When we go to bed at night, there are two things we're hopeful for: we get a good night's sleep and maybe we have a dream to put us in a good mood to start the day. Unfortunately, neither of those things seem to happen often enough as sleep is sometimes hard to come by and you can't ever seem to remember dreaming.
In reality, the average person has several dreams per night, each lasting five to 20 minutes. Ninety-five percent of these dreams are lost upon waking up. For whatever reason, the dreams you usually do remember involve making a presentation in your underpants or the test you didn't study for; never about saving the world from sure doom. Funny how that works.
What if there was a way to actually control those dreams to recreate your own fantasies? That would sure make the experience of being in your underwear back in high school much better. There is, and the phenomena is known as lucid dreaming.
What is lucid dreaming?
In normal dreams, the environment, characters, themes, symbols and plot are all driven by your subconscious mind, which communicates through experiential memory and conceptual form. Lucid dreaming is recognizing you're in a subconscious state or being aware you're in a dream while you're dreaming. This awareness ranges from very faint recognition (a "pinch me" type moment) to being fully aware you aren't in reality. Full realization of your state allows for full manipulation of your dreams. All of those bad situations you've been placed in during your dreams become a thing of the past as you take back a bit of control.
While this is an amazing idea in theory, the question becomes . . .
How do I begin lucid dreaming?
There are many competing theories as the best way to engage in lucid dreaming. These are the most basic steps to begin lucid dreaming.
Recall your dreams.
In order to recall your lucid dreams and gain greater control, it's important you're first able to recall your dreams. Once you wake up, recall what exactly what you dreamt about. Some find it helpful to keep a dream diary to help you make associations.
Discover signs you're dreaming.
After two to three weeks of recalling your dreams, begin to look for signs to associate with a dream. These can be as simple as your dog's hair color being different or you're always in the same location at some point during the dream. These are known as target dream signs and help you associate your mind to a lack of reality.
Recognize your dream sign.
The hardest part of lucid dreaming is recognizing your dream sign while in a dream. The easiest method to do this is before you go to bed, say to yourself, "The next time, when I encounter my target dream sign again, I'll remember to know I'm dreaming."
Once you've mastered the art of lucid dreaming, you become the master of your own domain. There are many dream controlling techniques you can use to help control your abilities, but they're not necessary.
Dangers of Lucid Dreaming
The ability to ride a flying tiger around New York stopping those evil aliens may seem like a great idea and it most certainly is. However, it's important to remember what you dream isn't reality. You're probably thinking this is an obvious point, but sadly, there are parallels. Many drug abusers escape to another world when they're high, not wanting to deal with reality. The same could be said with massively multiplayer online role-playing (MMORPG) games. Players will be on the game for days straight, losing grasp of life just to level up their character. There have been cases where lucid dreaming has essentially evolved into an obsession where a person loses control of the material world. These are drastic cases, but it does happen.
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