The Secret of Frequent Lucid Dreamers
by Robert Waggoner ( www.lucidadvice.com )
Why do some dreamers immediately take to lucid dreaming, while others struggle to achieve lucidity even once?
I thought about this question recently when interviewing a young Norwegian woman, Line Salvesen, for The Lucid Dream Exchange. She claims to have about fifteen hundred lucid dreams a year. For most of us who average three or four lucid dreams a month, fifteen hundred per year sounds incredible!
She’s not the only person, though. Over the years, I have met a number of ultra-frequent lucid dreamers, on-line and in person. Curious about their ability, I began to search for some common characteristics – something to explain this high frequency. I noticed how they often assumed everyone dreamt lucidly, and felt shocked to learn this was not the case. In some cases, their frequent lucid dreaming could be traced back to persistent childhood nightmares where they learned how to achieve lucidity to deal with nightmare scenarios. In other cases, their frequent lucid dreaming seemed connected to certain waking mental habits.
Recalling my carefree college days studying behavioral psychology and reading Carlos Castaneda, I went from 3 to 8 lucid dreams a month to a high of 30 lucid dreams per month at my peak – all of which I nicely charted as a budding behaviorist. Some of this increase I could attribute to the use of the MILD technique. But decades later, when I began meeting ultra-frequent lucid dreamers, I began to feel a bit deflated, quantitatively speaking. How did they achieve lucidity so frequently?
Then a mini-epiphany came to me.
One day, reading an email from an ultra-frequent lucid dreamer, and feeling a tinge of envy mixed with curiosity I responded, “How? How do you become lucidly aware in almost every dream?” The lucid dreamer wrote that she had a consistent habit of asking herself repeatedly, “What was I just doing?” This mental habit carried over to her dreaming awareness, such that in the dream she would pose this exact question to herself, “What was I just doing?” Searching her mind, she realized she had been preparing for sleep, so therefore, she must be dreaming!
At that moment, a little light went on in my brain. Ultra-frequent lucid dreamers develop a lucid mindset.
A lucid mindset means a persistent mental habit of re-examining one’s perceived environment or state of awareness. Whether it involved memory or vigilance (e.g., Am I safe here from nightmares?), these ultra frequent lucid dreamers repeatedly checked or analyzed their current situation.
For some, numerous nightmares apparently reinforced the need to differentiate waking from dreaming, and allowed them to become highly attuned to dream state cues that would prompt lucid awareness. This habitual need to examine their state (waking or dreaming) naturally led to lucid dreaming, as a positive way to handle nightmares. Done with consistency over time, a lucid mindset developed, which became an unconscious and routine part of their dreaming life.
As for the lucid dreamer who consistently questioned herself to remember her last action, we find another type of lucid mindset. Here, she performs not so much a ‘reality check’ as a memory check that leads to a reality check! Her questioning leads her to re-examine more thoroughly her environment or current state, and she becomes lucid. Whatever the underlying motivation, certain habitual mental patterns lead these ultra-frequent lucid dreamers to examine their perceived environment or current state more closely.
So how can you use this knowledge to become a more frequent lucid dreamer? How can you work towards developing a lucid mindset? Or do you have a touch of a lucid mindset already, which you just haven’t noticed?
Next, we’ll explore these ‘critical questions’ and see how we can develop our lucid mind.
When you read the papers of the late Gestalt psychologist and lucid dream researcher, Paul Tholey, you discover a pioneer in developing a lucid mindset. (Again, I define a lucid mindset as a persistent mental habit of re-examining one’s perceived environment or state of awareness. This re-examination naturally leads to conscious awareness in the dream state.)
In 1959, Tholey wondered if he could bring conscious awareness into the dream state by asking himself numerous times during the day, “Am I awake, or am I dreaming?” Reasoning that this question would occur to him in a dream, he then might become critically aware and conscious in the dream. After about a month’s consistent repetition of this question, he succeeded with his ‘Reflection Technique’ and became lucid.
Some lucid dreamers have begun to call Tholey’s, “Am I awake, or am I dreaming,” the Critical Question.
It definitely seems ‘a’ critical question about one’s state – but it does not appear to be the only one, or the only one that leads to lucid awareness.
As previously mentioned, one ultra frequent lucid dreamer routinely asks, “What was I just doing?” This memory check prompts her lucid awareness, as she realizes she had been going to sleep, so this must be a dream. For her, the ‘Critical Question’ that elicits greater critical awareness is a memory check about activity.
Other ultra frequent lucid dreamers appear to develop greater vigilance as a result of frequent nightmares in childhood. Apparently, they habitually scour the perceived environment to determine if they are dreaming, and therefore possible prey for nightmarish figures. Perhaps their ‘Critical Question’ might be, ‘Am I safe here?’ or some expression of vigilant awareness which naturally leads to lucidity.
A lucid dreamer from the Ukraine told me of dream-mapping or trying to map out the dream locale of each lucid dream. Those who practice this technique frequently become lucid by asking themselves in a dream, “Where am I? What is this place?”
I imagine that young Buddhist monks learn to develop a lucid mindset when they repeatedly hear, ‘all of this is like a dream.’ If you consistently consider all perceived environments to be ‘like a dream,’ then you may enhance your ability to discern dreaming as being ‘like a dream’ and become consciously aware in it.
In my experience, I began to develop a lucid mindset after reading the works of Jane Roberts, who put forth that our perceived experience came as a direct outgrowth of our beliefs, thoughts and feelings. Therefore, understanding our experience required an investigation of our beliefs, thoughts and feelings. So when something notable would happen in my waking life, I would wonder, “Why did I create this? How does this relate to my beliefs, thoughts or feelings?” Like Tholey, these same questions began seeping into my dream life, prompting lucid awareness, as I re-considered an outlandish event and determined ‘This could only occur in a dream!’
These examples show how a lucid dreamer can easily develop a lucid mindset. By consciously adopting a Critical Question that appeals to you and requires you to re-examine your experience and by using it consistently during the day, it transfers to your dreaming and causes you to re-examine the dream experience. This questioning mindset naturally leads you to lucid awareness.
The Critical Question does not have to be philosophical; it can be simple, like ‘What was I just doing?’ or ‘Where am I?’ However it must be used consistently during waking hours.
Imagine an entire society and culture persistently asking a Critical Question. Maybe over time, lucid dreaming will lead to a worldwide lucid mindset,