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Lucid Dreams

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WHAT LUCIDITY IS

LUCIDITY means you notice you're dreaming. Current theory, popularized by Stephen La Berge of Stanford, claims this is like waking up inside the dreamworld--the rational mind becomes like a scuba diver exploring the dream-sea, though with more power than a diver--the lucid mind can shape a dream at will. Literally anything becomes possible--altering nightmares, flying, bodily transformation, telepathy experiments, even constructing shared worlds with other lucid dreamers.

However, in more recent books, La Berge admits it may not be wise to simply edit away nightmares or casually transform dreamworlds. Ignoring your dream's own concerns can be like bulldozing a forest. I've had those doubts all along, for my dreams go to some lengths to show that bizarre, even nightmarish dreams may be wrestling with issues the conscious mind really should face. To be cautious, I think we should treat dreamworlds as real places we VISIT, not construct. As tourists, it'd be rude to trash the house just because we have the muscles to and don't like the decor...

ACHIEVING LUCIDITY

La Berge details how to deduce you're dreaming, by watching closely for discrepancies between your dream and the waking world. I've found this unnecessary--I induce lucidity the same way I induce flying dreams: I just tell myself every night that I'll go lucid, and in a week or two, I have a string of lucid dreams. In them, I generally don't deduce I'm dreaming, it's just obvious.

Given how easy I've found it to induce lucid dreams, the following list is pretty short. There's a reason. Frankly, I don't seek lucidity much. My dreams have proved most things you can do in the lucid state can be done without declaring your dream a dream. The key to changing the dreamworld isn't calling it a dream, but simply realizing change is possible! I see dreams and the waking world the same way: as worlds constructed by their inhabitants (and visitors), who agree on natural laws, subject to revision. Relatively rigid, stable worlds, like the one we inhabit, may be fussier about major violations, like ignoring gravity, but magic and miracles can and do happen in any world, dream- or not. (Yeah, I know I just infuriated half my scientifically literate readers. But I'm won't lie to you. Too many ESP experiments with positive results have forced me to say: on this one, the New Agers are right. Minds affect the world on our scale, NOT just particle-size observer effects.)

Miracle-working (lucid or not) can be fun, but along with the power to bend the rules comes an obligation: being considerate of others' feelings and using power constructively... in dreams AND in waking life! Nothing new here--this is, of course, exactly what shamans have said and done since prehistoric times. But I've been surprised how often now I take responsibility in dreams for helping people or fixing problems, simply because I have the power to do it--even though I'm completely outside the tight tribal community, scrutiny, and expectations that traditional shamans lived in. I'm in big-city America, land of capitalism and self-interest, yet the sense of responsibility grew naturally as the power to alter both dreams and waking life did. It's inherent in the practice of serious dreamwork, I think. Not all power corrupts--dream power apparently teaches responsibility.

THE VATCH PROBLEM

I'd like to introduce a term coined by James Schmitz in his science fiction novel "The Witches of Karres": a vatch is a being from another universe who considers your world a dream, and treats you as a dream-figure: "This isn't real, so I can do what I want. You're just a symbol--part of me." Vatching, to make a verb of it, is like early La Berge lucidity. Colonial lucidity. Don't vatch! It's tempting to play God when lucid, but what goes around comes around. Think about how it feels on the receiving end, when someone else treats you like a thing! Better to err on the side of caution: assume dream worlds and beings are real, deserving as much respect and ethical consideration as the waking world.

BALANCED DREAMING: DANTE OR DISNEY?

For beginning dreamworkers, I recommend letting your dreams take the initiative and just working on the issues they raise. Lucid dreaming isn't that helpful, early on. Well, it is good for a few things:

  1. Getting straight answers from dream-figures you can't pin down any other way.
  2. Working on recurring nightmares you always wake up from involuntarily.
  3. Working on other nightmares you can't face--just too painful or scary.
For years I had a variant of lucid dreaming I call underhand lucidity, in which I changed nightmares just enough to keep them survivable, so I wouldn't die and wake up and avoid the issue. I felt obliged to endure whatever my dreams threw at me. Maybe I went too far--I was a stoic teen, indifferent to my own pain. Recurrent nightmares can strain your health and confidence. A middle ground is best--if your dreams are like Disneyland every night you're avoiding challenges, but if they're all Dante's Inferno, well... (I actually faced that choice in a dream once: the world had to become either Dante's Inferno, or global Disneyland, and I had one minute to decide. Dante or Disney? I'm embarrassed to admit I chose Disney, tasteless and commercial though the old bastard was, and despite Dante's depth and poetry. But... global hell? At least Disney World left us hope for rebellion! I still wonder what I'd have done if it were Disney World vs. Milton's "Paradise Lost"...) Examples of lucid stoicism: Wayan yells "Shoot Me, I'm Lucid!", and Rustling Leaves discreetly alters a Marabou Monster.

BEYOND CLASSIC LUCIDITY

Underhand lucidity isn't the only non-LaBergian type. I've included a few technically nonlucid dreams where a dreamer has other insights haivng exactly the same effects as lucidity, like Xanthe's The Bear's Rip; these suggest it's not lucidity but aha-ness in general that's the key. Conversely, Nancy Price in I am a Bird recalls her old human life but doesn't give a damn--what can lucidity offer beyond what she already has? What if you the dreamer don't know it's a dream but your dream notices, as in Adrenaline Hall, a nightmare that spells out just why I mustn't go lucid to change it. There are even a few dreams that openly discuss lucid dreamwork and the issues it raises, notably The Ethics of Lucidity.

RELATED TOPICS: shamanic dreams - dreams about dreaming, and dreams within dreams - dreamwork and dream research - out-of-body experiences - astral planes - nightmares - recurring dreams - See also the full INDEX OF SUBJECTS.

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ADRENALINE HALL: by Wayan; 1992/2/3, a non-lucid dream.
A hall designed to give your fear-glands a workout, because muscles aren't the only thing to buff...
AELFWINE: by Wayan; 1997/12/4, a dream on dreams.
I meet the Child who Dreams the World, go to a lucid-dreaming party, and find the Body under the Bed...
AN ALICORN BLADE IN THE HEART: by Wayan; 2010/12/18; a dream of a lucid flash--and that's all it takes
A witch and I duel with blades carved of spiral horn. But we're both out to create an utterly truthful oracle. Isn't there a better way?
AROUND LAKE ERIE AND ACROSS THE HUDSON: by Rachel Hadas; 1997?, a dream-poem.
My dead friend Charlie and his sister and I are driving around Lake Erie. We know its a dream and hes dead, and yet were joyous...
BACKWARDS CAUSATION: by Jo; 2008/3/3, a dream where I dream a dream in which I dream
No matter who I dream I am, twin secret agents dog me, eating my soup, playing my games...
CAUTION: EGREGIOUS PHILOSOPHY
BAND-AIDS: by Bagheera Pardus; c.1985, a lucid re-entered nightmare turned to joy.
Giant snakes chased me, but I went lucid, turned and slew one. As I woke, the snakes were crying. So I re-entered the dream and...
CAUTION: SNAKES, BEHEADING, REHEADING
THE BEAR'S RIP: by Xanthe; dreamed 1990 or 1991; a lucidish dream with four sketches.
A bear rips open my wall and guides me into a psychedelic space where I learn to see with new eyes...
BREAK FREE: by Emily Joy; 2006/5/11, an encouraging dream on the price of safety.
I search for family skeletons, but then a talking plant on TV inspires me to seek the sun and fly free. But certain velociraptors and barbarian swordswomen object...
CAUTION: DUELS, FISH ABUSE, THE F-WORD
BROWNIE: by Wayan; 1984/9/26, a sexy dreamtale.
At last my girlfriend and I manage to peel off the Brown Dress of Shame, and ...
CAUTION: SEXUAL HEALING
Tarot: THE BUILDER: by Wayan; 1974/5/19, a Tarot card illustrating a dream.
I met a god. Unmistakably a god. The Builder, hard at work--making Utopia, by hand.
CHURCHES BURN WHEN YOU LEARN TO FLY: by Wayan; 1989/9/1, a didactic flying dream.
I pay the price, but learn the difference between merely getting off the ground, and true mastery...
CRYPTOMNESIC TROLLEY: by Wayan; 1991/4/22, a lucid dream of suicide.
To prove I really am lucid-dreaming, I let a streetcar run me over. Mm, crunchy! Then I find out...
CAUTION: PROFESSIONAL STUNT DREAMER. DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME.
DAWN'S DIVORCE: by Dawn Z; 2002/3/1-21, an outrageous dream sequence
While going through a painful breakup, I kept having sexy, lucid, psychic dreams...
DEER-MAN DANCING: by "Cmmndrblu"; early 2006, a shamanic dream triggers a dream-within-a-dream at least six layers deep!
First I met a deer-man in the woods. Next week I go lucid, then wake up... only to find I'm still dreaming. And wake again. And wake, and wake...
THE DOUBLE: by Julie Doucet; Nov. 1992, a lucid alter-ego sex dream.
Looking in a mirror, Julie goes lucid. She changes herself into a man and pulls her mirror-image through the glass...
CAUTION: CARTOON NUDITY
DREAM CLARITY, or, the Field of Psychotherapy: by Wayan; 1996/11/27, a dream on dreams
While we're making crop-circles in the field of psychotherapy, my hypnotist and I start to argue...
DREAM OF KOA RETURNING: dreamed before 2009 by W.S. Merwin; dream poem on a revenant dog
I reached back slowly hoping to touch your long amber fur wondering if you might be a dream...
EASTER HEALING: by "Clairity"; 2008/03/23, a joyful lucid dream
I will a clay cat to come to life, then start healing real cats and dogs and...
ELF ETYMOLOGY: by Wayan; 1997/7/14, a linguistic postmodern dream.
We escape the trolls, but then our author, Tolkien, breaks in to explain a word, and the rest of the night...
THE ETHICS OF LUCIDITY: by Wayan; 1994/2/19, a thoughtful dream on time and cause.
I'm at a symposium on how our beliefs alter not just the future, but the PAST...
CAUTION: CONTAINS IDEAS! EWWW!
EXPERIMENT WITH TIME by Nancy Price; 1948, a shamanic-initiation dream declined?
I meet a girl who's 16 and 61, who tells me dreams are lives, not messages. But then I must fly over a sinister parade...
EXPLORATION OF TAROT IMAGES IN A DREAM: by Roswila, 1998; an analytical numerate dream
Tarot cards fuse and meanings layer, to warn me I've similarly (con)fused real and trance-induced memories during therapy...
CAUTION: ABUSE ISSUES
FALL INTO FEAR: by Brenda Ferrimani; 2001/9/12, a 9/11 nightmare transformed by lucidity
Im falling into endless darkness. I feel like screaming, but then I remind myself Im dreaming. What is for me here? I demand. SHOW ME! I begin rising toward the stars. Huge metal discs with alien writing rise with me...
FIRST DREAMFLIGHT: by Wayan; 1969/11/11, a formative dreamtale.
I never flew in my dreams. I felt cheated. So one day I set out to CREATE dream-flight...
FLY AWAY HOME: by Wayan; 1996/12/26, a dream of flight and kindness.
I'm an alien castaway, hiding my wings. But Earth feels like home now! If I could fly here, would I stay?
FREE WAY? DETENTION FOR YOU!: by Wayan; 1997/2/14, a dream of the wages of fun.
Zooming on freeways--carless levitation! But the Principal tries to punish us. And we resist... don't we?
FULL REASON: by Wayan; 1980/5/28, a dream on patience.
At a benefit for Rock Psychiatrists, the Spirit of the Convention explains why I can't go on stage yet...
GENNADIUS: by Gennadius, ca. 415 AD, apparently the first recorded lucid dream
Gennadius re-dreams a previous dream, prompting him to notice hes dreaming. His guide points out the spiritual implications...
GRIEF KIVA: by Wayan; 1980/2/16, a lucid psychic dream.
In a Hopi underworld, I find even lucid dreaming can't cure guilt and grief over losses yet to come...
HEAL THE WORLD!: by Wayan; 2011/8/17, a messianic-inadequacy dream (now there's a new type!)
I can heal people with a touch. But they don't want to be merely restored, but resculpted...
CAUTION: TRANNIES AND FURRIES LEAVE THE CLOSET
HELPLESSLY LUCID: by Alder; 2007/6/23, a lucid dream in which Im powerless!
Im a homeless elf. Were a persecuted minority group. I know Im dreaming and try to change it but...
HOP TO THE SHAH: by Wayan; 2010/5/18, a flying political dream
Diplomacy's failed. To stop the impending Iranian War single-handed, I hop like a monster flea across Iran to corner the New Shah...
ICARIAN PAIN: by Wayan; 125K, 3 ill., 1982/10/19, a dream of shyness, and flying, and pinching yourself.
I meet some cute dancers, but rather than flirt, I just try ballet leaps too. I get more than I bargained for...
I AM A BIRD by Nancy Price; 1948, a dream of another life... well, two.
I live as a small falcon, glad I'm no longer human. But when that life ends...
ICERINK: by Wayan; 1980/8/23, a warning dream.
Psychodrama seemed like a way to meet cool people. But when I dreamed they were ice-skating rioters...
J.F., T.B. AND ME: by Dream Junkee; 2008/1/24, a lucid nightmare-comedy
Lucid, I summon a sexy literary character. But he tries to take over my personality and make it his lucid dream...
A LAKE DEMON: by Wayan; 1979/11/3, an anti-lucid dream.
I walk through worlds, fight a deadly lake demon, and work magic--but I mustn't go lucid...
THE LAST MASS: by E.M. Martin; 1914/11/23, a dream of war invading a peaceful dreamland
For years Martin's dreams were all set in a peaceful parallel world. He hoped it was immune from WWI, but...
LUCID FLIGHT: by Lisa Reich; March 2003, an ecstatic lucid dream of flight.
I flew as if part of the air--an otherworldly freedom so exquisite I wonder if it's attainable at all in earthly existence...
LUCID GIRDERS: by Wayan; 1993/8/18, an illustrated dream about dreaming.
Stayed up late, painting foreshortening. Then I saw a scene in color, motion, 3D, and knew I had to be dreaming: I was visualizing too clearly, THINKING too clearly, to be awake...
CAUTION: NUDITY
LUCID LIMITS: by Wayan; 1990/2/13, a lucid nightmare. Yes, they're possible!
A nightmare. I go lucid as the bullets tear through me. Yet I go on with the dream! Why?...
CAUTION: NIGHTMARISH VIOLENCE
LUCID LIVING: by Wayan; 125K, 2007/4/8, a quasi-lucid dream of the future, with 6 illustrations
Honesty induces a joyful state with lucidlike powers. So I bike across the Lake of Time, open the book of my future, and see...
CAUTION: SEXY SKETCHES FROM THE FUTURE
LUCID ON THE MOON: by Wayan; 1980/2/23, a long-term psychic dream.
I'm on the run, on the moon. Cyborgs toss bombs at me. Yikes! Is this what melted Mare Orientalis?
CAUTION: NUCLEAR IRRESPONSIBILITY
MARABOU MONSTER: by Rustling Leaves; dreamed 2014/3/15
I've got too many obligations, an elderly relative to care for, and now giant birds are invading my house.
CAUTION: STALKING, KILLER BIRDS
MARTHA'S FALL: by Barbara, Martha, and Wayan; 1977/5/18. Three linked warning, sex, and flying dreams
Wayan makes love to Martha's double, then sees her soul watching from the shadows...
Barbara can't reach Wayan to say farewell...
Martha falls off a mountain and decides to let herself die, just to see what happens...
CAUTION: SEX, ABUSE ISSUES
MORTAL MIST: by Wayan; 2010/10/18, a lucid dream of a new sort for me
I miss all sorts of cues I'm dreaming, but I ignore my conviction I'm awake and try to fly anyway...
THE MOST FANTASTIC LUCID DREAM OF MY LIFE: by "Ben"; 2007/8/24, an epic lucid dream full of experiments
I fly, send myself email, discuss dreaming with dream people, punch a wall to test dream-pain, reach into mirrors...
THE NIGHTMARE EFFECT: by Emily Joy; 2006/12/14, an anti-nightmare.
My own fear creates a field of time/speed distortion; can I use it against my attackers?
NOW WE ARE 48: by Laurel Blossom, 1991; a dream-poem of a rescue.
At the beach I dive into deep water to save my drowning friend Kathy, and find its not so clear whos who...
OCARINA, or, MILLION-YEAR SENTENCE: by Wayan; 1972/5/27, a lucid / predictive dream.
I go lucid and drive my bed to the Nevada desert where I see my next million years. And so far, its been true...
ON THE SEASHORE: by Gabrielle Bell; between 1998-2002; a lucid dream-comic
I'm on a beach in Mexico with a baby--my only souvenir of an affair I can't recall. I'm a mom? My whole life will change! Wait. Is this real, or...
PALE BLUE: by Wayan; 1997/5/12, a dream on denial.
I pray for love and promptly meet Blue, whose mom treats her like a kid. We change that, but it's messy...
PET ME DARE!: by Wayan; 1996/2/7, a sexy healing dream; comix version
After whining all day that I lost my anima, I dream I'm petting a cat. Who purrs, and grows, and grows, and says...
CAUTION: PUSSY TROUBLE
POIROT'S FLIGHT: by Wayan; 1994/11/15, an anti-lucid dream.
I summon an aeroplane to escape a trap. Lucid? Not at all! Why should Poirot bother with such abstractions?
PRACTICE IS REAL: by Wayan; 1998/1/6, three small dreamtales.
Three teasing sex-dreamlets chipping away at my shyness with women I like...
CAUTION: SEX TALK
PRINCESS OF PASSION: by Wayan; 1993/7/10, a chthonic dream.
Led by a rebel demon into the heart of a Chinese mountain, should I wake the Sleepers in the Cave?
PRISONS AND STRIPES: by Emily Joy; 2007/10/4, a lucid dream.
In a museum full of spacetime-bubbles holding lost souls, the museum-goers are as weird as the exhibits...
QUADRUPLE WEDDING: by Wayan; 1995/5/15, a unifying dream.
Why'd I get sick from figure-sketching? Dream I'm at a mass wedding; do I marry a dwarf, a feral boy or a horse?
RUNNING BIRD: by Alder; 1953, a kinetic nightmare with double selves.
I'm a flightless bird hopping down a line of marble columns rising from the sea, as they topple behind me...
SHOOT ME, I'M LUCID!: by Wayan; 1997/10/17, a predictive didactic nightmare.
I distract a mad gunman in a crowd. I suspect I'm dreaming, but it still seems a bit too noble...
CAUTION: DON'T TRY THIS ON CRAZED KILLERS AT HOME
SKEPTIC AND DRAGONFLY: by Wayan; 1988/1/28 and 2/8, twin flying dreams.
Big Blonde and her officemates don't believe in flight; but the dragonfly-girl I meet hatched in mid-air...
SPIRAL LAUGHTER: by Alder; 1953, a child's feverdream
The world is a whirlpool, a black and white spiral pulling me down toward a black hole, and its laughing...
STRANGE SERVICE: by Gordon B., early 2006, a transcendental dream
The old man sang in the empty church, then looked at me and snapped his fingers. I was filled with voices...
THE SWORD DANCE: by Wayan; 1988/4/29, a psychic dream.
I visit my friend Xanthe's lungs, where a swordswoman in a red bikini gives me a unicorn. The next day...
TAG WITH A BOUNTY HUNTER: by "Caradon"; 2010/3/3, a playful lucid dream
A bounty hunter stalks me through a jungle, but lucidity turns a potential nightmare to joy...
TEN HEARTBEATS OF WILL: by Wayan; 2011/1/2, an experimental dreamflight
A friend says lucid dreaming doesn't matter--you can even fly awake if you clearly will it. So I jump...
THERE I WAS: by Michelle Brand, 1972, stream-of-consciousness lucid dream comic
Kaleidoscopic constellations? No thanks! A nudist town in Italy? Ugh. But vaudeville in a monk's robe and roller skates...
CAUTION: CARTOON NUDITY
TORNADO AND STARSHOWER: by Dream Junkee; 2008/8/15, a nightmare that goes lucid
A killer tornado has us trapped in the cellar. I bite my finger and it's boneless--I'm dreaming! I summon a...
TORNADOES AND TESTOSTERONE: by Dream Junkee; 2008/9/3, a lucid dream of transformation
I've always been scared of tornadoes, until I went lucid and became one...
CAUTION: HORNY TORNADO
TRAVEL: by "SchlofM"; 2008/2/10, a dream about protection
I'm on a wild trip to who knows where, with my young-again mom and my dead dad... and who's that other guy?
TWO PLANES: by Wayan, 1994/9/6, a multistaged psychic dream.
An assassination plot using two planes triggers an invasion of our kingdom. I'd rather be playing Frisbee...
VERITY'S WINGS: by Jenny Badger Sultan; 2009/8/21; a dreampainting from the Box of Dreams
My friend Verity's given a beautiful set of wings. I feel envy--until I consider what angel wings can imply...
WHY I BECAME THE SEA: by Wayan; 1980/6/19, a dream of containment.
I get so mad at a bunch of cops who harass gays, that I become the sea itself and chase them...
CAUTION: UNCHARITABLE REPRESENTATION OF OUR SAINTS IN BLUE
WILD W.I.L.D.: by Dream Junkee; 2008/1/19, an epic lucid frustration dream?
I'm lucid but paralyzed. A weird child spies on me; is she controlling me? Then I'm having sex--but if I come, I'll wake up! Then some thugs jump me. I make sure they won't bother me again, but... is everyone in this dream out to distract me?
CAUTION: SEX, MUGGER-STOMPING
ZELIG FLIES: by Wayan, 1984/4/29, a psychic, lucid dream epic.
Indescribable! I careen from a sacrificial marriage-altar to the secret pool of the Oracle Harpist, into the jaws of Leviathan and the joys of lucid flight, shifting from male to female and gay to straight--till I meet the Dragonfly People themselves...
CAUTION: STUPID, STUPID SEX CULT!


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