(Adapted from an
article appearing in the December 2014 Townsend Letter: The Examiner
of Alternative Medicine)
Several years ago, I started spontaneously having lucid dreams, dreams
in which you become aware that you are dreaming, consciously interacting
with dream characters, choosing what to say and how to react, and
steering the dream in directions desired.
Lucid dreaming allows
one to explore the dynamics of consciousness at a level seemingly
impossible in our less pliable waking life. For many lucid dreamers, the
process can become deeply spiritual. The doors of perception open,
allowing one to glimpse into the “many rooms in our Father’s house.”
Once you start, there is no going home again. Entrenched paradigms start
crumbling like the walls of Jericho, giving access to vistas of
consciousness previously blocked off by our beliefs and convictions.
dreamers often experience euphoric highs, crowding out the depression,
angst, and malaise generated from the slings and arrows of everyday
life. Associated with shifts in brain-chemistry, such highs fade over
time, but appreciation for lucid-dream transcendence never does.
In this article, I’ll
provide an overview of lucid dreaming, including methods for cultivating
such dreams, their potential for accessing information and creative
problem solving, and, most importantly, their capability to tap into new
mind-body-spirit healing energies.
throughout the Ages
Dream healing is not
just new-age malarkey but a process valued by numerous cultures and
spiritual traditions throughout history. Although couched in different
contexts, many common elements and themes flow through them.
For example, as
discussed in Edward Tick’s The Practice of Dream Healing: Bringing
Ancient Greek Mysteries into Modern Medicine, ancient Greeks
would ritually enter sleep in a sacred healing temple dedicated to
Asclepius, the god of medicine. The goal was to incubate a healing dream
in which Asclepius would appear in some form, touching the afflicted
body part or providing healing advice.
Cohen notes in Honoring the Medicine: The Essential Guide to Native
American Healing that Native Americans viewed dreaming as an
important therapeutic modality used by the healer or patient to retrieve
information, guidance, or a solution to ailments, as well as
communicating with helping spirits and spiritual forces.
As reviewed by Tenzin
Wangyal Rinpoche in The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep,
Buddhists consult dreams to diagnose illness and generate the wisdom
needed to enhance health through the understanding of the issues
surrounding sickness. Through these dreams, connections can be made to
masters and guides who are otherwise distant in time and space.
Even after death,
lucid-dream experience can be critical in soul direction, including the
physical conditions manifested in future lives. Ultimately, to attain
liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth, you need to tame your
consciousness in the turbulent Bardo state entered into after dying so
you can recognize the illusory nature of after-death visions. Experience
to do so can be gained by learning how to lucidly control consciousness
in turbulent dreams. So to speak, lucid dreams are the “training wheels”
for the bumpy, big ride after death.
spiritual tradition also emphasizes dream guidance. As outlined by
Harold Klemp in The Art of Spiritual Dreaming, Eckankar believes
that dream guides can direct you to insights concerning many issues,
including health. Like various Eastern religions, Eckankar believes that
all conditions are due to cause-and-effect karma accrued in this or a
past life. Basically, under karmic principles, your past actions serve
as seeds that will bear future fruit when the conditions are right.
Spiritual dreaming allows you to access insights from even past lives,
helping you understand and address health-affecting karmic issues.
The resources listed
in the bibliography provide numerous techniques for cultivating lucid
dreams. For example, lucid-dream author Robert Waggoner got started by
using a meditative technique suggested in one of Carlos Castaneda’s
books (discussed in Waggoner’s Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner
Self). Specifically, before falling asleep, Waggoner would
meditatively stare at his hands, repeating the phrase: “Tonight when I
see my hands in my dream, I’ll realize I’m dreaming.” Eventually, the
suggestion took hold, his hands popped in front of his face, and he
recognized he was dreaming.
It doesn’t do much good to have lucid dreams if you can’t remember them.
To develop better recall, record as many dreams as possible. Even
jotting down a few notes soon after a dream before drifting back to
sleep will greatly enhance memory of it in the morning. Because dreaming
seems to be more of a function of the visual-emphasizing right brain,
you need an activity of the more analytical left brain, such as writing,
to anchor dream recollection in waking memory
One helpful tip when
you wake up in the night is not to move immediately, just remain in the
same position. If you don’t have the distracting physical sensations
associated with rolling over, etc, the illusive dream memory may drift
back into your consciousness. When it does, record it.
The next step is to periodically review your journal for dream signs,
which can serve as future lucidity red flags. For example, if you
routinely see celebrities, deceased persons, flying dogs, etc in your
dreams, those observations can become the indication that you are
dreaming in future dreams. As you amble down your dream path, dream
signs are like large, flashing billboards announcing where you’re at,
provided you pay attention.
Dovetailing with dream signs are reality checks. Throughout the day when
you do certain activities, e.g., drink a glass of water, walk through a
doorway, go to the bathroom, etc, ask yourself “Is this dream”? If you
do that asking enough in waking life, the habit will persist in your
However, the mere
asking “Is this a Dream?” within a dream may not be enough because your
dream consciousness will tend to convince you otherwise; you need proof.
For example, after seeing a dream sign and asking the question, jump in
the air and see if you float down, or read text twice and see if it has
changed. Although it would seem obvious that if you were thinking about
lucidity in a dream, you’d become lucid, this is often not the case. For
example, in one dream I was walking down a street wondering whether I
was dreaming or not and, to convince myself, I had to mentally bend
nearby buildings (a dream test done in the movie Inception).
Clearly, a waking lucid-dream emphasis increases the odds of such
dreaming. For example, many of us wake up in the night and can’t get
back to sleep for awhile. Use that time to read about lucid-dreaming,
imprinting a lucidity focus as you later drift back to sleep in the
dream-rich period near morning.
Tibetan Buddhists stimulate dream lucidity by meditatively visualizing
images over chakras (i.e., energy centers that download higher level
energy into the body). One such visualization focuses on the throat
chakra, thought to influence sleep, wakefulness, and dreaming. For
example, a beautiful four-petal, red lotus is envisioned in the throat
chakra and within the lotus a luminous Tibetan letter A or a flame is
placed. Interestingly, the throat chakra is located near the sleep- and
consciousness-regulating brainstem. Given that scientists have shown
that visualizations affect physiology in many different ways, it is not
surprising that a brainstem-area visualization enhances lucid dreaming.
There are many levels
of lucid dreaming, ranging from merely observing the dream plot unfold
to being the master and creator of your dream world to conscious-raising
dreams of clarity. Overall, an important distinguishing feature is the
capacity of the lucid dreamer to direct his intent. At one time or
another, most of us have become lucid in nightmares, choosing to wake
Often when I’ve become lucid, I start telling other dream figures “you
do realize this is a dream.” Because they often look befuddled in
response, I levitate to prove it’s so. Levitating or flying is
exhilarating, common, lucid-dream activity. Initially, many attempt to
swim through the air, bumping on the ground when abilities start being
doubted. As you progress, however, instead of flying to a desired
location, you consciously will yourself to be there, and, voila, you’ve
arrived. For those with physical disabilities, the elderly, and
prisoners, the unlimited freedom of movement not possible in waking life
unshackles the soul.
One of the more powerful lucid-dream activities is the seeking of
information and creative problem solving. In their book Exploring the
World of Lucid Dreaming, Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold
provide an example of a software programmer who used lucid dreaming to
visit Einstein. The two of them would work on the programming code
together, which upon waking proved to be 99% accurate, demonstrating
that lucid-dream information has worth and is not just subconscious
With lucid dreaming,
you have the potential to access all of your past, not only from this
lifetime but, according to many Eastern-based spiritual traditions,
previous lifetimes. Furthermore, through powerful dreams of clarity,
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung speculated one could go beyond your
individual soul current and tap into a big-picture cultural memory
called the “collective unconsciousness.” It’s all there if you have the
search process is a little like those “Where’s Waldo” illustrations
where you have to scour a crowded scene to find Waldo (To see an
example, do a Google-image search on “Where’s Waldo”). Waldo is standing
there in plain sight, but with the multitudes surrounding him, it’s hard
to zoom in on him. Likewise, the answer you seek is often already
available but camouflaged by the multitude of memories, data, and mental
detritus buried within your subconscious. Like finding Waldo in the
crowd, lucid dreaming can help you zoom into the desired information.
To find it, Waggoner
suggests asking the “awareness behind the dream,” and that awareness,
whatever it may reflect, will often respond. Specifically, shout out
your question in a lucid dream. But note the response can be very
dependent on the exact wording of the request and may be couched in a
more ambiguous symbolic or metaphorical context, reflecting dimensions
of the question not initially considered and limitations in your
understandings. It is the equivalent of a doing a Google search on your
greater consciousness, with the results dependent on search-term
lucid-dream activity is the ability to tap into new mind-body-spirit
healing energies, perspectives, and potential. Whether through shifts in
consciousness, energetic visualizations, or new insights, healing
manifested at the dream level can then percolate into the physical.
lucid-dream healing is based on the notion that at some level all of
life is a dream, a belief centered on the Buddhist principle of
emptiness. Discussing this principle in The Universe in a Single
Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality, the Dalai Lama
states: “belief in an objective reality grounded in the
assumption of intrinsic, independent existence is untenable. All things
and events … are devoid of objective, independent existence.”
Simply stated, the
world we define as real is a function of our perceptions and
consciousness, i.e., empty of inherent existence. For example, we’ve all
known people who can turn a crisis into an opportunity, while others
make a mountain out of every molehill. In another example, although you
perceive your father in his paternal roles, your mother views him as a
husband and lover, your grandmother as a precious child, his doctor
perhaps as a high-cholesterol patient, and possibly his work
subordinates as an overbearing boss. Whose reality is valid?
It’s the eye of the
beholder that creates what or who is seen. In a lucid dream, the
inherent emptiness of your dream reality is self evident because you can
consciously create it, but, similarly, your consciousness and
perceptions can mold your waking reality in desired directions.
Many health issues
are created or aggravated by the dysfunctional reality you mold with
your consciousness. As underscored by scientific disciplines such as
psychoneuroimmunology or epigenetics, the worry, fear, stress, etc you
cumulatively take on affects you physically. In a lucid dream, you can
more readily confront some of these health-affecting emotions because
you recognize the dream’s malleability compared to waking reality. “Hey,
this a dream; what the hell.” In contrast, waking consciousness
perceives the situation as more fixed, viewing change like sculpting a
statue out of marble instead of the pliable putty within your dream
For example, in
waking life, you may be hesitant to confront your intimidating boss,
whose actions combined with your cowering responses are literally making
you sick. But if you have an anxiety dream about him and become lucid,
you can stand up for yourself, tell him to jump into a lake, or, at
least, share your concerns. Your dream actions will seep into your
waking consciousness, influencing confidence, behaviors, and actions,
and, by so doing, restoring a more health-conducive mind-body-spirit
flexibility and freedom of the dream state, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
suggests a variety of health-enhancing dream practices. For example, if
you have a mobility limitation, exercise in your dream and the ensuing
shift in your waking consciousness may loosen the shackles of your
disability by seeing at some level what is possible. As above, so below,
this shift may catalyze real physical improvement. If a body part or
organ is having problems, focus on it, draw more attention to it, and
bring more space and awareness into it. Because lucid-dream suggestions
are acting closer to the source of your creativity, Tibetan Buddhists
assert they are nine times more effective than waking-state suggestions.
healing has not been studied much, data is mostly anecdotal. Some
report benefits ranging from an alleviation of symptoms to more rapid
healing to even the complete disappearance of the health concern. My
personal experience is reported in the sidebar.
The books referenced
below suggest many techniques lucid dreamers can use to facilitate
healing at various mind-body-spirit levels. Waggoner briefly categorizes
them as follows:
Entering and manipulating the dream body,
e.g., dreamer visualizes removing junk and debris from a sprained ankle.
Directing healing intent and light,
e.g., dreamer visualizes the creation of a ball of light, placing it in
the feet, resulting in the rapid disappearance of plantar warts.
Directing affirmations, chants, or sound energy,
e.g., dreamer uses the healing chant: “From my hand shoots an energy
beam to heal my (condition) with Power Supreme.”
Creating symbolic, healing imagery,
e.g., during sinus cold, dreamer visualizes himself as an underwater
diver with a bell helmet, pumping in pure oxygen.
Seeking information about the cause or meaning of the illness,
e.g., woman with a uterine cyst asks the “Source” what her condition
wants her to know and what she should do.
Seeking a dream doctor, medicine, or healing energy,
e.g., dreamer visualizes the drinking of a magic healing potion.