Lucid Dreaming, Lucid Living
Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D’Urso, Ph.D. Copyright (c) 2004
Symposium at the Association for the Study of Dreams (ASD) Conference 2004, Copenhagen, June, 2004.
LUCID DREAMING/LUCID LIVING OVERVIEW
In order to talk about lucid living, I need to give you a little background on how I view lucid dreaming. As you know, lucid dreaming is when you are asleep and aware, at some level, that you are dreaming.
We typically call you the dreamer and say you are lucid. The dreamer can also be thought of as your physical body’s mind, although I would not say that my “mind” is contained in my “brain”.
I have covered topics such as levels of lucidity and techniques for becoming lucid in other presentations and I will highlight a few of these later in this talk. For today, I want to focus on what I call lucid living.
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 be very powerful and can expand what we feel is possible in life.
If I look at waking life as a dream, then I can also use lucid dreaming techniques that I learned from my sleeping dream experiences, to more easily become lucid in my waking life.
When lucid in waking life, I can become more “free”, know that anything is possible, feel connected to everyone, and maybe even experience magic in my waking life, as I have in my sleeping lucid dreams. Next, I want to tell you how I came up with my ideas and what they imply.
I remember having had lucid dreams since I was seven years old and I faced up to scary witches in a recurring nightmare. You can see my web site: durso.org for a detailed description of this dream and a list of places that it has been published.
Basically, I recognized recurring dream scenes where I was begging these scary witches who hovered over me to “Spare me tonight. 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 my nightmares.
Years later, I helped do research on lucid dreaming at the Stanford Sleep Laboratory. I was able to signal from the dream to the physical lab while being 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 ASD conferences for almost 20 years.
I have remembered, on average, six dreams per night, for most my of life. I’d say that between 2 and 20 dreams per week were lucid, to various degrees. So, I’d estimate that I have had over 20,000 lucid sleeping dreams in my life so far.
My dreams usually seem like what we 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 are very bizarre and yet I ignore this sign of being in a dream and rationalize the experience.
For the next four or five minutes, I will cover some basic issues and terminology that I also mentioned in my presentation yesterday. These apply to both lucid dreaming and lucid living.
CONTROL VERSUS SURRENDER
In my lucid dreams, I feel free to go wherever my imagination takes me, and I take care to balance spontaneity and control.
Notice that you can be lucid without any kind of control taking place. Being able to control your own reactions or the action, characters, or environment in your dreams can be an indicator of how lucid you are, but you can still be lucid without control. However, at times, it helps to take control of the action in the dream, for example, when you want to carry out goals.
I have learned that often it is best to surrender to the lucid dream. In this case, I still have control, but of my own reactions and not of what happens to me. I am not automatically fearful, for example, when something scary happens.
I only need to remain conscious that I am in a dream. This allows me to have less fear, to see more possibilities, and to see myself as one with the whole dream environment. With lucidity, I 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 feel that I can be fully in the dream yet not of it, meaning that I know while dreaming that my part of my self can be found outside of the dimension of the dream.
To me witnessing would be like watching a movie or a play. Being in a dream is like being in the play. Being in a lucid dream is like being in a play in perfect character, having all the character’s feelings and consequences, while still knowing that you are essentially the actor, and possibly the producer and director as well.
With lucid dreaming, I feel that it is important that you know you’re taking on the roll of a dream character in your dream. This dream character seems to exist in another dimension from your physical body, albeit a three-dimensional world that may seem real, while you, the dreamer, are safe in bed.
One dream character often looks and acts like you, but it may not. We sometimes call this our dream body or dream self. You may have other dream characters that look like someone you know or someone that you don’t know.
When lucid, you realize that your dream body is not in physical reality, but in your physical self’s mind. When you wake up, you change dimensions or perspectives.
When I am in a lucid dream, the dream character that I incorporate sometimes tells other dream characters that they are in a dream. Other times they might be the ones to tell my character.
When I am very lucid, either all the dream characters I find know that they are in a dream, or there are no characters at all. I consider myself not completely lucid when there are any other characters in my dream that don’t believe they are in a dream.
If you remember any dreams, perhaps you have been fooled by a dream that seemed real while it was happening. You may have even said, “This can’t be a dream, it’s too real.” Maybe you notice that you can’t fly as you may have been able to do in dreams. However, if at one point you wake up, you would then realize that you had been fooled and it really was a dream.
Remember, lucid dreamers are the ones who know that the dream is not a solid physical reality, which is precisely what non-lucid dreamers usually assume because they are not lucid.
We can say, then, that you can not be absolutely certain that you are not dreaming at any time, because as in the case where you were fooled, you may just not be lucid enough to question or notice that you might be dreaming until you wake up. Even then, you may not even remember that you have a dreamed.
CONNECTING TO THE DREAMER
Another way to describe lucidity is to say that your dream character’s mind connects with the mind of the dreamer. We can also say 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 you, 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 is not aware of, even in lucidity.
As a lucid dream character, I do not detach myself from the dream environment, but rather I see myself as equivalent to the environment and more. Also, detaching from the dreamer would be similar to forgetting that I am, at some level, creating the dream scene. I would then lose some level of lucidity.
To summarize, in a lucid dream I am more present than in a non-lucid dream, bringing my whole self into the experience. I know that I am more than my dream body and that the Source of myself is outside the dimension of the dream or inside the dreamer.
To me, this is much more clear than how I perceived my religious, as well as metaphysical, training to say that God was either inside my body or somewhere up in the sky.
With this background, I now feel that I can talk about what I call lucid living, or looking at life as a dream. I had the idea of lucid living many years ago, after many things happened to me personally. First, I had a series of precognitive dreams in 1982 that made me question the solidness of time and space or what we call physical reality.
About the same time, I’ll was doing many television specials on lucid dreaming. In one, we were filming an experiment at the Stanford sleep laboratory, which was to determine which part of my brain was active while I sang a song in a dream.
On a commercial for the national television special, which played over and over again for weeks, I was on the screen in my bathrobe with electrodes all over my face practicing the song, “Row, row, row your … life is but a dream.” I watched myself and thought, maybe life is a dream and I am just not lucid enough to know it for sure.”
This let me to teach the benefits of assuming that one is in a dream while in waking physical reality and becoming more lucid, which I called lucid living.
At first, I had a lot of trouble convincing others, and myself at times, that when awake we can still be in a dream. False awakening dreams helped me practice deciding if I was dreaming, even when I thought I was awake.
False awakenings are dreams where you think you wake up, for example, in your bedroom. You remain there until you either, you become lucid and can tell it’s another dream, or you really wake up, so to speak.
Because I remember an average of six dreams almost every night of my life, I have been tricked many times into believing a dream was waking physical reality.
I convinced myself that I can easily prove I am in a dream. All I need to do is float or fly or see someone whom I know has died. Of course, these tasks may not be so easy for everyone.
However, as I said earlier, I believe it is impossible to 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.
THE DREAMER OF LIFE
The main question is: If life is a dream, then who is the dreamer? If life is a dream, then you and I are equivalent to the dream characters in sleeping dreams. So who is it that we can connect to?
Well, I assume that there exists, outside of the dimension of life, or waking physical reality, an all-encompassing mind that is having this dream we call life. I will call this dreamer the Dreamer of Life. In one sense, I think of it as our expanded minds or our expanded self.
I have found difficulties in using the terms such as, Higher Self, God, or Source in place of the Dreamer of Life, but you can use them if it makes you feel more comfortable. Also, I acknowledge that the Dreamer of Life can be broken down into many levels as well.
Sometimes, I really do feel as though I am dreaming while awake and in 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 in a dream. Because of my experience in sleeping lucid dreams, I try to never assume that I am not dreaming.
The process of connecting to the Dreamer of Life is similar to the traditional forms of prayer or meditation. With lucid living, I first stop my train of thought and imagine that I am in a dream. I try to come from the perspective of this Dreamer of Life, or our expanded self, see others as aspects of it, trust it, and surrender to its wishes.
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 come from.
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 do so. Lately, in my sleeping lucid dreams, I have found myself falling faster and faster down an endless slide. I have learned to surrender to this sensation of increasing speed.
I believe there is a parallel to surrendering and facing our emotions in life. I have often practiced facing my fears in life and surrendering, as I do in my sleeping lucid dreams. I usually discover that my life improves.
When I have strong feelings, such as sadness, grief, 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.
LESS FEAR IN LIFE
By calling life a dream, I do not mean to imply that in my life, I take unreasonable risks or expect instant magic, as I often do in sleeping lucid dreams. I never take dangerous actions unless I am positive I am dreaming and I have proof.
In any case, when I am even a little lucid 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 that our body is our “self.” Similarly, in non-lucid dreams we might think that our dream body is our “self.” Of course, we wouldn’t use term “dream body” because we wouldn’t recognize that we were dreaming.
We may believe that if the body we “are currently associating with” dies, we die, because we are not aware of our expanded self, or the dreamer. We continue to feel this way until we wake up out of the dream.
We think, after the fact, that we could have responded differently had we realized that we’d dreamed. Why not become lucid and notice that we are more than just our body before we “wake up” out of our dreams or out of our lives?
I know that in sleeping dreams, when I dream of someone who dies, I don’t necessarily expect that they have died in physical reality. So I have to assume that when someone dies in my life, that they haven’t necessarily died in the reality of the Dreamer of Life.
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IN LIFE
I also believe in the ability to 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 am not aware of even in lucidity.
Whenever I feel myself in a dream, I really believe that anything can happen, even in mysterious or even magical ways. I can experience the joy of making things happen more often in my waking state, by learning to become lucid in waking life and set upon accomplishing tasks with a new outlook that anything is possible.
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 decided that “this is my dream,” I was able to fly right through the poles. I also realized that it was my physical self’s mind that created the telephone poles to begin with!
WE ARE ALL ONE IN LIFE
I experience everyone in my life as equal characters in one dream or all aspects of the Dreamer of Life.
When I am lucid in my waking state, I want to understand the Dreamer of Life. I listen to others and try to see where there opinions come from and what they are teaching me without judging them.
As I have mentioned, I have developed techniques for becoming lucid, or being aware that I am dreaming, in my sleeping dreams that I can also use in my waking life. The main technique I use is to look for unusual or impossible situations or recurring scenarios.
RECURRING SCENARIOS IN LIFE
A great example of using a lucidity technique in my waking life is when I noticed recurring scenarios during my relationships before I was married. I often found myself in an argument with my partner.
When I thought about the specific times this happened, I noticed that with several different partners I would be in a similar position during the arguments.
My partner would be hovering over me looking scary and not unlike the witches. Sometimes this would happen when we were in the same physical location in my living room where the couches formed an L-shape.
The last time this scenario ever happened, I was right in the middle of the argument when I suddenly thought, “This is a recurring theme. What if this is a dream?”
I immediately saw my partner as an aspect our expanded self, or the Dreamer of Life. I thought about where he was coming from and what he had to teach me. I had less fear. Internally, my reaction changed. With trust and surrender, I stayed in the moment.
Exactly as the witches did when I faced up to them, my partner froze, stopped yelling, and then turned and walked away. It was as if I no longer needed to play out this drama. I had solved it, as I did my childhood nightmares.
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 an argument 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, that I want to understand. At that exact moment, 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 was able to let go of my fear and accept the situation.
GOALS IN LIFE
One of the best techniques I have used for motivating me to become lucid is to set goals to accomplish in my dream. Sometimes, I become lucid and 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. However, when I do have an interesting goal, I get motivated to become and remain lucid.
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 ahead of time while awake that they can carry out from wherever they might find themselves. I find 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!
Throughout my life, I have found there are many uses for lucid dreaming. Some of these include: psychological development, trying new behaviors, healing, and much more. I’ve found that all of these can apply, whether we find ourselves asleep or awake.
In my waking life, I often “go with the flow” and still set up goals. When I determine my goals, I try to be in line with the Dreamer of Life, which seems to be the case when I have great passion in realizing my goals. I have gotten through many potential blocks in getting my Ph.D. and having an exciting and prosperous career.
This is especially apparent when I decided I wanted a family. A series of dreams helped me see that things were exactly as they should be whenever I seemed to let go of hope.
However, I also had a belief while awake that things would work out, even if they took longer or didn’t proceed as I imagined.
An example of how I acted with lucidity in my waking life is when I met my husband by noticing him across the room at a party, going up to him, and talking to him. I had an extremely strong sense that he would be in my future, even though he turned out to be much younger than me. This was probably the most lucid moment in my life so far.
I felt that I completely surrendered to the Dreamer of Life, or our expanded self. I was 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, while been totally accepting whatever happened. I was able to listen to him, as if he were truly part of myself. We have been married for over ten years and I still feel that he is my perfect mate.
I also used lucid dreaming and lucid living to overcome the tremendous odds I had against being able to bear a child, as well. We now have an son who will be nine years old on Monday.
I have a few final comments on lucid living. 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 when asleep or during our waking life, the more likely we will become lucid at all times and live the most illuminating, clear, and conscious life as possible.
I have decided that one way for the world to heal is for every person to view life as a dream in this way. Even if they were simply to be open to the possibility that life may be a dream, the Dreamer of Life would become more lucid.
An alternate way for the world to heal is for any one person to continuously believe they are in a dream. That is my goal and why I’m taking the time and effort to write and present these ideas.
The Dreamer of Life needs to be more lucid in order to get us to perform magic and prove that life is a dream. When we respond more strongly as if we are in a dream, the Dreamer of Life will be more lucid. We will then see ourselves more as co-creators of our reality.
Like puppets, who act as though they are 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, realizing that is who really makes everything happen.
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 be heard or seen.
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 be heard.
One can say that while we are in life it is real and argue that we can call it a dream only from an outside perspective or after we die. However, if it is possible to know that you dream in sleeping dreams while you dream and remain in the dream, then we can also know that we dream in the waking state while remaining in it.
As a sleeping lucid dreamer, I learned to remain in my dreams, to wake up out of them, to change them, to go back into them, to become more lucid, and to accomplish intricate goals within them. I would like to do this, and more, in my waking state as well.
Finally, 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. 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 with SETH; Deepak Chopra; Wayne Dyer; Don Miguel Ruiz; The Wizard of Oz; Star Trek; The Matrix… the list goes on and on.
My favorite is: Row, Row, Row, your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream
So remember, we are dreaming now. View every situation you find yourself in as a dream, experience and let go of your fears, know that anything is possible, see the oneness of everyone, and make your own dreams come true.