Summary of Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen Laberge and Howard Reingold

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen Laberge and Howard Reingold

Do you often remember what you dream about? When we open our eyes every morning, it’s sometimes difficult to remember if we have had a dream or not. Imagine if we had the ability to not only remember our dreams but be consciously aware of when they happened. This is not the same as daydreaming as that is usually our imagination at play, but more the ability to be aware of the dream and experience it fully. 

Sound too good to be true? Lucid dreaming does exist. Not only can you achieve it with a bit of practice, but it can also be a benefit to you whilst you are awake. 

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • What it means to dream
  • The benefits of keeping a dream journal and what to do when you are awake to help your lucid dreaming
  • The two types of lucid dreams and how to achieve lucid dreaming 
  • The effects of lucid dreaming

Key lesson one: What it means to dream

When we are awake, the way we experience things is defined by our senses. Our senses silently communicate our surroundings to our brains which then processes this information and allows us to experience it fully. However, when we are asleep, there are very few senses in play. 

Our dreams are based on information that already exists in our brains. It is the information we collect whilst we are awake and stored in our brains that create our dreams. It may be memories, or things we are anxious about and even our desires. The same way in which it processes our senses when we are awake, it also does when we are asleep and dreaming. The only thing that is different is that whilst dreaming, there are no limiting factors. And, if there are no limiting factors, the possibilities are actually limitless!

Key lesson two: The benefits of keeping a dream journal and what to do when you are awake to help your lucid dreaming

In order to lucid dream, you need to start understanding how you dream and to understand that, you need to first remember them. The key to doing this is to keep a dream journal. Having a dream journal allows you to write down what dreams you remember every morning when you awake. The important thing is not to wait until later to write down what you remember because you will forget details later on. Therefore, keeping your dream journal beside your bed will encourage the habit to write in it as soon as you wake. Try to remember details of your dreams, the subject and how it made you feel.

Once you have done this for a few days, you can look through your dreams and try to identify your dream signs. These are signs in your dream that let you know that you are actually dreaming. It’s the point in the dream that you realize you are dreaming. These signs are the key to lucid dreaming because if you can better recognize them whilst dreaming, you become aware of your dream.

The next thing you can do to promote lucid dreaming is to consciously ask yourself if you are dreaming whilst you are awake. It seems like a weird thing to do during the day but research has proven that doing this multiple times during the day, makes it a habit which you will continue whilst you are asleep. It is called critical-reflective attitude and the more you do it during the day, the more likely is to be lucid whilst dreaming. However, sometimes we have dreams that are so realistic, it’s hard to identify if they are dreams. In these situations, you can use something called critical state testing. It takes a bit of getting used to, but you basically have to test your reality. Begin to ask questions that will allow you to determine if you are awake or in a dream. Look for items around you and make sure that they remain the same when you look away and look at them again, maybe even look for text. 

These techniques are the beginning of lucid dreams. To reinforce your efforts, as you go to sleep remind yourself that you intend to remember to recognize that you are dreaming. This is called the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams or MILD. The more you practice MILD the easier it will become to be lucid in your dream state. It will take time for these techniques to become habits and for these habits to start showing results. You just have to remain patient and not give up on your lucid dreams!

Key lesson three: The two types of lucid dreams and how to achieve lucid dreaming

There are two types of lucid dreams. They are called dream initiated lucid dreams or DILDs and wake initiated lucid dreams or WILDs. They both differ in the timing of becoming lucid in our dreams. When lucidity is achieved after you go to sleep and are unconscious, those are DILDs and when you keep your mind active so that you fall asleep without losing consciousness, those are WILDs. 

WILDs can be induced in various ways. You can try getting into a meditative state in which you focus on your breathing or heartbeat, or you can use hypnagogic imagery. Hypnagogia refers to the transitional stage between being awake and asleep and most people prefer using hypnagogic imagery to induce WILDs. In using hypnagogic imagery, your brain remains active as you fall asleep so that you do not lose consciousness. These images usually appear as patterns or flashes of light which begin to start forming shapes and faces. They continue to develop within our mind until dreams are formed. In order to practice this, you have to get into a routine of relaxation. Close your eyes, breathe slowly and mindfully whilst trying to eliminate any barriers to relaxation. You have to release any physical or mental tension that you are experiencing before you can begin to recognize the hypnagogic imagery. Begin by observing the images, don’t try to force them to take shape. Stay neutral and be passively drawn into a dream as it begins.

Once you begin to dream lucidly, the next step is to slowly start to take control of your dreams. This is no easy task as you may find yourself losing lucidity, waking up or just falling deeper into sleep but you have to keep trying. In order to stop yourself from waking up when you feel a dream slipping away, you need to practice engaging in some sort of activity within the dream. It is recommended to try stimulating your senses within the dream – touch something, look at an object or try changing the direction you are standing. If you continue to stay active in a dream, the longer you stay in the dream. To prevent yourself from going into a state of deeper unconscious sleep, you can try talking to yourself when in the dream. You can even try repeating “this is a dream”. This technique of dream affirmation was also suggested by author Scott G. Sparrow in his book about lucid dreaming as well. You must practice affirming your dream state to remain in a lucid dream and when you want to wake up you do the opposite. You take away the focus on your dream and bring it to an awakened state.

Key lesson four: The effects of lucid dreaming

So, all this talk about lucid dreaming but what does it actually achieve? Well, for starters, it’s great for your psychological health especially if you feel like your life is not balanced. Sometimes, when life gets hard we tend to repress our emotions in order to remain stoic and continue as normal. It would be too distracting or difficult if these emotions are allowed to surface. But, bottling your emotions could have a direct impact on your personality making you depressed, grumpy and antisocial.

 Lucid dreaming can help you avoid this by being an outlet for your repressed emotions. Psychiatrist Carl Jung says that the affected parts of our personality may appear in dreams as monsters, shadows or other creatures. If we are lucid in our dreams, we have the opportunity to accept these monsters and give way to a more healthy and balanced version of ourselves. To do this, you need to approach the monsters in your dream and talk to them as a friend, embrace them instead of running away from them or fearing them. In doing so, they will seem less threatening and you will benefit from this exercise when you are awake.

Lucid dreaming can also improve your skills if you practice mental imagery and mental rehearsal. If you use these techniques whilst lucid dreaming you can improve your performance at work and during your leisure activities. And, just like in real life, the more you practice, the better you get. Athletes are known to do this to improve their performance and chances of winning. 

You can also use lucid dreaming to encourage creative problem-solving. If there is a problem you need to solve in your daily life, you can attempt solving it creatively whilst dreaming. This area of lucid dreaming is still being researched but has been proven to have some benefits. For example, auto mechanic Alex had a car that he was working on that had a problem he could not solve. He turned to lucid dreaming to try and solve it. He did this by experimenting with different approaches to the problem in his dream. In doing so, he found the solution to the problem. 

Finally, we can’t talk about the benefits of lucid dreaming without talking about conquering our fears. Fear has a way of manifesting itself in our dreams ultimately turning them into nightmares. In fact, nightmares are usually a result of fears that you have not faced. If you want to overcome your fears, face them whilst you are dreaming. So instead of simply acknowledging the bad dream, rather acknowledge the fear behind the dream and do not run away from it. Let it play out to completion. In doing so, you are facing the fear in your dream and if it persists, you can experiment in how you react every time. You will eliminate your fear eventually and should you ever be faced with it in real life, it will no longer scare you. 

The key takeaway from Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming is:

Lucid dreaming allows one the opportunity to consciously explore and take control of our dreams. It is not an easy task and requires a lot of practice and patience to perfect. However, once you have mastered the art of lucid dreaming, you can tap into a whole new experience that will benefit you in your daily waking life. 

How can I implement the lessons learned in Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming:

Start by keeping a dream journal and do not skip your morning entries. By writing down your dreams as soon as you wake up, you will be able to get them down on paper before you forget what happened. By keeping a dream journal, you will be able to identify dream signals and maybe even identify your anxieties and fears that you need to work on. And, always remember, lucid dreaming takes practice, you must not quit!

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