Lucid Dreaming: A Bridge to Lucid Living
Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D’Urso, Ph.D. Copyright (c) 2007
Workshop Before the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) Conference 2007, Sonoma, CA, June, 2007.
Link to Questions
Link to Exercises
I’ll start with an
I’d like to start with a show of hands:
How many people have heard me speak before???
Who heard me in Copenhagen at IASD2004???
I will start with an overview. As we discussed, lucid dreaming occurs when while asleep, you have awareness, at some level, that you are dreaming.
Who would you call the “dreamer” in your nighttime dreams???
I typically call the person asleep the “dreamer.” To get more precise, I think of the “dreamer” as one’s physical body’s mind, although I would not say that one’s “brain” contains one’s “mind.” As an analogy, I see our mind more as a radio broadcast than a physical radio and its parts. Our brain may tune us into certain stations, but it does not act independently.
Once we understand, and hopefully have experienced, lucid dreaming and related topics, such as levels of lucidity and techniques for becoming and staying lucid, we can discuss what I call lucid living. I need to first give you a little background on myself and my views of lucid dreaming, so you can see how I came up with the idea of lucid living.
Throughout my life, I have discovered many uses for lucid dreaming. Some of these include: psychological development, exploring new behaviors, healing, and much more. I’ve found that all of these can apply, whether we find ourselves asleep or what we call “awake.”
Who thinks they know what I mean by lucid living???
Next, I need to cover a little
I remember having had lucid dreams since about the age of seven. I faced up to scary witches in a recurring nightmare. You can see my web site: http://beverly.durso.org for several detailed descriptions of this dream and other places where it got published. I will also put this presentation on my website soon after the conference.
Basically, I recognized recurring dream scenes where I begged these scary witches, who hovered over me, to “Spare me tonight and take me in tomorrow night’s dream.” Because they only came when I was dreaming, one time, while they hovered over me, I faced up to them and they flew away ending these nightmares.
Years later, I helped do research on lucid dreaming at the Stanford Sleep Laboratory. I signaled, using electrodes near my eyes, from the dream to the physical lab while definitely asleep and dreaming. I also led workshops and taught others how to have lucid dreams, and I have given presentations on the topic at IASD conferences for over 20 years.
I have remembered, on average, six dreams per night, for most my of life. I’d call between 2 and 20 dreams per week lucid, to various degrees. So, I estimate that I have had over 20,000 lucid sleeping dreams in my life so far. As you can tell, I have had many more non-lucid dreams than lucid dreams.
How many lucid dreams would you say you have???
One per week?
One per month?
One per year?
A few in your life?
All the time?
My dreams usually seem like what we could call waking physical reality until I become lucid, although I often know that I am dreaming from the start of the dream. I believe in levels of lucidity, on a spectrum from slightly to extremely lucid. Sometimes my non-lucid dreams seem very bizarre, and yet I ignore this sign of dreaming and rationalize the experience.
For the next four or five minutes, I will cover some basic issues and terminology. These apply to both lucid dreaming and lucid living.
SPONTANEITY VERSUS CONTROL***
How many people think you need to control your dream to call it lucid???
In my lucid dreams, I feel free to go wherever my imagination takes me, and I take care to balance spontaneity and control.
Keep in mind that, you can have a lucid dream without having control of the dream. Unfortunately, the media often stresses control as the main benefit of lucid dreaming.
The ability to control your own reactions, or to control the action, characters, or environment in your dreams can help indicate your level of lucidity, but you can definitely have a lucid dream without control. However, at times, I feel that it helps to take control of the action in the dream, for example, when you want to carry out goals.
Once, when working on my Ph.D. dissertation and experience a case of writer’s block, I used control in my dream to get me to my desk and surrender to get myself to sit.
I often find it best to “surrender” to the lucid dream. I don’t use the word “surrender” to mean “give up,” but rather to mean “go with the flow.” In this case, I still have control, but of my own reactions and not of what happens to me. I do not automatically feel fearful, for example, when something scary happens. I now often what I call “surrender flying” to get places in my lucid dreams, where I get pulled from my heart area, by an invisible force.
I only need to remain conscious that I am dreaming. When conscious that I am dreaming, I think of my “physical body self” as safe in bed, so I have less fear, see more possibilities, and view my true “self” as one with the whole dream environment. With lucidity, I also have more choices. In other words, I don’t need to change a monster. I can look it in the eye without fear and find out what it wants.
Although I focus on awareness rather than control in my lucid dreams, I do not call my lucid dreaming witnessing. I can experience myself fully in the dream, yet not of it, meaning that I know while dreaming that my part of my self exists outside of the dimension of the dream.
To me witnessing seems like watching a movie or a play. Dreaming seems more like acting in a play. In a lucid dream, I act in a play in perfect character, have all the character’s feelings and consequences, yet still see myself as essentially the actor, and possibly the producer and director as well.
Next, I’d like to discuss the concept of:
Who do think the characters represent???
Aspects of yourself?
People from your waking physical reality?
Illusional or “made-up” beings?
With lucid dreaming, I feel as though I inhabit a character in my dream. This dream character seems to exist in another dimension from my physical body, albeit a three-dimensional world that seems real.
One dream character often looks and acts like me. I sometimes call this my dream-body or dream-self. I may experience other dream characters that look like someone I know or someone that I don’t know.
I imagine that one or more of these other characters might get inhabited by a person from what we might call waking physical reality, or even by someone who has died. In a similar way, I can perhaps inhabit a character in another person’s dream. This concept allows for what we call “mutual dreaming” and “psychopompic dreaming.”
I once tried to meet a student in a lucid dream. I got lucid by noticing a woman who had died, but I tried to rush off and find my student before I listened to the woman. From this dream, I learned that I kept getting blocked until I first dealt with what I found in front of me.
As for dream characters, I still believe that, at some level, the characters in my dream represent aspects of my mind, even if inhabited by others who, in a sense, serve as actors taking on the roles of characters in a scene.
When lucid, I realize that my dream-body does not reside in what we might call “waking physical reality,” but in what I might call my physical self’s mind, not necessarily in my brain. When I wake up, I merely change dimensions or perspectives. We can say that I take on the role of a new character, or inhabit my physical body once again.
When I find myself in a lucid dream, the dream character that I inhabit, or my dream-self, sometimes tells other dream characters that they are dreaming. Other times, a different dream character may say this to my dream-self.
Has anyone here had another character tell you that you were dreaming???
When I experience a high level of lucidity, either all the dream characters I encounter know that they currently exist in a dream, or I encounter no separate characters at all.
I consider myself “not completely lucid” when I encounter any characters in my dream that don’t believe they currently exist in a dream. I say this because I believe that if any aspects of my expanded mind do not have lucidity, then I cannot call myself completely “lucid.”
I’d like to ask Robert Waggoner to take a couple of minutes to describe his view of dream characters or “entities,” which I believe he will speak on in depth during our panel on Sunday from 2 to 4 in Cooperage 2. On this panel, I will focus on Interactive “Dream Healing” and Ed Kellogg will delve into “Demons”!!!
The next topic asserts that we:
CAN’T PROVE WE ARE NOT DREAMING***
We can think of having lucidity as not getting fooled, or not having the “illusion” of existing in a physical reality.
If you remember any dreams, perhaps you have gotten fooled by a dream that seemed real while it took place. You may have even said, “I can’t be dreaming, this seems too real.” Maybe you find that you couldn’t fly as you could in other dreams. However, when you wake up, you realize that you got fooled and you really were dreaming.
We can say that lucid dreamers don’t get fooled. They know, at some level, that a dream does not have to follow physical laws. Non-lucid dreamers assume that the physical laws hold because they lack lucidity.
I believe, then, that you can not know with absolutely certainty that you are not dreaming at any time. As in the case where you got fooled, you may just not have enough lucidity to question or notice that you might be dreaming. Even after you wake up, you may not remember that you dreamed.
Now a little about CONNECTING TO THE DREAMER***
We can also say that, when lucid, your dream character’s mind connects with the mind of the dreamer, or that the mind of the dream character has expanded. The dream character can now remember and act upon the goals, memory, and thoughts of the dreamer.
For example, the dream character can remember goals that your mind, the dreamer, may have set up to do in the dream before you went to sleep. The dream character and the dreamer can then co-create the dream, although the dreamer may still have intentions that the dream character does not have awareness of, even in lucidity.
Who here has become lucid in a dream and remembered and carried out a goal?
As a lucid dream character, I do not detach myself from the dream environment, but rather I see myself as equivalent to the environment, the other characters, and more. Also, detaching from the dreamer would mean that I forget, at some level, that I help create the dream scene. I would then lose some level of lucidity.
To summarize, in a lucid dream, I feel more present than in a non-lucid dream, bringing my whole self into the experience. I experience myself as more than just my dream body. I know that the source of myself also exists outside the dimension of the dream, or inside the dreamer.
I have gotten a better sense of my “source,” or what we can call “God” or our “higher power,” through lucid dreaming, than by my metaphysical or religious training. These often seemed to infer that God existed either inside my body, or somewhere out there, up in the sky.
With this background, I now feel that I can talk about looking at life as a dream or what I call:
When I view my waking life as a dream, a dream in which I know I am dreaming, to various degrees, of course, I call this lucid living. Waking life may feel ‘real’ and unlike a ‘dream,’ merely because I lack lucidity, just as non-lucid dreams can feel like physical reality, until I become lucid.
I try to view life as an “actual dream” and not to merely use lucid living as a therapy or philosophy. The assumptions that come from viewing life as a dream can give us power and can expand our possibilities in life.
If I look at waking life as a dream, then I can also use lucid dreaming techniques which I learned from my sleeping dream experiences, to more easily become lucid in my waking life. One of the most valuable techniques I use involves looking for unusual or recurring scenes in my life, as I do in my sleeping dreams.
When lucid in waking life, I know unlimited possibilities, feel safe and connected to everyone, and sometimes even experience magic in my waking life, as I have in my sleeping lucid dreams. Next, I want to tell you how I developed:
I had the idea of lucid living many years ago. First, I had a long series of validated precognitive dreams in 1982 that made me question the solidness of time and space, or what we call physical reality. I described these in a talk at Bridgewater for IASD2006.
About the same time, I participated in many television specials on lucid dreaming. In one, we filmed an experiment at the Stanford sleep laboratory, to determine which part of my brain seemed most active while I sang a song in a dream.
On a commercial for a national television special, which played over and over again for weeks, I appeared on the screen in my bathrobe, with electrodes all over my face, practicing the song, “Row, row, row your boat … life is but a dream.” I watched myself and thought, “maybe life is a dream, and I do not have enough lucidity to know this for sure.”
This led me to teach the benefits of calling what some call “waking physical reality” a dream. I wanted to help myself and others to become more lucid in life, which I called lucid living.
At first, I had a lot of trouble convincing others, and myself at times that while awake, we can still exist in a dream. False awakening dreams helped me practice questioning if I was dreaming, even when I thought I had woken up.
In false awakenings, you think you wake up from a sleeping dream, for example, in your bedroom. You keep thinking this until either, you become lucid and know that you are still dreaming, or you wake up to what you might call waking physical reality.
Because I have remembered an average of six dreams almost every night of my life, I have gotten tricked many times by mistaking a dream for my waking life, or what we might call waking physical reality.
I finally convinced myself that I can easily tell when I do not exist in waking physical reality. This might occur when I can float, fly or interact with someone whom I know has died. I say that I am dreaming. Of course, not everyone would find these tasks easy. Some may even say that we can fly or interact with the dead in other realities besides dreaming.
For purposes of this talk however, I will discuss and assume only two different realities, namely, dreaming and waking physical reality. Then, I will try to convince you that both of these may have the same properties, in other words, we can think of them as them as a single reality and say that their differences stem from our own level of consciousness, or lucidity.
I believe that we cannot prove that we are not dreaming. Therefore, why not assume that we are always dreaming, look at what that implies, and use lucid dreaming techniques to become the more lucid in our waking lives.
If you prefer to consider many realities with different laws, so to speak, then you could still say that all these realities make up one single “experiential” reality. I don’t like to think this way, however, because I like to view life as having the powerful and beneficial “magic” that I find in my own dreams, and use dream analogies to explain how life may work. I suppose you can consider my views similar to traditional Buddhist or Hindu beliefs, which may call life a type of dream, but in their case, they see life as “unreal” as a mere “dream,” and they promote yet another different “true reality.
I’d like to ask Ed Kellogg to take a couple of minutes to describe his view of “realities.” !!!
We now need to ask an important question. If we view life as a dream, then who serves as the the dreamer? In other words, if we become “dream characters” in the dream of life, who do we connect to when lucid? My answer:
THE DREAMER OF LIFE***
In my view, there exists, outside of the dimension of life, or what we sometimes call “waking physical reality,” an all-encompassing mind is dreaming the dream we call life. I call this mind the Dreamer of Life. In one sense, we can think of this Dreamer of Life as our combined and expanded mind.
We could also use terms such as our Higher Self, God, or Source in place of the term “Dreamer of Life.” I feel that we can break down this Dreamer of Life into many levels, as well, forming a type of “Tree of Life.
Sometimes, I really do feel as though I am dreaming while awake and in what some call waking physical reality. At these times, I feel connected to the Dreamer of Life. I even notice many synchronicities in my life occurring during these times.
However, I often get caught up in my life and forget that I might be dreaming. Because of my experience in sleeping lucid dreams, I try to never assume that I am not dreaming.
We can compare the process of connecting to the Dreamer of Life in lucid living with traditional forms of prayer or meditation. In practicing lucid living, I first stop my train of thought and imagine that I am dreaming. I try to come from the perspective of this Dreamer of Life, or our expanded self. I see others as aspects of it, trust it, and surrender to its wishes.
With lucid living I feel that we can deal with our fears, see unlimited possibilities, and experience the connectedness of everything, So, I will go into each point in more detail.
EXPERIENCING EMOTIONS AND FACING FEARS***
In my sleeping dreams, I have found power in surrendering and fully experiencing my emotions. For example, I have brought the scary witches into my body, and I have gone with them to the place where they originate.
When I find situations in my sleeping lucid dreams that seem impossible or terrifying, such as jumping into fire or merging with a black void, I challenge myself to tackle them head on. Sometimes, in my sleeping lucid dreams, I find myself falling faster and faster down an endless slide. I have learned to surrender to this sensation of increasing speed.
Has anyone here taken such “risks without risk” in a lucid dream???
I see a parallel to surrendering and facing our emotions in life. When I practice facing my fears in life and surrender, as I do in my sleeping lucid dreams, I usually have positive results.
When I have strong feelings, such as sadness, grief, or fear, I do not necessarily have to express them outwardly in reaction. I can surrender to them deep within myself, and try not to push aside or hold back my feelings.
By calling life a dream, I do not mean to imply that in my life, I take what one might call “unreasonable risks” or necessarily expect instant magic, as I often do in sleeping lucid dreams. I never take dangerous actions unless I feel positive that I am dreaming, and I have evidence that normal physical laws won’t apply.
In a sleeping dream, I usually figure that if I can fly, then I can jump off a cliff. I realize, however, that I could lose lucidity, and dream that I have broken all my bones.
In any case, when I have even a small amount of lucidity in my life, I feel safer because I believe that I am more than just my individual body and personality.
In waking life we may have the habit of thinking of our “body” as our “self.” Similarly, in non-lucid dreams we might think of our dream-body as our “self.” Of course, we wouldn’t use term “dream body” because we wouldn’t recognize that we were dreaming.
In a non-lucid dream, we believe that if the body we currently inhabit dies, we die, because we do not have awareness of our expanded self, or the dreamer. We continue to feel this way until we wake up out of the dream.
We might think, after the fact, that we could have responded differently had we realized sooner that we were dreaming. We could have become lucid and experience ourselves as more than just our body before we “wake up” out of our dreams or in the case of lucid living, out of our lives! In lucid dreams, I have often let myself die, knowing that I exist as more that just a dream-body.
Has anyone here let their dream-body “die” in a lucid dream???
I also know that in sleeping dreams, when I dream that someone dies, I don’t necessarily expect that they have died in what we might call waking physical reality. From the perspective of the dreamer they could still be living.
I imagine that even non-lucid dreamers feel this way after they wake up. So, I have to assume that when someone dies in my life, that they haven’t necessarily died from the perspective of the Dreamer of Life.
UNLIMITED POSSIBILITIES IN LIFE***
I also believe that I co-create my reality with the Dreamer of Life. As in sleeping dreams, I recognize that the Dreamer of Life may have intentions that I do not know about even in lucidity.
Whenever I feel myself in a dream, I believe that anything can happen, in mysterious, or even magical ways. I can experience the joy of helping make things happen more often in my life, by learning to become lucid in waking life and set upon accomplishing tasks with a new outlook, believing in unlimited possibilities.
At the very least, I can probably gain an understanding of how I may block myself and try again, knowing I have endless possibilities.
An example, from an early stage of my sleeping lucid dream development, illustrates this point. In my dream, I could not fly to my destination because I kept hitting telephone poles.
When I eventually determined one time that I was dreaming, I could fly right through the poles. I also realized that my mind may have created the telephone poles to begin with!
A therapist once told me about a patient who could not get through a block in his life, which the therapist related to his dream block of not feeling able to fly through walls. After he suceeded in flying through a wall in a lucid dream, his “related” block in life actually disappeared.
CONNECTEDNESS OF ALL IN LIFE***
With lucid living, I experience everyone in my life as equal characters in one dream. I see us all as aspects of the Dreamer of Life.
When I have lucidity in my life, I want to understand the Dreamer of Life. I listen to others and try to see where there opinions come from, and what they can teach me, without judging them.
Now I will focus upon:
LUCIDITY TECHNIQUES AND RECURRING SCENARIOS IN LIFE***
As I have mentioned, I have developed techniques for becoming lucid in my sleeping dreams, that I can also use in my waking life. In my main technique, I look for unusual or impossible situations or recurring scenarios.
Has anyone here let their dream-body “die” in a lucid dream???
A great example of using a lucidity technique in my waking life occurred when I noticed recurring scenarios during my love relationships before I got married. With many different partners, I often found myself in an argument in a similar physical position and location.
My partner would be hovering over me looking scary and not unlike the witches from my childhood dreams. During these arguments, many times my partner and I actually stood in the same place in my living room at the intersection of the couches that formed an L-shape.
The last time this scenario ever happened, right in the middle of the argument, I suddenly thought, “This seems like a recurring theme. What if I am dreaming?”
I immediately decided to see my partner as an aspect our expanded self, or the Dreamer of Life. I thought about his point of view and what he had to teach me. I had less fear. Internally, my reaction changed. With trust and surrender, I stayed in the moment. You could say that I faced up to my partner.
Exactly as the witches did when I faced up to them, my partner froze, stopped yelling, and then turned and walked away. It seemed as though I no longer needed to play out this drama. I had solved it, as I did my childhood nightmares. In my next relationship, my marriage of almost fourteen years, this scenario has not occurred.
By the way, my childhood nightmares took place in the same physical location each time also, at the bottom of the back porch stairs of my childhood home.
I used this method that I just described in many other situations. Once, during a heated discussion with my cousin in the waking state, I suddenly stopped to think, “If I look at this as a dream right now, then my cousin actually expresses a part of our expanded self, or the Dreamer of Life, which I want to understand.” At the exact moment I had this thought, she actually started to explain how our points of view seemed related instead of opposed.
Another time, while in a hospital, a doctor merely said something that reminded me of a dream, and I immediately let go of my fear and accepted the situation, which seemed so scary only moments before.
to accomplish in my lucid dreams serves as a wonderful technique to motivate me to become lucid in a dream.
Sometimes after getting lucid in my nighttime dreams, I decide not to change the direction of the dream, in order to carry out a goal. In this case, I go with the flow of the dream. When I do have an interesting goal, and feel that the situation calls for it, I get motivated to become and remain lucid so that I can accomplish the goal.
In my lucid dreaming classes, I suggest that my students start with a simple goal to accomplish in their lucid dream. I ask them to decide the first steps of the goal ahead of time, while awake. They also must think about how they can perform the steps from wherever they might find themselves in the dream. I have discovered that a goal of “becoming lucid” does not work as well as a goal of doing something fun in the limitless world of dreams. We must remember this in life!
I’d like everyone to think of a goal that they would like to try in a lucid dream which they can practice in waking life???
Now let’s move on to:
GOALS FOR LUCID LIVING***
In my waking life, I often “go with the flow,” but I still form goals. When I determine my goals, I strive for them to conform with the goals of the Dreamer of Life. This usually happens when I experience great passion. In my life, I have gotten through many potential blocks, while getting my Ph.D., enjoying an exciting and prosperous career, and having an excellent family life.
I took this approach when I had a goal of having a family. A series of dreams helped me see that my life was proceeding appropriately, whenever I seemed to let go of hope. I dreamed of going into my past and several possible futures to communicate with myself at various ages. I also dreamed of my future child and took actions in my sleeping lucid dreams to try to help the process.
Most importantly, I also had a belief while awake that things would work out, even if they took longer or didn’t proceed as I imagined. This belief came from trusting my concept of lucid living, or seeing life as a dream.
I acted with lucidity in my waking life when I met my husband. I noticed him across the room at a party, went up to him, and talked to him. Although much younger than me, I recognized him in some kind of deeper sense, and I felt him playing a part in my future. I would call this moment the most lucid in my life so far.
I felt that I completely surrendered to the Dreamer of Life, or our expanded self. I stayed in the present moment continuously, without fear, and with total trust. I remained with him and totally focussed on him, while part of me observed our interaction.
I believed in magic and totally accepted whatever happened. I listened to him, as if he truly formed part of my higher self. Married for almost fourteen years, I still view him as my perfect mate.
I also used lucid dreaming and lucid living to overcome the tremendous odds we had against bearing a child, as well. We now have a son who just turned twelve years old.
Now, I would like to share a few
I believe lucid living can have a profound effect on all our lives. Of course, as in our sleeping dreams, we can easily go on automatic and lose lucidity.
However, the more we practice lucid dreaming skills, whether while asleep, or during our waking life, the more lucid we will likely become at all times. In this way, we can live the most illuminating, clear, and conscious life as possible.
I usually suggest that you ask your self if you are dreaming everytime you do some regular daily activity, such as walking up or down stairs. Look around and perhaps even practice carrying out our goal, if you can. Eventually, you’ll do this in a dream!???
If every person viewed life as a dream in this way, I believe that the world could heal. Even if people simply opened up to the possibility to seeing life may as a dream, the Dreamer of Life would become more lucid.
Also I feel that, if any one person consistently believed they are dreaming in life, then amazing healing of the world could take place. I have this as a goal and it motivates me to make the effort to write and present my ideas.
The Dreamer of Life needs to have more lucidity in order for us to experience magic. We need to remain open to lucid living and look for evidence that we are dreaming for this to happen. Then, when we see the magic, our beliefs would strengthen, and we would see ourselves as co-creators of our reality.
Like puppets, who think they act separate from the puppeteer, we often feel disconnected. Using the puppet analogy, we can begin to identify more with the puppeteer, or the Dreamer of life.
As in sleeping dreams, the dreamer can only speak through a dream character. When a dream character connects to the dreamer in lucidity, and the dream character doesn’t get in the way, the dreamer’s goals and thoughts can get manifested.
The Dreamer of Life, our Higher Self, or our Source needs us, its dream characters, to connect to it so it can speak through us and get heard.
One can say that while we exist in life, because life seems real, we can only call it a dream from an outside perspective, or after we die. However, since we can know that we are dreaming while in a sleeping dream, and remain in the dream, then why can’t we also know that we are dreaming in the waking state while remaining in it.
As a sleeping lucid dreamer, I learned how to remain in a dream, to wake up out of it, to change it, to go back into it, and to become more lucid and accomplish intricate goals while in the dream. I would like to do this, and more, in my waking dream as well.
So remember, I say we are dreaming now. View every situation in your life as a dream, experience and let go of your fears, see unlimited possibilities, including the connectedness of everything, and make your own dreams come true.
In conclusion, I will present a list of
I have discovered that ancient traditions and religions, as well as modern best-selling authors, movies, and songs talk about concepts similar to lucid living. Some of these include: the Hindus and Maya; the Buddhists and Connectedness; the Christians and Resurrection; The Course of Miracles and the Happy Dream; plus Jane Roberts and SETH;
I would also add: Deepak Chopra; Wayne Dyer; Don Miguel Ruiz; The Wizard of Oz; Star Trek; The Matrix… The list goes on and on.
Let me share my favorite: “Row, Row, Row, your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream!”
For more information or a copy of this presentation see my website: http://www.durso.org/beverly