Lucid Dreams

Lucid dreaming isn’t just a way to have mystical experiences—it’s also an incredibly useful day-to-day life skill. Here’s five ways you can use it to gain incredible advantages in your life

Once a relatively obscure practice studied only by sleep scientists, artists and mystics, lucid dreaming has become an incredibly popular subject. Although many are aware of the phenomenon of being consciously aware and in control as you dream, few know the diverse applications the skill can have.

As someone who’s been lucid dreaming for over half a decade, please let me share five of my favorite benefits of waking up in your dreams.

1. Fun

This is probably the most simple attraction of lucid dreaming, and yet it can give the most fundamental, primal joy. Imagine the most vivid, open-ended video game you’ve ever played or even conceived of. Lucid dreaming, when properly practiced and mastered, is like the most realistic VR simulation you can imagine, combined with a degree of complexity and open possibility that make GTA V look like pong. Want to fight Nazis on a flying motorcycle? Overthrow an empire? Visit distant planets? It’s all possible. Fun might not be the deepest or most sophisticated reason for wanting to get into lucid dreaming, but just one session battling ninjas on Jupiter will give you the kind of encouragement you need to further pursue the practice and achieve some of its more abstract and holistic benefits.

2. Overcoming Anxiety

Lest you think lucid dreaming is just a playground of escapist fantasy, a bubbling cauldron of Saturday morning cartoons and comic books, let’s remember that it’s also a practice that can have immense benefit for your everyday life. Lucid dreaming can assist in overcoming anxiety surrounding meetings, activities or events. Everyone suffers from anxiety to some degree—with some more affected than others—and lucid dreaming can be an invaluable tool for tackling it.

Lucid dreaming personally helped me to tackle a crippling anxiety about public speaking. This is one that I’m sure plenty of people can relate to. I’d be asked to read aloud, or defend an argument in front of a crowd, and the anxiety would come in floods. My blood would turn to cement, my heart would kick like an over-clocked engine, and the sweat would coat me in a fine, sparkly sheen.

One of the greatest opportunities offered to by lucid dreaming, however, is the chance to practice. Being able to test-run scenarios that terrify you, and then just being able to hit the reset button upon waking up, is fantastically useful for dealing with situations that stress you out. Slowly but surely, as I commanded troops and spoke to masses in my sleep, public speaking when I was awake became a little easier. Today, I’m a passionate public speaker, and can thank my lucid dreaming trial runs for much of my confidence.

3. Communicating With Yourself

I’ve been enamored with the idea of the subconscious since I first read Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams at the age of 13. The idea that there’s some powerful, primal, hidden part of yourself that influences your actions without your knowledge absolutely fascinated me. Although it was Freud that captured my interest, it was Jung that would entrance me with his conception of the subconscious as the model for God and the source of ageless, eternal memory and wisdom.

As the Delphic Oracle would suggest, the basis of all knowledge and achievement is to first “Know Thyself” and communicate with your subconscious. Luckily, lucid dreaming provides an excellent venue for this, as your dreams are the stage on which your subconscious puts on its nightly, fevered and mysterious plays. If you can spot that it’s all a set-up, it doesn’t take much to peel back the curtain and have a chat with the director. I have a friend, an avid lucid dreamer, who has gotten to know his unconscious mind so well in his lucid dreams that he’s personified and named the “entity” that creates his dreams, and often uses this model to consult with his unconscious mind whenever a tough decision is to be made. This form of communication can offer immense insight into yourself, and any unconscious motivations or pain that you might not be fully aware of, and which might be negatively affecting your life.

4. Getting in Touch With Spirituality

From Native American shamans to Tibetan dream yogis to West African mystics, dreams have always been an inexorable part of humanity’s connection with the divine, the transcendent and the mysterious. And today, at a time when organized and dogmatic religion is wavering, and many are looking for an alternative, lucid dreaming can provide a gateway to spirituality that is personal and intuitive. Our dreams can present opportunities for transcendent and beautiful experiences, as well as the perfect place to examine ideas and concepts in an outside-the-box fashion, making them ideal for testing the spiritual waters for those who are turned off by traditional conceptions of religion.

Lucid dreaming, when mastered, can be an intense and symbolically rich experience, and once one understands how dream images can often draw from human mythology and world religion, the spiritual dimension to dreams can become an immediate way to connect with whatever idea of “God” or Oneness or transcendent principle you might be interested in. Even if you’re not at all attracted by spirituality, lucid dreaming can give you an idea of the kind of profound, transcendent and connective states of mind that drive people toward religion and spirituality.

5. Inspiration

If there’s one thing to which dreams are more closely tied than spirituality, it’s artistic inspiration. From the Greek belief in the Muses communicating through dreams, right through to the influence that dreams had on the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe, dreams have long been regarded as a mystical and ethereal source of inspiration for art. The way in which dreams combine vivid images, complex symbols and strange premises provides fertile ground for artistic “Eureka!” moments.

As a writer, I’ve lost count of how many short stories, metaphors and poems have shot straight from the soil of my subconscious. And artistic inspiration isn’t the only kind of insight afforded by intense exploration of dreams: many historical scientific breakthroughs have also emerged from dreams, from the discovery of the double helix structure in DNA to some of the most complex formulations of Indian mathematics genius Srinivasa Ramanujan. Dreams have brought us some of the most remarkable advances in human history—and who knows what you might accomplish with power over your dreams?