Introduction

Dreams are among the most interesting and mysterious phenomena available to us. While our sciences have charted, investigated and mapped out so much of our external world, the world of our dreams remains relatively untouched by our collective understanding. It is unclear why we dream, and yet this is something each of us does every night: we immerse ourselves in a world of our own creation, in intimate communication with our subconscious mind.

In modern Western society, we largely ignore our dreams. The generally held ‘common-sense’ understanding is that they are meaningless, just the random firing of neurons (or in some cases having ‘something to do with’ memory formation). Many people claim not to dream at all, but in fact they have only been conditioned to discard them as worthless memories.

I don’t believe dreams are only ‘brain noise;’ it is clear, upon reflection, that in our dreams we exert will - there are common themes, and most compelling of all: it is possible to become conscious in one’s dreams, and to control them. It is possible to be awake inside your own mind, interacting with a world of your own creation.

This is called lucid dreaming, and it is an incredibly interesting and powerful tool, which can be used recreationally, spiritually or for self-improvement. It seems to me entirely natural to delve into this inner world - we spend around 1/3rd of our lives asleep, and much of this time dreaming.

In this article, I will cover various aspects of dreaming. Primarily, it includes descriptions and methods for recalling and recording dreams, and achieving the ability to lucid dream. I will also discuss how to work with lucid dreams, and with other sleep states, such as hypnagogia, nightmares, and sleep paralysis.

The Sleep Cycle

When starting to work with dreams, it is first good to come to a basic understanding of the sleep cycle. The sleep cycle occurs in periods of around 90 minutes, consisting of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non-REM) sleep, which is itself split into several stages:

  1. NREM1 - This is ‘light sleep,’ the stage between wakefulness and sleep. During this stage, people lose awareness of their external environment and frequently experience hypnagogic hallucinations. This constitutes around 5-10% of total sleep in adults.
  2. NREM2 - This constitutes 45-55% of total sleep in adults. People become harder to wake, and muscular activity decreases.
  3. NREM3 - Also known as ‘slow wave sleep,’ or ‘deep sleep,’ this consitutes around 15-25% of total sleep in adults. The person is even less responsive to the environment. This is believed to be the most ‘restful’ form of sleep, allaying the subjective feeling of ‘tiredness.’
  4. REM - This is Rapid Eye Movement sleep, wherein the person experiences vivid dreams. These are associated with muscle paralysis, sexual arousal and serotonin release in the brain. Science has not determined the reason or function of REM sleep, but it seems that a lack of REM sleep seriously affects ability to learn or perform complicated tasks.

We cycle through these stages in 90 minute blocks as we sleep, gradually spending increasing amounts of time in REM sleep as time continues.

Much of this section was adapted from the Wikipedia article on sleep stages, which contains more in-depth information about each of the stages.

Building Dream Recall

The first and most important skill which must be developed in pursuance of working with one’s dreams is to gain the ability to remember them. As mentioned in the introduction, many of us do not remember our dreams at all, or only occasionally remember fragmented chunks in the morning, which we forget within minutes of waking up. In fact, you are still dreaming, but you need to guide your brain into the understanding that your dreams are something worth remembering.

To start remembering your dreams, you must start to think about them, to write about them, and to set your intention to remember them.

The Dream Diary

The most effective way to start building dream recall is to start a dream diary. A dream diary is exactly what it sounds, an account of your dreams.

To do this, we must first pick a ‘format’ for the dream diary. People like to record their dreams in all kinds of different ways, and you may have to experiment over a few nights to see which works the best for you:

  • Keeping a paper journal
    • Benefits:
      • Physically writing with a pen may aid the memory
      • Associating it with a physical object helps to set your intention
      • It’s a pretty keepsake
    • Drawbacks:
      • It can be very difficult to motivate onesself to get up and write while groggy
      • Motor skills are likely to be poor when one is half asleep
  • Typing notes on a phone
    • Benefits:
      • Low effort
      • Easy to do from bed
    • Drawbacks:
      • Limited ability to type
      • Phones often fall off the bed and can be difficult to find (this is more often a problem than you might expect)
      • It is possible to end up with a bunch of autocorrected nonsense (make sure you check you’ve typed something semi-coherent!)
  • Typing notes on a computer
    • Benefits:
      • One can quickly type a lot of text
      • Easy to manage and search dreams
    • Drawbacks
      • Can be difficult to motivate yourself to actually get to a computer, especially if
      • It can be quite difficult to coordinate your fingers immediately after you have woken up, so typing can be difficult
  • Using a voice recorder
    • Benefits
      • Can be done without moving from the lying down position
    • Drawbacks:
      • One may end up frequently mumbling unintelligible nonsense
      • Seemingly particularly prone to issues with false awakenings

People often opt for some combination of these methods, using one more convenient and short-hand methods during the short interstitial waking periods, and then committing them to a more descriptive form later.

For example, I generally take some short notes on my laptop or phone when I wake after a dream in the middle of the night or in the morning, including the main gist of the dream with some keywords or an outline of the major events. Then, once I have woken up properly, I will return to the notes and flesh them out as much as I can. However, this approach can be a bit difficult when you start, because it relies on some built up ability to recall latent memories of dreams based on the ‘triggers’ of your notes - you will likely find right at the beginning that your memories of the dreams will be totally gone relatively soon after you wake.

Remembering & Recording Your Dreams

Once you have decided on an initial format for your dream diary, you can go ahead and start recording your dreams.

The first step to doing this is to set your intentions - many people find it difficult to remember or to find motivation to write their dreams down. This is not through any lack of will, but because the brain simply forgets this is important to you, especially when you are outside the clarity of full consciousness. So, to convince our minds to do this we need to ‘set our intention;’ as we will see, intent is truly the foundational skill of dream practice, from dream recall to advanced lucid dreaming techniques.

In the context of dreaming, setting intent simply means to condition the mind to carry an idea in its subconscious, and we do this by approaching this idea frequently when we are conscious. So in this case, for example, by frequently reminding ourselves that we wish to remember our dreams while we’re awake, we carry this desire into our sleep and into our semi-conscious states between sleep and wakefulness.

In fact, the whole practice of keeping a dream diary is a method of setting your intent to remember your dreams: by writing about them, by reading them and by thinking about them. But first, we must kick-start the process, and one particularly successful method of doing so is setting the intent directly before falling asleep. When lying in bed, before you fall asleep, repeat to yourself a mantra to the effect of “I will remember my dreams” a couple of times, and then try to hold that idea in your head as you fall asleep.

As discussed in the ‘sleep cycle’ stage, we actually wake for a short period after each REM cycle, and if you manage to become conscious of this you may be able to get up and write down your dream before heading back to bed. If not, just write down when you can remember when you first wake up in the morning.

Try to make it a ritual when you wake up, to think immediately “what did I dream about?” If your mind is full of your nightly happenings, then great, you can write about them. If not, that is okay too; it can help to lie there for a couple of minutes and let your mind sink back down into a relaxed state. As when you’re trying to remember some elusive detail from your conscious memory, you will often find snatches of your dream will come to you as soon as you relax your mind and stop trying to grasp the memory directly.

Some nights, you won’t be able to recall anything at all, and this is okay. This can happen even when you are experienced in dream recall. What is important at this stage is to still make an entry in your dream diary to the effect of “no dream recall last night.” By doing this, we make a conscious action which reminds us we want to remember our dreams, and helps to affirm the ritual.

Actually recording your dream is relatively straightforward: just write down everything you remember. I tend to write them in the form of a first-person story, a relatively linear progression through the dream. Remember that the aim here is to increase recall, and to do this we need to pay attention to details which make a dream vidid and realistic, and give them depth; this means you should try to ask yourself, as well as what you saw: what colours did you see? How did you feel? Where were you? Did the dream have a ‘feel’ or ‘vibe’?

To start with, it doesn’t matter if you can only remember a few slight details, or if you remember the whole thing with conscious-level detail, write it down. You will often find that as you start to write about the dream, more details will come to you - write these down too! This is one of the important functions of keeping a dream journal: by the act of writing about our dreams, we train our minds to recall more about what happened. By attempting to remember our dreams, we train our minds to commit more detail about the dreams to memory in future, and over time your dream recall will improve.

One useful thing you can try, either if you’re having some trouble with recalling any dream details for an extended period of time, or you simply want to experience some longer and more vivid dreams with better recall, is sleeping in. If you find yourself on a weekend or with some extra time to spare, you can try sleeping for longer than usual. As we discussed in the sleep cycle section, the longer you sleep, the more frequent and longer your REM cycles become. You can utilise this to experience longer dreams, closer to your full waking state - this usually means they are more vivid and easier to remember.

The dreams you record aren’t meant to simply be committed to text and then forgotten about, they are a useful record which can be used throughout the entire practice of dreaming. When initially trying to improve your dream recall, it can be good to spend some time each day reading through some of your dreams, maybe some favourites or recent dreams. This helps to keep your dreams in-mind, and by familiarising ourselves with dreams and allocating more time to thinking about them, we work towards improving dream recall.

Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming is the state of being conscious in a dream. One does this by realising, in the dream, that you are dreaming. Usually one walks around in a dream without questioning anything, experiencing extremely bizarre situations and accepting them as reality - and our only way of interacting with our dreams is through our memories of them. But, by training ourselves to question reality while conscious, we learn also to become mindful in our dreams, and through doing this we can reach the lucid dream state.

Once you can do this, you are quite literally in a world of almost no limitations. You can fly, you can meet long-dead historical figures, you can go to space - the limit is your imagination. Beyond pure interest, many people have found curious ways to utilise lucid dreaming for the benefit of their waking person - I will discuss these later.

So, once you have built up some dream recall, you can start working towards becoming lucid in your dreams. At this point, you may already find that you remember being somewhat aware that you were asleep during your dreams, or you were at least slightly suspicious of the absurd circumstances in the dream.

At this point you may start to notice some of the bizarre rationalisations your brain will make to explain away unrealistic situations, which in retrospect can actually be quite humorous. We can reflect on these, and by training ourselves to be perpetually mindful of what is happening around us - asking ourselves “am I awake right now?” - we will start to do it in our dreams too. And eventually, upon the realisation that you are in fact not awake, you will reach the lucid dream state.

Reality Checks

Reality checks are easy methods used to distinguish whether you are indeed dreaming or not, which play on particular phenomena which behave differently in dreams and waking life. There are two ways to approach reality checks: training yourself to do them whenever something ‘bizarre’ or unusual happens, and doing them at regular intervals during the day. Ideally, both should be undertaken, to give yourself the greatest chance of finding yourself conscious within a dream.

Often, when we are at the point of performing a reality check, we are doing so because we are already suspicious that we may be in a dream. It is important to train yourself not to blindly accept the results of the reality check: they are useful tools for indicating your waking status, but if we are not mindful then we will simply ignore their results, and fall back into the dream. You have to combine your reality checks with a conscious interest and consideration of the question “am I awake?”

Here is a list of reality-checks I have found to be successful:

  • The breath-test: Close your mouth, and place your hand over your nose to close off the airflow. Then, try to breathe in. If your breathing is blocked, you’re awake. If you can breathe normally, you’re dreaming! This happens because in your dream, when your “avatar” covers up its orifices, your sleeping body does not; thus, you cannot constrict your breathing. For me, this is one of the most effective reality checks, likely because it is a very concrete ‘boolean’ test, rather than relying on more detailed observation and reasoning.
  • The light-switch test: Try flipping a light-switch in a room. Often, light switches do not work in dreams, and flipping the switch won’t do anything. This can be quite an effective ‘latent’ reality check, since during the course of the day people usually hit light-switches quite frequently, and as such will likely do so in their dreams as well. To leverage this, simply ask yourself “did the light-switch work?” every time you use one. The only issue with this is it can be quite unreliable, depending on the person.
  • The hand check: Hands are incredibly complicated and detailed objects, and for this reason it seems that the mind has a difficult time accurately visualising them in dreams. As such, taking a quick stock of your hands can easily reveal whether you are dreaming or not. This can be either a more generalised consideration of “do my hands look weird?”, or you can count your fingers; often, fingers will be fused together or missing.
  • Reading-test: This test takes advantage of the fact that your brain often doesn’t bother to keep certain details consistent in dreams, or sometimes to even fill them out in the first place. One easy way to leverage this is reading text. If you look at a body of writing, and find you cannot resolve it into words, then you’re likely dreaming (or you’re reading some really bad handwriting). Otherwise, you can try to memorise a sentence, and then look at the page a couple of seconds later. If the text changes, you’re probably dreaming.
  • Clock-test: This is a variation on the reading test, whereby one looks at a watch or clock, then looks away and checks it again a few moments later. If the clock has changed, you’re dreaming. As with the reading-test, you may often find that the clock is unreadable in the first place, which is also a good indicator that you’re dreaming. This tends to work for both digital and analogue clocks.
  • Accessory-test: If you wear an accessory, such as a watch or armband, then it is easy to quickly check whether the accessory is present or not. This test can be quite unreliable, since your brain may well include the accessory in the dream, especially if you pay it a lot of attention during the day (by, for example, using it for reality checks). If you do this with a watch, and it appears in the dream, you have yourself a portable item with which to perform a clock-test!

The efficacy of the various reality-checks varies wildly between people - some may not work at all! It is good to get into the habit of performing a few, to find out which ones work best for you.

You may also find that the efficiency of particular reality checks decrease over time, and I think this likely happens because the more you do a particular thing in a dream, the better your brain becomes at modelling what “should” happen. Checks which seemingly rely on the ‘processing difficulty’ of certain objects or actions seem particularly subject to this, such as the light-switch or digit-counting tests.

It can also be worthwhile to develop your own set of triggers for performing reality checks, and this is another matter for which your dream journal will come in handy. It can be helpful to read through your dreams to find situations or objects which frequently occur, and perform checks when these happen.

Entering the Lucid Dream & Maintaining Stability

People often experience somewhat of a “beginner’s luck” effect when they start attempting to lucid dream, and can find themselves lucid for the first time within a day or two of starting to try. I think this is likely down to the initial novelty of considering dreams, combined with the great level of suggestibility our subconscious has in terms of new experiences. However, this is not always the case, and sometimes it can take a quite a while to get lucid. If you’re having trouble, then try switching up your routine: try different reality checks, assign more time to reading through your dream journal, try to keep a more stable sleep cycle. Almost everyone has the capacity to lucid dream, it’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

If you are like me, the first time you reach a lucid dream state, you will likely get so excited you’ve managed it that you’ll immediately wake up. This will be your first introduction to the fact that becoming lucid is only the first step on a long path - the ability to lucid dream effectively is a skill which comes with a lot of practice. First, we have to learn to keep our dreams stable, and then we can develop the ability to explore and control our dreams.

The key to keeping your lucid dreams stable is remaining calm, but remaining conscious. We must remain calm enough to avoid waking up, but we must remain mindful so that we don’t fall back into non-lucid sleep. This balance can be quite difficult to reach, at first, but in time you can gain quite a lot of control over the level of lucidity, which feeds into the ability to control your dreams.

Another advantage to training your ability to control your level of mindfulness is for when you wish to intentionally wish to become less lucid, to see where your dream takes you. Lucid dreaming is very interesting, but sometimes it can be equally interesting to just observe, and see where your dream is taking you. If you can maintain this state of sub-lucidity, then you can choose to experience the dream without exerting your conscious will on the dream, until you choose to.

As previously mentioned, the first few times you reach lucidity you will probably become too excited and wake up. Thankfully, this novelty will quickly wear off. If this is a continual problem for you, try to set an intention to tell yourself to ‘be calm’ when you become lucid. Then, when you become lucid, immediately tell yourself “be calm.”

Once you overcome this initial hurdle, maintaining lucidity in the dream is the next challenge; it is very easy to become distracted and slip back into unconscious dreaming. Maintaining lucidity primarily involves staying mindful, and reminding yourself that you are dreaming - keep it at the forefront of your mind. There are several techniques which can help with this, which include frequently repeating reality-checks to remind yourself you are dreaming, or occasionally saying “I am dreaming!” out loud. At first this can take a lot of effort, but once you have the hang of it you will gain the ability to do it without much effort, just by force of will.

If you find your dream fading, which is commonly indicated by the scene fading to black, one extremely effective method to keep yourself in the dream is to pivot on one foot, and spin yourself around as hard as you can. It doesn’t always work, but it will likely move you into a different scene. As well as being a useful technique for staving off waking, it can also be used to teleport. However, it is important to be careful when doing this, as the change of scenery is an easy distraction for your mind to use as an excuse to fall back into sub-lucid dreaming.

False awakenings are also very common after lucid dreams (particularly when using the ‘spinning’ technique). These are situations where you wake up, often in what seems to be your own bed, only for it to turn out a short time later that you were still dreaming all along! Sometimes, these can even happen several times in a row. When I first started lucid dreaming, I would get these frequently and in many cases experience a really interesting dream, then wake up and tap it out on my computer, only to wake up again for real, without my notes! To avoid situations like this, and as an additional useful trigger, try performing a reality check every time you wake up.

First steps

Once you can maintain your dream for a couple of seconds, and keeping the various methods of continuing your lucid dream in mind, you can start to explore.

While you probably have many lofty ideas for intellectual and creative endeavours to undertake in your upcoming lucid dream career, it is likely that the first few times you find yourself with enough freedom to explore the dream world, you will end up having a lot of sex. This is a really common phenomenon, which I think probably results from the physical sexual arousal which accompanies REM sleep.

If you’re interested primarily in carnal desires, then congratulations! Lucid dreams offer nearly unlimited opportunity where this is concerned, though since sexual arousal is a naturally extremely excited state, it can be very difficult not to wake up, for reasons discussed in the previous section. Without practice, dream sex can be rather unsatisfying, so if you want to move beyond animalistic fornication, I find it can be best to simply let the novelty wear off, and you will quickly find yourself in much better control of your faculties.

A fundamentally important concept to understand about the lucid dream state, is that your ability to do things is almost entirely based on your belief that you can do them. When we are not conscious in our dreams, we believe that we are awake, and as such they generally act in a way which mostly models reality, both in terms of physics and society. By using subtle discrepancies in behaviour between the dream state and the waking state, we become conscious that we are in a dream, and then we no longer have to accept the usual laws of reality. Generally, if you believe you can do it, you can do it.

One very common, relatively easy and exhilarating example of this is flight. That’s right, you can fly. A first note: it’s a good idea to make 100% sure you are in a dream before launching yourself from the nearest building - do a couple of reality checks first, or better yet take off from the ground (this is also great advice if you find yourself thinking you can fly on LSD).

Simply stand on the ground, hold a very clear belief in your mind that it is possible for you to fly, because you are in a dream. Then, jump up from the ground, with the intent to fly. Probably, you will fly! If not, try to hold the belief ever more clearly in your mind, and try again. It can take a few attempts, but once you experience your first success it will become known to you that it is possible, and will be effortless in future.

Exploring and Controlling Your Dreams

Performing more complicated acts in dreams follows a similar pattern to flight. It depends on deconstructing your preconceived beliefs in how the world should act; once you realise that you are in a dream, you can build the belief that almost anything you fancy can happen. Question everything. As a simple example, when I first started lucid dreaming, I would frequently reach lucidity from a false awakening, and then attempt to fly out of my room. To do this, I had to pass through a window, and the first few times I would try to climb out of it, until one day I realised that in the dream, glass didn’t have to be solid - I could pass straight through it.

To start with, you can build on the flying idea, using this means of transporation to explore different landscapes, which your mind will generate for you on-the-fly (hah). Remember, you are not limited by physics: try flying to space, flying underwater, or even flying into the Earth. By doing this, you will find something interesting to investigate - a village, another planet, somebody you know, somebody you don’t know etc.

This is the first of two approaches to working with your lucid dreams. You can either explore to see what you can find, or you can start to make things happen. The first is initially easier, and probably best to begin with. Once you get to grips with the dream state and how you can manipulate the world around you, you can utilise this ability to create the situations you want to experience.

One common method of creating situations of your own design, is to use a ‘portal.’ These can take many forms, most commonly doors, holes in the ground, bodies of water etc. You can also use the teleportation method I previously mentioned, but I find this tends to be slightly less predictable. Hold the idea of the scene you want to find yourself in clearly in your mind, then ‘use’ the portal: open and pass through the door, jump into the water, spin around wildly. This can take a lot of practice, but eventually you should be able to find yourself in the situations you want. This, of course, is not limited to the physical conditions, but you can also will people or particular social circumstances to take place in the dream (more about this in Dream Actors).

Dream Actors

TODO

Things To Try

As you start to realise the infinite extent to the possibilities lucid dreams provide, it becomes a matter of your own volition. Try writing down some ideas for things to do in your dreams, and recall them shortly before you fall asleep. Then, once you’re in the dream, try to make them happen. Here I will present some ideas for how to utilise your ability to dream lucidly.

Nightmares

As we have discussed, what happens in our dreams builds strongly on what we expect to happen, and this holds both for lucid and non-lucid states. It is not difficult to see the connection between this and what happens during a nightmare. During these dreams, we often experience our darkest fears simply because we are expecting them. Furthermore, people with recurring nightmares fall into such a trap because they come to an expectation that they will have nightmares.

You can utilise lucid dreaming to tackle nightmares through the cultivation of your belief that you can control your dreams, and that what happens in your dreams is ultimately under your control. Use fear as a trigger for reality checks, and then use the ability to control your dreams to defuse your situation - or even more effectively to confront the cause of your fears. More nuanced and involved techniques for working with nightmares are discussed at length in the books linked at the end of this article.

Explore your Memories

TODO

Staging Situations

One very practical and potentially beneficial use of lucid dreaming is to practise for real world situations. These can range from very specific situations, such as an upcoming public speaking engagement, to more generic situations such as social interaction. The chance to do a realistic run-through of a situation, at the venue with ‘people’ there can be more effective than practice alone while awake.

You can attempt to use your lucid dreams in this way to combat social anxiety. This approach works by allowing us to build experience of social interaction in a safe environment, with the knowledge that we are in control and without any repercussions if we make a mistake. This builds confidence, which can carry through into real life. By providing an environment where a person who suffers social anxiety can start to work on it, they can avoid the common bootstrapping problem which accompanies it.

Hypnagogia

One of the most interesting states of consciousness is hypnagogia, that interstice between consciousness and sleep. Like dreams, everybody does this, but the experiences are generally purged from the memory. However, many people, including several extremely popular historical figures, have looked to this state as a creative source. When the line between conscious any unconscious blurs, so does the line between reality and imagination, rationality and ideas.

Dali would rest in an armchair, holding a heavy metal key in his fingers, and then when he actually fell asleep the key would fall from his hands onto a metal plate, the clanging of which would jolt him back awake, with full recollection of his hypnagogic experiences. He would then write these down, and used them as inspiration for his works.

During this state, we experience visual and aural hallucinations, and play out curious situations out in our heads. I often find that I suddenly get solutions to problems I had been working on during the day, new ideas, or ways to phrase certain things. I feel that perhaps letting the conscious mind rest lets the subconscious come forth with the results of what it has been latently working in the background, and relaxing the grip on reality allows you to more freely fit ideas together to come up with things that are new. The hallucinations can also be incredibly interesting, I sometimes find myself composing music in my head during this time, fully hearing it play out.

What people experience in this state tends to be highly idiosyncratic, but it is certainly worth exploring a bit. I personally tend to do this every night simply by remaining mindful while falling asleep, and then waking to write if I come across anything interesting. The balance can be a little tricky to get, you have to ‘watch’ but without exerting your conscious will, otherwise you will simply lie there completely awake. But, once you manage to do it, you may find yourself taken by strange visions, thoughts and sounds.

Once you become a bit more experienced with this, you may also find that you can actually enter sleep while still mindful, or to some degree ‘conscious.’ I have managed this a few times, and it is interesting to note that your auditory perception of your surroundings dies down and you become a lot more attuned to the workings of your body. However, it can be a little difficult to delineate this from a deep meditative state - though, both are worthwhile to experience!

You can also repeat something like Dali’s experiments by lying down in bed with your elbow on the bed, and your arm held straight up in the air perpendicular to the elbow. It can take a little time to become comfortable with this position, but once you can relax you will be able to experience the hypnagogic state and then you arm falling as you fall asleep will wake you when you actually drop off. You could also experiment with trying to do so in a seated position holding something in your hands ready to drop, but it can be quite difficult to sleep in this kind of position.

Resources

There is a huge body of work on the subject of lucid dreaming, given its increasing popularity, and it can be difficult to know what to spring for. Many books offer a relatively complete guide to the practice of lucid dreaming, and then usually some ideas about how one can utilise the lucid dream state - much like expanded versions of this guide. This is a pretty common trope, and actually this presents a bit of a problem - after having read one or two books which cover the main methodologies on lucid dreaming, you can find yourself reading entire books to learn only one or two new things.

Additionally, in searching for books which offer a novel approach or some new ideas, one can easily find oneself stepping into books which claim all sorts of funky stuff, which may not be what you’re into. Here I will offer short reviews for three books I found to be quite helpful for lucid dreaming, which each take different approaches and offer something different to the reader. All books include practical guides to actually lucid dreaming yourself, so it shouldn’t matter too much which you decide to read first - however I would recommend reading all of them, at some point!

Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming

This is the classic tome of lucid dreaming, and is still a common resource for anyone looking to get into it. It is one of the first modern books to acknowledge lucid dreaming, and it walks through some history of the practice up to that point, and continues with some experimental results which support the fact that lucid dreamers are actually conscious in their dreams, rather than just believing they are so (this was achieved by an experiment whereby people could communicate with waking watchers from within a lucid dream by means of pre-agreed eye movements). The book also provides a relatively thorough guide to attaining lucid dreaming, including keeping a dream journal and performing reality checks etc. The latter part also discusses some potential uses for lucid dreaming, including a guide on how to deal with nightmares, and on how to draw creative inspiration from the dreams. It is also interspersed with contributions of dream records from people around the world, which break the book up nicely, and provide additional ideas for things to try while dreaming.

This book is from the 70s, and was published when lucid dreaming was relatively new in terms of modern thought. As a result of this, some of the methods are a little dated. Rather, we have come up with some more efficient methods since the book was published. Regardless, I believe this book remains a staple for anyone interested in lucid dreaming, if not necessarily for the methodologies it describes but for its relatively scholarly approach to discussing lucid dreaming and surrounding phenomena.

Dreams of Awakening

Another interesting book on lucid dreaming, this book is written by a practitioner of Tibetan buddhism. It is built on the tradition of ‘dream yoga,’ which strives to utilise work with dreaming, both lucid and non, to bring us to a greater understanding of mental fabrications in waking life. You may notice that in this guide I have frequently mentioned terms like ‘mindfulness,’ and indeed mindfulness is a central practice for both lucid dreaming and buddhism.

Even if you aren’t into buddhism, this book offers a relatively fresh and interesting take on lucid dreaming, both in terms of the approach to reaching it, and ideas on what one should do in the lucid dream state. For this reason, it stands out in a large field of books which often repeat the same information.

A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming

In terms of actual information, this book doesn’t offer much more than many other books on lucid dreaming, particularly Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. For this reason, it might not be a wonderful book if you’re looking for a book which includes novel and interesting techniques or ideas for what to undertake in the dreams. However, where this book excels is in describing a very practical approach to reaching a lucid dreaming state, presented and organised in a very clear way. It is quite immersive, and encourages the user to engage in a lot of activities which should grant them success in a relatively short time.

As such, I feel this is a great book for someone who wants to ‘dive in’ to lucid dreaming, and wants to get started experiencing it for themselves as soon as possible.

To do

  • Sleep paralysis
  • dream actors
  • some other stuff