Following on from my ‘Getting to sleep’ post, now part two of what apparently will be at least a two part series on sleep related topics.
My introduction to lucid dreaming came at an early age. When I was four or five, I used to have this recurring nightmare. I was in my childhood home, quite a large house built down the side of a slope, it had two stories, plus a lower basement/flat level that was probably about half the floor space of each of the two floors above. So I used to have this dream where I was being chased around the house by a Wampa from The Empire Strikes Back1. There was a central wooden staircase that connected all three floors of the house and it was constructed in such a way that there was a fairly large space between each step (or so it seemed to my child sized sense of scale), the kind that can make one slightly wary of climbing if you’re unfamiliar with it, something to do with the perspective of seeing through the steps as one climbs them. To this day, I still have a distinct memory of crouching silently on the staircase, a few steps from the top, looking down through the gaps and seeing this giant monster walking past on the level below, looking for me.
I remember telling my mother about this dream and how it troubled me. She told me that I had the power to control my dreams. That I needed to face the Wampa and either make friends or destroy him.
I don’t remember how long it took me, but one night after being chased around the house for a while by my shaggy white tormentor, something just clicked. I realised I was in a dream. I stopped running. I turned from where I was – poised to run down the last flight of steps into the basement – and walked back up the three or four steps to stand and look up at the Wampa. He wasn’t doing anything, just looking down at me, it almost seemed like he was confused, this obviously wasn’t the way things were meant to go. I held out my hand and said something like ‘Do you want to see my toys?’ The Wampa apparently agreed, and took my hand in friendship. Next thing I do remember, I’m down in the basement, all my toys – which were usually in a different area of the house – are arrayed around the basement and I’m giving the guided tour.
I never had that dream again after that night. I never again had a recurring nightmare and any nightmares are quite rare for me.
During my teenage years, I started to experiment a little more actively with lucid dreaming. I started to use a radio by the side of my bed as a signal to my unconscious self, I would leave it on with the volume down low and fall asleep. I found that it was important to not need to wake at a certain time the next morning, I needed to be able to wake at an organically determined time, so I would try my experiments on evenings where this was possible. After a few experiments over a few weeks of leaving the radio on low as I fell asleep, it started to work. I would be in a dream and I would see and hear a radio, then I would remember I was in a dream. Success.
Lucid dreaming is pretty cool. Some of the more memorable things I did would include jumping off the top of a six story office building. I remember falling, looking down and seeing a small mountain of empty brown cardboard boxes that I fell through and then touched down on the ground as if I weighed almost nothing. I interpreted the boxes as being a way for my mind to construct a vaguely believable reason for my survival. I was able to consciously make myself fly a number of times, though it actually seemed more like swimming through air than what one might think of as flying. Again, I think it was my mind trying to create an experience I had not really had by compositing ones that I have. Once I woke myself up from a dream. I was having a bit of a boring time, decided I was going to wake up from this dream, so I lie down on the ground in the dream and I wake up, feeling alert and refreshed.
Now years later, sadly, a little like Puff the Magic Dragon in the old children’s tale, my lucid dreaming has mostly faded away with adult life being the culprit. I don’t have much opportunity to facilitate lucid dreaming. Work and other regimented commitments take too much time and focus. I need ample free space in my mind to get my lucid on.
I have heard some say that lucid dreaming is really sort of irrelevant, valueless, uninteresting. It’s just fantasy and what value do dreams really have? I don’t agree. My experience with lucid dreams taught me at an early age that this is my mind, I have control of it. I am the master and if I try and want it enough, I can do amazing things.
I recommend it.
What was I doing watching The Empire Strikes Back at no more than the age of four or five? Having an awesome time, that’s what. ↩