In the field of mind training, sooner or later someone mentions lucid dreaming. It’s one of those skills that’s practically a superpower. You spend so much time asleep. Reclaiming that time, while still resting deeply, would be valuable. In a dream, you can learn and explore without the limits of time, space or matter. Your own virtual reality training pod.
I get why people like it. A younger version of me almost learned how to do it. What stopped me? I realised that, as incredible as the technique is, it wouldn’t do much for me. I already knew something better.
Yes, I am confident enough to dismiss something that I call a superpower. Here’s why.
I once built a library in my mind. Its tall shelves are packed with gorgeous, leather-bound books. It doesn’t have any ladders or anything – I can fly to reach the top shelves. The entrance to the library has clear line of sight to the sitting area, which overlooks a beautiful forest. In the sitting area is a statue that changes every time I enter the library. I’m surprised by new rooms in this library, including an alchemy lab guarded by a metallic sphere.
If you turn right as soon as you enter the library, there’s a room I call the auditorium. It’s like the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter – its contents, layout and size change according to my needs. I go there to practice skills. I’m not bound by time or logic – if I’m in the right trance, I can spend hours in there while only minutes pass in real time.
Somewhere far from the library, I once spent time with a Martian farmer named Sam. Unlike me, he’s pragmatic and grounded. I asked him for life advice and he told me things I never considered before. But I had to work for it – my manual labour in exchange for his wisdom. Oxygen ain’t free on Mars, so even talking has a price. I offered to use my godlike powers over this mental scenario to build whatever he needed. The offer offended him. Strange guy.
In my mind, I have two places where I go to heal, dozens where I can relax, even a couple where I feel safe.
This sounds like lucid dreaming, except I can access these places in seconds while fully awake. And I can create new ones as easily.
To learn lucid dreaming, most instructors will tell you to interrupt your sleep. Spend the last two hours of your sleep napping in chunks of 20 minutes. Or set alarms randomly through the night. This wakes you when you are most likely to remember your dreams. Remembering dreams, they say, is the first step towards controlling them.
My hat comes off to these people. It takes discipline to change your sleep habits. And a lot of practitioners recommend spending weeks, if not months, on this step. I think it’s great that people are willing to invest in themselves like this, to power through difficulties to reach the promised rewards.
I wish they knew what I knew, though. It took me a couple of days to learn something better than lucid dreaming. No need to disrupt my sleep.
So learning my approach is quicker, easier and more fun than making chicken scratchings in a dream journal.
What is my technique? You could call it meditation or self-hypnosis. Neither term is as cool (or as precisely defined) as lucid dreaming. But it works, so who cares about labels?
When you enter a trance state, random thought like to bubble up. Normally, you learn to ignore those distractions. For this technique, those thoughts are the raw material for your waking dream state.
In a dream, your unconscious mind controls the situation. Unlike your conscious mind with its fixation on details, your unconscious views things holistically. Its worlds are strange but they always draw inspiration from reality. And they draw inspiration from you. As you dream, you are open to all of this. Your conscious mind can’t block or filter any of it. It pours into your awareness and consumes you.
The waking dream technique recreates this experience. It’s easiest in a trance, so enter one if you know how and it’s safe to do so right now. Hand control of your mental experience to your unconscious. Don’t block, deny or judge anything that happens.
What do you do then? It depends what happens next. If nothing seems to be happening, then you’re still holding the reins too tightly. Relax, focus on your breathing and wait a while. It’ll come. Daydreaming is the easiest thing in the world – this is just a hypnotically enhanced version of it.
If you experience nothing but churning thoughts, the kind you get as you drift off to sleep, the congratulations. It’s almost working. Focus on the experience. Calmly request a stable landscape from your unconscious. It’ll provide one, or not. If not, try again a little later.
When a landscape appears – to matter what it is or how stable it is – interact with it. Touch the floor. Look around. Breathe the strange new air. Experience it. Accept it.
Sometimes your mind will throw something at you. A monster, a disaster, a group of thugs. Whatever it is, accept it. Talk to the monsters. What’s the worst that they’ll do? Kill you? So what? If they do, calmly reset. If your unconscious throws a tantrum, don’t get angry. Show it patience and it will come around.
Carl Jung hallucinated terrible demons, even in an everyday state of mind. He wouldn’t let them leave until they told him something valuable. That’s the attitude I want you to take. Politely expect gifts from your inner monsters. They’ll oblige.
All of this is the foundational skill for waking dreaming. Practice this until its smooth. Don’t judge your unconscious mind. Kindly accept what it offers and politely request some changes. If your inner world is full of monsters, criticising yourself is their source. Treat them well. They’ll come around.
When you feel ready with the foundations (take at least a day with this, longer if needed), then you can start to take more control. Not too much control – if your mind surprises you, you’re doing it right. In time, you’ll have a catalogue of mental landscapes to switch between. Entering them is as easy as accessing a memory. They’re but a thought away.
The waking dream technique allows more conscious control than lucid dreaming. If you want less conscious control – if you want your mind to be truly free, to really surprise you – then you can program your dreams. Again, this is easier than lucid dreaming. You might not even remember your dreams. Even so, you’ll awake with answers to whatever problems you choose.
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