Lucid dreaming is the art of becoming more self-aware in our dreams. Although lucid dreaming has been practiced for centuries, it only recently became recognized by science in the late 1970s. Recently, lucid dreaming has seen even more popularity thanks to a few popular herbal supplements that claim to increase the ability of becoming aware that you are dreaming. These supplements, known as “lucid dreaming pills” have promise, but they are not actually the quickest and most effective way to learn how to lucid dream. I’ll discuss why in this article, and make suggestions for learning how to lucid dream the natural way.
Lucid Dreaming Supplements: A Quick Review
Galantamine is by far the most popular lucid dreaming supplement today. This is a chemical synthesized from a few plant sources, notably red tiger lily. Galantamine is a legal supplement, and seems to work by modulating brain chemicals that in turn modulate our waking and sleeping cycles.
Calea zacatechichi is another highly prized lucid dreaming supplement. The leaves from thisflowering plant have been used as a cure-all medicinal herb in Mexico for centuries. Recent blind studies show that calea increases dream recall significantly, which is an important part of inducing lucid dreams. While there is no scientific evidence yet for calea’s effect directly on lucid dreaming, there have been many self-reports claiming a correlation.
Brain vitamins In general, modern medicine provides a cocktail of vitamins that are touted as increasing mental activity during sleep, and also improve concentration, mood, and even anti-aging. This long list includes the B vitamins, as well as certain enzymes and proteins. Some supplements provide raw material for neurotransmitters, aiding in cell-to-cell communication, and others, such as the antioxidants, clear out free radicals, which promotes the growth of healthy brain cells.
Taking the Red Pill Is not Enough
However, lucid dream beginners may be disappointed to learn that taking a pill is not going to make them more “aware.” Galantamine and the other oneirogens (drugs that promote dreaming) may effect brain chemistry in a way that promotes self-reflection, but in and of themselves they mostly act as placebos.
And here’s why: becoming self-aware is not a switch that is “flipped” by taking a pill. Like performance-enhancing drugs known about in the sports world, lucid dreaming pills may indeed enhance your abilities…. but you still have to go to practice everyday.
Self-awareness, and the ability to realize “hey, I am experiencing this moment right now” is the product of mental discipline. If we are not tuning into our daily waking lives with powerful moments of self-awareness, why do we expect to have such epiphanies in our dreams? Waking life is a dream in itself, after all, in which we go about our daily habits and routines, and spend most of our time either engaged in tasks or “checking out.”
Popping a lucid dreaming pill is not going to do much for those of us who are unaccustomed to self-inquiry, meditation, or routine awareness checks. Developing the Mind
Learning to lucid dream is easy if approached from the simple truth that, to become more self-aware, we have to train our minds. That is how the Tibetan Buddhists and Hindi Yogis viewed lucid dreaming over a thousand years ago. To these masters of consciousness, lucid dreaming was simply a signal that their mental exercises were paying off.
Similarly, many Indigenous peoples around the world, including some Native American groups and South American shamans, practice lucid dreaming as a technique to develop the mind’s power of concentration and imagination. Some of these groups use supplements as well – the difference being, of course, that the supplements are just that: supplements to a mental practice.
There are many sources for learning how to lucid dream on the Internet, and I won’t go into to much detail about specific practices. The undisputed authority site for learning lucid dreaming is Dr Stephen LaBerge. Briefly, here is my personal list for the most effective ways to develop self-awareness in waking life in order to have more lucid dreams. These practices, along with a judicious use of herbal supplements, are an effective path towards expanding the dreaming mind.
7 Ways to Naturally Promote Lucid Dreaming without Supplements
- Reality Checks Develop a “habit” of becoming self-aware. Some use a timer on their watch so that every hour they are prompted to think, “I am aware right now. This is happening, and I am not my emotions, or my hunger, or my irritation of my boss during this boring meeting.” I am a big fan of using doorways. Every time you walk through a door way, try to remember “I am aware, I am moving from one room into another.” This practice is harder than it seems! Yet, soon enough the practice will bleed into your dream life, and you will think, “I am aware…. hey, this is bizarre, why am I in my middle school cafeteria? This must be a dream!”
- Dream Signs If you have a repetitive dream, teach yourself that the next time you experience the plot of that dream, you are dreaming. This works well with outlandish dreams such as staring in the mirror and having to pull out a tooth because it is loose. As adults, this just doesn’t happen often in waking life! Soon you will collect many “dreamsigns” that cue you into the dream state.
- Meditation No doubt about it, the safest and most direct way to learn how to lucid dream is to take up a formal mindfulness practice, such as sitting meditation. These days, it’s easy to find introductions to sitting meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, no matter what your background is.
- Body Practice Lucid dreamers statistically have an excellent sense of balance. So developing your body’s balance through yoga or tai chi is a great way to tune the mind and the body at the same time. This is also important for mental health in general; lucid dreaming is only one benefit to having a regular body practice.
- Read at Night One of my most effective tricks for incubating lucid dreams is to wake up in the middle of the night, turn the light on, and read something interesting for 10 to 15 minutes. This practice stimulates the parts of the brain that also handles self-consciousness. Try meditating for 10 minutes in the middle of the night too – I recommend getting out of bed for this practice! When I settle back to sleep, I often slip immediately into a lucid dream.
- Refrain from Alcohol Alcohol can dampen the dream state; scientists have noted this for years. Even one alcoholic drink in the evening can statistically kill all your efforts of having a lucid dream. And taking some brain drugs after a night of binge drinking will just give you a nasty headache on top of your hangover.
- Take a Nap! Usually, an afternoon nap helps us catch up on our dream sleep. So the chance of having a lucid dream is quite high if you go to sleep with the intention of knowing you are dreaming.
So, like I’ve suggested above, lucid dreaming supplements are not all they are cracked up to be. At best, they should be engaged in carefully in conjunction with these classic tactics for developing lucid dreams. A much safer and sustainable path towards lucid dreaming is to focus on mind development, the old fashioned way.