P1. The commonly described benefits of lucid dreaming are for its entertainment value and sheer awesomeness: And these cannot be denied. But there are other more subtle benefits that are more important in the long run.
The Ages of Man
Let me take you back in time, in Europe at least, a few thousand years, to when the world religions became popular. At this time life was more about toil and survival than now, and for small tribal groups, religion provided the models of how to live life and how to get along with your neighbor. They also justified our ruthless actions against our enemies.
As time marched on, religions did not keep pace with new knowledge and deep questions arose about the old stories that religions continued to promote. Over time, this intellectual movement brought us to the age of reason, when science and intellect began to take an upper hand.
Time has again moved on and now we are seemingly at the height of this age when computers are on the verge of intelligence when information is democratized, and when people even talk about the possibility of uploading their minds into cyberspace.
Of course, there are also many people still follow the methods of the past. Superstition, religion, mysticism, and the like have never been lost, and in some groups are even more popular than ever. But still we have also come a long way forward.
Are We Happy?
Our technologies have moved quickly compared to the rate of evolution of our minds and bodies and I want to give a reminder of the benefits of lucid dreaming. The practice can also be used to get in touch with our innermost selves, can aid us in our desire to be more healthy and can enable us to explore our purpose in life.
We have moved from physical hunters, agriculturalists, craftsmen, laborers, and the like, into having more cerebral lifestyles. We point and click on our smartphones instead of sweat as we work. We have moved away from the physical and become almost exclusively mental.
But this has come at a cost. Our brains are just a rather recent, secondary organ of our bodies on an evolutionary timescale. For the first two billion years of life on this planet, life was single celled. Then multi-cell organisms evolved maybe a billion years ago and these then evolved into plants, trees, fish and animals more recently than that.
All this time, our cells and later bodies, worked away on their own, with no eyes to see how the world worked and only primitive brains to make sense of things. It is only very recently, in the past couple of million years, that our human species started using tools and thinking intellectually with our brains. Our bodies still function in the old ways and only the top parts of our brains have started to rule our actions based on the trick of consciousness.
So there is a huge mismatch between how we live now and what we are adapted for in evolutionary terms. It is no wonder that we face inconsistencies in our outlooks and ambiguities in how to live our lives. Even the concept of being happy is relatively new since survival and procreation were previously the order of the day.
But look around and see if you are fulfilled by life as it is. Google and Wikipedia now present to us almost all the information we use in simple one-page summaries. TED talks give us 15-minute snapshots of ideas but remain of fleeting entertainment value. Facebook gives us pictures of what our friends are up to encapsulated in bite-sized chunks. It’s no wonder that we have a feeling of unfulfillment and emptiness because it’s all just too cerebral, it flits from one topic to another, and it’s nothing at all to do with who we really are as biological beings.
There are indications that not everyone has lost sight of the human condition. There are reports of many people taking up mindfulness training. This is the state of paying attention to the present moment. It could also be called simply being conscious or aware or even awake, in my view.
Fifty years ago artists used drugs, like LSD, to open their minds to new experiences. Musicians got into meditation and other types of drugs to experience similar kinds of things. Music festivals took off and young people explored sex, drugs and rock and roll.
We now live with New Age culture as being mainstream. But we are still pursuing mind-games rather than whole lives. The piece that is missing or, at least, needs re-balancing against this brain culture is our biological body, our collective unconscious, our intuition, our mystical experiences, our compassion.
One of the most available means we have to access these parts of ourselves is through dreaming and specifically through bringing our conscious minds to dreaming, by becoming lucid.
The benefits of lucid dreaming are to bring ourselves back into conscious touch with our bodies for the purpose of becoming happier, more balanced and more fulfilled human beings, as well as to have great fun.
In case you want the above more succinctly, what I am saying is we all need to tap into the benefits of lucid dreaming to realize our full potential as complete human beings that use our intuition and imagination as well as logical faculties.