December Learning: Lucid Dreaming in Retirement

This reminds me of my recurring dream of having lots of unknown babies

Lucid Dreaming – The Final Topic in my 2023 Year of Learning in Retirement

In the final month of my 2023 Year of Learning in Retirement, I picked Lucid Dreaming as the topic I’d take a deeper dive into.

To be honest, I’ve been super-busy and distracted and hadn’t even picked a December learning topic when my friend, Chris, sent me a link to the Lucid Dreaming online class.  Chris, who lives in Bali, is an avid meditator, and goal-setter, himself.  He’d just completed The Mindful Guide to Lucid Dreaming class, which was available through the Insight Timer app.

I’d just arrived in Bradenton, Florida and had tested positive for Covid, upsetting my plans to visit both Chris and his mother, who was turning 90, in St. Augustine.

Since those plans were completely disrupted and I had a week of isolation and bed-rest in front of me, it turned out to be the perfect time to learn about Lucid Dreaming.

What is Lucid Dreaming?

Though I can’t be certain I’ve truly experienced it (even after having taken the class) it sounds like Lucid Dreaming is the ability to have an awareness and control your actions while dreaming.

I’ve experienced the awareness piece on occasion, but not the second half – taking conscious action during a dream.

How does the class teach you to Lucid Dream?

First, the class helps you enhance your mindfulness and your ability to control what you’re thinking.  This part was very similar to what I learned when studying meditation. (Makes sense since Insight Timer is an app that includes guidance on Mindful Meditation.)

Many of the exercises began with breathing exercises and an awareness of your conscious thoughts, including when you transition to a sleep and dream state.  It was very handy for me to be listening to this class and doing these exercises while I was feverish and in a half-asleep state already.

As you slip into this dream state and see or experience something that wouldn’t be possible, your conscious mind that’s still half there is able to register, “This is a dream. I am not really pregnant again.”  (One of my recurring dreams is that I’m pregnant yet again. In these dreams, I have lots of babies which I don’t remember having. These are undoubtedly the children resulting from all the other pregnancy dreams.)

OK, back to reality. Next time, I’ll be able to realize that that back pain is NOT about pregnancy!

Recording Your Dreams

So…what you’re supposed to do when you’re conscious enough to remember your dream is this: grab a notebook that you keep by your bed and write down your dream.  If you wait until you’re fully awake, there’s a good chance you won’t remember the dream.

When I listened to this part of the class, I thought to myself: “I’m too sick to even want to move to take the much-needed Tylenol that’s sitting on that bedside table. This will have to wait.”

A couple of weeks later, when I wasn’t so sick, I was having a not-very-interesting dream about my girlfriend group. I also had to pee. I thought, “Since I’m up anyway, I should write down my dream.”  

However, I’ve struggled with insomnia my whole life.  Even though I had to get up to pee, I was still sleepy enough that I went right back to sleep without a problem.  If I had taken the time to write my dream down in a journal, I think it would have made it difficult for me to drift back to sleep. Bottom line: I’m not doing the journaling thing.

Why learn about Lucid Dreaming?

I thought the final few lectures were the most insightful about the benefits of Lucid Dreaming.  Often we dream about things that are bothering us in real life.  If we can interpret and dig into the meaning of our dreams, we might be able to rewrite our ‘dream story.’  This, of course, might be especially useful if our dreams (or nightmares) are related to an anxiety that we need to address.

One of the most difficult times of my life was in 1997 after my brother (another ‘Chris’) died in a car accident. I had dreams every night where he was alive. Then I’d wake up and re-experience the grief of his death.  (The opposite has also happened…. Dreaming that someone has died, and the huge relief in waking up, knowing it was just a dream.)

However, when I was having the nightly dreams that my brother was alive, it became so common that in my dream, I realized it was a dream, and would think, “I don’t want to wake up. If I wake up, Chris will be dead.”

As anyone who’s been through grief knows, it can be a time of deep depression and despair.  Every morning when I’d wake up, again to the realization that Chris was dead, I would sob uncontrollably.

But one night, the dream was different. Chris was there and told me he was OK. He was his typical carefree, full of happy energy self, telling me to stop worrying.  He was so real that it felt like I was really communicating with him in the afterlife. Even after I woke up, it didn’t feel like I’d just had a dream.

Was my experience “Lucid Dreaming”?

I don’t think that experience was “lucid dreaming” because it didn’t feel like a dream.  It could have been my subconscious.  However, the experience was vivid enough that I had a different feeling going forward.  I was still sad that Chris was dead, but I had a sense of peace and a belief that he had been able to communicate with me and reassure me that he was OK. (I just wish he’d have given me a little more information about the ‘after-life’!)

Since that whole experience happened before I knew anything about “lucid dreaming,” I don’t know if it would serve as an example of how we can rewrite our dreams.  However, if you have a recurring dream that upsets you, I think the idea is to ‘day dream’ a different outcome..  maybe one that you overcome the challenge you’re facing. The next time you have the dream, your lucid dreaming skills will help you rewrite your dream to a more positive outcome.  Doing this in your dream (even in your day dream) may change your mindset and feelings while you’re awake.

Summary – Learning about Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming, like meditation, helps us develop more awareness of our minds and our consciousness. 

Dreams can give us insights into our minds.  By having a deeper awareness about our dreams, we may learn how to change the outcomes, not just of our dreams, but of our waking lives.

While I don’t intend to keep a dream journal or work much more on trying to develop my lucid dreaming skills, I’m glad I learned about this unique mind-control skill.

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