Why do some dreamers immediately take to lucid dreaming, while others struggle to achieve lucidity even once? I thought about this question recently when interviewing a young Norwegian woman, L. Salvesen, for The Lucid Dream Exchange. She claims to have about fifteen hundred lucid dreams a year. For most of us who average three or four lucid dreams a month, fifteen hundred per year sounds incredible!
She’s not the only person, though. Over the years, I have met a number of ultra-frequent lucid dreamers, on-line and in person. Curious about their ability, I began to search for some common characteristics – something to explain this high frequency. I noticed how they often assumed everyone dreamt lucidly, and felt shocked to learn this was not the case. In some cases, their frequent lucid dreaming could be traced back to persistent childhood nightmares where they learned how to achieve lucidity to deal with nightmare scenarios. In other cases, their frequent lucid dreaming seemed connected to certain waking mental habits.
Recalling my carefree college days studying behavioral psychology and reading Carlos Castaneda, I went from 3 to 8 lucid dreams a month to a high of 30 lucid dreams per month at my peak – all of which I nicely charted as a budding behaviorist. Some of this increase I could attribute to the use of the MILD technique. But decades later, when I began meeting ultra-frequent lucid dreamers, I began to feel a bit deflated, quantitatively speaking. How did they achieve lucidity so frequently?
Then a mini-epiphany came to me.
One day, reading an email from an ultra-frequent lucid dreamer, and feeling a tinge of envy mixed with curiosity I responded, “How? How do you become lucidly aware in almost every dream?” The lucid dreamer wrote that she had a consistent habit of asking herself repeatedly, “What was I just doing?” This mental habit carried over to her dreaming awareness, such that in the dream she would pose this exact question to herself, “What was I just doing?” Searching her mind, she realized she had been preparing for sleep, so therefore, she must be dreaming!
At that moment, a little light went on in my brain. Ultra-frequent lucid dreamers develop a lucid mindset.
A lucid mindset means a persistent mental habit of re-examining one’s perceived environment or state of awareness. Whether it involved memory or vigilance (e.g., Am I safe here from nightmares?), these ultra frequent lucid dreamers repeatedly checked or analyzed their current situation.
For some, numerous nightmares apparently reinforced the need to differentiate waking from dreaming, and allowed them to become highly attuned to dream state cues that would prompt lucid awareness. This habitual need to examine their state (waking or dreaming) naturally led to lucid dreaming, as a positive way to handle nightmares. Done with consistency over time, a lucid mindset developed, which became an unconscious and routine part of their dreaming life.
As for the lucid dreamer who consistently questioned herself to remember her last action, we find another type of lucid mindset. Here, she performs not so much a ‘reality check’ as a memory check that leads to a reality check! Her questioning leads her to re-examine more thoroughly her environment or current state, and she becomes lucid. Whatever the underlying motivation, certain habitual mental patterns lead these ultra-frequent lucid dreamers to examine their perceived environment or current state more closely.
So how can you use this knowledge to become a more frequent lucid dreamer? How can you work towards developing a lucid mindset? Or do you have a touch of a lucid mindset already, which you just haven’t noticed?
The secret is simply this: establish a persistent mental habit that makes you re-examine your environment.
For some people, it can be as easy as deciding that each time, you walk through a door, you automatically think, “What is this place? Where am I?”
Once you establish this persistent mental habit, it will naturally carry over to your dreaming. Suddenly in dreams, you will be thinking, “What is this place? Where am I?” — and your conscious examination will prompt you to realize, “Hey, this is a dream!”
Then you’ll be on your way to becoming an ultra-frequent lucid dreamer….