Did you know: There is a specific Tibetan Dream Yoga exercises that is the very best lucid dream meditation technique. It is one of the rarer yogic meditation techniques. But you might like to try it tonight. (I’ve also include a guided meditation for lucid dreams for those of you who prefer an easier option, but beat in mind that research shows apps are not as effective as traditional meditation).
Many people who meditate have lucid dreams. This is because meditation makes you more conscious, and that consciousness continues when you sleep. Lucid dreaming is the ability to be aware that you are sleeping, and to then control your dreams.
Some people are born with the ability to lucid dream. Meditation, however, can help you to lucid dream even if you were not born with this skill.
So, how do you use meditation for lucid dreams? You simply use the Tibetan Dream Yoga meditation technique.
What are meditation and lucid dreams?
Have you ever woken up in a dream and discovered that you are actually still asleep? If so you experienced a lucid dream, a term coined by at Frederik Van Eeden, a Dutch psychiatrist, in 1913. Lucid dreams are described as dreams in which we are conscious, and we often have control over the dream, although that is not necessary for a dream to be considered lucid [Kahan T.; LaBerge S. 1994. “Lucid dreaming as metacognition :implications for cognitive science”. Consciousness and Cognition. ]
Scientists were uncertain whether these “wakeful dreams” were actually real until the 1970s and 1980s, when research validated their existence. And now, through surveys and research, we know that 55% of people have experienced a lucid dream in their lifetime, and 23% do so frequently.
Lucid dreams are different to regular dreams because the person maintains awareness and consciousness and can hold both consciousness and the dream in their minds, to varying degrees (some people are more aware when lucid dreaming than others).
Lucid dreaming is not too different to being awake. When we are awake, we vary in our levels of conscious awareness. Sometimes we are more aware (more mindful) than at other times. And, of course, we can use mindfulness to be more conscious in the moment. This is what happens when we lucid dream: we are consciously aware of the present moment, and we just happen to be asleep at the same time.
There are also physiological difference between lucid dreaming and regular dreaming:
- Lucid dreams have increased respiration and increased heart rate.
- They occur usually late in the night or early morning, and often during the REM stage of sleep.
- Through research using EEG (electroencephalogram) we know that llucid dreams have frequency bandsδ and θ levels similar to REM dream, and higher-than-REM activity in the γ band.
- During lucid dreams we experience what is called the “Hybrid state of sleep”, which is a state in which some brain activity is similar to REM sleep and some activity is more like being awake.
- Lucid dreaming decreased nightmares.
- There is some evidence that it improves motor skills.
- It enhances creativity.
- We also know that there are some health benefits of lucid dreams, and indeed we have seen the beginning of lucid dream therapy (although, interestingly, this supposedly new technique is remarkably similar to Hindu and Yoga practices that existed 4000 years ago.
- The “Dream Team” at MIT’s Media Lab, believe it is possible to used lucid dreams to tap into the unconscious for healing.
Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment. It is originally a Hindu, yoga, and Buddhist practice but has become more of a holistic health practice in the 2010’s. Meditation (usually) involves focusing the mind absolutely on one aspect of the present moment, and watching mental phenomena such as thoughts and feelings. Various forms of meditation include guided meditation for lucid dreams, visualizations, mantras, mudras, and dream yoga techniques. Some famous teachers you may know include John Kabat Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Pema chodron.
When we practice meditation, we train the mind to stay in the moment, to not day-dream or lose conscious awareness, to stay with it. And this is true whether we are awake or asleep. This is entirely the nature of lucid dream meditation techniques: they help us to fall asleep consciously. This is why meditation has been proven to improve quality of sleep, to reduce nightmares and sleep anxiety [Ong JC, Manber R, Segal Z, Xia Y, Shapiro S, Wyatt JK. A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for chronic insomnia. Sleep. 2014 Sep 1;37(9):1553-63. doi: 10.5665/sleep.4010. PMID: 25142566; PMCID: PMC4153063.]
There are other methods too, such as using electrical signals. A randomised controlled trial published in the journal Nature Neuroscience and lead by researcher Ursula Voss, of Goethe-University Frankfurt, Germany, showed that lucid dreams can be produced by using electrodes on the scalp to send a 30-second-long 40 Hz electrical signal. So if you don’t want to meditate, you can always stick some electrodes on your noggin’!
Another way how to have lucid dreams is using the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming (MILD) by Stephen LaBerge, which essentially involves deliberately creating the intention to experience a lucid dream.
A German website conducted one of the main studies into meditation and lucid dreaming. The site took 528 participants and asked them to complete a questionnaire about mindfulness, meditation, and their dreams each week. The studies revealed that participants who had experience in meditating (and higher levels of mindfulness as shown by fMRI) had a higher frequency of lucid dreams, with 4.28 vs 2.55 lucid dreams per month .
Other studies, conducted since the 1970s, have shown a connection between meditation and lucid dreaming. Specifically:
- People who meditate have more lucid dreams than others.
- People who meditate experience less REM sleep (Rapid eye movement sleep) but have an increased ability to recall dreams in the morning.
- Meditation and lucid dream both increase field independence, which is a cognitive style in which the individual relies more an internal referents than external referents.
Best Lucid Dream Meditation Technique
There are many different forms of meditation, including mantras, mudras, visualizations and imaginary scenes, traditional Buddhist practices, dream yoga techniques, and of course guided meditations for lucid dreams. However, some of these meditative exercises are better for lucid dreams than others.
It is possible to use any of the primary meditations for lucid dreams because they increase self-awareness and make us more likely to realise that we are dreaming. There are, however, some additional lucid dream meditation techniques that are particularly effective.
The best meditation for lucid dreams is to meditate while in bed and purposefully lead yourself into a sleeping state through guided meditation.
Here’s how to meditate into a lucid dream.
- Lie down in bed with good posture. Let your legs open a little so your feet are shoulder width apart. Let your body melt into the mattress. Let your arms rest with the hands a couple inches from your midsection, palms facing upwards. Your eyes should feel relaxed and soft.
- Take 27 mindful breaths. Observe your breath as in moved in through your nostrils, through your throat and mouth, down into your diaphragm and then back. Observe the entire breathing process. This will relax your mind and get your moving towards sleep.
- Imagine that you are sitting on the beach in the sunshine. Visualize this scene. See the waves. Hear the water. Observe the blue ocean ahead of you.
- Feel as though you are genuinely inside this visualisation. What is behind you? Beach and sand. What is above you? A clear blue sky. Let yourself be fully engrossed in this imaginary scene.
- Begin to count down from 100 to 0. When you get to 0, you will be asleep. While counting down, repeat the mantra, “I am aware.
- You are now inside a lucid dream. Explore the dream. Notice how dreams are not so different from reality. They are the construct of your mind.
Guided Meditation For Lucid Dreams
Some people prefer an easier option, although research from Harvard Medical School shows that guided meditations like those on Headspace, Calm, and Synctuition, are not as powerful as traditional meditation. If you happen to like McMindfulness, here is the best guided meditation for lucid dreams.
Lucid Dream Meditation Technique 2
Lucid dreaming meditation began with Tibetan Dream Yoga , which also goes by the name Milam. This “dream yoga” is an advanced tantric lucid dreaming technique created by Tibetan guru Marpa.
Tibetan Dream Yoga aims to increase conscious awareness while asleep. Traditionally, students would use this as a way to understand the sleeping state. The texts say that when the yogi enters lucid dreaming and removes conceptual stimuli from the mind, they enter the highest level of consciousness.
The ultimate purpose of Tibetan Dream Yoga is to use meditation to lead the mind into lucid dreaming and then control the dream. This is basically lucid dreaming on demand. Through this process, we learn that the waking world is itself a dream created out of Maya [delusions] and that we can control our perception of the waking world just as we can take control of a dream by lucid dreaming.
The six stages
- The first stage is becoming lucid while asleep
- The second stage is about removing all fears from the dream
- The third stage is to contemplate how sleep and waking life are the same (they are both illusory)
- The fourth stage is to contemplate the dream as Maya [deceit]
- The fifth stage is to take control
- The sixth stage is to realise how we can take control of our perception of waking reality just as we can take control of sleep.
- You will want to be in a restful state before you try this. I recommend reading my guide to meditation for sleep, which will help you to enter the correct restful mind-state.
- Tell yourself that you are going to have a lucid dream and that you will be aware in your dreams
- While you have a lucid dream, challenge your fears. For instance, imagine a fire and walk inside it. This will train your mind to realise that you cannot be hurt by anything in your dreams. This is the second step of the traditional Tibetan Dream Yoga practice. Continue to face your fears until you realise that you cannot be hurt because you are in a dream.
- While having your lucid dream, begin to consider how waking life and sleeping life are the same. They are both perceptions that are created by your mind.
- While lucid dreaming, realise that your perception is just Maya, a delusion. It is not a genuine reality, just an illusion that you have created for yourself.
- Begin to take control of your dreams. This is the fifth stage of Tibetan Dream Yoga. Move objects around. Change things. Take control.
- When you wake up in the morning, consider how your waking reality is the same as sleeping. Your perception of reality is an illusion you create. Challenge your perception of reality.
- And that is how you do Tibetan Dream Yoga
For more on Tibetan Dream Yoga, read the essential book, The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche [AMAZON]
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