Every year I teach a workshop called Lucid Dreaming Kung Fu: how to have dreams where you know you’re dreaming so you can take control, live out all your wildest fantasies in living detail, converse directly with your subconscious mind, and work on creative or personal problems. It’s fun and fascinating stuff.
I’ve been having these dreams since I was 3 years-old and consider myself an advanced self-taught student of the art.
The article below reports my system of techniques that one needs to learn in order to have regular lucid dreams (or, as I’ve begun to prefer, ‘conscious dreams’). These are my four easy steps to conscious dreaming, organized into sets of methods to be practiced at different times of the day, every day. Good luck and have fun.
Dreaming is a Discipline
Lucid dreaming is a set of disciplines, meaning they require commitment and time set aside to practice regularly. The good news is that the effort required is only mental, but it does take strong conviction to experience the benefits consistently.
Take a moment right now to ask yourself why you want to do this. Emotions and feeling are what drive this. Tap into any and all strong emotions that lie behind your intellectual curiosity. Imagine what it would feel like to experience the dreams you want to have. Acknowledge that you have the power to do it. Promise yourself right now to use that power. If you ever find your efforts slacking, remind yourself of this promise and renew it.
Getting into shape for lucid dreaming is a lot like getting into physical shape. It’s fairly easy to start and you quickly start to experience benefits: more vivid dreams, much-improved dream recall, heightened awareness and peace in waking life. The full-on lucid dreams may only occur sporadically, if at all, for several weeks. Stick with it. At some point you will have a dramatic break-through, and this will bolster your commitment.
It may take several months to a year of consistent discipline to reach top shape. It all depends on your mental effort and conviction. Once you’re in top shape, you’ll experience lucid dreaming more or less consistently, up to several times a week. And once in shape, it becomes a natural habit to stay in shape. The experienced benefits become incentive enough to stay with it.
The Four Disciplines
Each discipline is a set of techniques named for the time-of-day during which you practice it. Have patience. The goal is to create a new set of habits, which takes some time. Persevere and you will succeed. The timeline is different for everyone. You may succeed tonight.
Tackle these disciplines roughly in the order given, moving to the next one as you become relatively solid on the previous one, working up to practicing all of them simultaneously. You’ll find that they naturally build on each other: you’ll know you’re ready for the next step.
The Four Disciplines are:
1. Sleeping – going to bed at night
2. Waking – the moment of waking
3. Walking – during the day
4. Dreaming – inside a dream
Sleeping – disciplines for going to bed at night
Get Enough Sleep
Lucid dreaming happens when your mind is awake while your body is still asleep. However, unconscious sleep and dreams are critical to your cognitive and emotional health so it’s important to get enough rest. A well-rested conscious mind is much more likely to become awake and alert inside a dream. Go to bed early. Get plenty of sleep. This is also important because you’ll need plenty of unrushed time in the morning for the WAKING disciplines.
Waking – disciplines for the moment of waking
Wake slowly and gently. Don’t rush out of bed to begin your day with your mind jumping to your concerns and to-do list. As soon as you realize you are waking, don’t move a muscle and don’t open your eyes. If you must turn off an alarm, move minimally to do so. Lie still and think only about the dreams you are waking up from. Review them carefully, backwards and forwards, not skipping any parts, especially the interesting ones. Review as much detail as you can until you feel you’ve committed it to short term memory.
Reach for your dream journal which should always be kept by your sleeping place. Write the date and your location (for future reference). You may find it helpful to jot a quick list of key words or phrases as an outline so you won’t forget things while writing. Write as much of your night’s dreams as you can recall, including details. I find it helpful to write in the present tense.
Walking – disciplines to practice throughout the day
Dreams on the Mind
After you get up to begin your day, continue to think about your dreams. What emotions came up? Who else was there? If possible, share your dream with someone else. Throughout the day, reflect on your dreams from last night or any night. As a general rule, the more you think about dreams and dreaming while you are awake, the more likely you are to think about them when you are asleep, leading to more conscious dreaming.
Throughout your day, at random intervals, ask yourself sincerely: “Am I dreaming right now?” Don’t just robotically ask the question, knowing you’re going to say ‘no’. Sincerely give it consideration. It helps to associate reality checking with an external cue to remind you, like anytime you see a flashing light, anytime you hear a phone ring, anytime you’re paused at a red light, etc.
You Can Fly
Whenever you find yourself at a high place — a cliff, a balcony, up in a tree — imagine jumping off and flying away. This habit will lead to more flying in your dreams.
Dreaming – disciplines to practice inside of a dream
Grounding in the Dream Body
If you practice all the above disciplines you will eventually have a dream wherein you realize that you are dreaming. The immediate reflex will be to wake up. Resist this and instead focus on grounding yourself in the dream body. Two useful techniques: 1) dream spinning, spin around with your arms out to keep your balance) and 2) looking at your hands as you wiggle your fingers. Any sort of physical activity that requires balance and/or concentration should work to keep you grounded.
Ignore all dream characters, situations and narratives. Set aside all objects, goals and plans. Do not get interested, engaged or frightened by anything happening around you. Dreams are very good at producing amazing, interesting, beautiful or frightful things to keep you engaged with the dream story — this will lead you to forget that you are dreaming. Instead, do nothing. Sit down and rub the ground with your hand. Listen to the birds. Be completely idle. You are not just the dream body: you are the whole dream world. So after grounding the body, you must settle the world. This will clear the stage for you to take charge.
Energy follows thought, in life and in the dream world. In dreams, clear thoughts and feelings are potent and will instantly manifest. So to control your dreams you must learn to control your thoughts and desires. If you want to fly, you must think only of flying, never of falling. You must completely discard all doubt in your ability to accomplish something. Any doubt that creeps in will neutralize any intention and you’ll manifest failure instead of success. It takes practice, but you’ll get the hang of it. Desire and emotion are very powerful in this regard for aligning and focusing your intention. Don’t just think it — desire it, wish for it, ache for it, yearn for it. It will come true.