Did you know that on average we sleep for one-third of our lives? That’s a whole lot of time spent in dreamland! So what if we could use some of this time to not only have fun, but to transform how we experience the world and who we are? Well, according to lucid dreaming expert Charlie Morley, we can do just that. How? By simply bringing mindful awareness into all stages of our dream, sleep and waking life.
Charlie has been lucid dreaming since his teens but he only began teaching it about six years ago through a holistic approach to lucid dreaming within the context of mindfulness meditation and Tibetan Buddhism, Mindfulness of Dream & Sleep, which he co-founded. Charlie passionately believes that anyone can learn how to become conscious within their dreams and he’s living proof that doing so can change be life-changing.
Charlie now spends his time travelling the world running workshops and retreats and giving talks based on his books Dreams of Awakening and Lucid Dreaming: A Beginners Guide to help people on the path to spiritual and psychological awakening. I just had to talk to him to find out how we can all open ourselves up to a world of limitless possibilities… without even getting out of bed! ~ Rachel
1. First of all, for those who’ve never heard of it, can you tell us exactly what lucid dreaming is?
Lucid dreaming is the art of becoming conscious within your dreams. A lucid dream is one in which you think, a-ha, I’m dreaming! while you’re still asleep. Once you become conscious within a dream, you can interact with and direct it at will, dancing with your unconscious mind. With practice, you can have lucid dreams of an hour in length. Imagine spending an hour inside your own mind: think of what you could do; what you could explore; the people you could meet: aspects of yourself, your higher self, guides. And remember, everyone you meet in the lucid dream is you – they are reflections of you, your own consciousness. In a lucid dream if I meet an elderly African woman, I’m meeting an aspect of my own femininity, an aspect of my own age-old wisdom, and an aspect of my own ideas and energy of Africa. So it’s a fascinating way to gain insight into yourself – and particularly into aspects of yourself that normally remain hidden because in our waking state we have filters. We can suppress things. When we go to sleep all this content can come up. A lucid dream shows that this content is you – the good, the bad and the ugly. The key is to show love towards everyone – all parts of you – in your dream.
2. How long have you been lucid dreaming?
When I was a kid I was scared of monsters under the bed so I didn’t want to wake up and use the toilet when I needed to pee. I remember the feeling of a full bladder seeping into the dream and making me become fully lucid. Then, from within the dream, I would think to myself: I really don’t want to get out of bed to pee. Maybe I’ll just do it while I’m still in the dream?
Then I kind of forgot about it all but then when I was 17, I bought some books and taught myself how to do it and I started having regular lucid dreams. I found that I had gained access to a virtual reality of incredible realism in which social norms didn’t apply. Not yet aware of the Tibetan Buddhist lucid dream practices that I now teach, and at the peak of my wild teenage years, I didn’t view the lucid dream state as a potential training ground for enlightened action. I saw it purely as a place to get laid! So it was just for having fun first but then when I got into Buddhism a couple of years later I started to use it for more beneficial stuff.
3. What kind of healing work can we do on ourselves in a lucid dream?
Lucid dreaming can offer some really powerful opportunities to unpack, accept and heal our baggage within the dream state.
Let’s say you’re scared of spiders? Gradual exposure to spiders within the lucid dream can be used to help overcome a phobia of them in a similar way to cognitive behavioural therapy. By engaging fearlessly with the source of a phobia (whether it’s spiders or anything else) within the lucid dream – while holding in mind that it’s all a mental projection – sufferers can begin to gradually integrate the phobia. I’ve worked with people who’ve all used their lucid dreams to heal all sorts of things. One man used his lucid dreams to explore his sexual behaviour – by meeting a dream character who told him he was ‘the physical manifestation of your fear of commitment’, while a young woman used her lucid dream to meet and forgive the memory of the abuser from her childhood. This potential for healing is one of the deepest benefits of the practice.
4. Why does lucid dream training wake us up to the real beauty of life and help us become more mindful of the way we think, feel and behave?
Through learning to dream lucidly, we can learn to live lucidly and wake up to life. Every time we lucid dream we are experiencing a new perception of reality, one in which we are the co-creator, and the more we experience this, the more we may also perceive waking reality in a similar way. Each time we do this we are creating a habit of recognition. It is this habit of seeing through illusion that forms the crux of lucid living.
Lucid dreamers naturally begin to take charge of their waking life in much the same way as they do in their dreams. Empowered by the experiences of their lucid dreams, they strive consciously to direct and co-create their waking lives, too. They become more positive, proactive and discerningly optimistic in their waking interactions.
In his first book, Dreams of Awakening, Charlie says that while 99 per cent of what we experience in a lucid dream is our own unconscious, there’s always room for other possibilities. “If you think of the classic iceberg description of the mind that Freud popularized, it’s as if when you go into a lucid dream, you go into the depths of your personal iceberg, which is normally hidden below water,” he explains. “But you also might move to the edge of the iceberg, or even into the sea surrounding the iceberg, and this might be exploring the edges of the collective unconscious, or even interacting with the universal mind.”
5. Why is practicing compassionate motivation in our lucid dreams, and in reality, the key to manifesting what we really want in this life?
Because this is a compassionate universe and so the universe responds to compassionate motivation. Do something for others and it will manifest way more easily than doing something just for yourself. That’s how karma works in fact too.
6. Can we all get lucid and how do we do it? Is there a step-by-step guide to follow or will having the right intention, and lots of enthusiasm, be enough to make it happen?
Yeah there a step by step guide by which anybody can teach themselves how to do it. Intention and enthusiasm are key but without the correct techniques they may not be enough. My books and online courses are pretty good at teaching people. And yes that was a shameless plug.
7. Is it easy to get confused between reality and the lucid dream state? What checks can we do in the reality state to check that we aren’t lucid dreaming?
Some people worry that lucid dreamers stand to lose touch with what’s real but in fact quite the opposite happens. Once we can see through the hallucinatory reality of the dreamscape, and know it as illusion, we become better
equipped to recognize illusion in the waking state. This makes us more mentally stable and self-aware.
Reality checks, ways of telling if you are dreaming or awake (in the dream it can be a bit confusing) are used by lucid dreamers to become lucid and so in fact nobody knows the difference between reality and dream better than a lucid dreamer because becoming lucid depends upon it!
8. What is the most amazing things that’s happened to you in a lucid dream and did it affect your life?
Oh god, we could be here all day with this one but some of the standout moments where healing my eye sight, curing my nightmares, communicating with someone who had recently died, precognitive possibility and being able to meet both my internal Jesus and the Devil in lucid dreams. Both of them were embraced equally!
9. You have many amazing teachers. Who are you looking to right now and what lessons have you learned most recently?
Ok so here’s an exclusive for you because I just revved this teaching today. I bought my teacher Lama Yeshe Rinpoche a Nutibullet so that he could wizz up his nettles for his nettle soup: the only thing he eats during his annual 3 month retreat. This morning he sent me a thank you e mail with the following teaching in it: “always remain joyful and humble. No hope of achieving anything, no fear of losing anything and being kind, honest and true will bring you good benefit.”
10. You are truly doing what you love. How did your lucid dreams guide you towards teaching, writing and speaking – and reassure you that helping others is your true calling?
I actually asked the lucid dream “what should I do with my life?” I literally yelled it out in a lucid dream about seven years ago. The dream then presented me with all these dream characters who told me to do the lucid dream teaching full time. I just took their advice.
11. What’s your ultimate goal?
It’s the same as the poet Patti Smith’s actually: “My mission is to communicate. To wake people up. To give them my energy and to accept theirs. We are all in this together.”
12. How can we all use lucid dreaming to take us closer to doing what we love?
Lucid dreaming will show your highest potential and can also be used to ask for advice on how you can manifest that highest potential. Follow your dreams, they know the way.
13. Finally can you share your tips for helping your mind move towards the lucid dreaming state?
- Before you go to sleep, ask ‘may my dreams guide me to…’
- Keep a dream diary to help you recall your dreams and get to know the territory of them. Eventually you’ll begin to recognize that territory when you’re in it, and know when you’re in a dream.
- Reality check during your day – ask yourself ‘what would I like to be dreaming about right now?’
- Before you go to sleep, hold the intention of being lucid by saying: “Tonight I recognize my dreams. Tonight I am lucid in my dreams.”
For more information about Lucid Dreaming, watch Charlie’s TED talk at the San Diego TEDx conference, below: