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    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.

    Books by
    Stephen LaBerge

    Exploring the World
    of Lucid Dreaming

    Lucid Dreaming:
    A Concise Guide to Awakening
    in Your Dreams and in Your Life

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