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Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming

Want to play 24h/24h ? All day, all night ? This book is for you. There is nothing there about crystal ball and astrology. Only about how to take control of your dreams.


Stephern LaBerge & Howard Rheingold, 1990

This book is not about astrology, mysticism, or pseudo science. This is one of the first attempt to seriously describe what is lucid dream, in terms of brain waves, sleep states. It is quite old (1990), so some facts or assumptions are outdated. Nevertheless, this is a good guide for helping you to get “better” and “more useful” dreams.

The author did his PhD thesis in a lab, making experiments about lucid dreaming, and he wrote this book afterwards. This book is practical, there are progressive exercises to improve dreaming. Also, there is a lot of testimony (too much for me), which allows to see what could be the dreams of others.

In the first chapters, the authors explain the few scientific things we know about dreams. In a few lines, dreams are generated by our own mind, influenced by what we saw or experienced. There is no way future can be predicted with, as it is situation you have never experienced. Because dreams are generated by our mind, we can take the control of it. Not completely, but partially.

Dreams reveal some of our fears, what we would call “nightmares”. Sometimes, we fail to recognize what is stressing us, what is the current problem. Analyzing recurrent topics occurring in dreams allow to spot them. With lucid dreaming, we can “create” the conflicting situation, and learn to face the situation. Even if you don’t reach the state of lucid dreaming, this book gives good advises for progressing in life.

This book is difficult to condense. Facts are not stated clearly, and we need to extract the information from dozen of testimonies. So, this summary is quite crude, especially the final chapters, where there is nothing much to say.

The World of Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming is first awareness of dreaming. People dreaming often do not realize they are dreaming. They realize it afterwards, when waking up.

Why learning to be aware ? Out of the fact that it is fun, and you have nothing to lose, lucid dreaming can improve waking life. You can auto-evaluate your mood, how you are feeling really. Dreaming time is quite short. It feels longer as in movies, it’s easy to say “one year after”, and to move to another sequence. Life is short. Taking advantage of this moment is cost-less, so why not trying ?


The first set of exercises is to pay attention to the world.

You may wonder: “this is what I do all the time”. Look at the difference between “hearing” and “listening”. Hearing is passive, listening is active.

Most of the time, we passively get the information. We may eat something, but we do not focus on the taste. We become conscious of odors when they are strong. Otherwise we do not pay attention. When learning how to drive, we learn to get an overall picture of the vehicles around us. You just keep in your buffer the one next to you, or the one that may cross the road. All the other information are discarded. If you were asked “what is the color of the vehicle that just turned left ?”, you might be unable to answer. And you may also say “This is useless to remember this information”. You are right, but for lucid dreaming, you need pay more attention to things, whatever they are.

These exercise is about being “extra”-curious, looking everything in the details, searching weak signals. As written before, dreams are generated by yourself. The main goal of this exercise is to accumulate many stimulus so you can unconsciously recuse them in your dream.

One quotation of Idries Shah, who was asked to answer the question:

A fundamental mistake of man’s

She answered:

To think that he is alive when he has merely fallen asleep in life’s waiting room.

Preparation for Learning Lucid Dreaming

Learning how to learn

Just being aware that lucid dreaming might not be bullshit may allows you to do lucid dreaming. You may say in your dream, “Oh yeah, that’s right, I am dreaming”, and take control.


The first “dreaming” exercise (the previous one was to be done awake), is to record your dreams on a notebook. Adding the date would allow to measure the frequency, and in some way to measure your health status (when less healthy than usual, you tend to dream less). You often won’t remember everything. Try to remember bribes, and reconstruct progressively what you’ve experienced with backtracking method. The next step would be to find out peculiarities (dreamsigns): people, environment, action, story, whatever that seems relevant.

The brain is a modeling machine, that takes as input the sensory (sight, hearing, smell), and propose you some options (order a Pina-Colada, or if you want to follow your non-alcoholic diet, order a virgin cocktail). Roughly speaking, the brain takes all the information it can, and put the option on the table for your “free will” to decide.

Sleep Phases

When sleeping or being inactive, your brains get no feedback from the world, so starts to create its own environment.

There are two types of sleeping:

The transition from quiet to active state depend on the current quiet sub-state.

  1. Phase 1: light sleep. Stay on this phase for 20-30 min
  2. Phase 2: characterized by special brain waves (K-complex)
  3. Phase 3: Deep sleep, delta waves
  4. Go back to phase 2
  5. Enter active REM sleep (this occurs after 70 minutes). Stay there for 5 to 10 minutes
  6. Go back to quiet phase 2 -> phase 3 -> phase 2 -> REM

There is approximately one REM phase every 90 minutes, so the total dreaming time is not that big. The duration of the REM phase shorten over the night. Often, you won’t record all the dreams you’ve made. You can set an alarm if you are motivated to write them all down (and if you predictably fall asleep).

Why dreams look so real ?

There is no scientific answer for that, but the body tends to connect even if the REM sleep block most of the moves:

Talking Seriously about Dreams

Because our society study humans as they study animal, as black box, that takes the environment as input, studying the mind is still of little interest. Plus, charlatans making prediction using them, it doesn’t help.

For the majority of people, dreaming is harmless. For people with psychologic disorders, it depends.

Dreamsight Classification

There are 4 common categories:

There is a full list of examples in the book.

Often, all objects are not shocking taken alone. This is the combination which often looks weird.


  1. Keep a dream journal
  2. Identify dreamsigns
  3. Classify them
  4. Count them and check which category is the most frequent
  5. Check in real life where these dreamsigns occurs. Be attentive to them.

Because you are the only one that will evaluate your “performance”, set goals according to these common rules:

These rules are also helpful in other context (sport, music, work, family, …)

To improve your REM time, without sleeping more is the following. (Assuming the reason you cannot sleep more is because you have things to do).

Suppose you sleep from midnight to 7 AM. Instead, go to bed at 22h. Sleep for 4 hours. Wake up at 2 AM. Do stuff for 2 hours. Then go back to sleep from 4AM to 7AM. Because REM are longer when you need sleep, then take a break in the middle of the night.

Waking up in the Dream World

Lucid dreaming is easier than you may think

The previous chapter was about learning to recall dreams and to identify their particularities. To move to the next step, you must be able to record one dream per night, and have a track record of a dozen of dreams.

Are you awake ?

While sleeping the critical faculty is shut down. So, even if there is a tiny green elephant flying in your room, you won’t panic. You will become aware of the dream when waking up, so much too late.

To awaken, you have to find another way to stimulate your critical faculties. The proposed approach is by taking the habit of questioning yourself:

“Am I dreaming or am I awake ?”

The question seems silly when awake, but how do you know ? How do you make the difference between Disneyland, watching a movie, and dreaming ? Which clues can you find to prove or prove by contradiction that you are awake ?

In dreams, physics is often not well respected, because it requires a lot of energy to the brain. For instance, if you see a watch or a mirror, your brain might not be able to reflect correctly the image.

How to Train

To train yourself, there are two strategies:

Triggering is more efficient. For this, look at the main dreamsights you have identified. Say you have “blue cats” in your dreams. Then, the exercise would be: each time you see a cat, ask you if you are dreaming or not. In some way, it is like training a dog: he must answer when you call it. But this is one of the most efficient way to ask you the question in your dream, because it would be automatic. Be careful not to answer automatically also. Find proof around you that space is not distorted or whatever.

How we remember things ?

While awake, we often make list of stuff we need to do to not forget them. We often don’t have to write things we want to do. Motivation is one key.

The second is association. If you need to buy dog food, seeing a dog in the supermarket will make you think about it.

MILD: Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams procedure.

For this method, you need good remembering skills. Each day, you will have a given list of triggers. When finding them while awake, you need to ask if you are dreaming or not.

For instance, for one day you would have:

(In the book, you have a list of 4 items per day, and seven different days).

There are also apparels (Dreamlight ?) which sends light pulse which stimulate the awakening in the active phase.

Falling Asleep Consciously

To keep consciousness, you can focus on different stuff:

(The three first are detailed in the book)

If your mind is sufficiently active when entering the REM state, it will be easy to find out that you entered in a dream. This is called WILD or Wake-Initiated Lucid Dreams (VS DILD Dream Induced Lucid Dreams).

Among these methods, there is also the (goat) counting method: “1: I am dreaming, 2: I am dreaming, …”.

The description of this chapter is short, because the book is full of different methods that I won’t detail here.

The Building of Dreams

The previous provided exercises allowing you to condition yourself to react on stimulus.

There are also schema in place, way to associate things:

Dreams look like stories maybe because the story pattern is activated. In three parts:

Dreams look meaningful because there are our own creation.

Principles and Practice of Lucid Dreaming

How to avoid premature awakening ?

Some people wake-up when they become lucid. They got to excited about. Sight is the most instable sense. Often, the dream ends by loosing its color, its visual stability, and lack of realism. This would trigger even more your brain that things are wrong.

To avoid waking up, we must focus on feeling (hearing, touching), which are the last to go. Also, because of REM, you will not have conflict because of sleep paralysis (you are able to open your eyes even when paralyzed).

A method to keep dreaming when the world is fading is the “spinning” method. The idea is to spin around yourself (in the dreamland), and to feel the spinning sensation, a very special sensation, where you sight is blurred, and your stomach in knots. With this method, you will stop focusing on your sight, and more and what you feel. You need to spin until the world seems stable again.

If you wake up, don’t move, and try falling asleep again. Moving will give signals to your body that the night is over.

On the other hand, you can try to learn to wake up. Trying to speak loud can be an option to wake up from nightmare. To wake up from a dream, you have to withdraw your participation and attention from the dream.

Rehearsal for a Living

Peak performance: when body and mind seems to cooperate together to give the very top of their capacity.

Dreams can help to reach peak performance, with results comparable to waking mental imagery for learning skills. When imagining the movements, signal impulses are send to the muscles, but the REM process block the movement. You can prepare the neural pathway, which is related to muscle memory or automation. However, as for mental preparation, you don’t have the physic laws of your body, so some movement may not be permitted for sport.

Nevertheless, you can train to execute a sequence in a particular order (for Aïkido for instance). In the book, they call it cognitive coding.

You can train yourself in a non-stressful situation, or in unusual ones.


  1. Set your intention, goal to achieve
  2. Induce a lucid dream
  3. Set up the practice environment (spin for instance)
  4. Practice
  5. Push boundaries

Other application:

This schema (set your intention, dream, do the wished action, debrief awake) is one common schema to use dream for learning things, solving problems, facing fears, …

Creative Problem Solving

Process for creativity (Hermann Helmholtz):

In the dreaming state, your mind is more likely to create weird combinations. The creativity can help to get an illumination, a new idea.

Overcoming Nightmare

Dreams are limitless. So are Nightmare. Sure, they are not real, but they are not pleasant. Additionally, we are alone there.

Nightmares highlight our fears. Gathering the dreamsigns during these situations allows (for non-identified stress) to identify the problem we don’t want to recognize.

Fear of the unknown is worse than fear of the known.

There is no cause for fear. It is imagination blocking you as a wooden bar. (Jalaludin Rumi)

Waking up to finish the dream is a solution (by stopping paying attention to the situation or yell loudly), but you won’t progress on facing the fear, finding a solution, a compromise.

Exercise: Conversing with the dream character

  1. Practice imaginary dialog in the waking state. Ask open questions like “who are you, why are you staring at me, how can I help you …”. Select a list of few questions you want to ask to your demons
  2. Set your intention before going to bed
  3. Converse with the dream’s figures
  4. Evaluate the resulting dialog awake.

You must not fight your fear by suffering from them. If you have a fear of being struck by cars, being struck by cars in your dreams will not help.

Do notlet it happen to you”.

The author describes 6 fearful situations:

Recurring nightmares:

Awake, think about a better end, or how to face it, how to behave.

  1. Recall the current nightmare, write down the details, patterns
  2. Select when you want to enter the dream, and what you want to do at this stage that would change the curse.
  3. Relax, prepare for your dream
  4. Do the selected action
  5. Recall the dream and analyse the result.

The Healing Dream

Health: condition of adaptive responsiveness to the challenge of life

This is not justnot being sick”, it takes also into account psychology.

Often, the features that we are lacking (“too shy”, “too weak”) are projected onto others people or monsters. Kind of “shadow” figure, which represents the ego we are missing, our incompleteness.

Your thinking is distorted by fear, greed, anger, pride, prejudice, and faulty assumptions, you cannot tell what is really reflected in your consciousness.

The true way of healing is to seek out the barking dogs of the unconscious and reconcile with them

As in the previous exercises,

  1. Focus before going to bed
  2. Induce the lucid dream
  3. Face the situation
  4. Debrief awake
  5. Repeat with different strategies if it doesn’t work at the first trial.

In some way, facing your problem in real life may help to solve them.

Mindfulness: state of attentive awareness in which environmental information is consciously controlled and manipulated while people are engaged in the process of making new distinctions and constructing new categories.

In some aspects, lucid dreaming can have similar effect as hypnosis.

Life is a Dream - Intimations of a Wider World  

Some stuff about Tibetan way of using lucid dreaming for exploring reality. Try to meet yourself: the less preconceived idea you have about you, the easier it would be to discover yourself.

Dreams are a way to experiment “gods” or “divine” experiments.

There is a list of stuff to ask yourself in a dream:

Pick one sentence at a time. Remind yourself about it before going to sleep.


Oneironaut: The ability to travel in a dream

This book is a first introduction to dreams, how to better dream, how to become lucid, and how to use them for improving our life. Lucid dreaming is not necessarily the ultimate goal. Making pleasant dreams, and learning how to analyze them is also a good start. The exercises provided give a general methodology to use dreams for our own purposes.

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