Has Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary.
Do you dream? Often, it’s difficult to remember our dreams. The vivid worlds we come up with in our subconscious most often disappears as soon as we wake up.
Yet, with some practice, dreaming can be a true adventure, and these adventures can have positive effects on your overall well-being.
is when you “wake up” while you’re dreaming and are conscious and aware of what is happening in this dream world. In this book summary, you’ll learn how to lucid dream, and how life in this dream state can enrich your life while you’re awake.
In this summary of Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold, you’ll also learn
- how to stay asleep by being active in a dream;
- how practicing a skill like jump shots in your dreams will actually improve your game; and
- why you should be asking your waking self “Am I dreaming?”.
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming Key Idea #1: Everything physical that you experience when you’re awake — sight, touch, and smell — can be accessed again later.
We all dream. However, very few people can actually “wake up” within a dream
Lucid dreaming may seem strange, yet anyone can do it!
There are many benefits to lucid dreaming, too. In fact, many people who lucid dream often say that dreaming this way has made a positive impact on their life when they’re awake.
Let’s start exploring dreams with the concept of dreaming in general, specifically how our dream state
differs from our waking state.
You experience your waking world through your senses: sight, touch, taste, sound. Your brain perceives your environment through these senses.
For example, if you go on a walk, your brain is constantly collecting sensory information such as the sound of birds, the sight of people lounging, and the smell of fresh cut grass. You’re then processing this information as you walk through the park.
However, when you’re dreaming, your senses don’t work this way. When you’re generating a dream, the information originates internally, meaning that external sensory input – like smells or sounds – is limited.
A dream comes from the same perception that your brain uses to perceive the world when you’re awake. In a dream state, however, since there are no external factors limiting your experiences while you’re in your dream world.
Your dreams only come from information you already have in your head. This could be memories, desires, or expectations. The things that can happen in your dreams, too, are truly endless!
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming Key Idea #2: Keeping a dream journal can help you remember your dreams, and identify your dream signs.
In order to start lucid dreaming, it’s important to remember your dreams.
Keeping a dream journal is the best way to start remembering your dreams and figuring out what they mean. Keep your journal by your bed, so that as soon as you wake up in the morning, you can write down the dreams you remember. If you wait until you’re more awake to write your dreams down, you might forget some details, or that you dreamt at all.
So, while you’re still in bed, try to remember the ideas and general ideas of your dreams. If you’re having trouble remembering, examine your general feeling in the moment and where your thoughts are going. This might be able to trigger the memory of your dream.
Once you have all the details of your dream written down, go back through what you’ve written down and identify your dream signs.
Dream signs are the details in your dream that signal that you’re actually dreaming.
For instance, did you realize you were dreaming when you saw flying elephants? Or, maybe it was when you started to walk through fire?
These dream signs are important because many lucid dreamers are able to start lucid dreaming when they start to realize unusual occurrences in their dreams. This could mean anything from those flying elephants to time moving backwards.
Once you identify a dream sign, it’ll be easier to keep this information in mind next time you go to bed.
By jotting down your dream signs in your journal, it’ll be easier to identify these signs in your dream state, which means that you’ll be able to better recognize your dream signs when you’re actually dreaming.
Once you start to remember at least one dream per night, and have filled your dream journal with at least a dozen dreams and several dream signs, you’ll be able to start really exploring lucid dreaming induction techniques. Keep reading to learn more!
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming Key Idea #3: Get into the habit of asking yourself “Am I dreaming?” while you’re awake, which will prompt you to start asking the same question while asleep.
Have you ever wondered, “Is this a dream?” as you move throughout your day?
Even if this isn’t something you do regularly, to get proficient at lucid dreaming, this is a skill that can help you out. Start habitually asking yourself whether or not you’re in a dream as you move through your waking day. Just like you’re perceptions, the habits you form during your waking hours are the same as those that affect you in your dream worlds.
According to research, asking yourself, “Am I dreaming?” at least five to ten times during the day helps you to develop a critical-reflective attitude
, which conditions you to start being able to lucid dream.
Once you start asking yourself this enough, it will work its way into your dreams as well, encouraging you to ask the same question – “Am I dreaming?” – while you’re actually dreaming.
But what happens if a dream seems too real? What if, when you ask whether you’re dreaming, the people in your dream argue with you and push back against your question, prompting you to mistakenly conclude that you are awake. In this case, it’s imperative to use critical state testing
– testing your reality.
You can ask yourself other questions while asleep: “Do I have super powers?” Another good test is to see whether or not the content of a book is the same, the first and second time you open it.
Exercising a critical-reflexive attitude can really help you to start dreaming lucidly. But how can you actually become lucid?
Just before you drift off, remind yourself that you intend to remember to recognize that you are dreaming
. This is known as the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD).
The goal of MILD is to create a way of thinking during your waking state that will travel with you into your dream state. It’s important, though, to be patient. There’s no way to guarantee that you’ll automatically be able to lucid dream — some people require more practice.
There are also multiple ways to actually induce lucid dreams, which is what we’ll explore next.
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming Key Idea #4: Keeping your mind active as you fall asleep can help you to dream lucidly and not lose consciousness.
There are two different types of lucid dreams: dream-initiated lucid dreams (DILDs) and wake-initiated lucid dreams (WILDs).
DILDs, involve lucidity that you acquire once you fall asleep, and therefore, lose consciousness. In WILDs, lucidity is achieved when your mind is kept active as you fall asleep – that is, you fall asleep without losing consciousness.
There are a number of ways you can induce WILDs. This can be many things including hypnagogic imagery and focusing on your breath, your heartbeat, or yourself. The most popular way to do this is through hypnagogic imagery.
To experience hypnagogia is to experience the transitional state between being awake and falling asleep. Hypnagogic imagery is what you see in your mind’s eye during this transition.
What do these images look like? These images are typically light flashes, which eventually turn into shapes and faces, and then finally, work to form the images of your dream.
While experiencing hypnagogic imagery, your brain stays active, making it so that you don’t lose consciousness when you fall asleep.
So how do you use hypnagogic imagery to induce WILDs?
The first step is to close your eyes, relax your entire body, breathe slowly, and try to release any mental and physical tension. Once you do this for long enough, you’ll start to experience a feeling of serenity.
Next, start to shift your focus to any images that appear in your mind’s eye. Neutrally observe how the images unfold. Make sure you don’t force them to take shape into anything or anyone specific.
Finally, the images will start to form a scene, so make sure you passively enter the dream. It’s important that you not enter the dream actively; the key is to stay neutral.
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming Key Idea #5: Controlling your lucid dreams comes from learning to stay asleep, retain your lucidity, and wake up at your own will.
At the beginning of your lucid dreaming, it might be difficult to be fully in control of your dreamscapes. There are many things that could happen, from suddenly waking up upon realizing you’re dreaming, to losing lucidity and returning to a deep, unconscious sleep.
This isn’t ideal, since succumbing to this would take you off the path to all the possibilities lucid dreaming offers. So how do you avoid this?
So that you don’t wake abruptly, it’s important to put your dream self in some sort of activity as soon as the dream starts to fade.
Some people say that doing this helps them to experience sensation in the dream. This means engaging in anything physical: touching an object, looking at your hands, or even just turning around. If you stay active in your dream, you are less likely to wake up.
Waking up, however, isn’t the only thing you should be trying to avoid while you’re lucid dreaming. Losing lucidity is also a possibility, which would result in you falling into an inactive, unconscious sleep. A way to prevent this is to talk to yourself in your dream. For example, while dreaming, you might repeat, “This is a dream,” out loud.
Scott G. Sparrow concludes in his book, Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light,
that rehearsing and establishing this dream affirmation while you are awake, increases the chances of you remembering it during your dream state.
When you’re done with a dream and want to wake up, the process is exactly the opposite of what you would do if you were trying to stay asleep. This means pulling out of all participation and interaction in the dream. To do so, try thinking distracting thoughts or saying things such as, “I want to wake up.”
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming Key Idea #6: By integrating “imbalanced” personalities, the process of lucid dreaming can actually improve psychological health.
Being healthy is not just about avoiding disease. It also has to do with your mental health.
But what does this have to do with lucid dreaming? The truth is, lucid dreaming can be amazing for your mental health.
This is especially important if you feel like your life is imbalanced. You might feel troubled, for example, if you have too many repressed thoughts and emotions, especially if they’re hard to deal with on a daily basis.
When some parts of our personalities are in conflict, or we’re spending too much energy denying aspects of our general personalities, it can lead to us being unhappy and antisocial.
Lucid dreaming can help with this. Dreaming in this way integrates the conflicting parts of your personality, which can improve your over all psychological health.
According to psychiatrist Carl Jung, the parts of our personalities that we don’t like or want to accept might appear in our dreams in the form of monsters or other creatures. By learning to lucid dream, you’ll be able to accept these monsters, which will allow them to unite with your general personality. This can help you to express your true self more authentically.
But how do you actually do this?
You can approach these monster-like figures in a peaceful way, as long lost friends, or invite them to talk. It’s all about embracing their presence, rather than resisting their existence. Eventually you’ll find them less threatening, which will lead to your life feeling more balanced in general.
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming Key Idea #7: Lucid dreaming can help you problem-solve more creatively, leading to you being able to solve more issues while awake.
It’s actually possible to improve your skills in your waking life while you’re asleep. This is done while lucid dreaming, through the process of practicing mental imagery.
Studies have shown that mental imagery
and mental rehearsal
can help you improve skills having to do with leisure activities, such as playing football.
When you give these skills more time while you’re dreaming, you’re more likely to improve your performance in your waking life.
For example, if Peter is a tennis player who’s getting ready for a big tournament, one that he knows he has to win, he might decide to focus in his dream state on practicing tennis to prepare for the tough competition he’s expecting. During the tournament, it wouldn’t be surprising for him to perform better than ever and win all his matches.
Through lucid dreaming, you can also catalyze creative skills which will help you solve problems.
Lucid dreaming can help you creatively approach an issue you’ve been wanting to solve in your waking life. However, because creativity in dreams is still a fairly new area of research, there are some benefits that science hasn’t found yet.
For example, as an auto mechanic, Alex is working on a car with a particular problem he just can’t seem to find the solution to. He decided to try and dream about the problem to try to solve the issue, and in his dream, Alex was able to experiment with a number of ways to solve the problem. Just before the dream ended, the answer became clear!
Because you’re asleep, the possibilities are endless when it comes to how many problems you can solve while dreaming. You are free to tackle any waking issue that may be bothering you.
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming Key Idea #8: Because nightmares are a product of fear, when you face these fears, they won’t be scary anymore.
Everyone has nightmares, and sometimes, falling asleep can be stressful when our dreams are so undesirable.
So how do you rid yourself of nightmares?
It’s first important to note that the fears you have when you’re awake are likely to manifest in your dreams.
Nightmares often come from fears in your waking life that haven’t been faced. If, for instance, you have a fear of being attacked, and then dream about walking alone down a dark alley, your fear of being attacked will manifest as that actually happening in the dream.
To conquer your nightmares, it’s imperative to face each fear as it comes up in your dream. While you might be tempted to dismiss it as “just a bad dream,” it’s important to acknowledge that even though it was
just a nightmare, the fear is vivid and real.
When you’re having a bad dream, try to resist the urge to run from the fear or wake up. Once you learn to face scary situations as they crop up, you’ll eventually learn that you can’t be harmed by the things you fear.
For example, if a terrifying demon is a recurring character in your dreams and one night, you decide to face it, when you wake up, you might realize that you’re safe in bed and the demon didn’t hurt you.
If the demon shows up again, you’ll know that you’ll be safe trying to go up against it once more. Finally, by the third encounter, the demon will have vanished.
As you stop associating the demon with harm, the fear will dissipate. And as your fears vanish, so will your nightmares!
In Review: Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming Book Summary
The key message in this book:
Conscious – or lucid – dreaming accessible to anyone. By regularly practicing some habitual techniques, you too will be able to benefit from lucid dreaming, which can lead to you being more creative, and facing your fears.
If words don’t work, draw your dreams.
Some people might have a hard time translating their dreams into words, so another option is to draw them! You could jot down figures, symbols, or maybe even entire scenes. This is simply another way to improve your dream recollection and gain an understanding of what it is you’re dreaming.
Suggested further reading: Dreamland by David K. Randall
is a journey into the world of sleep. Through scientific evidence, it explores why we and all other animals on the planet require sleep to survive. It also delves into how modern-day life can fly in the face of our natural sleeping patterns.