In my novel, DreamWalkers, a fourteen year-old boy discovers that lucid dreaming is his best defense against psychic invaders infiltrating his mind.
But is lucid dreaming real – and can a kid really learn to do it?
The answer is a resounding yes. I should know. I taught myself, accidentally, when I was 11 years-old and dealing with my own recurring nightmares. To me, this is one of the most exciting and compelling things about this story. Our favorite characters always inspire us. We wish we could jump into their world. But try as we might, none of us can simply choose to be a wizard or a superhero. But most anyone can learn how to lucid dream and gain the ability to guide their own adventures while they sleep. Once you become aware that you are dreaming, you can leap into the air and take flight, meet a dinosaur or create the world around you as you please, in countless ways. It’s almost like exploring a virtual reality world, one that engages all your senses and feels as real as the waking world, while you’re in it.
So, what is a lucid dream? Well, a lucid dream is any dream in which the dreamer becomes aware that they are dreaming. Once aware, they can influence their dreams, shape them. Dreams, by their very nature, are not confined by logic or science and that means almost anything is possible. Not that everyone will have the same success that Adam does or stay lucid as long. The story is fiction, after all. Even when one becomes skilled at lucid dreaming, dreamers can still slip into and out of lucidity very easily. Sometimes, the mind just wants to be caught up and taken for a ride. But steering your dream and becoming an active participant in the creation of your dream world is definitely something you can learn. It just takes practice.
It is important to note that lucidity is not new-age hokum; it’s science. The Lucidity Institute at Stanford University, one of the settings mentioned in my story, is an actual place. They have not only done extensive research on lucid dreaming, but teach classes for those willing to learn. Like in the story, the Nova Dreamer, the LED light mask Adam wears, helps dreamers realize they are dreaming by flashing a dim light which can be seen through one’s closed eyelids. The dreamer may interpret the flashing light as something else while dreaming, a shimmering pond or a sparkling chandelier – but if they are ready for it, it can be a signal that snaps them into lucidity.
Of course, that’s not the only way. Even without a Nova Dreamer, there are simple steps you can take to start learning how to lucid dream.
First, be more aware of your dreams in general. Keep a dream journal and write down your dreams before they slip from your mind, which can happen very quickly once awake. By being more aware of your dreams, you will be more likely to see dream patterns that may suddenly have you saying, “Hey, this is a dream!” Plus, if you do have a lucid dream, you’ll more likely remember having it if you can strengthen your dream recall skills. If you can recall and write down at least one dream a night, you are on your way.
In the book, Adam does a reality check, trying to press his fingers through his palm. Naturally, that wouldn’t be possible if he was awake. But if he can do it, he knows he must be dreaming. There are lots of ways to do reality checks that you should practice both while awake and while asleep. Try reading a sign or a clock. Then re-read it. If you are dreaming, it will most likely be different. Try doing something impossible, as Adam did. Look in a mirror, which tend not to work well in dreams. Or even ask yourself, “If this was a dream, what would it be like?” If thinking about it changes the world, you are dreaming. By doing this when you are awake and asleep, you will be practicing a skill that will help you recognize when you are dreaming.
Try waking yourself from a dream. Again, this will help you recognize them. Then, go back to sleep with the intent of returning to the dream. Go back with the thought that you will realize it is a dream when you get there. Focus on changing one aspect of the dream or achieving a dream goal, like flying or something equally fantastic. Returning to a dream state after waking with this type of focused intent and visualization is a popular and successful method of becoming lucid.
Have fun and keep trying. Learning to lucid dream can be different for everyone. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away.
Learn more from the experts, like The Lucidity Institute or other researchers on-line and in bookstores and libraries.