As a sports science student in Germany, Mark Hettmanczyk, knew he had only modest skills as a swimmer. Well, even that statement might seem too generous. According to reports, Mark’s swimming coach told him, “Mr. Hettmanczyk, you are a stone. You will never be a good swimmer.” But Mark apparently had one skill the swimming coach did not realize: he had frequent lucid dreams.
Since his swimming lessons took place only on Monday and Thursday, he began to practice swimming in his lucid dreams in order to earn a good grade. To prepare, he watched videos of good swimming form on the internet, and then at night, recalled that information in his lucid dreams, where he copied the improved techniques and better style. Nightly, he began his swimming practice whenever lucid. For example, Mark focused solely on the proper way to plunge his right arm into the water, and felt relieved that he could concentrate on this in a lucid dream without gasping for air or swallowing water.
At school, he asked his swim coach for some additional pointers on swimming technique. The coach watched him swim and felt surprised by Mark’s rapid improvement. From one class session to the next, he just seemed to get better. This lucid dreaming “stone” had potential as a swimmer.
Mark probably did not tell the coach everything he did in those lucid dreams. Imagine this: in some lucid dreams, Mark transformed the pool’s water into yogurt or honey, and then swam through these thick liquids, feeling the resistance and building up endurance. In some instances, he swam through air and “bubbles” to get the swimming stroke correct and see how it moved him through space. And once, he reports swimming through a pool of beer glasses.
Lucid dream researchers at the University of Heidelberg, Tadas Stumbrys and Melanie Schädlich, interviewed Mark about improving his athletic performance through lucid dreaming. Schädlich reports that Mark also used his skills to change his perspective within a lucid dream. For example, he might lucidly watch himself swim from a perspective above him and see how his technique looked from that angle. Or he might cast his awareness to the side and see if his swimming form needed improvement. Mark used these new perspectives in his lucid dreams to learn and synchronize the complex body movements of swimming.
Finally, Mark took his lucid dreaming practice even further. Like Paul Tholey, the German lucid dreaming psychotherapist who advocated using lucid dreaming to improve sports technique, Mark cast his awareness into his coach during a lucid dream and sought to view his swimming performance from the coach’s perspective. Also, he used lucid dreaming to get helpful tips from more advanced swimmers and professionals. Mark found that he could even slow down time in the lucid dream to focus on the exact movements suggested to him, or speed things up to connect with the body rhythm.
Researcher Schädlich feels this example supports the idea that “Lucid dreaming appears to improve athletic performance when thoughtfully used." Besides the anecdotal reports like Mark’s, researchers in Germany and Switzerland such as Daniel Erlacher, Michael Schredl, Tadas Stumbrys and others, have set up experiments in which lucid dreamers practice simple physical skills. After the lucid dream practice, they are asked to try the motor skill again. Consistently, those who practice in lucid dreams show some level of enhanced performance when compared to a control group who did not practice.
Professional athletes normally search for some advantage that will lift them above the rest, and allow them to excel at their sport. Examining the case of Mark Hettmanczyk, lucid dreamers in any profession (e.g., business, academic, sports, creative) may gain valuable insights in the use of lucid dreaming to excel at one’s chosen profession. As a lucid dreamer consider the following practices and how you could integrate them into lucid dreams to improve your performance:
1) Change your perspective; see your actions from the perspective of others, including significant people in your field (e.g., the art critic, the consumer, your boss, the classroom), and allow their view to inform and educate you
2) Identify constructive skills and techniques which would enhance your performance while waking, and then actively incorporate these into your lucid dreams
3) Practice, practice, practice, until you feel comfortable in the lucid dream performing the action, whether public-speaking, sculpting, performing surgery, swimming, etc.
4) Play with the activity; like Mark swimming through yogurt, allow yourself to creatively influence the environment to enhance your sense of fun and new skill building.
Through lucid dreaming, Mark Hettmanczyk worked on realizing his waking intent. He moved from swimming like a stone to getting high marks in both swim skills and time. Moreover, he taught others by example (like his swimming coach who apparently felt he “would never be a good swimmer”) that lucid dreaming has extraordinary potential, when thoughtfully applied and mastered. And say, did I mention that Mark also swam through a pool of gummy bears?
What waking life talent could you practice in lucid dreams to move you to a higher level?