By Bill Murphy © 2017
Lucid Dreaming Experience Magazine
As an enthusiastic explorer of techniques that may increase my ability to become lucid while dreaming, I have tried different approaches with various degrees of success. While I am creative, with degrees in both art and television production, I always look for scientific explanations for the human experience including my own. With lucid dreaming, researchers have not reached a universal consensus on the best methods that could influence people to become aware they are in a dream.
Even though I am fortunate to have many occasions where I recognize and can control my dreams, it has usually been a spontaneous event until I started writing for the Lucid Dreaming Experience (LDE) magazine. Authoring this column has led me to properly follow up on my own casual research and examine the published work of other lucid dreamers who document their experiences.
I’ve subjected my owndreams to self-analysis software provided by Falling Waters, a television series that aired on the USA Network about shared dreams. The website for the show had a survey that upon completion would create a graphical representation of the thoughts and feelings of the person who submitted answers to their questions.
While this is a computer-generated artistic representation, it is analogous to a digital kaleidoscope that was created based on the answers I provided to a questionnaire the television producers posted. While this does nothing to help a person become lucid in a dream, perhaps thinking about the graphic before going to sleep could help a person set their intentions to enter a lucid state.
I’ve created soft head bands with embedded dry electrode electroencephalograms that would trigger an alarm when achieving brainwave frequencies that some researchers associate with lucidity. The goal of this project was to be awakened during a lucid dream and be able to recall the experience. This device worked well, and I attempted to launch this as a consumer product via a crowd funding website as a wearable accessory with mobile device software, so others who wanted to remember their dreams could possibly have a way of doing so.
Unfortunately, the website was targeted by hackers who breached the security firewall nearly halfway into my campaign, which adversely affected our efforts. Although I decided not to launch the campaign again, there are other similar headbands that may make it to the market that I hope will function as intended.
Being inclined to naturally become lucid, I also have used reality checks such as the token from Ryan Hurd called the Lucid Talisman. This is a high quality coin that works by the intended dreamer studying the fine details while awake, then setting an intention to look for the Talisman while dreaming. For me this was fairly effective, and it led to me making an effort to see how far I could push this approach to be able to comprehend details in other materials I encounter in my dreams, such as written documents.
Text and numbers can be distorted in a dream but I was able to discern what seemed to be important information on at least one occasion, although I was unable to verify the accuracy of the document I viewed within the dream.
Practicing a physical task while both awake and in a lucid dream has shown to be beneficial for some individuals, and several professional athletes train for competition this way. For me, I try to achieve in a lucid dream what would normally be impossible while awake. Examples include transforming into other forms of matter such as mist or fire, or walking through walls. And of course there is the classic feat that many lucid dreamers go for, and that’s being able to fly
It remains a favorite goal for many people. I realized I could overcome gravity and soar over the treetops in my dreams before I was a teenager. Since then I’ve traveled at what seems like faster than the speed of light to outside of our galaxy, all in the dream state.
All of these examples of various techniques to encourage lucidity can be found in past articles I have contributed to the LDE, but we’re now on the cusp of a new tool that may help those who are striving to gain control of their own dream state. Virtual Reality is accessible to the masses thanks to high performance computers and mobile phones that have all the processing power you need for an immersive experience. The goggles used for virtual reality that you slip your phone into are not something you can wear while sleeping, but as a tool to prepare for nocturnal adventures in slumber land, this may be useful.
Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at MacEwan University, has noted that subjects who regularly play video games will occasionally react to the stimulus in the real world in a manner that emulates game play. She refers to this as “game transfer phenomenon” and maintains it is not uncommon.
According to a September 2016 article in The Atlantic magazine, Dr. Gackenbach shared that her research shows that this tendency to transfer an action performed in a game to the physical world also extends to the dreamscape. More specifically, it has been suggested that spending time in a controllable environment that is constructed in virtual reality could make a positive impact on controlling one’s dreams as well. Dr. Gackenbach surveyed virtual reality gamers who have reported they are able to enter a lucid dream state more often than those interviewed who do not engage in virtual reality simulations.
The same article quoted Patrick McNamara, a neuropsychologist at Boston University who stated that “a virtual reality device is a simulation machine, just as the brain is.” Without the constraints the physical world imposes, these simulations are just what many people are hoping to achieve when entering a state of dream lucidity.
Other researchers are publishing similar findings, and I have had a few memorable results of entering a lucid state while dreaming on the same evening I have used my virtual reality equipment. The success of having a lucid dream is only apparent if you remember it so there are still hurdles such as waking up in time to recall it, and then make notes or a recording about it before the dream details slip away from memory.
In my home, my wife usually wakes up before me and will prompt me as soon as I open my eyes to provide details of my dreams if possible. This has been a great help and it allows our home to be an informal two-person lab, of sorts, that permits us to acknowledge our own experiences but lacks multiple test subjects and a control group for comparison of results.
Here’s what I can say, however: I have been having an increase in the frequency of vivid dreams, and enjoyed a wonderful lucid dream that lasted long enough for me to fly and then reconfigure the environment. I consider being able to control several aspects of my dreams to be very successful, and this comes within months of acquiring and using my virtual reality gear.
Interacting with dream figures is another important goal, and in virtual reality it can seem like the avatars created by real people equipped with their own VR gear conversing with you in online social meeting spaces are similar to dream figures. The technology allows for the person you are near (in the virtual space) to hear you speak and they can hear you. This is facilitated through your VR systems microphone and a pair of headphones.
You can “walk” towards people and interact with them or attend a conference and watch and listen to someone on a stage. Lucid dreaming author Daniel Love uses this technology as a platform for hosting a monthly gathering to meet and discuss lucidity with other dreamers and to share ideas. I found this method to feel remarkably similar to what it is like to interact with dream figures.
I have learned through Robert Waggoner that it can be enlightening to really connect with dream figures. While using VR won’t necessarily reveal the source behind the dream, it does make for a good simulation and Daniel’s forum allows one to exchange knowledge with other dream researchers.
Like all emerging technologies, there will be a shrinking of components, additional bio-sensors will be layered in, and the software will continue to be refined. I would venture to say that considering the data coming in from various researchers, VR is already becoming a training tool for industrial use, a therapeutic technique for therapists treating those with PTSD, and virtual practicing for athletes. Perhaps soon it may be embraced by lucid dreamers.