We’ve been following the dream of a French horn player who dreamed that he couldn’t give a performance because he’d left his horn at home. Part of him was in the dream, affected by the dream events and panicking. Another part of him was watching the dream events unfold and was unemotional about them. We’re dealing with this dream on two levels. Next week we will analyze the dream from the perspective of metaphor and symbols. This week, we have been examining the lucid qualities of the dream—the fact that the dreamer knew he was dreaming even while the dream was transpiring.
The pros of lucid dreaming
Those who have frequent lucid dreams have an advantage. If you can be aware of your dreams while you are dreaming, you can manipulate your dreams to your advantage. You can navigate yourself out of nightmares. You can explore realms and states of consciousness that would be nearly impossible to enter while being awake. You can confront your own internal “monsters” and resolve conflicts. And according to Tibetan Buddhists, you can consciously enter the bardo at the time of your death and have significant influence over your soul’s destination after you die.
The difficulties of lucid dreaming
These are all wonderful opportunities. But achieving them is not as easy as it may sound. I belong to a chat group of lucid dreamers, and I can report that, even after years—in some cases, decades—of constant lucid dreaming, not one of these dreamers has achieved the above levels of dream agility or competence. Much of the talk during these discussions is focused on technique: How do you stay in the air if you are flying and find yourself sinking to the ground? When you first become lucid in a dream, how do you stay in the dream and not wake up? If you set a goal for yourself before you start dreaming, how do you make sure that you fulfill your goal when you are in the middle of the dream? An enormous amount of time and energy are expended trying to solve these technique issues.
And we, in the West, are not alone in experiencing these glitches. It is interesting that, a few decades ago, the Dalai Lama visited Stephen LaBerge at Stanford University. LaBerge had invented a machine that made it easier to become lucid during the dream state. The Dalai Lama was interested because some of his monks—who practice lucid dreaming daily as part of their meditations—were having limited or even no success!
In my chat group, I am amazed at times by how many opportunities are missed because so much effort is expended on technique at the expense of looking at symbols. When the symbolic meanings are pointed out to the dreamers, they are often startled at the clarity and relevance of the revealed message.
This is something we will explore in more detail next week when we return to our French horn player.
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