The dreams that come to us when we’re asleep are often overlooked as incohesive passing thoughts, but our subconscious can hold much more than initially meets the (third) eye. The practice of lucid dreaming has been used for centuries to understand and navigate our dreams better, and even our waking hours too.
Lorena Jara, a seasoned lucid dreamer and Dreaming Coach, got into the practice following the loss of her brother, and experiencing isolation after moving to Canada. She explains that in her own experience she began noticing patterns of seeing her brother in her dreams, and being able to continue building that relationship with him through her subconscious; this has proven to be a major component in healing her grief.
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Over the last two years, Lorena has taken this experience and helped others too connect with their own dreams. Here are her insights on how to build the bridge between your waking and sleeping life, and how to use the practice to your benefit.
Lucid dreaming 101: What it is
To lucid dream is to be in a state of awareness where you experience your dream almost as if you’re awake, while still remaining completely asleep. This can make your dream feel real, and even give you some control and agency over your actions throughout. It’s not uncommon to wake up feeling shaken up or confused by a dream you recall. Sometimes you have to come to grips with the fact that you’re not currently yachting along the South of France, other times you awaken and have to process experiencing a tragic event.
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Expect to be unmoored
While some dreams can feel uncomfortable or alarming, they can also be extremely gratifying and beautiful. As with life, to understand and maneuver through your dreams better, you have to take the good with the bad. Lucid dreaming has proven to help many overcome challenging thoughts and even deep-rooted trauma. It’s a muscle you can make stronger over time to reach a deeper level of dreaming, and reap the rewards of that in turn. Lucid dreaming has been used both as a method of self-control, and as a form of therapeutic healing.
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How to get started with lucid dreaming
Getting started with lucid dreaming first requires you to observe your existing sleeping patterns. “Before attempting to lucid dream, you need to have a strong dream recall, you need to have a synergetic relationship with your dreams and to have great sleep hygiene. Then you can move forward with your dream practice, but a good base is imperative,” explains Jara. Sleep hygiene includes having a set bedtime schedule, a clean, calm sleeping environment, and doing a digital cleanse before heading to bed. She teaches her beginner students the basics of how to remember their dreams, before moving on to tips and techniques on honing awareness, and exercises such as dream incubations using Cacao.
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Can lucid dreaming go wrong?
The thought of being aware in a dream that’s not going well may seem a bit anxiety-inducing, but it just takes a shift of perspective to overcome that. While unknowns can be uncomfortable or alarming, Jara describes lucid dreaming as an art. “It’s not only about controlling your dream, but learning how to be in control of your mind during it’s sleep state. Once you understand that you are in the safety of your own mind and that nothing can hurt you, then lucid dreaming doesn’t feel scary, just fun and exciting.” In the lucid dreaming world, even bad dreams are considered an opportunity to learn something important about yourself.
Though lucid dreaming is safe for both adults and kids, Jara recommends consulting a therapist or physician before attempting deeper lucid dreaming, and suggests people who suffer from sleepwalking avoid the practice to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
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Lucid dreaming is an opportunity to get to know yourself
The journey of finding yourself is lifelong; finding ways to shape and uncover who you are at your core can take you to your more evolved self. Through lucid dreaming, you’re given a rare chance to navigate a world completely inside yourself. It’s where your mind goes at its most vulnerable state, the unconscious. “There is no better way to get to know yourself than when you listen to your unconscious,” says Jara. “The unconscious is where all that information that we have is suppressed, hidden or forgotten. So, by being aware while you’re sleeping, you gain more perspective of what your unconscious is trying to tell you.”
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Sometimes it’s a sweet dream, sometimes it’s a beautiful nightmare
Unfortunately, having nightmares isn’t always avoidable, even when you feel centred throughout your day-to-day. The good news: a nightmare creeping into your dreaming process doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Jara explains that facing your nightmares head-on and being introspective can actually help ease your mind, and allow you to face darker parts of your brain. She explains, “Fears and nightmares are our shadow selves. By being aware of our fears, we can confront and integrate them so we can feel more complete and at ease with ourselves.” A nightmare, then, is your mind trying to get something through to you that you may not want to address. “Our unconscious is trying to tell us something and because we haven’t listened, it needs to elaborate a scary scenario as it’s working through an issue in order for us to remember when we wake up. The problem is that we often don’t work on or learn from these dreams; we only wake up feeling terrified and try to move on, even if there’s an opportunity there to learn.”
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Healing pain and trauma through lucid dreaming
Some dreams can be full of heartache, whether it’s from an experienced loss, a heartbreak, or past trauma. Events or people may appear that we avoid thinking about in our waking state, and this can leave us feeling sad or resentful upon waking up. By practicing lucid dreaming, you’re given a chance to re-evaluate your emotions during these moments. Knowing it’s not reality, but just a dream, allows you to engage with the moment from an isolated perspective. “Navigating difficult and painful dreams allows you to work through losses,” says Jara. She notes that these dreams come to us for a reason, and by facing them head-on, in the safety of a dream, we’re able to seek resolution from the inside out.
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Amp up creative energy and enter new worlds
Everyone has their very own creativity bug. Jara encourages everyone to tap into their creative side when steering a dream, and to look at it like a canvas to paint on. “We all have creative powers, and we all get into ruts. Asking for inspiration and creativity within the dream is an excellent method to get out of those creative ruts.” Ever had a brilliant idea come out of a dream? So did Twilight author Stephanie Meyer (the idea for the story reportedly came to her in a dream). A lucid dream is the perfect place to conceptualize, and have fun with new ideas.
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Create an inward sense of accomplishment
Another benefit of lucid dreaming is the sense of satisfaction you feel by being aware and having agency in your dreams. “There is nothing more fulfilling than accomplishing your goals, and you can cross over this feeling to the other side: within your dreams.” While it takes practice, and many nights of dreaming to really guide your dreams, the stronger you get at it, the more you can gain from it. “You wake up feeling accomplished, stronger and happier,” explains Jara. What could really be better than being the conqueror of your own fantasies?
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A completely free ticket to adventure and fantasy
“Let’s be honest,” says Jara, “Who doesn’t like the idea of flying around, visiting the beach in the middle of winter? Or being reckless on an adventure without the risk of getting hurt?” She explains that there’s a whole world of activities for you to have fun with, and the more you practice, the more you get to explore. “The only thing really stopping you from going completely out there is your imagination.” As you dive deeper into your lucid dreaming process and let down your guard, you’ll begin to experience more control. From there, the opportunities are endless.
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Lucid dreaming can make for more lucid living
Merging your dream world and your real world allows you to gain a new, wider perspective on life. “When you practice lucid dreaming, you inevitably start paying more attention to your everyday life, the little details start being noticeable, the air becomes fresher, life starts being brighter, and every moment feels a bit more exciting,” says Jara.
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