Lucid Dreaming

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    Jordan Hill

    I recently engaged in an e-mail brain dump about a topic that I very much love exploring: lucid dreaming. Most of you know already that to have a lucid dream means to be aware that you are dreaming while you are dreaming. Lucid dreaming is a spiritual practice in many different cultures, including Buddhism, so I thought it might be neat to post my brain dump here if anyone’s interested in pursuing a lucid dreaming practice. I’ve been working at it off and on for the past 10 years or so, so I have plenty of thoughts and and such to share. Here goes– apologies for any rough patches, since this is minimally edited.


    Jordan Hill

    Lucid dreaming and practice:

    From a more psychological side, lucid dreaming is such a cool way of exploring one’s unconscious. From a Jungian point of view, you could say you’re exploring the collective unconscious and all its archetypes. That then shifts into a shamanic perspective in which lucid dreaming is essentially journeying in the other world– it can be a way of meeting allies, shapeshifting to better navigate different realms, exploring different realms, and then using the “map” one develops for typical shamanic purposes (healing, spiritual growth, etc.)

    From a dharma point of view, I gather that in the Tibetan tradition lucid dreaming is used as a way of exploring emptiness. The way I do that is by noticing in the dream how incredibly rich and detailed the sensory phenomena can be, as a way of showing to my mind that it is indeed capable of creating/projecting an incredibly rich/detailed world in waking consciousness (which can be a hard truth to swallow at first, of course). Also intriguing (though I haven’t done much with this yet) is the no-self angle. In a dream, where is the self? If you know you’re dreaming, then you’re both the “you” character in the dream, as well as the dreamer, as well as everything else in the dream! As I’ve summed it up in the past, you’re the dreamed, the dream, and the dreamer. Like in waking life, too… Which I guess indicates that lucid dreaming is a great in-between way, so to speak, of exploring the fundamental truths of waking life. (Incidentally, an interesting movie to check out in this regard (somewhat) is “Waking Life”)…


    Jordan Hill

    Cultivating lucid dreaming (plus some resources):

    Years ago I read a book called something like, “The Lucid Dreamer: A guide to the traveler between worlds.” It was actually pretty formative for my spiritual path overall. Not sure how helpful it’d be for you, but I know it impacted me a lot back 10+ years ago. Another great resource is Stephen LeBerge (sp?), whose THE lucid dreaming scientific researcher.

    So first, some thoughts on techniques for generating lucid dreams. Fundamentally (and not surprisingly) it really boils down to intention and mindfulness! The stronger the intention to lucid dream throughout the day and prior to sleep (or during awake periods in the midst of sleep), the more likely it is to occur. And the stronger one’s mindfulness (say on a retreat) the more likely lucidity is, since lucidity is really just mindfulness– being aware of what’s going on, which in a dream is partly an awareness that it’s a dream.

    There are lots of techniques for increasing the chances of lucid dreaming, but what I’ve found for myself is that they end up being really just vehicles of intention– by using the techniques throughout the day, I’m reinforcing the intention to lucid dream that night. That said, if you don’t remember much of your dreams it’s probably helpful to do some groundwork by dream journaling. Just developing a better connection between waking and sleeping consciousness is a major step in the right direction.

    The next most common technique I know of to work on lucid dreaming is to do state checks– throughout the day, check in with oneself and ask if you’re dreaming or not. The goal is for that to be such a habit that it might happen in a dream, and then boom. Another trick is to choose some common object of awareness (one’s hands, or doors) and use those as a cue to do a state check. Same thing applies– if it becomes habit, it may happen in a dream. There are other interesting ones which I can go into at some other point.

    Lama Surya Das recommends what is essentially intention setting before going to sleep– repeatedly saying something like, “May I awaken in my dreams and know that I am dreaming.”

    By far the most successful technique that I’ve found is to set an alarm for about 4-5 hours after going to sleep. When it goes off, I’ll get out of bed, go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, and then sit for 20-30 minutes. Throughout that period of being awake I’ll frequently do state checks. Then I’ll go back to bed and try to maintain as much mindfulness as I can while falling asleep– ideally watching my mind slip into sleep, my body slip into sleep paralysis, and then transitioning right into dreaming (which is why this technique is called WILD– wake induced lucid dreaming). I’ve had the experience where this leads to an out of body experience combined with lucid dream. The tricky part with WILD is that it tends to lighten one’s sleep significantly, sometimes completely interrupting it. So I generally only do it on nights where the next day I could sleep in (or else it just wouldn’t matter if I didn’t have a good night sleep). To help in the going back to sleep process, it’s helpful to time the wake-up and return to sleep for a time when it’s still dark (NY winters should be easy for that :).

    An interesting version of WILD involves some herbal augmentation. A friend got into lucid dreaming several years ago and tracked down these amazingly effective supplements to enable lucid dreaming. Here are the details from him:

    “It is pretty amazing how well it works.

    The herb is galantamine (red spider lily extract). I get it from The amino acid is l-theanine (100 mg). You can get that from several sources. The brand I gave you is “suntheanine”.

    It is suggested that at least a couple days of rest should be taken between uses to allow the normal balance of brain chemistry to be restored. Otherwise you can deplete some chemicals and/or desensitize receptors. However, this is debated. Pioneering stuff here.”

    Basically you do the same thing as with WILD, except that you also take the supplements just after waking up. I’ve only tried them a few times but had some pretty good success (as did a friend of mine, who had no meditation or lucid dreaming background. First time I took them I had an out of body experience).

    Another interesting “technique” to keep in mind for when one does awaken in a dream: A lucid dream can sometimes feel unstable, like you’re going to wake up at any point or lose the lucidity. One way to really anchor oneself in the dream is with rapid motion– spinning around in the dream, flying, or walking/running. This has become so habitual for me at this point that it seems as if “I” begin running in a dream as soon as I realize it’s a dream. Another trick I’ve tried which might sound weird is shapeshifting– at one point I found that turning myself into a spider (long and fascinating story about why I chose a spider– remind me to tell you sometime) anchored me strongly in the dream, but it may have just been because I was running around!



    Interesting posts, thank you for sharing! I was very interested in lucid dreaming a few years ago, but I never had any success with it.

    I’ve been curious recently how much the ability to lucid dream relates to mindfulness. Logically I would expect these skills to be highly correlated, but some anecdotal evidence has suggested otherwise. I have made great progress in increasing mindfulness since I began a regular meditation practice earlier this year, but I’ve yet to have a lucid dream that lasted longer than a few seconds. On the other hand, a friend of mine told me she has lucid dreams nearly every night, but currently experiences frequent lapses of awareness during meditation that would correspond to Stage 2 of Culadasa’s 10 Stages. However, she is quite new to meditation, so it may just be that she is not used this practice and is much more mindful at different times, like while dreaming.

    Coincidentally, I had my first experience of meditating in a dream last night. For whatever reason it did not become a lucid dream. I just remember sitting down to meditate as usual, but having very vivid visual images come into mind shortly after “closing my eyes.” I ended up getting absorbed by the vividness of these images and forgot that I was meditating. It’s odd that despite making the decision to meditate in my dream, which I would expect to make me “tune in” more to the present moment, I was still unable to realize I was dreaming!


    Hi Jordan

    So I had success last night! I woke up at around 4. Did some meditation and continuous state checks for about 45 minutes. Then went back to bed. I had a few short dream sequences with no luck. Then about the 3-4 one I was staring at a poster and couldn’t read the letters. At that moment I knew I was dreaming! I even did the movement thing you suggested to stay in the lucid dream. But it still didn’t last that long.

    I’ve also ordered the pills.

    Thanks again!



    Got the pills, tried it last night along with WILD. No luck. Actually, I was in a weird state all night long, slipping in and out of dreams and waking up. I even got up at one point and ate some ice cream just to try to get to sleep fully – just so you know, “I” never get up and eat nor do I ever eat ice cream… someone just left it in my freezer.

    So overall, the pills just seem to create sleepy agitation. I’m a little wary to try again, but might.



    Jordan Hill

    Hi Paul-

    The correlation between mindfulness and lucidity is a really interesting one. I’d love to hear from very experienced meditators about their thoughts on it. I know Culadasa has told me that while on retreats, when his mindfulness has gotten extremely strong, he has had the experience of pretty much being lucid throughout his dreaming, automatically. In fact, he said that as soon as dreaming began he was lucid and even had the sense of having been aware during the preceding deep sleep cycles, though of course there was not content from those to really pin any clear experience onto.

    For myself I have had spontaneous lucid dreams at the end (and day after) of retreats as well a fair bit of success with intentional lucid dreaming during retreats. I do imagine, however, that there are slight differences from mindfulness to lucidity– even if it’s just contextual. For instance, with mindfulness practice, I find that it’s much easier to mindful in certain activities that I’ve already developed a mindfulness association with (driving and showering, for instance)– whereas I might be doing something else that’s equally as “simple” and solitary and have a much harder time being mindful because my mind hasn’t developed an association yet between the activity and the practice. Given that dreaming is a very specialized state of mind, I can imagine someone developing skills being mindful in daily life and not in dreaming, or vice versa.

    Interesting topic to explore– I’d love to hear your thoughts and those of others!



    Jordan Hill

    Howdy Matthew!

    So glad the WILD technique worked for you. The experience you described (having the lucid dream a few dreams in after going back to sleep) seems pretty similar to my usual experience. I’ve also found that after having one lucid dream, there’s a much greater chance of having others right afterwards.

    An interesting phenomena which is apparently quite common for lucid dreaming is the false awakening– you think you wake up from the lucid dream, only to discover that you’re actually still in the dream. I’ve had this a handful of times, and sometimes it led to a continuation of the lucidity while other times, funnily enough, it broke the cycle– I thought I woke up and even when things were quite clearly bizarre the lucidity awareness didn’t carry over.

    As for the pills– they definitely do shift the mind somewhat. I’ve only experimented with them a few times and found that sometimes they worked great and sometimes they just funkdified my dreams/sleep. In general there seems to be a balancing act of when to take them, since if you take them early on (which I think I’d recommended) you run the risk of not being able to fall back asleep (since one of the pills is designed to generate a certain type of alertness, helping with the lucidity). If you take them just before sleeping, I had the experience of just going into dreams that were a bit weird and vivid but not lucid. I haven’t played with them enough to find that sweet spot for me– but the experience you described is exactly why it’s good to play around with this stuff when you don’t have to be up and alert at a certain point the next day! In fact, I’ve had very similar sleep interruptions to what you described just doing the WILD technique, without pills. I also have the sense that lucidity with the pills feels a bit different than lucidity without the pills…

    I have been excited to try the pills again but never bothered ordering them, and the WILD technique (combined with all the intention setting) seems to work well enough for me that I don’t have too strong of a motivation to get the pills.

    Two extra cautionary thoughts about lucid dreaming that’s worth mentioning:

    1) First, it’s possible to become conscious during (or just stay conscious into) the experience of sleep paralysis that usually proceeds dreaming. I think it’s much more likely to be conscious during this strange period when using the pills. My experience of it is generally one of strange and intense ‘hallucinations’ including sensations rushing through the body and auditory hallucinations (once I was sure I heard Bono, from U2, singing somewhere in my house! If only…). It’s actually much like a pretty intense (but not overwhelming) experience of the energies that arise in meditation with the beginning of Piti. Some people, however, can also have the sensation of something sitting on their chests and suffocating them or of trying to move their body and being paralyzed. This has given rise to the images of demonic attacks with a demon sitting on the chest and such. It can be frightening if someone’s not prepared for it, but if you know what it is and can just relax through it, allowing it to do its thing, I imagine it would pass pretty quickly.

    2) Secondly, on the waking up side, I had a friend who would have his mind wake up while his body stayed in sleep paralysis. He would then be a bit “stuck” until he’d roused his body (usually by exerting a great deal of will to wiggle a pinky, and then spreading out the movement from there). This happened to him often enough that he was turned off of lucid dreaming altogether. I haven’t ever had that experience and imagine it’s a bit rare, but in the interest of full disclosure it’s worth mentioning.

    This is once more getting me amped up about lucid dreaming (yay sleep paralysis!) so I’m hoping to go for it during this long weekend.

    Happy dreaming!


    Thanks again Jordan

    I had another lucid dream through the non-medicated WILD practice. So far, what I’ve noticed is that focusing on something in the dream usually catalyzes lucidity. The first time it was focusing on a poster and the words were all garbled. The second time I was focused on a coral reef that emerged from a boiling vat of coca-cola. It seems to be the intense investigation of the weirdness that stimulates this, “wait a minute, I’m dreaming!”

    But I have also lost a good deal of sleep for not much reward. It does put a dent in the day for sure. So I haven’t been consistent anymore, especially with school starting.



    Don Salmon

    Hi folks: Just arrived at this forum after purchasing Culadasa’s book recently. Great posts on lucid dreaming. I did a 6 month study on lucid dreaming with 12 subjects for my masters in psychology. By the end, all 12 were having lucid dreams at least several times a week. The 6 in the “music” group (I composed a drone to help people with WILD) all had at least one experience of maintaining awareness from waking to dreaming, and 2 could do it regularly.

    here’s what I’ve found are the most important things:

    1. Everyone says the dream journal is the first most important thing, but I think it’s second. The first is a support group. If you have people you share dreams with and support each other in becoming lucid, you’re much more likely to succeed – or so it seems to me.
    2. Intention – am I doing this for fun (admittedly, lucidity is lots of fun) or is it part of my practice? I think that ultimately, the “fun” motive wears off, whereas if the lucidity is a dharmic practice, the motivation becomes ever-deeper.
    3. The techniques of MILD (reviewing a dream, visualizing yourself as lucid then going back to sleep, intending to be lucid within a dream) and WILD (maintaining awareness from waking to dream) are both ver good. I’ve had particular success with WILD using 61 points (Guided exercise at It looks like using Culadasa’s excellent points on breath awareness, particularly in the later stages, could be very helpful. I woke up in the middle of the night last night, sat up doing breath awareness for about 10-15 minutes along the lines Culadas suggested, then lay down doing breath awareness, and came very very close to entering consciously into a dream. I imagine continuing along these lines would yield success.
    4. Remembering to question the inherent existence of physical “stuff” during the day. Alan Wallace has great instructions in his book, “Dreaming Yourself Awake,” also in “Tibetan Buddhism From the Ground Up.” After you have familiarized yourself with Middle Way philosophy to at least a small extent, simply reminding yourself as you go about your day, whatever you perceive in the environment are simply “appearances to mind.” Or more simply, ask yourself – very seriously and taking some time to do it – “Am I awake or dreaming?” Really try to jump in the air, question the solidity of what you see and hear and touch. Doing this regularly (along with the rest of the above) is likely to remind you to check your reality in a dreams more often.

    Jordan, thanks so much for starting this thread.


    Don Salmon

    Just read through the posts again, and had two follow up thoughts:

    Yes, I agree that mindfulness and lucid dreaming are very strongly correlated. I always have more lucid dreams when I’ve gone on retreat, or when my sittings (and daily mindfulness) have been more concentrated.

    False awakenings are often very funny. I remember once dreaming I was in an airport, and started to awaken in the dream. Then I “reasoned” – “Well, the ceiling of the airport is up there, and the ground is down here. Therefore I must be awake. I couldn’t be dreaming.” Boy was I annoyed when I woke up and realized how absurd this was:>))

    Then there was the time I was in a dream with my older brother, who in waking life tends to be a bit more skeptical about things than I am. I woke up in the dream, and started to tell him, “look, this is a dream, isn’t that cool?” He just shook his head and said to some friends of his nearby, “Oh that’s just my little brother don’t listen to him.” I said in response, “Well, I’ll show you it’s a dream.” And I woke up, and he vanished!



    Hello, I have also had numerous lucid dreams and so-called OOBE’s. I am in my 50’s and began inducing OOBE’s when I was a teenager in the 70’s after reading Rampa’s books – this was before I ‘got into’ proper Buddhism, I was only living in a small town in Yorkshire, so at the time access to Buddhist literature and groups was virtually non-existent. I also read Robert Monroe’s books such as Journeys Out of the Body & later got into hemi-sync. Since then I have had too many lucids & OOBE’s to count. I have experienced the so called ‘vibrations’ that precede the experience on many occasions. After starting a Samatha practice, many years ago now, I mentioned the vibes & lucid dreams to my teacher at the time, and he said, just lie there and experience the vibrations, and don’t go OOBE, (or shift the focus of consciousness if you prefer). When I did that, I just lay there in a deep state and eventually the vibrations subsided and I woke up – my teacher considered it to be piti. My feeling towards lucids now is that they are much the same as ‘reality’, with a consciousness experiencing them. Of course you can perform physics-defying feats and gratify any old desire, but I came to realise that really, apart from being able to perform such feats, the consciousness is more or less experiencing the dream in the same way it experiences the waking state. However, having said that, on very rare occasions, I have asked to be shown the true nature of reality, and a very bright light appears in the distance, or just in front of me. On one occasion, after helping someone get out of a fight in a lucid dream, and explaining to them that it was just a dream and they were ok, I was given a backbone or chain made of metal by what I took to be a Dakini, then she took me and we flew across valleys and fields and woods and then I found myself ‘flying’ through a living, vibrant blue sky with an opera playing around me which changed depending on how I moved my dream body and I arrived at the verge of a spiral galaxy of intense bright light. Emanating from the central light was the most incredibly powerful feeling of love and kindness or compassion I have literally ever experienced and my understanding was that I would pass into this ‘post-mortem’. My teachers take on these experiences was that they were basically jhanic experiences, however, I do think about that experience a lot, but it has never been repeated since then. I now think that sticking with meditating and working in the physical waking state is the way to go though, as the dreaming states are too unstable and unreliable, at least for me…

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 12 months ago by  bluelotus9.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 12 months ago by  bluelotus9.


    I have had a few OOB experiences in my life and am familiar with the vibrations you speak of. I do not think they are piti or are directly related to meditation. For one thing, I didn’t have a regular practice until recently. Plus, the vibes were generally accompanied by sleep paralysis and sometimes the perception of demonic attack (incubus/succubus etc.).




    Yes, maybe they are not piti or directly related to meditation; having said that, I wondered whether there was any reference to lucid dreaming or OOBE’s by the Buddha or in any sutta’s. I looked online and there are references to a dream body in the Samaññaphala Sutta:-

    “With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to creating a mind-made body. From this body he creates another body, endowed with form, made of the mind, complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties. Just as if a man were to draw a reed from its sheath. The thought would occur to him: ‘This is the sheath, this is the reed. The sheath is one thing, the reed another, but the reed has been drawn out from the sheath.’ Or as if a man were to draw a sword from its scabbard. The thought would occur to him: ‘This is the sword, this is the scabbard. The sword is one thing, the scabbard another, but the sword has been drawn out from the scabbard.’ Or as if a man were to pull a snake out from its slough. The thought would occur to him: ‘This is the snake, this is the slough. The snake is one thing, the slough another, but the snake has been pulled out from the slough.’ In the same way — with his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to creating a mind-made body. From this body he creates another body, endowed with form, made of the mind, complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties.This, too, great king, is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime.

    This is described alongside other ‘fruits of the contemplative life’ such as recall of past lifes etc in the above sutta and can be found at The final section of the sutta refers to the ending of mental formations or ‘fermentations’, so the dream body could perhaps be seen as one of these and the formation of a dream body considered as one of the ‘flowers along the way’, and one should not become distracted by such phenomena, and remain on the path.

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