Why is lucid dreaming so hard? These magical dreams – when you know that you’re dreaming while you’re dreaming – are frustratingly illusive. For many people it almost feels like a bait-and-switch: so much is promised, so little delivered. Lucid dreaming and its cousin dream yoga (which uses lucidity for spiritual practice), truly represent the pedagogy, or education, of the future.
But it’s often harder to get into this institute of higher learning than it is getting into Harvard.
There Are Many Reasons Lucid Dreaming is Difficult
One of the biggest reasons is that we’re working with subtle levels of consciousness in the dream world, dimensions of mind that are really “quiet.”
Yet we spend most of our lives in a very noisy world, swept away in “loud” levels of mind. When we drop into sleep, it’s like going from a raucous rock concert, with ears ringing from the aural onslaught, into the silence of a deep underwater dive.
You miss out on all the subtle sounds because your ears are still buzzing.
The Role of Meditation
One of the secrets to success in lucid dreaming is to become familiar with these silent levels of mind during the day. We can do that by literally practicing silence — by engaging in daily meditation.
Many studies have shown that meditators have more lucid dreams. To me it makes total sense: how can you meet and recognize in the darkness of the night something you haven’t met in the full light of day? You’ll “walk right past it” in the dark, and remain lost in non-lucid dreams. You’ll continue to not recognize these subtle dreaming states.
So what meditation does, and it’s one of many reasons I consider it a “super technique” for lucidity, is introduce you to these subtle states of mind during the day. You basically learn to shut up and listen, or if you like yet another metaphor, to close your eyes and see. In other words, close your outer eyes so you can open your inner ones.
Either way, what daily meditation does is match the subtlety of the mind that is revealed in sleep and dream.
What the poet Kabir said of death also applies to dream: “What is found now is found then.” Or, for most of us, “What is not found now is not found then.” Locate it now in your daily practice and you will locate it then.
Diurnal Affects Nocturnal – The Day Affects The Night
What you do during the day has a monumental impact on how you sleep and dream. The diurnal affects the nocturnal. Whether you know it or not, your daily states of mind profoundly color your nightly experience.
We know this to some extent when we go to sleep all stressed out. We tend to have stressed out dreams. In the world of dream yoga, daily practice is fully engaged to change the way we sleep and dream.
Once again, this is why even meditators who don’t overtly engage in dream yoga just naturally have more lucid dreams. They are covertly practicing lucidity with their daily meditations. Because they’re spending so much time meeting subtle states of mind during the day, and becoming increasingly familiar with those states, it’s natural to meet and recognize those subtle states at night.
Meditation in Tibetan is Gom: To Become Familiar With
Meditation introduces you to, and allows you to become familiar with, a host of things you haven’t met or seen before. Things that are usually lost in the noise, the busyness, the constant distractions of daily life. Meditation also reveals how overly familiar we are to gross states, and how those loud levels drown out the subtle and quiet levels.
So, on one hand we’re not familiar enough with subtle states; on the other hand we’re too familiar with gross states. We’re so excessively familiar with coarse states, in fact, that we think that’s all there is. For the untrained or non-meditative mind, waking consciousness is it.
There may be altered states of waking consciousness, like with drugs or alcohol, but for most people there is no other form of consciousness.
Being conscious in your dreams, or in dreamless sleep? Are you kidding me? But as meditators over the ages continue to experience and proclaim: you can be fully conscious in sleep and dream – no kidding.
Stretching Awareness into the Sleeping and Dreaming States
Another way to look at this is via the theme of yoga itself. In other words, the “yoga” in dream yoga refers (on one level) to “stretching” your mind into previously inaccessible domains. The point is that we begin this stretch during the day with our meditation, and simply continue the momentum of the stretch as we fall asleep.
Bottom line: use the practice of lucidity during the day – meditation — to naturally bring about lucidity at night.
Some guidelines on learning to meditate.
To learn more about dream yoga, check out my book, “Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep”
Top Photo: Shutterstock, TierneyMJ
Other Photos: Getty Images, Bruce Rolff, Shmijvo