If you could do anything your heart desired without being held accountable for your actions (or without being restricted by the laws of physics), what would it be? Through lucid dreaming, you can experience whatever you choose to imagine, and even begin to explore or expand the limitations of your mind. Waking up within a dream can be more challenging for some than others, but you can work to develop this ability with regular practice of some simple techniques.
I learned most of these practices from a weekend retreat with Andrew Holecek, who is an expert on death and the process of dying. Since sleeping and dying are closely related, practicing awareness while sleeping can later translate to awareness when one experiences death and leaves their physical body. But more on that later… back to the fun part! Below is a list of techniques that will help cultivate awareness in the dream state — choose whichever methods speak to you the most:
- Meditate for 10 minutes (or more) every day. Mindfulness during the day will lead to mindfulness at night.
- Set a strong intention. Before you go to sleep, repeat these phrases to yourself: “I will have good dreams. I will recognize my dreams to be dreams.”
- Conduct state checks during the day. Anytime you see something slightly unusual, ask yourself, “is this a dream?” Be on the lookout for dream signs — they are strange or impossible events that arise in your dreams that will jar you into awareness. The next time an elephant walks through your room in your dream, question it instead of accepting it as normal.
- Sleep on your right side or plug your right nostril. This suppresses your male energy and allows your female energy to dominate.
- In Tibetan Buddhism, one common technique is to visualize a red pearl at your throat, or think of a red “ah” sound. This is related to the energy centers (chakras) within your body. Your consciousness gathers at your head while you are awake, and at your heart while you are asleep. When it is at your throat, lucid dreaming can occur.
- Keep a dream journal. As soon as you wake up and are able to remember a dream (lucid or not), write it down in as much detail as possible.
- Track your sleep cycles. Prime dream time is about two hours before you wake up, so set an alarm for 4 or 5 AM. When you wake up, try to remember the dream you were just in, then visualize yourself in that dream as you fall back asleep.
- You can also try experimenting with Galantamine. Take 4-8 milligrams 4-6 hours after you go to sleep (you’ll have to set an alarm).
- If you begin to lucid dream but feel like you start to lose control, try spinning around or rotating your arms in large circles.
- If you immediately wake up after realizing that you’re dreaming, don’t get discouraged! Resume the same position that you were sleeping in and imagine yourself in the dream as you fall asleep.
“When we make good use of the dream state, we double our lives.” -Andrew Holecek.
More info on Andrew Holecek: Introduction to Dream Yoga
More info on dreaming: Lucid Dreaming FAQ