Dreams have long been considered a window into the subconscious. Many people from Philosophers to Psychologists to Filmmakers (Inception, anyone?) have been interested in why we dream, what dreams mean, and why dreams are important in our lives. These are not easy questions to answer but one of the most promising leads lies in the experiences and study of lucid dreamers.
Lucid dreaming occurs when the dreamer is aware of the dream—and is able to actively participate in and manipulate experiences during the dream. There are two ways to begin a lucid dream – in a dream-initiated lucid dream (or a DILD) the dreamer begins in a normal, non-lucid dream and eventually concludes that he or she is dreaming. In a wake-initiated lucid dream (WILD) a dreamer goes directly from being awake into a dream state.
Lucid dreaming is not a new phenomenon—in fact it has been around and recorded for over one thousand years. In the 8th century there were even Tibetan Buddhist monks who practiced a form of dream yoga wherein they were able to maintain full waking consciousness while in a dream state. In the 1600s, philosopher and physician Sir Thomas Browne wrote extensively about his own ability to lucid dream.
One of the first researchers to recognize the scientific potential of the study of lucid dreams was Celia Green with the publication of her book Lucid Dreams in 1968. In this study, Green analyzed the main characteristics of lucid dreams. She concluded that lucid dreams were a distinct class of dreams (different from ordinary dreams) and predicted that they would turn out to be associated with REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep. In the 1970’s, the parapsychologist Keith Hearne began performing experiments with lucid dreamers. He and his subject would agree upon a set of actions to be undertaken during the lucid dream. The dreamer would then confirm these dream tasks and the onset of lucidity using eye movements. Dr. Hearne then would use a polyomnograph (or a machine used to record the biophysiological changes that occur during sleep such as brain function, eye movement, muscle activity, and heart rhythm) to analyze patterns during lucid dreaming. Since that time, numerous studies have been undertaken and great strides have been made in the field of dream research. Still, researchers have few definitive answers as to what really is going on in a lucid dream.
Do you have experience with lucid dreaming? Have you learned to control your actions and emotions within dreams? Have you learned anything about yourself or others while in a lucid dream? I’ve heard of people who set themselves a task (figure out a piece of computer code or find inspiration or an art piece) and enter a lucid dream to come up with answers to the issue. It’s remarkable.
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