The Ultimate Guide To Lucid Dreaming
Ancient civilizations saw dreams as portals for receiving wisdom from the gods. We all know on some level that dreams reveal more than they conceal. Dreams have been regarded as natural expressions and impulses from the origin of our mind. The mythic narratives that we experience on a nightly basis, contain symbols and codes to the most intimate aspects of nature.
Dreams do not need to be understood by the mind in order to perform their function. Dreams are doing the work on the mind, body and spirit so much more profoundly than we can actually imagine. When we integrate our unconscious within our conscious, and locate it within our internal cosmic mind-scape, we penetrate the AHA moment that connects us to our individual and whole nature. Our quest for wholeness is happening 24/7 within our unconscious, and only about 10% of this full time process are we actually aware of this phenomenon.
Working with dreams and understanding the archetypal components within the fabric of our unconscious, brings us closer to this Wholeness. The archetypal imagery within our mind can give us clues - a lot of the times derived from organs and thought centers in the body. These mystical notions signal perhaps the map to our individual cosmology.
ORGANS OF PERCEPTION
THE HPA AXIS – THE HYPOTHALAMUS
The hypothalamus is about the size of an almond and is located at the very center of our brain. It’s known as the master control center to both our endocrine and nervous system. It plays a central role in not only linking the two, but activating the well known pineal gland (aka third eye). It is also directly connected to our limbic system, known as the center of our emotions. The hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland, which operates like its general assistant, and together they have the ability to affect most of the major systems and organ functions, regulating all of our basic survival processes, including our hormonal makeup, along with our body temperature, hunger, growth, sleep circadian rhythms, our general stress response, and lots more.
THE PITUITARY GLAND
The pituitary gland is also a tiny gland, about the size of the pea, that activates once it receives essential neurohormones from the hypothalamus. In turn the pituitary gland is said to signal and activate he pineal gland. The pituitary gland sits right below the the hypothalamus, and it’s known to have two major lobes that are different anatomically and functionally.
The anterior lobe of the pituitary secretes seven key hormones that are related to lactation, the release of testosterone, and the production of sex, thyroid, and human growth hormones. The posterior lobe does not produce hormones, but stores and releases two important ones made in the brain: oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin fosters maternal instincts, bonding between mates, trust, and sexual pleasure. Vasopressin influences circadian rhythms, the reabsorption of water into the bloodstream, and also stimulates paternal protective and caring instincts.
The pituitary relates to our growth and its health is also important for pineal gland activation. When it begins to vibrate in synchrony with the pineal gland, we are inspired to grow and renew ourselves both physically and spiritually.
THE PINEAL GLAND
The interrelationship between the hypothalamus and pituitary gland is key to pineal function. The pineal gland, said to be shaped like a pinecone, is located in the center of the brain, behind and above the pituitary gland is immersed in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and it’s known to have more blood flow per cubic volume than any other organ in the body. This in turn means its perhaps the gland with highest concentration of energy in the entire body. The pineal gland is well known as the body’s dominant source for melatonin.
MELATONIN is activated by darkness and inhibited by light. Serotonin, essentially its opposite, is inhibited by darkness and born through light. Melatonin is a significant neurochemical that affects our mood, our circadiaum rhythms, determines the quality of our sleep, and affects immune function. When melatonin levels are disrupted, people can experience mood swings, insomnia, depression, and seasonal disorders. (One of the main disrupters to melatonin is too much screen time).
Melatonin, along with serotonin, pinoline, DMT and more, are the neurochemicals secreted within the pineal gland, which are said to be consciousness expanding chemicals. In terms of spiritual experience, melatonin quiets the body and mind, allowing access to higher consciousness. Both pinoline and DMT, secreted by a healthy, activated pineal gland, can be psychoactive, causing profound changes in perception, mood, consciousness, and behavior. Pinoline enables visions and dream states in the conscious mind and has been used by ancient Egyptians in their rituals. Melatonin, and the fellow neurohormones secreted within the pineal gland, are known to be anti-aging, and proven to even assist DNA renewal and replication. R
This is why neuroscientists hold that the pineal gland is perhaps the master gland where consciousness itself is said to originate from, as these vital neurochemicals coordinate vital physical and emotional processes on a cellular level.
How is this all related to Lucid Dreaming?
The organs we’ve just reviewed are the ones studied to activate these deep states of REM sleep and lucid dreaming.
A lucid dream is when you wake up to the fact that you’re dreaming, but you still remain in the dream. Meaning, you’re dreaming and you know it. It is in this magical instant of awakening that everything changes. The conscious mind is winding down, and the subconscious mind is activating, creating a bridge and you’re standing in the middle.
A moment ago your conscious mind, in control, was aware that it was laying on a soft pillow about to go to sleep. Suddenly, a world of possibilities beyond your conscious understanding presents itself—the dream world. Instead of being driven away by the abnormal constructs of a dream, you’re there, present and awake, somewhat like your normal day-to-day reality. This is a powerful moment where you can literally take full control of the dream and create anything you want.
DREAMS ARE TRUTH-TELLERS | Dreams reveal our deepest unconscious tendencies, as any psychoanalyst or dream interpreter can attest. Ongoing symbolism and patterning hold deep truths about the nature of our personality and natural intuitive gifts and provide great insight into our purpose and beyond. When the subconscious mind is forefront, we become what is referred to as “the witness,” a term usually referring to the part of our consciousness that neutrally observes the mind’s constructs. It tends to be a highly insightful experience as it accesses deep parts of our psyche.
DREAM YOGA | Tibetan Buddhists and yogis have been adepts and aware of lucid dreaming for centuries, classically referred to as “dream yoga.” In Tibetan Buddhism it is believed that the coarsest state of consciousness—the one with the least potential for spiritual development—is our ordinary waking state. The dream state is the one with most potential, but if we fail to recognize the dream state for what it is, we inevitably mistake it for the waking state and proceed through the dream in the state of delusion (as in, waking life). Tibetan dream yoga practices, along with other Native American and South American shamanic practices, all integrate similar elements within dreamwork. The common thread is that they see them as platforms of total manifestation, a way to heal oneself, access boundless creativity and receive highly insightful information “from the Gods” or our highest self.
This sounds amazing, right? But if one of these techniques works immediately for you, don’t get excited. It’ll wake you up and out of the dream. Remain calm and act as if you’ve done this a million times before. Start projecting ideas and manifestations of any kind right as you remember that you are dreaming.
8 Lucid Dreaming Techniques
If practiced diligently, techniques like the ones below will eventually enable you to engage in lucid dreaming frequently (or whenever you want). To extend or stabilize lucid dreams requires that you keep the dream going and not wake up or maintain lucidity (don’t fall into ordinary, non-lucid dreaming). Once you’re able to maintain a lucid dream for a few seconds, you may notice the dream scenario begins to break up. The images lose their sharpness and cohesiveness. There are a number of techniques you can apply via your “dream body” to stimulate your senses and revive the integrity of dream contents. Techniques derived from meditation for creating a vividness of consciousness can also be applied to your dreams to enhance their intensity.
Below are classic beginner-to-advanced techniques within the more modern practices of lucid dreaming, ones that naturally integrate more ancient techniques, such as those of dream yoga.
THE POWER OF MOTIVATION | Make positive affirmations throughout the day in regards to lucid dreaming; this can generate significant accomplishment. It not only reminds the mind about your dreams but helps you access your intention with precision. Say your intention is to see an aspect of your future, your mind state throughout the day should be I want to see my future tonight. Say it out loud and often throughout the day. At the beginning some people set a timer on their phone as a reminder (for example, every two to three hours) to check in on your night’s intention.
PROSPECTIVE MEMORY | Planning ahead and imagining an outcome during the day helps you imagine becoming lucid in a dream. Imagine it as if you’re in the Avatar movie, and imagine the sensorial difference that world would be compared to your current waking life. Try programming your mind on the sensorial difference in particular. What does it feel like? What does it look like for you? Lean into what that feeling might be, imagine yourself immersed in it, and receive what you intend to receive.
NOTING DREAM SIGNS | Set small symbolic moments where you tap into the dream. A classic one is to look at your hands. For some reason when you look down in a dream the veils slim enough that it’s an easy reminder that you’re dreaming. A classic tool is an intention of looking at your hands (or feet) to instantly recall that you’re dreaming. It’s helpful to set it in your mind and every time you look at your hands or feet repeat, I’m dreaming or This is a dream. Every time you become successful at a dream sign (whether it was pre-planned or spontaneous) write it down the next day in your dream journal.
PERFORMING STATE CHECKS | Throughout the day ask yourself, Am I dreaming? This is very helpful as sooner or later you’ll be asking yourself the same question in the dream. If you happen to ask yourself if you’re dreaming while in your dream, don’t overthink it—just go for whatever you’d like to do. For example, try to fly, or look at your hands, or jump off a cliff to see what happens (this might be a hard one if you’re a true beginner). But it all will help you open the lock and set your intention into immediate play.
MILD > MNEMONIC INDUCTION OF LUCID DREAMS | MILD is based on a behavior called "prospective memory", which involves setting an intention to do something later. Or you can perhaps think of it as setting an intention with your future self. The setting of intention has actually been studied to trigger the reflective attitude, and assist in analyzing where you are at when you're dreaming. Essentially assisting you to wake up.
DILD > DREAM-INITIATED LUCID DREAMS | One variation is to use an alarm clock to awaken yourself periodically during the night. This involves setting an alarm clock to wake up, and put yourself back into sleep with awareness that you’re going back into the dream. I recommend setting an alarm for 3 or 4 am, as usually, the last two hours of sleep are the easiest to enter lucid dreaming. (Note: This goes for the DILD and WILD techniques.)
WILD > WAKE-INITIATED LUCID DREAMS | This is waking at night, reading a bit and falling back asleep and re-entering sleep lucidly. Another version of this practice is to follow the hypnagogic imagery that often appears as we fall asleep. These images range from partial dreamlike scenes to elaborate geometric patterns. They are very subtle, requiring relaxation and sensitivity to perceive, but if you can maintain gentle attention to them once you see them, you can fall asleep consciously and experience both dreams and non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep lucidly.
RECONSTRUCTING FADING DREAMS | This technique involves spinning your dream body vertically or horizontally to give yourself an energetic rub-down. This one is a bit more of advanced practice, yet once you’re in the groove it is excellent to shift gears within the dream, and one of my all-time favorites. Stay tuned for a more advanced review on how to enter the second level of dreaming.
Approach this practice as a dream laboratory where you’re exploring your mind. Enter it without expectation, and create the practice around it to program the mind. This practice engages with the most intimate aspects of our own story to the collective matrix that encompasses the mind. Lucid dreaming is a remarkable tool for accessing the deepest constructs of reality that enable powerful healing for mind and body.
This practice will allow you to explore your fears, neuroses, psychological obstacles, insecurities and so forth. Even unfinished business with a deceased relative can be reenacted in a lucid dream because of the dream space you can bring that person—as you conceive of or remember that person—back to life. In the process of such explorations, you can learn new things about yourself, to say the least. Try practicing this daily and don’t lose enthusiasm if you don’t see results fast. One day you’ll be pleasantly surprised when the experience arrives when you least expect it.
TOP 10 HERBS FOR LUCID DREAMING
- CALEA (Calea Zacatechichi) Long been used in traditional folk medicine in Central America for a variety of reasons. Research, and anecdotal evidence from indigenous peoples, has proven Calea to effectively increase dream clarity and vividness. Also called ‘ leaf of god’, this very bitter plant is ideal for lucid dreaming since it has an impact on the dream symbology, the realism of the dream itself, and dream recall. Be aware that this tea is very, very bitter. When making your evening potion use as an ‘energetic dose’ (microdose) along with other dream herbs, like Blue Lotus and Shizandra, or make a tincture and enjoy in small doses at first to get used to it.
- XHOSA “The African Dream Herb” (Selene capensis) The famous African dream herb is a beautiful plant with very fragrant white flowers that only open at night. It comes from South Africa, and it’s commonly used amongst the Xhosa tribe. The plant doesn’t exactly generate visuals, it enables more dream recall, and remembrance.
- BLUE LOTUS (Nymphaea caerulea) Egyptians, Mayans and many other cultures that grew this precious flower, used is as a consciousness expanding plant. Blue lotus was believed to be a highly revered mystical plant in ancient Egypt and was used by the priesthood for its health-promoting qualities as well as an herb for spiritual sacrament It has been used not only for sleep aid, but also as a natural anti-anxiety remedy, and as a stress reliever. Blue Lotus contains nuciferan along with aporphine, which will give you feelings of calming euphoria (the perfect combo if you ask me!)
- DEVILS CLUB (Oplopanax horridus) Despite its name, the devil’s claw is a very useful dream herb classically used as an anti-inflammatory and pain killer. It’s a very effective muscular-skeletal relaxant, which might be one of the main reasons it assists the entry into dreamspace. Natives that used this plant, reveared it and believed it grantes ancestral wisdom and connection when consuming it or smoking the leaves.
- PASSIONFLOWER (Passiflora incarnata) Passionflower has many studies proving its effectiveness as a nervine (nervous system relaxant), as a treatment to insomnia, and as a general sleep aid. Passionflower can be a wonderful dreamtime ally for those of us who feel a sense of frayed nerves, excessive stress, anxiety, or general agitation. As a spirit medicine it’s known to open the upper chakras, and attune the mind to higher frequencies.
- BOBINSANA (Calliandra angustufolia) Bobinsana is commonly taken in the Amazon during shamanic ceremonies for healing the heart, to reveal empathy, to deepen one’s connection to nature, clarity and deeply activate intuition. Bobinsana, also known as Sirenita, is revered as a masterful dream herb, as it is said to dissolve the feeling of time, and makes dream realism so vivid, that you forget the distinction between sleeping or waking life. It's an excellent ally to combine with fellow lucid dream herbs, to intensify the visionary experience of dreams.
- KAVA KAVA (Piper methysticum) is an intriguing herb that can create mild psychotropic qualities when taken in larger amounts. Traditional peoples drunk the root and vine ceremonially in Vanuatu and other Pacific islands as an intoxicating beverage to commune with spirits and gods, and to essentially access higher states of consciousness. But not to worry, in regular to small dosages, it is slightly euphoric and very calming. I love pairing it with other herbs for deep relaxation like Ashwagandha, Chamomile and Blue Lotus. You can find our special Hawaiian Kava in our Dream Elixir and Tea.
- SHIZANDRA BERRIES (Shisandra chinensis) Schizandra is an adaptogenic herb with thousands of years of use and called the “quintessence of tonic herbs” by Taoist masters. It is the only herb known to be perfectly Yin-Yang balanced, to contain all three Treasures (Jing, Qi and Shen), to nurture all five Elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water) and to enter all twelve energy channels (meridians) of the human body. Beyond that, Schizandra also circulates in the “extraordinary channels” and facilitates the three main “dan tian” (energy centers of the body). Schizandra is a masterful shen tonic known to deeply increase vitality and rejuvenation, while also being deeply calming to the spirit. Shizandra has been studied to improve eyesight, and interestingly enough Taoist masters used it to increase intuition and psychic sight. Within the dreamspace, many have used this precious berry to increase clarity, memory and dream rememberance. *Special Update! Our small batch and very potent Shizandra-Rose Elixir will be finally available as of this weekend, stay tuned! This very special adaptogen is also a well-researched immune protector with antiviral and anti-inflammatory qualities. *Write us a note below if you'd like to be notified.
- MUCUNA (Mucuna pruriens). Mucuna is an adaptogenic legume with many healing abilities. Mucuna pruriens contains high levels of naturally occurring L-dopa, which is the precursor to dopamine. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter that is essential for sleep, memory, mood, mental functions, and calming the nervous system. Mucuna, because it directly targets the neurotransmitters within the pineal gland (our third eye), said to be the master regulator of consciousness, it has been used as an ‘oneirogen’ dream plant, to activate visions, dream recall and relaxation.
- MUGWORT (Artemisia vulgaris). There’s extensive anecdotal use on mugwort for thousands of years, and even been speculated to be one of the first cultivated plants in ancient times. Mugwort was classically used as an aromatic bitter to ease digestion and relieve gas, cramps, and digestive imbalances overall. It has been used ceremonially by Native Americans, in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. It’s classically used as a smudging herb to clear the space, as a smoke, and as a tea for dreaming. Mugwort has long been used to induce vivid dreams, astral projects, and divinations of the future (Dunwich 37), as it was widely considered to have magical potency. Since the 17th century England, it was believed that by digging up its roots and placing it under their beds at night would induce prophetic dreams (Dury 1986). In ancient China, it was often included in sacrifices or used in rituals, for it was believed to be useful in conjuring the presence of divinities (Armstrong 1944).
There’s many, many more. Like the sedating Amazonian bark Mulungu, Rosemary, Clary Sage, Calamus, Albizzia, Ashwagandha and more. But these are just some of my favorites that have been very effective for me. Please do share yours below and let us know how your dreaming journey goes.
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