So… what is lucid dreaming?
Lucid dreaming is the act of becoming consciously aware that you’re in a dream. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that has stirred quite a conversation within the scientific community, especially because of its implications on sleep, dreams, and consciousness.
And interestingly enough, of all the many tactics that have been explored regarding lucid dream induction, meditation is one of the most prevalent and effective techniques in existence. These two exercises have actually been studied extensively in conjunction with one another as well. The results? Fascinating.
Wait… you’re saying that people actually study this kind of stuff?
Well yeah… in fact, if you were to do a search on Google Scholar, using the keywords, “lucid dreaming”, you might be surprised to see that a vast number of studies have been conducted on the topic. Lucid dreaming is, in fact, rapidly becoming a mainstream practice that has obvious benefits (aside from the fact that it's interesting/ entertaining) including – creative problem solving, emotional release, and overcoming phobias. It even has applications for those struggling with PTSD. So yeah…. you should try it and perhaps you could start by meditating.
What does meditation have to do with any of this?
Well, just to ensure we are all on the same page, let's discuss meditation under the following definition: “Meditation is the practice of accessing higher levels of conscious awareness during waking life, by focusing on the present moment through mental, physical, emotional, and perhaps even spiritual means. ”
Now, if you look at meditation through this lens, it actually sounds a bit like lucid dreaming at its most rudimentary level. I mean, lucid dreaming is, in a way, a visualization experience that helps us enter into presence while in a dream state, similar to how meditation brings us into presence while in a waking state. (I say, "waking" because let's be honest - none of us are ever fully awake... even right now.) Both lucid dreaming and meditation train us to become more mindful and aware of our physical, mental, and emotional states; they just take place in two totally different environments of human perception - one when we are asleep and the other while we are awake.
The past and present of meditation:
Interestingly, our human ancestors were meditating over 5,000 years ago and in a surprisingly similar fashion to the way that most of us do it today. And why have we continued to meditate over the years? Well, probably because there are all kinds of obvious health benefits that come along with regular ole meditation.
Oddly enough, one of these benefits happens to be that it makes lucid dreaming much easier to do.
Other benefits of meditation:
-Improves mental performance
-It feels good, like really good… especially when done right
Nearly every religious institution today practices some form of meditation. To some, it is looked at as a spiritual experience much like prayer, while others see it as simply being an effective way to rejuvenate the body and mind.
Regardless of your personal belief about meditation, this fact speaks for itself – it is a healthy exercise that accelerates personal growth, enlivens the mind, and enriches human life. And the fact of the matter is that we should all probably be meditating more frequently, whether with the intent to lucid dream or not. But, for the purpose of this blog, which is focused on the topic of lucid dreaming - let’s take a quick look at the science behind meditation and its affects on dreaming, and lucid dreaming more particularly.
Meditation increases lucid dream frequency:
In the article, Meta-Awareness During Day and Night: The Relationship Between Mindfulness and Lucid Dreaming , Tadas Stumbry’s, Daniel Erlacher, and Peter Malinowski explore the relationship between habitual mindfulness during the day (aka meditation) and the result this has on one's dream state, or the affect it has on lucid dream frequency.
The study found that lucid dreaming occurs MUCH more frequently with those who practiced meditation on a regular basis. And while the interest in this subject was probably initiated because of a seemingly anecdotal correlation between those who lucid dream and those who meditate, it seems likely that such correlations were found because these two practices are, in essence – the exact same thing.
Like I was saying earlier, mediation and lucid dreaming are essentially the same thing at their most rudimentary level. They are both focused primarily on bringing conscious awareness into the present moment, whether that is while you're awake or asleep. The result of doing this in everyday life is that we feel better and actually function better mentally, emotionally, and physically, while the result of doing this while we are in a dream state is that we can become aware of the fact that we are dreaming. Almost every lucid dream I've ever had (and I'm sure most other lucid dreamers would attest) that lucidity began with a reflection on my present state, a moment where my attention was brought to the present. And who knows, maybe this correllation goes even deeper than that. I mean, how do you really know you're not dreaming right now?
After all, our perception of reality is not reality itself but a neurological expression that originates from the senses, just that which is expressed in our dreams. Did your mind just blow? So did mine.
What do I do with this info?
Well… meditate. There really is no reason not to. You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk, a hippie, or even an avid lucid dreamer like me to enjoy the obvious benefits of mediation. In fact, if you haven't ever tried meditating, I’ll bet you a bottle of Dream Leaf that you’ll notice an obvious difference in your day just by meditating for 20 minutes. The fact of the matter is that mood, energy, and cognition as a whole are improved through regular meditation, so even if you’re an aspiring athlete, a business executive, or a bum on the street – there are positive benefits to meditating.
Okay fine, so how do I meditate?
Honestly, I was just about the write up an entire section on this and then I found a lovely article that shares some expert advice on this topic. Just go here. And I did read the whole thing and agree with pretty much all of these suggestions. Just keep in mind what you're doing when you meditate because in reality the process itself can be summarized as simply an attempt to focus in on this present moment.
Anyway, sweet dreams.