P1. My lucid dreaming definition is that if I become aware that I am dreaming during my dream, then it’s lucid. It’s a special feeling for me that, at the moment of realization, I always feel a distinct jolt: A sort of “aha” moment when everything becomes clear in a special kind of way.
The popular conception of lucid dreaming is that it’s a mind-blowing dream in which you can experience almost anything you can conceive of doing and when all your senses are constantly in a heightened state. But the reality, while being extraordinary, is somewhat less full of hyperbole. For example:
- People say that lucid dreams are more vivid and more real than their waking state. I find this is sometimes true but frequently not.
- It’s also said that lucid dreams are full of enjoyment, fun and excitement because you can fly and do all kinds of things. But for me, the same kind of landscapes appear in my lucid dreams that appear in my ordinary dreams; And scary and worrying things can occur too.
- It’s said you can control everything from actions to landscape, but this takes some practice and even then is not always the case.
- Finally, one’s memory of lucid dreams is supposed to be better, maybe because of the extra excitement and vividness, but again I am not so sure. I have woken remembering that I had a lucid dream but unable to remember the details of what happened. I suspect that we forget a lot of lucid dreams and that is why focusing on dream recall is so important.
The Lucidity Continuum Starts Here
My lucid dreaming definition given above leaves open the matter of how lucid is lucid. So long as I know I am lucid that is enough for me to categorize the dream as such. But there are many grades of lucidity that I would like to share with you here. Let’s start at the bottom and go up the scale…
Edge of Sleeping Imagery
As we go to sleep there is a point on the edge of sleeping where imagery, sounds, tastes etc can be experienced. These are also called “hypnagogic” images by some researchers. Here these images can take on many forms from flashing lights to partial dream images.
My most spectacular experience was watching pictures that looked like beautiful stained glass windows, full of color and light and also cartoon images. These started flipping from one to another until I had maybe 4 or 5 images a second skating through my mind. I had no control but it was an amazing light show that went on for several minutes and created an ecstatic state in me.
Edge of Waking Imagery
How many of us have had long dozing periods, in our teens especially, when we made up “movies” in our sleeping state. These do not meet my lucid dreaming definition because the dreamer is not really aware they are dreaming. However, they do behave rather as if they were lucid and they often have some element of apparent control, but it has a very different feel to it. It is just not lucid but a kind of day-dreaming while we are dozing.
Nothing much to say here other than it’s what most people experience many times each night in their sleep. Crazy stuff happens but it all seems normal to us and we have no specific thoughts that we are dreaming. It’s often a lot of fun but it just lacks the feel of lucidity that I am looking for.
However, on the positive side, sometimes we can spontaneously become lucid in normal dreams without even trying. Especially, if the dream is a nightmare or scary or very exciting or a even lot of fun, we are more likely to become lucid. But unfortunately, it is often such a shock, that we wake up almost immediately, because this is our escape route from the overwhelm of the dream.
Dreaming of Lucidity
If we read about lucid dreaming a lot, we can incorporate some of those ideas into our normal dreams, since normal dreams are often about things we have done in the last 24 hours. So in our dreams we can imagine we become lucid and can fly and jump out of windows and goodness knows what else, but this kind of dreaming does not meet my lucid dreaming definition.
Dreaming of being lucid is not being lucid in itself. It is simply wishful thinking and blatantly lacks that feel of authentic lucidity. To me it is often fun but is also a bit frustrating too because it misses the mark.
But again, being positive, the experience should be considered a stepping stone to success rather than something bad.
Perhaps you have just woken up and you remember that you were just dreaming. You may even recall that you were lucid in your dream and feel good about that. Then you continue to go about the things you are doing to get up and stuff. If you are lucky, you may perform a dream test like jumping into the air and flying. Only this time you can fly!
What has happened is that you have had a false awakening because you found yourself lying in bed. I suspect these incidents happen often, but we usually recognize we are dreaming afterwards and the dream just continues with the dreamer being oblivious to what happened.
The Testing State
Now we are starting to meet our lucid dreaming definition because if this happens in your dream, you are noticing that something is not right and that maybe you are really dreaming. But you are not sure and a quick test or two is required. The problem encountered here is that your mind is very creative and will put up all sorts of reasons why any of your lucid dreaming tests are invalid.
For example, you may have jumping into the air and flying as one of your tests for dreaming. But when you do your test jump you can’t fly! Or maybe you you might actually be flying already and you think that this is very odd and you might be dreaming. But then your mind says it cannot be because you are still awake, so you skip any further testing. Of course, unless you recognize you were dreaming at any point then you don’t meet the lucid dreaming definition of being aware inside your dream.
The Real Deal
Having spent some time here explaining how our minds trick us into not being lucid, it’s time to acknowledge how we can meet my lucid dreaming definition. But even then there are many degrees of lucidity and degrees of skill in handling that lucidity. Rather like when I wake up in the morning, I am rather groggy at first and not very clear in my thinking, compared to later in the day after a few coffees, I am much clearer in my thinking skills.
So many lucid dreamers spend a lot of time in a kind of semi-lucid state where they know they are dreaming all or some of the time but their minds are not as sharp as they might be. It does meet the lucid dreaming definition and it’s a very pleasant state but it can be improved by a bit of practice to achieve full lucidity.
In a fully lucid state, not only are you aware that you are dreaming but you are also aware that it is the important state you want to be in and stay in as long as possible When fully lucid you can see everything for what it is and are aware of all the options you have open to you. You may choose to control your dream or you may prefer to let it take it’s course. What is important is the feeling that you can choose what you want to do. It’s a truly wonderful state.
If you have a mystical or spiritual bent then being lucid is being in the moment, in the present, and it is full of opportunity and fun. That’s my lucid dreaming definition… choosing to have fun in your dreams.