Have you ever had the experience of waking up inside a dream where you’re still asleep but you suddenly realize that you are actually dreaming?
That’s called lucid dreaming. It can sometimes occur briefly during the transitional stage between sleep and wakefulness that can sometimes happen when taking an afternoon nap or sleeping in past your alarm.
But it can also happen during ordinary sleep. With practice, you can lucid dream regularly and learn how to control your dream state to explore your subconscious, which can help improve your self-awareness and boost your creativity.
If you’re curious how lucid dreaming can help you with your personal development, here’s a short video about how the lucid dream state has inspired extraordinary people throughout history.
If this sounds like something that’s interesting to you, here’s how to start experimenting with lucid dreaming tonight:
1. Start with a form of mental training called reality checking.
Reality checking is a form of mental training that increases your metacognition by training your mind to notice your field of awareness.
According to Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, your level of metacognition is similar in your waking and dreaming states. This means that actively cultivating higher metacognition when you’re awake could lead to higher metacognition when you’re dreaming.
To practice reality checking, it only takes a minute:
- Ask yourself, “Am I dreaming?”
- Check your environment to confirm whether or not you are dreaming.
- Notice your full field of awareness and pay close attention to how you’re engaging (seeing and feeling) with your surroundings for 30 seconds.
Do this 3-5 times a day and you’ll start to program your subconscious mind to remind you to wake up at that crucial time in the dream state.
2. It also helps to use a mantra to program your subconscious mind.
To program your subconscious mind even further, you should also repeatedly remind yourself with a short affirmation that confirms your intention to have a lucid dream.
Since flying tends to be a good trigger when you’re in the dream state it can be helpful to set an intention that tonight when you are dreaming you will fly like a bird. I find it helpful to set this intention right after I have done my 1-minute reality checks.
Here’s a mantra to try: Tonight when I am dreaming I will wake up and fly like a bird.
If that’s too long for you, you can shorten it to just repeating: tonight I will fly like a bird.
3. Try mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD).
The Godfather of lucid dream research is Stephen LaBerge and he created a technique called Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD). It was one of the first methods that he tested in the early 1980s in his scientific research into lucid dreams induction.
You can use MILD just before you fall asleep to make the intention to remember that you’re dreaming. Here’s how mnemonic induction of lucid dreams works:
- As you fall asleep, think of a recent dream you had.
- Identify a “dreamsign,” or something that’s irregular or strange in the dream. An example is the ability to fly or a mirror, clock or physical object that doesn’t look normal.
- Think about returning to your dream. Acknowledge that this dreamsign only happens when you dream.
- Repeat to yourself, “The next time I dream, I want to remember that I am dreaming.” Recite the phrase in your head or just use your mantra: tonight when I am dreaming I will wake up and fly like a bird.
You can also practice MILD after waking up in the middle of your dream. This is usually a good idea, as the dream will be fresher in your mind.
4. Practice meditation when you wake up and before you go to sleep.
I have found that high levels of stress and anxiety, as well as powerful stimulants like coffee taken later in the day, can make it much harder to wake up in your dreams.
The best way to reduce your stress levels and identification with your thoughts is through the practice of meditation. Another bonus of practicing meditation is when you learn to induce meditative states of increased alpha waves, you can use your mantra in this deeply relaxed state to program your subconscious more effectively.
Typically, if you have released tension from your body, it takes about 10-15 minutes to enter an alpha brainwave state. You can recognize that you are in an alpha state when your body relaxes and your thoughts noticeably quiet down.
When you’re in a meditative state, it is also an ideal time to spend a few minutes repeating your mantra and visualizing how you’re going to fly in your next lucid dream.
5. Take medicinal herbs that enhance your dream state.
For thousands of years, people have been going to witches, shamans and medicine men for help exploring their dreams.
The often prescribed medicinal herbs have long been shown as effective at helping people both fall asleep and wake up in their dreams so we can gain a better understanding of our dreams.
Today, we may not have a shaman on speedial but we do have the Internet where you can order just about any herb and access thousands of years of herbal knowledge from many different cultures.
Here are the best herbs for enhancing your dream state:
Warning: All 3 of medicinal herbs are mild and legal nearly everywhere but please do your own research and talk to your doctor if you have a medical condition.
Calea Zacatechichi is considered the “Dream Herb” because of its proven efficiency in boosting regular dreams and dream recall. IT originated in the culture of the Zoque Popoluca people in Mexico.
Mugwort has been used in European herbalism for thousands of years to enhance the dream state and induce lucid dreaming states. Celtic Druids would use it to seek divination from the spirit world. Should be avoided if pregnant.
3. Blue Lotus
Blue Lotus was used in religious ceremonies in ancient Egypt. It can be effective at enhancing the dream states and inducing states of calming euphoria that make it easier to fall asleep (it works great as a sleep aid if you have insomnia).
Many biohackers report that cognitive-enhancing herbs and nootropics like Huperzine-A, 5-HTP, Ginkgo Biloba and Galantamine are also effective at improving dream recall, which is helpful for improving your chances of lucid dreaming.
6. When you wake up, relax in bed and contemplate your dreams.
It’s best to lie quietly in bed and try to remember your dreams. The longer you try, the more you will remember your dreams. Try to spend at least 5 minutes each morning contemplating your dreams and your dream recall will improve significantly in a week.
It also really helps to make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night. The longer you sleep the more vivid dreams tend to become, and the better the chances that you will remember your dreams.
You can also improve your likelihood of achieving a lucid dream state by allowing yourself to sleep as late as possible some mornings or take short afternoon naps where you may find it easier to notice that you’re dreaming.
One of my favorite tools for inducing lucid dreams is taking short naps in the afternoon where I listen to binaural beats that do brainwave entrainment for both the theta and delta states of consciousness (refer to my binaural beats for lucid dreaming guide).
Try these binaural beats out for yourself, they can work wonders for some people.
7. Keep a dream journal by writing down your dreams each morning.
After sitting in bed contemplating your dreams get up and write as many of your dreams as possible in a dream journal. If you’re only remembering fragments then just put them down in point form and afterward try to write out your dreams in narrative form.
Generally, you will only remember your last dream before you wake up but with practice, you can remember up to 4 or 5 dreams a night. It is also a good idea to remind yourself of your intentions and get yourself into the spirit of your dreams by reading through your dream journal at bedtime (you will notice many recurring dreams themes and archetypes if you pay attention).
Do This Consistently And You Will Lucid Dream
From my experience teaching lucid dreaming in my Flow Experience Design training, most of my students who do this consistently achieve a lucid dream in a week or two (but only the ones who stick with the process).
If you’re struggling with dream recall, keep in mind that getting plenty of sleep is the first step to good dream recall (more than the average person). Your first dream of the night is typically the shortest, perhaps only 10 minutes in length, while after 8 hours of sleep, your dream periods can stretch up to 60 minutes.
We all dream every night, about one dream period every 90 minutes. People who say they never dream simply never remember their dreams. It is generally accepted among sleep researchers that dreams are usually not recalled unless the sleeper awakens directly from the dream, rather than after going on to other stages of sleep.
Follow these simple steps you will likely have your first lucid dream experience within a week. From there, you can start to hone the habit of lucid dreaming over time.
Trust me, it’s worth this effect because it is such a powerful experience and a potentially life-changing tool for personal development.