We influence the content of our dreams all the time, even if we don’t realize it. For example, events that happened the day just before a dream or recent to a dream, and how we feel about the people and events involved can subconsciously influence the content of our dreams. In waking life, we can consciously ‘incubate a dream’ by asking a question ‘to the dream’ before going to sleep. Often, this is ritualized by: writing the question down, lighting a candle, putting something like a quartz crystal or the sacred Native American dream herb ‘Mugwort’ under the dreamer’s pillow.
When dreamers become more lucid in dreams, they can influence the content—such as making a decision to fly rather than fall, or walk through one door rather than another. In general, we don’t like to feel powerless in dreams, just as we dislike the feeling of powerlessness in waking life. In a lucid dream, just about anything you imagine can happen.
That said, lucid dreaming doesn’t mean you control everything in dreams. Lucid dreaming is an interactive and participatory process. In lucid dreams we get to make choices that in some ways give us more control, and most lucid dreamers I know feel empowered by these abilities. But even the most lucid of dream experts experience surprises that seem to come from places beyond the dream ego’s control. “How do you meet the unexpected?” is a question and challenge for lucid dreamers.
To learn to interact, make lucid choices, and feel more empowered in night dreams, daydreams are a great way to begin. In a daydream, re-dreaming disempowering dreams, facing opposing forces and dialoguing with them can build confidence. It’s possible to dialogue with animals, plants, and inanimate objects in dreams—and daydreams. For example, to see what happens when a table responds to you in a daydream, or a cactus! When people ask a dream object what it represents, they can sit back while the dream object amazes them with its answers. This can be done any time of day, but the most favorable times are either right before going to sleep, or just after waking up. At those times, we can benefit by working with dream imagery semi-consciously. This daydreaming exercise, when practiced for a while, starts to work its way into dreams while sleeping—which can lead to more courage and confidence in waking life.
Here’s another exercise I’ve developed for beginning lucid dreamers: As you’re falling asleep, imagine you are standing at the top of a cliff in a warm, beautiful landscape. Imagine jumping off the cliff, and landing gently on your bare feet at the bottom. Then turn to face the cliff, and imagine yourself levitating up to the top again. Repeating this exercise can be very effective, and it has helped many people to have their first lucid dream experience shortly after.