Lucid Dreaming - Taming the Dragon
By Gemma Collier
The power of dreams has been recognised since the dawn of time. In the relics of every
civilization known to man, there are inscriptions that speak of the power of the unconscious.
And just as ubiquitous as the acknowledgement of that power is the attachment of some
sort of a divine quality to those dreams.
Greek, Egyptian, Aztec, Inca, Aborigine or Mongol, every human society has recognised the
power of dreams. But not all of them have divined the means to harness that power. We are
fortunate to live in an era when that knowledge is retained and can be passed on from one
person and from one generation to the next. That power is known in contemporary English
as lucid dreaming.
Throwing off the constraints of a formal religious attachment is the first step to fully
accessing the true energy that dreams encapsulate. Dreams are not messages from the
gods, and they are not literal predictions of the future. They are more intimately emotive
and more subtle than that.
Our dreaming occurs during the deep phase of sleep associated with Rapid Eye
Movement (REM). This is the point when as sleepers we are "furthest" from our day to day
consciousness. Metaphorically at least, our subconscious has left the world far behind in this
state and so it is free to journey according to its own associations and paths of intuition -
however idiosyncratic they may be.
This explains why dreams are often so apparently random. The subconscious mind does not
follow the linear logic of lines on a page, or even turns in a conversation. It is a freer and -
most often - a more vivid form of understanding.
But the power of dreams, and specifically the potency of lucid dreaming lies in being able
to grasp what it is that the subconscious is toying with. In effect this means being able to
recognise that one is dreaming whilst doing so - it is an Alice in Wonderland state of being
inside the dream and outside of it all at the same time.
This lucid dreaming state is not uncommon, but it is not necessarily easy to achieve either.
Mediation and a concerted effort at dream recall are typically required to achieve it, but the
simple truth is that some people find it easier than others. However, there is no doubting
that such a state does exist. Scientists Stephen LaBerge, Ursula Voss and Martin Dresler
who are amongst those specialising in the neurology of sleep, have conducted experiments
where lucid dreamers have learned specific eye movements (as part of REM) to signal that
they are in a dream state.
That lucid dreaming has been scientifically proven to exist is only the first part of
the story. The second part is what dreamers can then do with the insights that their
subconscious affords them. From here, the story moves from the realms of neuroscience
and back towards the interpretive end of the spectrum, back towards the diffuse and the
indeterminate, some might say - although the world of psychiatry would insist on the
scientific basis of precisely these understandings.
The subconscious is an indirect messenger: a dragon in a dream may represent an angry
parent, a pair of wings, an escape. The value, and indeed the power of lucid dreaming
lies in the ability to capture these images as they bubble up from the sleeper's deepest
subconscious and to distil them for a thorough understanding. This, again, is easier said than
done, but that is not the same as saying it is impossible - it isn't.
Lucid dreamers also claim to be able to steer their dreams, putting the brain's problem
solving and emotional self-healing capacities to work in a positive, self-affirming way. As a
way to generate positive associations and to overcome anxieties, this is a technique with
strong and persuasive advocates.
There is still much that remains uncertain concerning our dreaming lives, and the play of our
subconscious minds within them. But it does seem as though our ancestors' reverence for
the power of their dreams was well founded. The growing appreciation of lucid dreaming
shows that those ancient civilizations were perhaps even wiser than we imagined.
Bio: Gemma Collier is a writer and part-time yoga instructor with an interest in all things spiritual. At the moment she is particularly fascinated by crystal healing and has filled the house with various rocks and minerals, much to the confusion of her husband! When she's not teaching yoga Gemma enjoys arts and crafts and walking her dog.