“There are good reasons for applying the term ‘oneirogenic,’ producing dreams, to psychedelic drugs. In its imagery, emotional tone, and vagaries of thought and self-awareness, the drug trip, especially with eyes closed, resembles no other state so much as a dream”
I can recall allowing myself as a child to float out of my bed, across the room, and on to the upstairs landing to be terrifyingly cross-examined by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. At first, I was powerless in these episodes until I learned to direct them. I learned to float horizontally in the middle of my bedroom instead, slowly somersaulting until I would get scared enough to shoot back into my body and back to sleep. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was intuitively lucid dreaming. Taking control of my nightmares just as my young mind was beginning to formulate its own identity in this world.
During the first Covid lockdown of 2020, it was reported that unusually vivid dreams were on the uprise. Online communities emerged with people sharing their anxious visions of confusion and dread as they awoke to the empty days of their lives grinding to a halt. #PandemicDreams became a hashtag for those who suddenly found their security and survival threatened. A disturbed global society plunged into a collective plague of dysphoria.
It’s of no coincidence that interest in lucid dreaming, when one is not only asleep and aware that you are dreaming but also able to take control of the narrative of the dream, suddenly became so appealing. Last month, The Guardian ran a piece where it pointed its readers to a popular subreddit for those interested in the simple pleasures of brain hacking.
Nearly half a million enthusiasts are helping guide one another through worlds of reverie. There is as much training to be done here as if you were preparing to compete in a sporting event or learning to play a musical instrument. The distinct methods to achieve lucid dreaming are:
Firstly – Reality training, which is essentially asking yourself if you are dreaming or not, affirming waking life. This can be done by staring into a mirror, pushing your hand against solid objects, or watching time on a clock change.
Secondly – Wake Back To Bed, where you set your alarm to wake you five hours after you have fallen asleep. When you awake it is advised to remain so for half an hour before plunging back into your dreams.
Thirdly – Setting Intentions, where you fall asleep thinking of a previous dream that you wish to return to and repeating a mantra that you will do so.
Fourthly – Keep a journal by your bed, so that you stay focused on the details of your dreams.
Finally – Wake Initiated Lucid Dreaming, where you learn to enter a dream meditatively while still awake. Something that takes great focus down the line.
The effects of psychedelics and dreaming are two states of consciousness that are systematically compared. The psychedelic state when on psilocybin or LSD and dreams are both heavy with mental imagery emotion, fear, and the search for the sense of self. Both are places where we end up detangling from our bodies. In both, we find ourselves in a profoundly familiar yet alien environment; a world of our imagination where we move freely through or struggle with our emotions. The psychedelic state is closest to lucid dreaming as it is a mixed state of dreaming and waking consciousness. It puts you somewhere between. Awake, we are in our default setting. Asleep, we are mostly floating through a world where our daily psychic activity is reflected upon.
In dreams, we become disconnected from our everyday lives and cease to exist in the material world. There is a distance from what we know in our default mode and this other place, just as when we trip. Dreaming is when we go offline, where unconscious thought can no longer be regulated as we would wish, our brains, just as in REM sleep, become flooded with serotonin and just as those using psychedelics to treat PTSD, we are forced to confront our fears.
Lucid dreaming, where one part watches while another part dreams, is dream awareness. It is not the big reveal – it is simply taking control. Much like getting a grip on a trip that has gone awry. It takes great mental steadfastness and practice but must also be relaxed into. Dreams are a hallucinatory experience where we can never be sure of what we may find but afterwards, we are left to deal with the feelings that linger. In these tense and stimulating times as the global pandemic continues, it is of little wonder that people wish to practise lucid dreaming, conquering their fears, and endeavouring to work out who they are when the world is stripped of its normality.