Photo by Ryan Brohm via Iowa State Daily
Lucid dreamer, Thomas Peisel, joined forces with lucid dreaming co-authors, friends, and Kickstarter to publish, A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming: Mastering the Art of Oneironautics. Check out how Thomas sees lucid dreaming as a means to promote greater awareness, insight, and emotional health.
Tell us a bit about your early dream life? Anything interesting or unusual?
I remember my dreams being very influential and interesting as a kid. I would wake up having these wild stories: adventures in strange lands, meeting various people I didn‘t know as well as scary dreams like running from Freddy Kruger that really frightened me. Just like any kid, I would tell my parents about these nighttime explorations and they‘d smile and be like, ‘That‘s nice.’ I was never told this directly, but I remember writing them off as just my imagination. But even as a kid, that didn‘t feel correct.
When did you first learn about lucid dreaming? Can you recall your first lucid dream/s? Did it happen in response to a nightmare?
There was a period in my early childhood that I remember a couple of spontaneous lucid dreams. One began with me walking through the walls of my house. I remember trying to get myself to go through the floor of my bathroom just by thinking that I could; it worked and I sunk down into my downstairs. The feeling of going through what seemed to be something solid was so cool!
Another powerful lucid dream I had as a kid started with me flying miles above the Earth alongside a flock of geese. I remember the visceral feelings of the wind against my skin, the pit in my stomach as I looked down at the Earth below me, the clarity of my vision. I knew I was dreaming and it was so absolutely real, I couldn‘t believe it. Haha, nor could I believe how fast geese flew!
Do you remember any of those pivotal early lucid dreams that amazed you? What happened? What questions did those experiences create for you?
Those early lucid dreams happened in a very short period of time and then not again until I was a teenager. I remember being really confused (completely amazed and ecstatic, but very confused). What was going on? Was this normal? How was it so real? No one had an explanation.
At this point, my family had gotten the internet and I looked it up. Apparently there was a name for it: lucid dreaming. So I went out and got tons of books on the subject. Anything I could find on lucid dreaming, astral projection, remote viewing, and out-of-body-experiences. My girlfriend‘s aunt once saw me reading D. Scott Rogo‘s ‘Leaving the Body‘ and she called me demonic right to my face. I couldn‘t believe it! It was then that I decided it‘s best to keep these experiences to myself. That is, until I understood what it all meant.
You mention that some of your early interest involved seeing ‘how things work’ in the dream world. So tell me, what kind of lessons did lucid dreaming bring you about how things work there?
Yes! Once I learned that it‘s possible to induce lucid dreams and develop this skill, I would do all sorts of experiments within my lucid dreams. I was fascinated with the dreamscape‘s realness and I would walk around picking up objects and feeling their weight and textures, studying them in great detail. I practiced going through different materials and I remember writing down my observations while lucid in my dream. Glass felt cold, like an icy stream of water. Wood was grainy and sort of felt like sand when going through it. Tile was chalky and dry.
My lucid dreams became my own personal laboratory where I would test out what was possible. I learned how to move objects with my mind and developed my skills in flying. In fact, I was a terrible flyer in the beginning. It‘s sort of funny now to think back to it. I had to LEARN how to fly! There were subtle nuances that took practice and concentration to master. I remember I would only be able to fly if I had enough momentum to get off the ground, usually by running into flight. Once I was in the air, I had no idea how to stop or turn.
I woke up plenty of times because running into something startled me awake. I learned how important my thoughts were while lucid and how my intent could shape my experience and the world around me. A focused thought could take me anywhere. A concentrated intention could create anything. The biggest lesson I learned at this point was that the dream world was absolutely real. It had a present moment just as rich and vivid as the one we find ourselves in now. Lucid dreaming was about awakening to the present moment of the dream.
Can you provide an early example or two of being trained in ‘how things work’ in a lucid dream (such as learning to fly, or to manipulate the dream)? Did you feel that you trained yourself, or did the lucid dream or larger awareness play a role in training you?
I‘ve had a bunch of teachers within my lucid dreams who taught me how things in the dream world are different (and also similar!) to our waking, physical lives.
In one lucid dream, I found myself in front of this monklike guy. He guided me into this beautiful room where a woman sat in the center. I remember noticing how solid the dream world was while I was in her presence.
(Many times while lucid I would have to constantly ‘stabilize’ the dream and remind myself that I‘m dreaming. In her presence, however, my awareness became laser focused and the dream world was firmly established).
She asked me to sit. She gestured to several objects that were placed in front of me: crackers, red string, a paper towel roll, and others I can‘t quite remember. She asked me to move the objects into a ‘smiley face’ with just my mind. I tried three times. The first two attempts I failed. It was hard to focus on all the objects at once and have them work together in unison. On the third try I did it. ‘What‘s that?’ She asked me non-verbally. ‘It‘s a fan.’ I said. I had made the smiley face and added my own little touch: a fan to cool off the smiley face like it was some geisha.
There was also a woman who constantly showed up in my lucid dreams that I later called the woman in gold. She had red hair and blue eyes and looked like a priestess of sorts, always wearing a gown of gold along with beautiful adornments on her face and shoulders. She taught me magic, about my heritage, and once on how to ‘create electricity’ within myself (at least that‘s how I understood the feeling of what she was teaching me).
She informed me that I could direct this force with my intent in order to change the dream and to use this power with care. I now understand that she was teaching me to raise my vibration, to feel the oneness within myself, and to use that to direct change within the dream world.
But dreams have always been my teacher. A whale made of light once showed me that, ‘All matter has its origin in Spirit,’ therefore we can create change in the physical by making changes in the non-physical realms. An 8 foot tall Abraham Lincoln showed me a beautiful vision on how the world will change in 2012, but warned me that, ‘not all will see it this way.’ He showed me a vision of an egg (or what looked like a pearl) breaking through the Earth, and the crust of the Earth shedding off like that of a snake.
Once I asked a giant oak tree in a lucid dream, ‘How can I be like you? You‘re so strong!’ It told me to, ‘Build something that will outlast your body,’ and it then showed me directly what that meant in my life.
Even though I wasn‘t raised with any religion, sleep has always been my spiritual practice; a place where I have access to a reservoir of knowledge and wisdom. And for me, it‘s the coziest spiritual practice! I don‘t know of any other practice where we get to jump into a warm and cozy bed, with a pillow and blanket in order to receive guidance, healing, self-discovery, not to mention remember a deeper part of who we are.
Many lucid dreamers point to nightmares as a prompt to lucid awareness. You see zombies rampaging the city, and finally think, ‘Zombies? This only happens in movies, and uh, dreams!” Of course, once lucidly aware, you still need to relate to the nightmare situation. Have you had any lucid dreams prompted by nightmares? If so, give us an example and tell us how you decided to respond?
Nightmares are great triggers for lucid dreams. A good thing to remind ourselves is that if we find ourselves in a stressful situation or running away from something, to stop for a brief moment and take inventory. Are you dreaming?
I remember one powerful nightmare in which I found myself running down a hallway being pursued by two dark male figures. ‘Why am I running?’ I remember asking myself, ‘Am I dreaming?’ Maybe, I thought to myself but I continued to run. ‘Wait! I am dreaming!’
I stopped in that moment and turned around. The men, who were running, slowed down as well and walked towards me. Now to be totally honest, I‘m scared out of my mind at this point. Even though I‘m fully lucid, I am totally freaked out by this interaction. I try to calm myself down and feel as much compassion within myself as possible. One of the men reaches his hand out, it‘s on fire! I shake his hand and he says to me, ‘Don‘t let your flame go out.’ I feel a surge of familiar energy run through my body. It was empowering and I woke up feeling reignited with purpose.
It was from this dream that I realized, we may be the one running, but we‘re also the one CHASING. Often times, we are that nightmare! And they‘re not looking to hurt us, they‘re looking to bring something to our attention. In this case, I was running from an important part of myself. When I stopped and confronted the scary shadow, I was given a gift and reminded of my power.
Have you had cases where you did not respond too thoughtfully in a lucid dream with a nightmarish scenario? What happened there? And what did you learn?
This reminds me of the classic horror films where the damsel in distress runs upstairs to get away from the killer. ‘No!’ you‘re saying to the screen, ‘that‘ll never work.’ And it‘s true! Over a series of lucid dreams I found myself running from The Rat King. He was this weird looking guy who ran a school within the dream world teaching people how to mutilate themselves and then heal themselves back together. It was disturbing and he asked me to join his circle.
I sat there as people ripped skin off their backs and purposefully broke their limbs. His eyes never left me. It was one of those eerie dream characters where, even to this day, I strongly believe that this ‘guy,’ whoever he was, knew that I knew I was dreaming. There was consciousness in his eyes unlike the rest of the people (who seemed to be in a sleepwalking trance). Night after night, he would ask me to sit in on his school and he just watched me.
Finally, while lucid, I decided to run for it. I flew through the walls to outside. I then took to the sky and flew for what felt like miles. When I landed, a car sped towards me and I jump on the hood. It was The Rat King again! It was then that I realized a very important principle of the dream world: wherever you go, there you are. There‘s no escaping these shadow elements by distancing yourself from them. Just like in the horror films, hiding is useless!
The only way to conquer our nightmares or transform these dark elements is by confronting them. It wasn‘t until a year or so later that I found myself again with The Rat King. I stopped where I was and he approached me. I looked him square in the eyes and held my focus. Instantly, I watched as he transformed: first into a ‘ghost -like’ thing and then into a skeleton wrapped within an owl pellet. I haven‘t had an encounter with him since.
In talking to lucid dreamers, many have seen the value in using lucid dreams for emotional healing and transforming personal issues. Have you had those moments during or after a lucid dream, when the big realization hits you and you finally get it – it being either the issue, belief, or thing that needs resolution, integration, or acceptance?
What‘s interesting is during a dream sometimes I‘m in a quarrel (with a friend, family member, or even a total stranger) while in the waking world, things seem to be fine. Later when I bring up my dream to them, I realize that there is truth to what the dream was showing me. A friend of mine was mad at me. A family member was going through a hard time. I had no idea in the waking world, but because of my dreams I was able to glimpse the source of our troubles and resolve them.
Tell us about a lucid dream of emotional healing and/or transformation, and how it impacted your waking life?
Once I was extremely sick and bedridden for days. At my lowest point, I had a dream where I was brought in front of this cloaked figure who stood underneath a blue light. He held up a bright blue drink and told me to drink it. ‘This will change your cells,’ he/she told me. I drank it and they then led me through this doorway. As I walked through the doorway, I woke up. My fever had broke, I had an appetite again. It still took days for me to fully recover but that was a turning point for me.