What is Lucid Dreaming?

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A lucid dream is a type of dream where you gain full conscious awareness while dreaming. In a lucid dream, you will feel like you are awake, even though you are fully aware you are not in the physical reality.

Lucid dreaming, quite simply, is the ability to be aware and conscious during a dream.

If you are new to this type of dreaming, or perhaps just want to be able to further develop your dream work practice, this post will go over the basics everything you may ever want to know about lucid dreaming.

lucid dreaming definition

Here are a few of the things we cover here:

  • What is it like to have a lucid dream?
  • 5 Common Characteristics of Lucid Dreams
  • Who Can Have Lucid Dreams?
  • Different Styles of Inducing Lucid Dreams
  • Are Lucid Dreams Real? What Science Tells Us
  • The Benefits of Lucid Dreaming
  • The Basics for Getting Started
  • Other Frequently Asked Questions

What is it Like to Have a Lucid Dream?

Sometimes also called active dreaming, in a lucid dream you are not a passive person simply observing the events in the dream – you are fully active and able to control what you do and what you experience.

This is very different from other types of dreams where you may not have any active role in determining the outcome of a dream.

During a lucid dream experience, you are completely aware that you are dreaming. When you become aware that you are dreaming, you are able to actively decide what will happen and what you do.

Just like all dreams, what someone might experience during a lucid dream definitely depends on the person! Dreams are a highly personal and individual thing: what you experience in a dream is not typically the same thing someone else you talk to would experience.

Why Would Someone Want to Do This?

There are a lot of great reasons why someone might like to learn more about lucid dreaming.

I personally began exploring it because it was happening to me naturally all the time. Most of the other people when I talked to when I first started sharing my experiences had no idea what I was talking about. Even when I talked to doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists, they knew very little about it.

Once I found out more about it being a real thing, and that I wasn’t completely crazy – it soon became obvious to me how it could be used in many ways.

Many people may wish to have a lucid dream purely for the fun of it. Maybe you have always wished you could ride on the back of a dragon and fly up really high to see the world from a different view. Maybe you want to try being a pilot or flying a spaceship. Maybe you’re curious about what it could be like to live underwater.

In your lucid dream, you might want to combine all sorts of elements of fantasy just as a way to express your own creativity beyond what is possible in the physical world. While for some people this could be viewed as escapism, others would argue you are already sleeping anyways every night, why not enjoy it?

However, lucid dreaming is not just for fantasy or to escape the real world. Often times, you can use the ability to be aware and conscious while asleep to further explore your real feelings about a situation or make decisions in relation to your own life.

Many people like to use this active dreaming for self improvement and conscious exploration. Often times, this lucid dream state can be used for practical matters, such as using the time to explore ways to make the waking physical life better.

Using Lucid Dreams for Practical Application in Real Life

It’s important to understand that while some people may only do it because it’s fun, the majority of these dreamers like to use the experience for practical applications in the physical world. Think of this state of mind as a conscious playground, where you are free to try different things and explore the results.

Take this example: Let’s say you recently got a new job offer. It is a good job, but it is also a big change. Your decision will have a dramatic change on your life, and so you need to decide whether to accept the new work position or not.

A practical way to use lucid dreaming in this case would be to have a dream that would give yourself a safe place to explore the possibilities of accepting the position. You might explore different best-case and worst-case scenarios and live each of these possibilities out.

In the dream world, you are free to experience different possible outcomes and results without any long-term significant consequence in the physical real world. After the dream, you may feel more confident in making a better decision for your waking life.

There are so many different aspects of life you can explore in this “conscious playground”. Work and business is just one example. You could use this space for relationships, family and personal matters, healing, spiritual growth, personal development – or even use the time to help yourself learn new skills.

Again, it all is up to the dreamer and what types of things interest you most current. Everything you might experience while asleep is highly personal – and the best part of lucid dreaming is that it is all up to you!

The 5 Main Characteristics of Lucid Dreams

what does it mean to lucid dream

Now that we understand a little bit more about the nature of these dreams and why we might have them, you might be wondering how can you tell whether or not you are having a lucid dream.

If you think you may already be having lucid dreams, it is quite possible you already do! I had lucid dreams for years as a child and teenager before ever learning that they were even called lucid dreams or knowing that other people also experienced them.

Maybe you don’t yet have these kinds of dreams, but are wondering what it would be like to try having one. When you become lucid during a dream, you will likely notice some very distinct characteristics.

While again, this is different for everyone, there are some common characteristics and you can likely expect these things to be a part of most experiences.

1. A Feeling of Being in a Dream Within a Dream

When I was younger, I frequently had dreams where I dream that I woke up from a dream…only to realize I was still dreaming and asleep.

From there, once “awake in the dream” I was able to pretty much explore all sorts of things while dreaming until I finally would wake up for real in the physical world.

If you’ve ever dreamt about dreaming, this is good indicator you already have the ability to lucid dream, you just might need a little more practice to be able to control when it happens or to be able to induce specific types of experiences.

2. A Feeling of Complete Control

When you are fully actively conscious in a dream, you have full control. You can decide what you do or don’t do.

While sometimes dreams will still have some unexpected things happen in them, you are always in full awareness that you can stop or change the dream – or even wake yourself up on purpose at any point.

3. Intense Feelings & Imagery

When you go lucid in a dream, it is very likely that everything you feel will be heightened. Sometimes these dreams can be very intense.

In our usual sleeping state, if we have a dream things can be a little blurry or muted, since we are not actively participating. However, when we shift our consciousness to be aware of our feelings and actions, you can have a very intense sensation.

While there are no known dangers or side effects of lucid dreams, some people do report having sensations so real it can seem scary at times. For example, if you dream of sitting face to face with a lion, you may experience all of the physical sensations of whether

4. Ability to Experience All 5 Senses

Generally, when we have a typical release type of dream, we don’t experience all 5 senses of taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing.

However, with a lucid dream, you might be able to notice more details with your senses than you normally would. You will fully experience all the same sensations you would experience in your real physical life.

If you spend some time regularly practicing mindfulness in your regular life, you will notice you become a lot more mindful during your dreams as well.

5. Easier Dream Recall

When you are fully conscious in a dream, this makes it very easy to notice details and remember more of what events happen. Recording your dreams is super easy, because you are conscious during the events of the dream.

When you write down all the details, you might fill up an entire page or more in your notebook with very little effort.  You will find when you have this experience, it is very easy to remember your dreams.

Often times, you will also be able to take into account all of the details. These dreams are much more vivid in nature, and so you will likely have a lot of different things to write down.

Who is Able to Have Lucid Dreams?

One of the common misconceptions about lucid dreaming is that you have to have some natural gift or ability to do it. However, this most definitely is not the case!

Almost everyone is able to have lucid dreams to some degree. Many people when having a nightmare for example are able to become conscious in the dream to make the nightmare stop. When you become lucid in a dream, you quickly realize you have the control and power to influence what happens.

While some people are able to have these types of dreams quite naturally without any preparation, in most cases those who are able to bring on a conscious awareness have had a lot of practice in analyzing and remembering dreams.

Most of us have the ability to lucid dream, though it can take some practice at first. Think of your consciousness as a muscle – the more you develop it, the easier it is to use it for different desired results.

The majority of us who are interested in lucid dreaming already have a lot of practice with dream work in general. For example, you already may keep track of all of their dreaming activities in a dream journal. Maybe you currently practice different forms of meditation and have a strong interest in exploring your own conscious boundaries.

Understanding the Main Types of Lucid Dreams

There are two main ways we can experience a lucid dream: Dream Induced Lucid Dreaming {DILD} and Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming {WILD}.

The main difference between dream-induced and wake-induced lucid dreaming in the way the dream begins and how it happens.

Dream Induced Lucid Dreams

When you have Dream Induced Lucid Dreams, you fall asleep as usual and then later begin to start the dream just like any other sort of dream. However, at some point during the dream you become consciously aware that you are dreaming.

Once you are self aware in the dream, you are able to control more about what you do and where you go during the dream.

These types of dreams can happen very naturally and with little or no practice. I began having dream-induced lucid dreams long before I even knew what they were or that other people also experienced becoming fully aware and conscious in a dream.

One way to help these types of dreams happen more often is to practice simple reality checks. Often times during a dream you will then start checking whether the dream is real – and the moment you become consciously aware you are indeed in a dream you are able to have more control and awareness of everything else.

This is a good way to begin if you have never had lucid dreams before, because it will indeed show to you that it is very much possible to become aware while you are in a dream state of consciousness.

Wake Induced Lucid Dreams

Wake Induced Lucid Dreams begin a little bit differently. With these types of dreams, you never need to fall asleep first.

You basically lay down, close your eyes and go straight into a conscious dream state with full complete awareness. There is no lapse between the time you fall asleep and the time you start dreaming.

The majority of my own lucid dreams currently are wake-induced dreams. This is actually one of the ways I am always able to fall asleep quickly and easily. At night, I simply lay down all comfy in my bed, take a few deep relaxing breaths and then begin my journey into a dream state of consciousness.

There is no tossing and turning or laying awake at night worry about things – I just close my eyes and start dreaming.

Are Lucid Dreams Real?

Of course, the next question when you start thinking about all of this is, wait, is being consciously awake while dreaming actually really possible? Surely that can’t be real!

However, it is indeed real – and science is finally starting to catch up to explain it to those who need to see research and reports to prove these types of things exist.

While much of the science of dreams still remains a mystery, there is a lot of promising research that shows that most of us who regularly lucid dream are not just crazy or have an overactive imagination.

A Promising Study for Decoding Dreams

Using fMRI scanners and advanced machine-learning technology, the team at Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Japan found some interesting results.

The study, led by neuroscientist Yukiyasu Kamitani and published in 2013, suggests a relationship between how our brain processes the same information while dreaming and while doing the same activity while awake.

Basically, they have begun the work in proving that our brain responds to certain stimuli the exact same way whether we experience it asleep during a dream or whether we see this object in our waking physical life.

While science still has a lot of catching up to do before its able to fully explain and understand the mysteries of consciousness and what happens while we dream, it is always promising to see scientific research backup what we as dream journeyers have always known to be true!

Perhaps The Best Proof? Trying it for Yourself

For most people, the easiest way to know that lucid dreams are real is to learn how to lucid dream and start having your own lucid dreaming experiences.

Once you experience this type of dream for the first time, you will likely find yourself having them more and more often – until eventually you are able to easily go into a lucid dream state at will.

Sometimes this ability comes naturally, but in general it does take a little bit of conscious effort to at least become more aware of your dreams and how your dreams work.

While some might consider me to be somewhat of a “natural-born” lucid dreamer, it’s important to also remember I have studied and recorded my dreams in a dream journal as far back as I can remember being able to read and write!

No doubt, having a passionate interest in dreams at such a young early age surely plays a factor. If you on the other hand only recently became interested in what dreams mean or how you can use dreams to better understand your life and improve your own well-being, then of course a little bit of practice to gain experience makes sense.

As with all things about dreams and science, it is good to remember these words of wisdom from Albert Einstein.

Einstein Quote

We may never know all there is to know about dreaming. Scientists still have no idea truly how our consciousness works.

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” – Albert Einstein

While I do believe eventually we may get to the point of better understanding and knowing, it is very possible we may also never know.

Why Lucid Dream? What are the Benefits?

The thought of being able to control your dreams might sound exciting and interesting – but you also might be wondering, “Why?”

Why in the world would you want to lucid dream?

While the reasons why someone would want to develop this skill can vary greatly from person to person, there are many things that do indeed make it a worthwhile to learn. Here I will list some of the reasons I enjoy lucid dreaming.

1. Easier to Fall Asleep

Many people have a hard time “turning off their brain” at night. You might lay down to go to sleep and next thing you know you are thinking about 10 million different things all at once. If you are able to practice learning wake-induced lucid dreaming however, you will find it to be much easier to fall asleep.

Wake induced lucid dreaming tends to give my brain something to focus on, so getting into that natural dream state of consciousness happens a lot easier for me. If I lay down knowing I want to have a specific dream, all of my thought goes on that specific dream. I’m not thinking about things that normally worry people at bed at night, like what will I do the next day or the details of projects I want to work on during the physical waking life.

There are a lot of great reasons to learn the basics of lucid dreaming and to start incorporating it into your regular dreamwork practice. Once you see all of these benefits, it’s easy to understand why so many people experience it on purpose and the many ways it can be used to improve one’s life.

2. Learn and Practice New Skills

It’s estimated that it takes 10 years of dedicated daily practice to become “good” at anything. Of course, 10 years is an awfully long time, when you consider most of us are lucky if we live to be 100.

If you are eager to learn something new faster, then taking the the opportunity while you are sleeping to give your conscious mind some practice at this skill can be very helpful.

People have used this time while sleeping to study for tests, practice skills that require a certain degree of hand-eye coordination, and even just explore things they could not experience in the real physical world easily.

As someone who loves all things creative and crafty, I like to use lucid dreaming time to be able to practice new creative skills, such as knitting, crochet, painting, pottery and more. It really does make a difference, because then when I go to do these things in real life, my consciousness already had the opportunity to get that practice in!

3. Explore Possibilities and Opportunities

This is perhaps one of my favorite ways to take advantage of a lucid state of consciousness. The dream realm is one in which we can explore different possibilities and options without any consequence to our physical real world.

I use this natural state of consciousness while asleep to explore different options in my sleep all the time. For example, we recently decided we need to move and get a new house.

Since the work my husband and I both do is location independent, we literally have unlimited possibilities on where we could go. As long as there is an internet connection, we could work from anywhere in the world.

This may give us a lot of different options – but making a decision isn’t easy because it is a major change to just pick up everything and pack up the whole family.

Lately, I have been using a lot of my time while dreaming to go “house shopping” – exploring different cities, states, and even living nomadically to decide what I think might work best for our family.

This gives me a very vivid and visual method to determine what it is I really want – as well as some confidence for once we do make the final decision that it is indeed the right choice for us.

4. Problem Solving and Overcoming Challenges

Our lives are often full of challenges. I’ve found that lucid dreaming is a wonderful way to explore new ways to solve problems and overcome obstacles that stand between us and our goals.

Sometimes the problems we face in life are big, other times they can be extremely trivial and mundane, but happen just often enough each day that it really starts to wear down on you over time.

I use lucid dreaming all the time as a way to find new solutions for problems. Rather than lay awake up all night worrying – I actually use this time to give my body rest and let my conscious explore all sorts of creative possibilities that may provide new solutions to problems we may be currently facing.

5. Spiritual Communication

Ever wish you could meet your spirit guides? Talk to an angel? Sit down with Jesus Christ himself? Perhaps you have loved ones who passed on and you wish to make the most out of visitation dreams.

With lucid dreaming, you can easily do all of these things.

Many people often use the term lucid dreaming to also describe astral travel, since the two somewhat overlap and share many common characteristics. While there are some very key differences between the two, if you are interested in learning how to communicate with spirit, there are many resources on our website to help you to do so.

Are spirits real? Can you really communicate with them? Well, I would certainly say so – but of course your own spiritual experience is unique and I encourage you to do your own spiritual exploration to determine what you believe and find to be true.

6. Emotional and Physical Healing

Another way to use lucid dreaming that many people do not seem to talk about often is for emotional and physical healing.

Many of us go through life and experience all sorts of trauma. That is, unfortunately, the very nature of the human experience: suffering makes us stronger.

While of course this is no substitute for genuine medical care when necessary, it can be a great way to understand the inner workings of your physical body, as well as to explore the emotional causes that could be tied to illness or discomfort happening in the physical world.

This may sound impossible, but remember all thought is vibration and all vibration is energy. So just because we cannot easily see or touch something in the physical world, this does not mean it is not real.

Most people do not typically see sound waves, just as you cannot feel light waves – yet with practice you can very certainly do both through careful observation.

If I tap on a drum and look carefully at the glass of water next to me, I will see the water begins to move. If I hold my hand in light for long enough, I will begin to feel that the parts that are touching the light experience a different sensation than the areas that do not have light shining on them.

Our thoughts and feelings and consciousness are all forms of energy – it is just a matter of exploring how we are able to use this for the benefit of our own lives and the others who we share our lives with.

How to Get Started With Lucid Dreaming

If you want to get started with lucid dreaming, there are many things you can do that can help make it more possible for you. Here’s what you can do in 5 simple steps.

1. Learn as Much as Possible

There are so many great resources to help you get started with lucid dreaming. Many websites such as this one exist, with a number of people sharing their own experiences, tips and techniques.

Our post on how to lucid dream for example has a step by step method you can try. In general, the more you learn and practice, the more likely you will be able to develop your consciousness to enter into this state of awareness while sleeping.

2. Understand and Record Your Dreams

If you do not do so already, you most definitely should begin keeping a dream journal. Your dream journal does not have to be anything elaborate or fancy. It can be very simple to create a dream journal using a notebook you already have at home.

What matters most is that you get into the habit of writing down your dreams and begin to explore what they could mean. Learning what to record in a dream journal can also help you better understand what aspects are common and similar in your dreams.

3. Try Meditation

Another helpful thing to practice is meditation. A regular practice of meditation both exercises and quiets the mind. This can help your consciousness be more aware in general, and so of course this also often overlaps into the realm of sleep and dreams.

There are so many benefits of meditation, and of course doing this as a regular practice can be very helpful for a number of different things in life. You may find yourself feeling calmer and able to relax easily, and that’s always a good thing for everyone when you think about how stressful everyday life can sometimes be.

What Are Your Lucid Dreaming Experiences and Questions?

I hope you find this post helpful in understanding a little bit more about lucid dreaming and understanding what is a lucid dream.

While this may seem a little confusing at first, or even impossible, the ability to be awake while dreaming is not only very much real, but can also be a very helpful technique for you to improve your life in many ways.

I am always adding more information to this website, so I am happy to answer any questions you may have – and what you may want to know about lucid dreaming is very likely a question someone else might have. So, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section below.

And of course, I would love to hear your experiences with lucid dreaming. Whether you are just beginning or have been doing this for a long time, feel free to let us know how you learned the basics as well as what helped you the most as a beginner!

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One Comment

  1. I started having lucid dreams about 6 months ago. I am not sure they are lucid dreams but was told they are. The problem is I am doing things in my dreams that when I wake I am still doing it. I was fighting a alligator in my dreams but i woke up trying to choke my dog. Another I was climbing a fence but when I woke I was climbing my headboard. In my dreams I am trying to open a door which I see plain as day but cannot feel the door knob. I fell out of bed because my legs had no feelings. Sometimes I cannot wake up even though I am trying. Are these lucid dreams?

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