with self-reflective awareness. Once you know that you’re dreaming as you’re dreaming, you gain access to the most powerful virtual-reality generator in existence: the human mind.
For me, one of the most revolutionary aspects of lucid dreaming is that it makes sleep fun! It completely reconfigures our relationship with the third of our lives that we spend in bed. Suddenly, sleep is not just ‘wasted time’, as some people see it, but rather a potential training ground for psycho-spiritual growth and a laboratory of internal exploration that makes us more lucidly aware in our waking lives too. Once we become conscious within our unconscious, we see that we’re limitless, boundless and creative beyond our wildest imaginings.
Most people have had a lucid dream at some point in their lives, but through the process of learning the art of lucid dreaming we can come to experience this amazing phenomenon intentionally and at will. In fact, the term ‘lucid dreaming’ is a bit of a misnomer – it should really be ‘conscious dreaming’, because it’s the aspect of conscious awareness that defines the experience, rather than its lucid clarity, but for now we’ll stick with it.
However, given that there’s so much misunderstanding around what lucid dreaming actually is, it’s worth taking a moment to look at what lucid dreaming is not…
* It’s not a half-awake/half-asleep state. In a lucid dream you’re in REM (rapid eye movement) dreaming sleep and out for the count, but part of your brain has become reactivated while you’re dreaming, allowing you to experience the dream consciously.
* It’s not just a very vivid dream – although lucid dreams are often super-vivid, high-definition experiences.
* It’s not an out-of-body experience (sometimes called astral projection). This point is still being debated by many lucid dreaming practitioners, but as I see it, a lucid dream happens primarily within our own personal mindstream, whereas in an out-of-body experience we move beyond these boundaries.
Lucid dreaming is a dream in which you know you’re dreaming as you’re dreaming. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up!
Once lucid, you become fully conscious within a three- dimensional construct of your own mind. You can literally walk – or fly – around a projection of your own psychology and have complex, involved conversations with personifications of your own psyche.
With high level lucidity comes high level clarity of mind. This means you can reflect on the fact that you’re asleep and that your body is lying in bed. You can think to yourself, Wow this is so cool, I can’t wait to tell people about this when I wake up! and you can access your waking memories and personal experience. It’s you in there, but that you is limitless. This means you can heal, meditate and learn in ways that might seem impossible in the waking state.
That’s pretty far out, but it’s not the most far out thing by a long way. What really shocks most newbie lucid dreamers is how real it feels. A lucid dream looks, feels, tastes and smells as real as waking reality and yet it’s primarily a projection of the mind.
And for any sceptics or naysayers out there, know this – lucid dreaming is for real. It has been a scientifically verified phenomenon of dreaming sleep for almost 40 years. It exists, and we know this because it has unique and ‘discernable neural correlates’, which means that it’s not just psychological, it’s physical.
At the age of 25, Buddhist lucid-dreaming teacher Charlie Morley was asked to teach by renowned mindfulness instructor Rob Nairn, who describes him as the most authentic practitioner of lucid-dreaming teaching in Europe.