Lucid dreams are those in which we are aware that we are dreaming-and in which we have the ability to control the outcome of the dream. Such dreams are rare for most people, but it is possible to teach oneself to dream lucidly. There are, however; mixed opinions about the value of lucid dreaming. Some argue that allowing our consciousness to enter the dream state and exert control over it can be a positive experience, while others consider lucid dreaming to go against the primary function of ordinary dreaming-the expression of the unconscious mind, free from interference.
Reports of what was later termed lucid dreaming have been documented for centuries in many different cultures. In some of the world's main religions, lucid dreaming has mystical associations. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, certain people are thought to have the ability to remain conscious while dreaming. Tibetan Buddhists believe that the very purpose of dreaming is to allow the conscious mind to influence and control the unconscious.
The term "lucid dreaming" was coined by a Dutch physician named William Van Eeden in 1913. He reported experiencing mental arousal and a high state of awareness during his dreams. In the Buddhist tradition, it is believed that people who are particularly adept in the art of meditation may experience all of their dreams as lucid.
The moment of realization
Lucid dreams are said to possess a unique quality: once experienced, they are usually remembered. The lucid part of the dream reflects the clarity of the dreamer's level of consciousness rather than the vividness of the dream. The dreamer becomes aware in the middle of such a dream that he or she is dreaming, the dream scenes can become more realistic as this realization occurs. A dreamer who can retain this state of consciousness may then be able to influence the events in the dream.
How to have a lucid dream
Some individuals report having had lucid dreams spontaneously, but for most people, some training is needed. In order to dream lucidly, you must first be able to remember your dreams. As you gain familiarity with dream symbols and with recurrent dream themes, it will become easier to recognize the point in your sleep cycle when dreaming is occurring.
You are more likely to experience a lucid dream when you have had a proper sleep. Relaxation techniques can help you prepare for lucid dreaming. It can also be useful to recite to yourself that when you dream in the night, you will dream lucidly and will be aware that you are experiencing a dream. Keeping a dream diary is another way to induce your mind to engage in lucid dreams. The records in your diary will help you to recognize familiar images and dream scenarios, so that when they recur, you may become consciously aware that your mind has entered the dream state.
Sports and media personalities are among those who report the value of practicing and reenacting events and presentations within the context of a visualization or a lucid dream.
When you sense that you are moving from a period of ordinary to lucid dreaming, it is important to relax. If you can manage not to focus on your conscious mind, but to let yourself "go with the flow," you are likely to be able to continue sleeping and dreaming as you desire. If you can remain in a lucid state, you may be able to reach a new level of consciousness. The more often this happens, the longer the lucidity will last, and the easier it should be to achieve this state on your next attempt.
Deep relaxation and visualization
Meditation, self-hypnosis, and auto-suggestion can all result in a state of consciousness similar to lucid dreaming. These techniques-which also assist in relaxation, and can thus help to bring about a full night's sleep-can help give you a sense of what lucid dreaming is like. They can be self-taught, but are more likely to be successful when learned with the help of a reputable practitioner.
If successful, these techniques will bring about a state of deep relaxation by focusing the mind on breathing; directing it to ignore the continuous interior flow of dialogue, thoughts, and images; and quietly repeating a certain phrase, or mantra. Once you have achieved a state of complete mental and physical calm, you can allow yourself to introduce controlled images into your mind.
These visualizations may consist of a special serene location that you visited in your waking life, or a fantasy place unique to you. Upon reaching this place, spend some imaginary time there relaxing. As with any relaxation technique, visualization does not come magically, and can require persistence to make it work. The more often you practice, however, the easier it will become to achieve this special level of consciousness.
You can also use the achievement of a state of deep relaxation to visualize a difficult situation at work, or in a relationship. Imagine yourself overcoming this challenge-and the outcome of the situation. As with lucid dreaming, this process can help you resolve difficulties in your waking life.
Are lucid dreams dangerous?
No danger or negativity has been reported as resulting from lucid dreaming. In fact, a lucid dream can seem less threatening than an ordinary dream, because you feel that you possess some control over it. If something frightening enters the dream, you can simply make it go away. Similarly, if a work colleague who is causing you problems appears, you can direct yourself to resolve the situation within the dream.
Lucid dreams have been used by sleep researchers in an attempt to establish how much time a dream actually occupies. Do dreams condense time, as is widely believed, or do dream events occupy a real time interval? A team of researchers at Stanford University, in California, asked lucid dreamers to carry out previously agreed eye movements to indicate their progression through a predetermined sequence of dream events, and concluded that dream time approximates to real time. Further, they found evidence that dreams may omit unnecessary periods of time that happened in our waking lives, but were not needed in our dreams.
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