To most people, dancing on the surface of the moon, or instantaneously travelling across continents may seem like pure fiction. But to those who have learned to change and control their mental landscape, these and other seemingly outrageous feats may be described as commonplace. Lucid dreaming, or dream consciousness, is the act of acquiring and maintaining alert mental awareness within the dream state. This lucid state allows the dreamer to control and actively participate in their mental imagery, and often leads to an expansion of one’s self-awareness in everyday life.
From intense meditation to simple practiced routine, attaining lucidity occurs differently depending on the person. Dreams often end with an event which defies logic, such as a sudden realization of one’s ability to breathe underwater. Numbers may morph and melt on the face of a clock. During such an event, a dreamer’s reaction may be to recognize that such phenomena could only occur within the realm of the mind. In this moment, the direction and events of the mindscape are at the hands of the dreamer. This instant, however brief, is lucidity in its rawest form. This sudden realization of power often leads to the urge to escape the unreality of the situation by awakening. The ability to recognize such paradoxes, as well as a healthy dream recall, are the key to maintaining awareness without a premature return to waking life.
The average person may have three to five dreams in a single night, although the memories of these experiences are often lost. Keeping and reviewing a daily journal of the dreams of nights past
is the easiest way to cultivate dream recall, and helps to develop an eye for reoccurring symbols in the dream world. With these in hand, recognition of the dream world comes easily, and awareness is maintained without ending the experience.
While dream consciousness has only recently gained credibility within the scientific community, references to lucid dreaming can be found in Hindu texts from as early as 1000 BCE. Philosophers have used the inner exploration of the dream world to help shape their views of the universe, as shown in Aristotle’s text On Dreams, published circa 350 BC and Descartes’ Olympica in the early 1600s. Not until the late 20th century did lucid dreaming receive concrete scientific support. During the late 1970s, Alan Worsley, a volunteer for a clinical sleep study, signaled researchers with predetermined eye movement patterns during the dream stage of sleep, proving that he had become lucid.
People who have developed a keen control of their dreams, called oneironauts, often report complete, omniscient control of their dreamscape. These modern explorers of the psyche tell stories of flying through the sky at will, altering the weather, and living out full-blown epic adventures. The constant practice of dreaming consciously also seems to have some positive effects on waking life. For example, sufferers of recurring nightmares, once able to realize lucidity, may cast off their malevolent dream beings, replacing them with a beautiful landscape of flowers and waterfalls. Avid dreamers also report an increase in creativity in every day life. The ability to literally create the world before one’s own eyes, to shape it, to play a part in its events, or even to destroy it displays the immense and mysterious power of the subconscious human mind.