We’re in a discussion about lucid dreaming—a topic of great interest. We’ve been following the dream of a French horn player who dreamed that he couldn’t give a performance because he had left his horn at home. Part of him was in the dream, affected by the dream events and panicking. But, another part of him was calmly watching the dream events unfold and was unemotional about them. (Scroll down to my last two posts to follow the discussion in its entirety.)
Learning to control your dream lucidly
This dreamer told me that he had had some minimal success in the past creating shifts in the plots of his dreams. He said that the observer part of him could separate itself from the emotions that the dreaming part of him felt. The observer could then witness the dream more calmly.
I encouraged this dreamer to try and work even more directly with his observer. With practice and motivation, a dreamer who is just beginning to be lucid during his/her dreams can learn to manipulate the dream plot. He can become like a screen writer, tearing up part of a script and replacing it with another scene that is more desirable. As an example, in the last post, I told of a youngster who was being chased by a monster in a dream, and then realized that he was dreaming. At that point, he awoke. But with more practice and experience, he could learn to stay in the dream and begin to dictate what would happen: “Oh yeah, I’m in a nightmare being chased by a monster. I don’t like this dream. I think I’ll imagine the monster enjoying an ice cream cone. In fact, he’s got an extra one that he’s offering to me. We’re both just sitting here, eating our ice cream and taking in the view.” Experienced lucid dreamers do this kind of thing on a regular basis.
An important tool in therapy
Researchers in the field of psychology have worked hard to try and find a way to harness lucid dreams as a therapeutic tool. If you can successfully confront your “monsters” in the dream state, you might be able to save years of expensive and arduous psychotherapy. Prominent among these researchers was Stephen LaBerge of Stanford University. He went so far as to invent machines designed to help stimulate dreamers into a state of lucidity.
The Buddhist approach
Tibetan Buddhism takes another approach. These monks talk of the “bardo,” the intermediate state one enters shortly after dying. It’s like a way-station, and while a soul is there, the decisions are made about what kind of life the deceased soul will experience next. Buddhists believe that the bardo state is identical to the dream state. And if a dreamer can be lucid during dreaming, he can also influence what happens to his soul at the time of death.
All this is conceptually simple, but putting it into practice is not always easy.
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