Lucid Dreaming and the World Within Your Mind

By on March 29, 2013 // Parallel Universes // 22 Comments

Lucid Dreams
Image: Macnolete via CC By 2.0

lu·cidAdjective – characterized by clear perception or understanding; rational or sane: a lucid moment in his madness.

A lucid dream is defined simply as “a dream in which you know you are dreaming.” In my experience, however, it goes much deeper than that.

For me, a lucid dream is like falling through an open window into another world. Just for a moment, like being inside of an oil painting or swimming underwater.

One moment, you’re laying in your bed, the next you’re walking down a familiar sidewalk at night, and you can smell the warm air and hear your footsteps and look around and know that what you’re seeing is just as real as anything else.

But it’s always difficult to move in that dream world. As I said, it feels like being underwater. And then, after a short time, either the lucid dream bleeds into a real one and I lose consciousness, or I wake up.

I’ve only done this a handful of times, and it’s ridiculously difficult to hold onto consciousness while in this state. Perhaps that’s why things feel “slow.”

Anyway, this is referred to as a Wake Induced Lucid Dream: when you “fall” directly into a lucid dream as you fall asleep, entering a hypnagogic state, minus the sleep paralysis (I’ve never suffered sleep paralysis).

The Science Behind Lucid Dreaming

Which, I’ll admit, makes me wonder if what I’ve done is actually lucid dreaming or something else entirely.

Heh.

That’s the thing about my dreams in general: I never do anything I can’t in real life, never see anything fantastic. I never fly. My dreams are grounded in a disappointing way.

At any rate, Wikipedia contains a decent summary of the (potential) Neurobiological underpinnings of a lucid dream experience. “The first step to lucid dreaming is recognizing one is dreaming,” it states, “This recognition might occur in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is one of the few areas deactivated during REM sleep and where working memory occurs.”

After that, it’s a tightrope walk of allowing the dream to continue, but remaining “conscious enough to remember that it is a dream.”

Normal dreams typically occur during REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). This is when your eyes move in quick, rapid flicks, and your brain activity is high enough to mimic the awake state. These dreams often occur multiple times during sleep, making up about two hours of an eight-hour sleep cycle. Usually, the dreamer is not aware that he or she is dreaming.

A lucid dream, on the other hand, occurs when the dreamer becomes consciously aware that he or she is dreaming. This can happen for a variety of reasons, which we’ll look at in a moment. Just remember: the dream state is very nearly identical to the awake state, in regards to brain activity.

How To Induce A Lucid Dream

The usual induction of a lucid dream appears to involve a series of “checks,” almost like Cobb’s spinning top in the movie Inception.

Counting fingers, checking the time. The key is to perform these checks throughout the day in your waking life, so when you perform them in a dream state and things are “off,” you’ll know you’re dreaming. This is sometimes referred to as “reality testing” or “reality checks.”

The other key is to keep a journal of your nightly dreamscapes, so you’ll begin to distinguish your reality from your dreams. Grab a notebook, and as soon as you awake, you write down everything you dreamed about during the night.

Finally, there are Mnemonically Induced Lucid Dreams, in which the dreamer, as he or she falls asleep, thinks about a recent dream and consistently tells him/herself that what’s coming will just be a dream. It’s all about reinforcing the idea that it’s all illusory and you can control it.

I imagine that, through practice of the above methods, you should be able to experience a lucid dream if you haven’t already. Some people don’t appear to have any trouble with it at all.

In My Other World

I have a slight problem with the above methods, though. Like I said, nothing out of the ordinary ever seems to happen in my dreams, so I’m not sure reality checks would do any good. Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming it is, then, even though I can’t control them very well.

However, the simple fact that lucid dreaming is possible makes me wonder about the reality of things. If a dream can feel just as real as the “real world,” could it be possible that the “real world” is, itself, imaginary? Or could our dreams be just as real as our waking life?

Possibly, as the odds you’re dreaming at any given moment are 1 in 10. Well, maybe.

Naturally, our brains must showcase some consistency for our conscious minds to make sense of the world; there can only be one “true” world. From our personal, individual perspectives, anyway.

But when you can simply close your eyes and “awake” inside your own mind, in a place that feels just as tangible as this one…well, like I said, it makes you wonder.

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About the Author

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. He manages Stranger Dimensions in between changing aquarium filters and reading bad novels about mermaids.
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  • Linda

    I love your lucid dreaming bit here. My dreams are often lucid dreams, in fact, most of the time they are. I think I MAY have figured things out about dreams. My dreams are very vivid. I see color, smell, taste and feel pain in my dreams.

    Most of my dreams are very mundane. They are about everyday things, like work, or being home. There are times in my life where I’ve had reoccurring themes in my dreams. I have died in my dreams, and when that happens, I have never dreamed of that specific “World” again.

    When I lucid dream, I will sometimes tell myself, “I need to remember this when I wake up, its a good idea for work.” I have also, many times, said, in a dream “I’ve been here before, I know this place from another dream.”

    Ok, here is my theory of dreams: When we are dreaming, we are getting a glimpse into another world we inhabit. (The multiverse theory). When I’ve had “Fantastic” things happen in my dream, like fish floating around me, I realize I’m actually watching a large fish tank. I have watched movies in my dreams, so what seems like something which can’t happen in real life, isn’t happening in the dream. I’m actually seeing what is on a movie or TV screen.

    I’ve remembered my dreams since I was as young as 5, and even recall dreams from back in my youth. I am now 59. Sometimes, during a waking state, I’ll have a thought of a dream I’ve had, it will seem so real.

    I’ve had 2 sleep studies and both show that most of my sleep time is in REM, so I’m dreaming almost all night long. When I do get into a deep sleep, my right leg jerks, waking me long enough to put me back into an REM state. This explains why I’m tired all day.

    On sleep paralyses: I suffer from that, for years. Its very frightening. You are fortunate you don’t have that.

    • Rob Schwarz

      Funny you should mention other worlds (real other worlds, as you say), because that’s exactly what I was alluding to when I wrote “something else entirely.”

      I also feel pain in my dreams, and emotion, and all the normal senses. Even if I’m not lucid dreaming, it’s all very, very vivid. I’ve had some emotionally intense dreams (anger, fear, whatever), too, and waking up during one of those always leaves me thinking, “Well, what was THAT all about?” because I can actually feel the emotion fade almost instantly. Whatever I was feeling was real, at least.

      What you say about reoccurring buildings and places (that I have never actually been to in “reality”) — I experience the same thing. I’ve also died in dreams, several times. One time I was in a submersible. Not fun.

      Anyway, thanks for your comment and ideas. I write about a lot of weird stuff here, most of it just for entertainment, but dreams and dreaming fall under one of those categories that I actually take seriously. Something is happening there, and even the “ordinary” explanations are fascinating.

    • Nathaly Y Escalante

      i feel emotions in my dreams too. if i cry in my dream i wake up and my face is wet from really crying. I think this phenomenon is a little scary because we have no definite answer

    • Alejandra Lima

      God!!! it all happens to me too, also the dreams memories from a past dream. And yes, sleep paralyses is frightening. When I was a child I thought there was a problem with me, and was afraid of being paralitic some day in the future, as if it were an evolving disease. It wasn’t untill many years later, with all this internet thing, that I knew about Lucid Dreaming because I was trying to find out what was wrong with me. When I’m starting to get the sleep paralysis, even when I know I’m about to lucid dream and everything will be ok, I order myself in my starting dream to make a big effort to move my body and wake up. It usually happens when I’m laying facing to the roof. I love to do things in my dreams that would be impossible to do in real life (flying, becoming invisible, hearing people’s thoughts…)

    • Nathaly Y Escalante

      Ive had repeated dreams that Ive had many years ago and I remember being there too. I try to warn people about what will happen and no one believe me. So I prove them wrong. And since I know I am dreaming I like to have fun with it. I begin to have super powers liek telekanesis (however you spell that) and I can fly. I find dreams to be so intersting and deja vu and alre vu as well. I do believe there is more here than we can even begin to understand. And sometimes I don’t want to.

  • This reality is a Lucid dream my friend. Quantum Physics has already demonstrated said that Materialism is an illusion. So is Space and Time.. Meaning that Past and future are illusions. Only NOW exists. We ourselves are creating reality through thoughts. Extraordinary things can exist. How do they exist? When you strongly believe in something and make others believe. For this reason itself, the whole universe exists. Information/Knowledge is the cause for everything materialistic. Now then, if you could change your brain’s chemistry and reinforce something again and again.. *Cough Cough* (I’ve already broken the barrier for illnesses and what not.) Thoughts, subconscious beliefs etc are more powerful. Atoms are infinite, soul is infinite, which means our physical being is infinite aswell. It’s all about reprogramming the brain. Logic takes you nowhere, imagination takes you everywhere. Chi energy is real. So is levitation. So is Clairvoyance. Thoughts are powerful. Consciousness is infinite. WE ARE ONE Infinite consciousness/energy experiencing itself subjectively as human beings. Now tell me what’s not possible? P.S I have experienced flying lucid dreams and Astral Projection aswell. We’re all gods. It’s all about believing, percieving and reinforcing subjective into objective. I mean thats how money came into being, right? By the way, I’ve seen myself in a mirror in one of my dreams. And hey, i did manage to see the whole Man Of Steel movie in my dreams last night. I do not kid, i’m a god now 😀 :). Much love to you and your amazing website.

    • clingtosearch

      Very interesting. Actually there is an icelandic scientist and researcher, dr. Helgi Pjeturss, who created his own theory about dreams, and how they are “Keys to the Cosmos”, like one of his follower, wrote a book about, and had that exact title. The theory is that there is always a “Dreamgiver” on another planet, and we are always “Dreamreceivers” during sleep, but in a waking state we might be “Dreamgivers” to other sleeping in the universe. Truly amazing theory! With this theory he tried to speculate and even proof that life existed in the universe on many other planets, not only on ours little one, he was one of the first to try to explain in a scientific way what science fiction was about, even religion. Rob Schwarz is telling about his dreams about places where he has never been to, sounds like what the Dreamgiver is sending him, and Linda speaks about many worlds in her dreams and dying in her dreams, thus not herself but the dreamgivers of hers. Mayank is right about Quantum Physics beeing the future, but the theory I’m talking about here explains how the real, higher materialism explains and is included in mysticism, the science will explain it all eventually.

  • Adam Cleaver

    I like your website, but thought I’d mention the fact that you use “begs the question” incorrectly. It does not mean nor is it synonymous with “raises the question.” You seem to be pretty clever about using the Internet and whatnot, so I’m sure if you just google the term you will soon be on your way to understanding what “begs the question” actually means. As a writer you should understand what it means and use it correctly. Thanks for the coolio website.

    • Rob

      Thanks for the correction. Fixed.

  • yolanda

    Hello, I came upon a very interesting twist to lucid dreaming, it involves going to sleep with your eyes slightly open. The immediate effect is that you know that you are dreaming and from that point can have any lucid dream you desire without it really taking any special effort, unlike normal lucid dream states.

  • ASL

    I highly recommend those into lucid dreaming to check their vitamin B complex – if deficient, hard to lucid dream. Secondly, get neurofeedback training. This has dramatically improved my lucid dreaming skills, dream recall skill, and ability to stay inside a dream longer and viividly — Zagar.com provided a program called Optineural.
    Best wishes!

  • Liv

    I had a brief moment of lucidity in my dream. Suddenly the street around me looked real, the stones road, the sidewalk. I remember I was surprised, it felt like I was in the real world. I even touched the outside wall of a building to feel its texture. Then the lucidity slipped away.

    • Rob

      That’s just how it is for me. It comes on so suddenly, and I get excited about exploring that world, but then it fades.

  • Liv

    The lucidity came when I walked into that particular street, and slipped away when I left to another street. But it felt so extremelly real, like being in another dimension.

  • Mikeuc883

    I would just love my dreams to stop . everyone seems to want and like these lucid dreams(I don’t think mine are lucid) but the feeling or emotion I get from my dreams stay strong for a few days at a time and feel somewhat a drain on me . I’ve had 3 really strong dreams in a row they all seem to be connected in the same ‘dream world’ if you like. But the feeling from the first dream is still present and its intensified by the 2nd and 3rd dream . but the 3rd dream was split into 2 parts where I woke for a while fell back to sleep and the dream carried on which made it even more intense. Everything is always slightly different from the real world as if at some point I did something different in the ‘dream world’ thus creating a different sequence of events. its very hard to explain without having a clear understanding of what’s happening but I believe I m dreaming an alternate version of reality . maybe its on a bigger scale where something has happened in the real world which is causing this dream effect but I’m telling you now what happened in my dreams really happened it feels like memories instead of dreams. Do people experience the same or am I just explaining how everyone dreams I don’t know but its getting to me and always has done

  • Cynthia Noriega

    Last night I had a dream that me and everyone else in the world were standing outside looking at the sky,
    We all saw an asteroid coming for earth.
    It seemed far but before we knew it there was a sphere so large right in front of us. (The asteroid)
    Out of no where Gravity was lost… And everyone fell backwards..
    I felt like I was vibrating and colliding with the universe. If that makes sense??
    I don’t always lucid dream. But when I do, it’s pretty great.

  • TitorTales

    I can relate to the part on being conscious while dreaming.
    Can it be me entering my body in a parallel world influencing my actions?

  • Vassago Gamori

    All needlefeast frenzy on the floating brothel drifting through temporal folds, agents of the seen and unseen spectrum playing the old familiar games of pleasure and power; there were no walls between are and seem, and things from otherspheres did as they would do without consequence of the shockwaves sent through time for those who warp the Now Continuum…

  • Charlie

    In my dream ,I was at a convenience store on a familiar street. I looked outside and stores were in different locations and the newspapers were completely different. The cashier asked, If everything was okay. I said everything is different but the same. She looked at me and said , Not again. She said , Leave now! They know ! I walked outside and two lights were hovering above me . Men in white suits were approaching me and yelling, “Don’t move.” I ran back into the store and opened a door in the back and woke up.

  • Charlie

    Another dream is where I’m being followed by a black car. There is this rock quarry and I drive in and park . I start to run as these men begin to chase me. I’m running and I have nowhere to go and suddenly, I back into a wall. I turn around and it’s the sky, trees ( scenery). There is no wall there but I can feel it. I push really hard and slip through and I’m in a different place. There is this lake and a couple of people fishing. They are stunned by the fact that I appeared out of thin air. I yell, ” Run” and at that moment the men in black suits appear and shoot the female and then I wake up

  • Charlie

    Ill post more dreams ,If anyone finds them interesting. I write every dream down have some really interesting dreams.

  • Todd Zmijewski

    One of the major differences I have experienced between wake induced lucid dreams and normal lucid dreams is that in normal lucid dreams you seem to be looking at yourself not necessarily restricts to human boundaries. In wake induced lucid dreams the opposite is true. It is like you are experiencing everything and severally restricted by human boundaries. Any attempt to go beyond that in a waked induced lucid dream will typically result in waking up shortly after. Also any attempt in wake induced state to make sense of what is happening will wake you up.