On Wednesday, November 6th, Vassar’s organization Mind the Music presented a lucid dreaming workshop in the Jade Parlor. The workshop was given by Tom Meli, who travels the Hudson Valley area to give workshops on the practice of lucid dreaming along with other topics, such as nonviolent communication and overcoming sugar addiction.
The event was organized by Jordann Funk ’16 of Mind the Music and sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Office of Integrated Health, and the Dean of Students Office. Funk also noted that she received substantial assistance from Sylvia Balderrama from Integrated Health and the founder of Mind the Music, Toby Sola.
According to Harvard Medical School Professor Allan Hobson, “Lucid dreaming is the rare but robust awareness that we are dreaming and that we are not really awake.” (Neurobiology of Consciousness, Sept. 2009) Hobson also asserted that lucid dreaming is a phenomenon that individuals experience to different degrees, as some people can lucid dream without training, while others require practice to hone the skill.
Among the most famous lucid-dream advocates was German psychologist Paul Tholey. Tholey, who also wrote on the subject, famously used lucid dreaming with athletes in order to train them to do things in everyday life. In an article entitled, “Applications of Lucid Dreaming in Sports”, Tholey discussed theses that he endeavored to investigate. Tholey wrote, “Just as a flight simulator can be used to learn how to fly a real airplane, dreaming (especially lucid dreaming) can lead to the learning of movements by the physical organism in the real (waking) world.”
Meli vocally emphasized his passion for the potential benefits of lucid dreaming. He noted, “new things become possible.” Lucid dreaming allows one to become more aware of life while awake. When it is practiced correctly, one’s sense of reality is strengthened and one notices new things in familiar places.
One way this can happen is by doing a reality check while awake, a skill that lucid dreaming encourages. Even though the intention of this reality check is to figure out if a person is dreaming, doing it while awake causes the individual to become hyper-aware of their surroundings and puts the person fully in the present moment.
In addition, proponents of the practice believe that lucid dreaming can help one mentally and physically perform better in everyday life. Through hypermnesia in a lucid dream Meli said “we can synthesize information we may have forgotten.” Participants in lucid dreaming can bring things to the conscious level that they might not have thought about in a long time, including factual information the brain has taken in.
Meli’s passionate and enthusiastic attitude about the topic was evident from the beginning of the event. His excited energy immediately engaged the audience as he began giving tips on how to become lucid while dreaming. Throughout the workshop, described in detail six steps one can take to make lucid dreaming possible.
The first step, which Meli insisted cannot be avoided, is the consistent use of a dream journal. According to Meli, the journal builds a bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind and allows the writer to better get to know the dream world.
Meli described how, in his experience, individuals tend to dream about similar things over and over again. The better a person knows their own personal dream world, he said, the easier it will be to then identify when they are dreaming.
Since humans are biologically predisposed to forget their dreams, Meli also suggested using a recording device to verbally retell a dream and then writing it down later from the recording since the act of speaking allows individuals to relay information more quickly.
Meli’s second step was to start identifying what are called “dream signs.” Dream signs are either recurrent dream events or strange things that don’t happen in a person’s everyday experiences. Meli explained that keeping a dream journal assists individuals. Once the person recognize these signs, it is easier to become lucid.
Once an individual recognizes a dream sign, the next step takes place, which is called a “reality check.” This is where the asks themself: “How do I know I’m not dreaming right now?” According to Meli, when one becomes lucid, the vividness of the experience is similar to if not greater than waking reality.
By successfully completing a reality check, the individual can either confirm that they are in a dream or it makes them realize that they are actually awake. Common reality checks used by lucid dreamers are trying to read text or doing quick hand motions.
Often, lucid dreamers have the problem of waking up immediately after realizing that they are in a dream. The step Meli recommended to fix this was to establish meditation practices in real life that will stabilize your attention. A participant can stabilize the dream by engaging with the dream-environment, either by looking at things closely, touching objects or surroundings in the dream, or interacting with dream figures.
Meditation practice increases a person’s capacity to focus. This sort of practice helps to stabilize the dream environment.
Meli also noted that another problem lucid dreaming enthusiasts have is forgetting to do what they set out to do in the dream. To fix this, the lecturer suggested strengthening prospective memory by mentally telling yourself to do something random in the future and then doing it.
The last step Meli stressed was the strength of setting intention. Before going to bed, if an individual consistently and strongly thinks to themself that they are going to have a lucid dream can make a lucid dream more possible.
Even with all of these steps, lucid dreaming is not easy. Meli admitted that it took him a month and a half of trying diligently to have his first lucid dream.
Meli instructed listeners that, even after years of training, they can always learn and practice more. The lecturer also advised that hopeful lucid dreamers talk with other lucid dreaming enthusiasts.
This event’s co-sponsor Mind the Music is a student-group that explores different mindfulness techniques that are similar to lucid dreaming and presents students with one way of adhering to Meli’s advice of communal practice. Each week the group meets at 6:00 pm in the Jade Parlor to practice new techniques.
Even though the group’s activities vary weekly, the group maintains a general goal. Funk explained in an emailed statement “[Mind the Music seeks] to exercise our core attentional skills in ways that help us to incorporate mindfulness into our daily routines.”
Lucid dreaming is relevant to the aim of Mind the Music in that learning to do it is becoming mindful in your dreams. Funk explained, “When we begin to focus our attention and open up our awareness through mindfulness, it changes the way we see and experience the world. It’s like we wake up to a new place we never really paid attention to before, and the same process happens when we become lucid in our dreams. A whole new realm of possibilities begins to unfold.”
Funk continued, “It really opens us up to the idea that we can change our point of view in a way that can heal us, empower us, and lead us to realize we don’t have to be limited by our perception.”
Anyone who would like to learn more about lucid dreaming, get additional resources, or learn about upcoming workshops can friend ask to join the Hudson Valley Lucid Dreaming Facebook group. Interested individuals may also email Meli at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: ‘Lucid Dreaming.’