From: S. LaBerge & H. Rheingold, (1990)
EXPLORING THE WORLD
OF LUCID DREAMING
CHAPTER 6: PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF
HOW TO STAY ASLEEP OR WAKE UP AT WILL
So far you have learned how to increase your dream recall and
various techniques for inducing lucid dreams. Perhaps you have
succeeded in having a few lucid dreams, or perhaps you know how to
induce them more-or-less at will. Now that you are learning to
realize when you are dreaming, what can you do with this knowledge?
As discussed previously, one of the most fascinating potentials
offered by lucid dreaming is the ability to voluntary control
dreaming. It may be possible to dream anything you choose, as the
Tibetan dream yogis believe. But before you can try it, you need to
be able to remain asleep and retain lucidity!
Novice lucid dreamers often wake up the moment they become lucid.
They can recognize lucidity clues, apply state tests, and conclude
that they are dreaming, but are frustrated because they wake up or
fall into nonlucid sleep soon after achieving lucidity. However,
this obstacle is only temporary. With experience, you can develop
the capacity to stay in the dream longer. As you will see in a
moment, there are also specific techniques that appear to help
prevent premature awakening.
If you continue to apply will and
attention to your practice you should be able to refine your lucid
PREVENTING PREMATURE AWAKENING
Informally experimenting in their beds at home, lucid dreamers have
discovered various ways of remaining in the dream state when
threatened by early awakening. All the techniques involve some form
of dream action which is carried out as soon as the visual part of
the dream begins to fade.
Linda Magallon, editor and publisher of the Dream Network Bulletin,
and an intrepid explorer of lucid dreams, has described how she
prevents herself from waking up by concentrating on the senses other
than vision, such as hearing and touch. She reports that all of the
following activities have successfully prevented awakenings from
visually faded dreams: listening to voices, music, or her breathing;
beginning or continuing a conversation; rubbing or opening her
(dream) eyes; touching her dream hands and face; touching objects
such as a pair of glasses, a hair brush, or the edge of mirror;
being touched; and flying. 
These activities all have something in common with the Spinning
Technique described below. They are based on the idea of loading the
perceptual system so it cannot change its focus from the dream world
to the waking world. As long as you are actively and perceptually
engaged with the dream world, you are less likely to make the
transition to the waking state.
Magallon may be a dreamer with an unusually active REM system; it
may be that she has little trouble staying asleep once she is in
REM. However, many others are light sleepers who find it difficult
to remain in lucid dreams for long periods of time. These people
need more powerful techniques to help them stay in their lucid
Harold von Moers-Messmer, a German physician, was one of the
handful of researchers who personally investigated lucid dreaming
in the first half of the 20th century. He was the first
to propose the technique of looking at the ground in order to
stabilize the dream. 
The idea of focusing on something in the dream in order to prevent
awakening has independently occurred to several other lucid
dreamers. One of these is G. Scott Sparrow, a clinical psychologist
and author of the classic personal account, LUCID DREAMING: DAWNING
OF THE CLEAR LIGHT. 
Sparrow discusses Carlos Castaneda’s famous technique
of looking at his hands while dreaming to induce and stabilize lucid
Sparrow argues that the dreamer’s body
provides one of the most unchanging elements in the dream, which can
help to stabilize the dreamer’s otherwise feeble identity in the
face of a rapidly changing dream. However, as he points out, the
body isn’t the only relatively stable reference point in the dream:
another is the ground beneath the dreamer’s feet.
Sparrow uses this
idea in this example of one of his own lucid dreams:
“...I walk on down the street. It is night; and as I look up at the
sky I am astounded by the clarity of the stars. They seem so close.
At this point I become lucid. The dream ‘shakes’ momentarily.
Immediately I look down at the ground and concentrate on solidifying
the image and remaining in the dreamscape. Then I realize that if I
turn my attention to the pole star above my head, the dream image
will further stabilize itself. I do this; until gradually the
clarity of the stars returns in its fullness.”
Some years ago I had the good fortune to discover a highly effective
technique to prevent awakenings and produce new lucid dream scenes.
I started by reasoning that since dream actions have corresponding
physical effects, relaxing my dream body might inhibit awakening by
lowering muscle tension in my physical body. The next time I was
dreaming lucidly, I tested the idea. As the dream began to fade, I
relaxed completely, dropping to the dream floor. However, contrary
to my intention, I seemed to awaken. But, a few minutes later I
discovered I had actually only dreamed of awakening.
I repeated the
experiment many times and the effect was consistent—I would remain
in the dream state by dreaming of waking up. However, my experiences
suggested that the essential element was not the attempted
relaxation but the sensation of movement. In subsequent lucid
dreams, I tested a variety of dream movements and found both falling
backward and spinning in the dream to be especially effective in
producing lucid dreams of awakening.
Here is a method for spinning
to remain in the dream state:
THE SPINNING TECHNIQUE
1. Notice when the dream begins to fade
When a dream ends, the visual sense fades first. Other senses may
persist longer, with touch being among the last to go. The first
sign that a lucid dream is about to end is usually a loss of color
and realism in your visual imagery. The dream may lose visual detail
and begin to take on a cartoon-like or washed-out appearance. You
may find the light growing very dim, or your vision becoming
2. Spin as soon as the dream begins to fade
As soon as the visual imagery of your lucid dream begins to fade,
quickly, before the feel of your dream body evaporates, stretch out
your arms and spin like a top (with your dream body, of course). It
doesn’t matter whether you pirouette, or spin like a top, dervish,
child, or bottle, as long as you vividly feel your dream body in
motion. This is not the same as imagining you are spinning; for the
technique to work, you must feel the vivid sensation of spinning.
3. While spinning, remind yourself that the next thing you see will
probably be a dream. Continue to spin, constantly reminding yourself
that the next thing you see, touch or hear will very probably be a
4. Test your state wherever you seem to arrive
Continue spinning until you find yourself in a stable world.
You will either still be dreaming or have awakened. Therefore,
carefully and critically test which state you are in.
If I think I have awakened, I always check the time on the digital
clock beside my bed. This usually provides a foolproof reality test.
Frequently, the spinning procedure generates a new dream scene,
which may represent the bedroom you are sleeping in, or some more
unusual place. Sometimes the just-faded dream scene is regenerated
in all its vivid glory.
By repeatedly reminding yourself that you’re dreaming during the
spinning transition, you can continue to be lucid in the new dream
scene. Without this special effort of attention, you will usually
mistake the new dream for an actual awakening—in spite of manifest
absurdities of dream content!
A typical false awakening would occur if, while spinning, you
felt your hands hit the bed and you thought: “Well, I must be awake,
since my hand just hit the bed. I guess spinning didn’t work this
time.” What you should think, of course, is “Since the spinning hand
that hit the bed is a dream hand, it must have hit a dream bed.
Therefore, I’m still dreaming!”
Don’t fail to critically check your
state after using the Spinning Technique.
EFFECTIVENESS OF SPINNING
This method is extremely effective for many dreamers, including
myself. Out of the one hundred lucid dreams in the last six months
of the record in my doctoral dissertation, I used this technique in
forty percent of my lucid dreams. New dream scenes resulted in
eighty-five percent of these cases. Lucid consciousness persisted in
ninety-seven percent of the new dreams.
When spinning led to another
dream, the new dream scene almost always closely resembled my
The experiences of other lucid dreamers who have employed this
method have been very similar to mine, but suggest that the
post-spin lucid dream need not be a bedroom scene. One of these
lucid dreamers, for instance, found herself arriving at a dream
scene other than her bedroom in five out of the eleven times she
used the spinning technique.
These results suggest that spinning could be used to produce
transitions to any dream scene the lucid dreamer expects. (See
Exercise: Spinning a new dream scene, later in this chapter) In my
own case, it appears that my almost exclusive production of bedroom
dreams may be an accident of the circumstances in which I discovered
the technique. I have tried, with very little success, to produce
transitions to other dream scenes with this method.
definitely intended to arrive elsewhere than my dream bedroom, I
cannot say that I fully expected to. I believe I will someday be
able to unlearn this accidental association (if that is what it is).
Meanwhile, I’m impressed by the power of expectation to determine
what happens in my lucid dreams.
HOW DOES SPINNING WORK?
Why should dream spinning decrease the likelihood of awakening?
Several factors are probably involved. One of these may be
neurophysiological. Information about head and body movement,
monitored by the vestibular system of the inner ear (which helps you
to keep your balance), is closely integrated with visual information
by the brain to produce an optimally stable picture of the world.
Because of this integration of information, the world doesn’t appear
to move whenever you move your head, even though the image of the
world on your retina moves.
Since the sensations of movement during dream spinning are as vivid
as those during actual physical movements, it is likely that the
same brain systems are activated to a similar degree in both cases.
An intriguing possibility is that the spinning technique, by
stimulating the system of the brain that integrates vestibular
activity detected in the middle ear, facilitates the activity of the
nearby components of the REM-sleep system. Neuroscientists have
obtained indirect evidence of the involvement of the vestibular
system in the production of the rapid-eye-movement bursts in REM
Another possible reason why spinning may help postpone awakening
comes from the fact that when you imagine perceiving something with
one sense, your sensitivity to external stimulation of that sense
Thus, if the brain is fully engaged in producing the
vivid, internally generated sensory experience of spinning, it will
be more difficult for it to construct a contradictory sensation
based on external sensory input.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DO AWAKEN PREMATURELY
Even if you find that
despite your best efforts to stay asleep you still wake up, all is
not lost. Play dead. If you remain perfectly motionless upon waking
from a lucid (or non-lucid) dream, and deeply relax your body, there
is a good chance that REM sleep will reassert itself and you will
have an opportunity to consciously enter a lucid dream, as described
in Chapter 4.
For some people with a strong tendency to REM sleep,
this happens almost every time they awaken from a dream until they
decide to move. Alan Worsley is one of the world’s most
experienced lucid dreamers. He has been conducting personal lucid
dream experiments since the age of five. During the 1970s, he was
the first person to signal from a lucid dream in pioneering
experiments carried out in collaboration with Keith Hearne.
to possess this felicitous sort of physiology, and offers the
following advice for dreamers who have just awakened but yearn to
return to their lucid dreams:
“Lie very still—don’t move a muscle!
Relax and wait. The dream will return. I’ve had dozens of lucid
dreams in a row with this method.” 
USING INNER SPEECH TO PREVENT LOSS OF LUCIDITY
We have used language
to control our thinking and behavior since we first learned to
speak. Our parents would tell us what to do and how to do it and we
were guided by their words. When we first we did these things under
our own direction, we would repeat out loud the parental
instructions to remind ourselves of exactly how and what we were
trying to do. Now, having fully incorporated the role of parental
guide within us, we repeat the instructions silently to ourselves
when carrying out complicated new procedures.
This process of verbal direction of conscious behavior can also be
used to regulate your behavior in the lucid dream, for instance to
maintain your awareness that it is a dream. Until becoming and
staying lucid is a well developed habit, we are all too likely to
lose lucidity anytime our attention wanders. The moment we take a
bit too much interest in some facet of the dream, lucidity vanishes.
If you are a novice lucid dreamer who has problems maintaining your
lucidity, the temporary solution is for you to talk to yourself in
your lucid dreams.
Continually remind yourself that you are dreaming
by repeating phrases like “This is a dream!...This is a
dream!...This is a dream!” or “I’m dreaming...I’m dreaming...I’m
dreaming....” This self-reminding can be spoken “out-loud” in the
dream, if necessary. Otherwise it’s better to say it silently to
avoid the repetition becoming the predominant feature of the dream.
Sparrow recommends the same procedure, advising dreamers with shaky
lucidity “to concentrate on an affirmation which serves as a
continual reminder of the illusory nature of the experience.”
Sparrow considers it essential that the affirmation (e.g., “This is
all a dream”) must be learned by heart and cultivated in the waking
state in order for it to be an effective aid in the dream state.
After you have acquired some experience, you will learn to recognize
the situations in which you tend to lose your lucidity (i.e., the
presence of strongly attractive or repellent elements), and find
that you can maintain your lucidity without conscious effort.
Learning to do this can happen fairly rapidly. In my first year of
studying lucid dreaming, I lost lucidity in 11 (18%) of 62 lucid
dreams; in the second year, I lost lucidity in only 1 (0.9%) of 111
lucid dreams, and in the third year, only 1 (0.5%) out of 215 lucid
In the following 10 years, the rate of lucidity lost
has stayed at less than one percent.
AWAKENING AT WILL
“My first lucid dream arose from my discovery as a child of 5 that I
could wake myself from frightening dreams by trying to shout
“I have found a paradoxical sounding, but simple technique for
waking at will: ‘Fall asleep to wake up.’ Whenever I decide I want
to awaken from a lucid dream, I simply lie down on the nearest dream
bed, couch, or cloud, shut my dream eyes, and ‘go to sleep.’ The
usual result is that I immediately wake up, but sometimes I only
dream that I wake up, and when I realize I’m still dreaming, I try
again to wake up ‘for real’, sometimes succeeding at once, but
sometimes only after an amusing sequence of false awakenings.’
[B.K., Palo Alto, California]
“When I was a little girl, about six years old, I came up with a
method for awakening myself when dreams got too unpleasant. I don’t
recall how I came up with the idea, but I would blink my eyes hard
three times. This worked well for a while, and got me out of some
pretty horrific and surrealistic scenarios, but then something
changed, and the method began to produce false awakenings. When I
once used this technique to end a mildly distasteful dream, only to
find myself awakening in my bedroom just before the arrival of a
terrible hurricane, and certain that the experience was real, upon
actually awakening I decided to abandon the practice.” [L.L.,
Redwood City, California]
If the secret to preventing premature awakening is to maintain
active participation in the dream, the secret to awakening at will
is to withdraw your attention and participation from the dream.
Think, daydream, or otherwise withdraw your attention from the
dream, and you are very likely to awaken.
When five-year-old Alan Worsley called out for his mother in the
physical world, he was directing his attention away from the dream
as well as possibly activating the muscles of vocalization in his
sleeping body, which could awaken him.
But nothing could provide a better illustration of the principle of
waking by withdrawing attention from the dream than Beverly Kedzierski’s formula “go to sleep to wake up.” After all, what does
sleep mean but withdrawal of attention from what is around us?
Another way of withdrawing your participation from the dream is to
cease making the usual rapid eye movements so crucially
characteristic of REM sleep. Tholey has experimented with fixation
on a stationary point during lucid dreams. He found that gaze
fixation caused the fixation point to blur, followed by dissolution
of the entire dream scene, and an awakening within four to twelve
seconds. He notes that experienced subjects can use the intermediate
stage of scene dissolution “to form the dream environment to their
own wishes.” 
Artist and dream researcher Fariba Bogzaran
describes a very similar technique called “Intentional Focusing,” in
which she concentrates on an object in her lucid dream until she
regains waking consciousness. 
However, the examples here show that using methods to awaken from
dreams may lead to false awakenings. Sometimes, the false awakening
can be more disturbing than the original dream you were trying to
escape. In general, it is probably best not to try to avoid
frightening dream images by escaping to the waking state.
explains why and how you can benefit from facing nightmares.
example of a good use for techniques of waking yourself at will from
lucid dreams is for awakening while you still have the events and
revelations of the dream clearly in mind.
TWO KINDS OF DREAM CONTROL
Before we go on to discuss ways in which you can exercise your will
over the images of your dreams, consider the uses you can make of
your new freedom.
When faced with challenging dream situations, there are two ways you
can master them. One way involves magical manipulation of the dream:
controlling “them” or “it,” while the other way involves
self-control. As it happens, the first kind of control doesn’t
always work—which may actually be a blessing in disguise. If we
learned to solve our problems in our lucid dreams by magically
changing things we don’t like, we might mistakenly hope to do the
same in our waking lives. For example, I once had a lucid dream
about a frightening ogre, whom I confronted by projecting feelings
of love and acceptance, leading to a pleasurable, peaceful, and
empowering resolution in my dream.
Suppose I had chosen to turn my
adversary into a toad, and get rid of him that way. How would that
help me if I were to find myself in conflict with my boss or another
authority figure whom I might see as an ogre, in spite of my being
awake? Turning him into a toad would hardly be practical! However, a
change in attitude might indeed resolve the situation.
A generally a more useful approach to take with unpleasant dream
imagery is to control your self. Self-control means control over
habitual reactions. For example, if you are afraid and run away,
even though you know you should face your fear, you aren’t
controlling your behavior. Although the events that appear to take
place in dreams are illusory, our feelings in response to dream
events are real. So when you’re fearful in a dream and realize that
it is a dream, you fear may not vanish automatically. You still have
to deal with it; this is why lucid dreams are such good practice for
our waking lives.
We’re free to control our responses to the dream,
and whatever we learn in so doing will readily apply to our waking
lives. In my “ogre dream,” I gained a degree of self-mastery and
confidence that has served me as well in the waking world as in the
dream. As a result of such lucid dream encounters, I now feel
confident that I can handle just about any situation.
So if you’d
like to enhance your sense of self-confidence, my advice is that
you’d be wise to “control yourself, not the dream.”
“I read about your work and the techniques you suggested for having
lucid dreams. I practiced noticing whether I was dreaming. The first
night, after several non-lucid dreams, I suddenly remembered to ask
myself if I was dreaming. As soon as I answered “yes,” something
happened that your article did not mention. Everything in the dream
became extremely vivid.
The visual aspects were like someone turned
up the contrast and the color. I saw everything in great detail. All
my dream senses were amplified. I was suddenly intensely aware of
temperature, air movement, odors, and sounds. I had a strong sense
of being in control. Even though I had not planned to fly, something
in the dream made me think about flying, and I simply leaped into
the air (Superman style) and flew. The sensation was the most
exhilarating and realistic dream experience I have ever had.
to have flying dreams when I was younger, but they were more of the
floating variety, and never higher than tree-top level. I never had
the degree of control that I experienced in my lucid dream. I flew
down a canyon of tall buildings, gradually gaining altitude. The
buildings gave way to a park, where I embarked upon some aerial
acrobatics. It was my last dream of the night, and the feeling of
exhilaration lasted all day. I told everyone who would listen about
the experiment and the success I had.”
“One night I was dreaming of standing on a hill, looking out over
the tops of maples, alders, and other trees. The leaves of the
maples were bright red and rustling in the wind. The grass at my
feet was lush and vividly green. All the colors about me were more
saturated than I have ever seen.
Perhaps the awareness that the colors were ‘brighter than they
should be’ shocked me into realizing that I was in a dream, and that
what lay about me was not ‘real.’ I remember saying to myself, ‘If
this is a dream, I should be able to fly into the air.’ I tested my
hunch and was enormously pleased that I could effortlessly fly, and
fly anywhere I wanted. I skimmed over the tops of the trees and
sailed many miles over new territory. I flew upward, far above the
landscape, and hovered in the air currents like an eagle.
How the dream ended I don’t recall, but when I awoke I felt as if
the experience of flying had energized me. I felt a sense of
well-being that seemed directly related to the experience of being
lucid in the dream, of taking control of the flying.”
Flying dreams and lucid dreams are strongly related in several ways.
First, if you ever find yourself flying without benefit of an
airplane or other reasonable apparatus, you are looking at a fine dreamsign. Second, if you ever suspect that you are dreaming, trying
to fly is often a good way to test your state. And if you want to
visit the far corners of the globe or distant galaxies in your lucid
dreams, flying makes an excellent mode of transportation.
If you think you are dreaming, push off the ground and see if you
can float into the air. If you are indoors, after you fly around the
room, look for a window. Go out the window, and strive for altitude.
Curiously, more than a few dreamers (most likely city-dwellers) have
reported that they sometimes find an obstacle in the form of
electrical power lines that seem to prevent their passage. And some
of these oneironauts report a surge of energy, often accompanied by
a burst of light, when they fly through the “power” lines. Beyond
that barrier, oneironauts have flown around the earth, to other
planets, distant stars and galaxies, and even mythical realms like
Camelot or Shangri-la.
Flying is fun, and therefore worth doing for the sheer joy of it,
even if you aren’t determined to reach a specific destination.
People seem to be able to fly in just about any manner imaginable,
according to the hundreds of reports we have received. Many people
fly “Superman style,” with their arms extended in front of them.
Also common is “swimming” through the air, probably because the
closest experience we get to flying in the air, is “flying” in the
water. Others sprout wings from their backs or their heels, flap
their hands, or straddle jet-powered cereal boxes, or flying
carpets, or supersonic easy chairs.
One way to challenge yourself and to begin to fly is to jump off
tall buildings or cliffs.
Uncontrolled falling is a common theme of
nightmares, and the following anecdote suggests the potential
usefulness of lucid dream flying as a means for overcoming this
“My attempts at flying lucidly were the most interesting adventures
I’ve had in lucid dreams. I have a great fear of heights, so falling
in dreams, while not nightmarish, is common for me. I always wake up
before I land. But attempting the exercise I read in your article, I
flew over places which would have terrified me in a dream
before—open water, snowy mountains.
One night I was soaring in outer space and coming back to earth. No
fear involved. But coming eventually to a small ledge in a mountain,
I was afraid to land and almost woke up. Using your techniques
(especially spinning), I forced myself to deliberately land on the
very edge. I could see the mountains below, feel the cold, even
smell the fresh air. It was really a great feeling to know I could
not be hurt; because if I started to fall, I could just fly away
[N.C., Fremont, California]
EXTENDING YOUR DREAM SENSES
“I gained conscious control in one of my dreams. I took a bicycle
ride because I decided I’d like to broaden my sensual experience. As
I pedalled, I called out the senses: Hearing! And I heard my own
heavy breathing. Smell! And I smelled a whiff of cigarette smoke. I
touched a big, rough-barked tree, heard the flapping of sparrow
wings, saw much greenery, felt the wooden handles of the bicycle. My
senses were so alive, just as good as if I were awake. Yet I knew I
was dreaming. This excited me incredibly! I pedaled furiously to
get back, to wake up, but I woke up feeling refreshed.”
Most people are astonished to discover that they are dreaming.
astonishment stems from the realization that they have been fooling
themselves in a colossal way. It is definitely a surprise,
especially the first time, to learn that your normally-trustworthy
senses are reporting to you an absolutely flawless portrayal of a
world that doesn’t exist outside the dream. Indeed, one of the most
common features of first lucid dreams is a feeling of hyper-reality
that happens when you take a good look around you in the dream and
see the wondrous, elaborate detail your mind can create.
First-time lucid dreamers often note a marked, pleasurable
heightening of the senses, particularly the sense of vision.
Hearing, smell, touch, taste can intensify instantly, as if you had
found the volume control knob for your senses and turned it up a
notch. Give it a try. Play with your senses, one at a time, as you
explore the dream world. During daily life, we all have good reasons
for tuning out our senses so we can concentrate on getting our jobs
done. In your dreams, however, you can learn how to turn them back
Senses are marvelous instruments for providing continuous data about
events inside and outside our bodies. Our brains structure this data
into the models of the world we experience. We all have learned how
to think, perceive, believe, and model the world in a certain way,
and the greatest part of this learning took place when we were
infants. The world-modeling process was automatic long before we
were able to think about it. Therefore, it comes as a surprise when
we discover in lucid dreams that the drama we perceive as real might
only be a kind of stage set, and all the people in it but mental
However, once we get used to the notion, it is
natural and empowering to begin to take conscious control of our
senses in the dream state.
THE DREAM TELEVISION
In the early 1980s, continuing his dual role as lucid dream explorer
and researcher (like many in the field), Alan Worsley developed an
interesting series of “television experiments.”
 In his lucid
dreams he finds a television set, turns it on, watches it, and
experiments with the controls to change such things as the sound
level and the color intensity. Sometimes he pretends that the T.V.
responds to voice control, so that he can ask it questions and
request it to display various images.
Worsley reports that,
“... I have experimented with manipulating
imagery, as if I were learning to operate by trial an internal
computer video system (including ‘scrolling,’ ‘panning,’ changing
the scene instantly, and ‘zooming’). Further, I have experimented
with isolating part of the imagery or ‘parking’ it, by surrounding
it with a frame such as a picture frame or proscenium arch and
backing away from it (‘windowing’).”
EXERCISE: THE DREAM TELEVISION
Before bed set your mind to remember this experiment. When you
achieve lucidity, find or create a large, ultra-high resolution,
total surround sound, television set. Make yourself comfortable.
Turn it on. Find the volume, brightness, and color saturation
controls, and slowly experiment with them. Turn the sound up an
down. Tweak the color.
When the picture is right, imagine the smell
of your favorite food wafting right out of the picture tube. If you
are hungry, allow it to materialize. Savor a sample. Conjure up
velvet pillows and satin pajamas. Give all the senses a controlled
Observe what is happening in your mind as you adjust the
color or contrast control on your world-modeling television monitor.
MANIPULATING LUCID DREAMS
“I dreamed of falling down the side of a building, and as I fell I
knew I was still unprepared to face the fall, so I changed the
building to a cliff. I grabbed onto foliage and shrubs that grew
down the side and began climbing confidently down. In fact, when
someone began falling from above me, I caught him and told him to
think of footholds and plants to support him because ‘it’s only a
dream and you can do what you want in it.’ And I enjoyed a totally
new excitement and headiness of purposely facing danger and risk. It
was a deeply gratifying and proud moment in my life.”
“In this dream I was at my mother’s house and heard voices in
another room. When entering the room, I realized without a doubt I
was dreaming. My first command was ordering the people in the room
to have a more exciting conversation, since this was my dream. At
that moment they changed their topic to my favorite hobby. I started
commanding things to happen and they did. The more things began to
happen, the more I would command. It was a very thrilling
experience, one of the most thrilling lucid dreams I’ve had,
probably because I was more in control and more sure of my actions.”
[R.B., Chicago, Illinois]
“Two weeks ago I had a dream of being pursued by a violent tornadic
storm. I was on a cliff high above a beach and had been teaching
others to fly, telling them that this was a dream and in a dream all
you have to do to fly is believe you can. We were having a great
time when the storm appeared, coming in from the ocean. Tornados and
I go way back in dreams. They are some of my pet monsters of the
When this one appeared, it was announced by exceptionally strong
winds and lightning and high waves. A young boy, a puppy, and I were
together for some time running and seeking shelter, but then we
stopped, poised on the very edge of the last great cliff before the
open sea. Panic was bringing me close to the point of losing
lucidity. But then I thought ‘Wait! This is a dream. If you choose,
you can keep running. Or you can destroy the tornado or transform
it. The storm has no power to hurt the boy or the puppy. It is you
it wants. Anyway, no more running. See what it is like from within.’
As I thought this, it was as though some exceptional force lifted
the three of us, almost blurring our forms as we were pulled toward
the tornado. The boy and puppy simply faded out about midway. Inside
the storm there was a beautiful translucent whiteness and a feeling
of tremendous peace. At the same time it was a living energy that
seemed to be waiting to be shaped and at the same time was capable
of being infinitely shaped and reshaped, formed and transformed over
again. It was something tremendously vital, tremendously alive.”
[M.H., Newport News, Virginia]
Taking action in dreams can mean many things—you can command the
characters, or manipulate the scenery, as in the examples quoted
above, or you can decide to explore part of the dream environment,
act out a particular scene, reverse the dream scenario or change the
plot. Although, as explained above, the greatest benefit from lucid
dreams may come not from exercising control over the dreams, but
from taking control of your own reactions to dream situations,
experimenting with different kinds of dream control can extend your
powers and appreciation of lucidity.
Paul Tholey mentions several
techniques for manipulation of lucid dreams: manipulation prior to
sleep by means of intention and autosuggestion, manipulation by
wishing, manipulation by inner state, manipulation by means of
looking, manipulation by means of verbal utterances, manipulations
with certain actions, and manipulation with assistance of other
dream figures. 
Chapter 3 showed how intention and autosuggestion can influence
lucid dreams. Manipulation by wishing is amply illustrated by oneironauts who have written of their ability to transport
themselves and change the dream world simply by wishing it to
happen. Manipulation by inner state is particularly interesting.
Tholey says this about it, referring to his own research findings:
“The environment of a dream is strongly conditioned by the inner
state of the dreamer. If the dreamer courageously faced up to a
threatening figure, its threatening nature in general gradually
diminished and the figure itself often began to shrink. If the
dreamer on the other hand allowed himself to be filled with fear,
the threatening nature of the dream figure increased and the figure
itself began to grow.” 
Manipulation by means of looking plays an important part in
model of appropriate lucid dream activities. He cites his own
research in support of the hypothesis that dream figures can be
deprived of their threatening nature by looking them directly in the
eye. Manipulation by means of verbal utterances is explained thus:
“One can considerably influence the appearance and behavior of dream
figures by addressing them in an appropriate manner. The simple
question ‘Who are you?’ brought about a noticeable change in the
dream figures so addressed. Figures of strangers have changed in
this manner into familiar individuals. Evidently the inner readiness
to learn something about oneself and one’s situation by carrying on
a conversation with a dream figure enables one to... achieve in this
fashion the highest level of lucidity in the dream: lucidity as to
what the dream symbolizes.” 
Spinning, flying, and looking at the ground are two examples of
manipulation by certain actions: these are actions that stabilize,
enhance, or prolong lucidity. Other dream figures may be able to
help you manipulate dreams to find answers, resolve difficulties or
just enjoy yourself. Reconciling with threatening dream characters
can help you to achieve better balance and self-integration.
application of lucid dreaming is a key topic in Chapter 11.
GETTING PLACES IN DREAMS
On a more basic level, to get the most out of lucidity, you need to
know how to get around in the dream world. For many lucid dream
applications, you may wish or need to find a particular place,
person, or situation.
One way to achieve this is by willing yourself
to dream about your topic of choice. This is often called “dream
incubation.” It is a timeless procedure used throughout history in
cultures that consider dreams valuable sources of wisdom. In ancient
Greece, people would visit dream temples to sleep and find answers
Dream temples are probably not necessary for dream
incubation—although they certainly would have helped sleepers to
focus their minds on their purpose. This is the key: make sure you
have your problem or wish firmly in mind before sleep. To do this,
it is helpful to arrive at a simple, single phrase describing the
topic of your intended dream. Since for the purposes in this book,
you are trying to induce lucid dreams, you need to add to your focus
the intention to become lucid in the dream. Then you put all of your
mental energy into conceiving of yourself in a lucid dream about the
topic. Your intention should be the last thing you think of before
The following exercise leads you through this
EXERCISE: LUCID DREAM INCUBATION
1. Formulate your intention
Before bed, come up with a single phrase or question encapsulating
the topic you wish to dream about: “I want to visit San Francisco.”
Write the phrase down, and perhaps draw a picture illustrating the
question. Memorize the phrase and the picture (if you have one). If
you have a specific action you wish to carry out in your desired
dream (“I want to tell my friend I love her.”), be sure to carefully
formulate it now. Beneath your target phrase, write another saying,
“When I dream of [the phrase], I will remember that I am dreaming.”
2. Go to bed
Without doing anything else, go immediately to bed and turn out the
3. Focus on your phrase and intention to become lucid Recall your
phrase or the image you drew
Visualize yourself dreaming about the
topic and becoming lucid in the dream. If there is something you
want to try in the dream, also visualize doing it once you are
lucid. Meditate on the phrase and your intention to become lucid in
a dream about it until you fall asleep. Don’t let any other thoughts
come between thinking about your topic and falling asleep. If your
thoughts stray, just return to thinking about your phrase and
4. Pursue your intention in the lucid dream
When in a lucid dream about your topic carry out your intention. Ask
the question you wish to ask, seek ways to express yourself, try
your new behavior, or explore your situation. Be sure to notice your
feelings and be observant of all details of the dream.
5. When you have achieved your goal, remember to awaken and recall
When you obtain a satisfying answer in the dream, use one
of the methods suggested earlier in this chapter to awaken yourself.
Immediately write down at least the part of the dream that includes
your solution. Even if you don’t think the lucid dream has answered
your question, once it begins to fade, awaken yourself and write
down the dream. You may find on reflection that your answer was
hidden in the dream and you did not see it at the time.
CREATING NEW SETTINGS
“Dreams of this degree of lucidity also let me change the shapes of
objects or change locations at will. It’s lovely to watch the dream
images sort of shift and run like colors melting in the sun until
all you have all around you is shifting, moving, living
color/energy/light—I’m not sure how to describe it—and then the new
scene forms around you from this dream stuff, this protoplasmic
modeling clay of the mind.”
[M.H., Newport News, Virginia]
Another way to dream of particular things is to seek them out or
conjure them while you are in a lucid dream. In other literature
about dreams you may find some objections to the notion of
deliberately influencing the content of dreams. Some believe the
dream state to be a kind of psychological “wilderness” that ought to
be left untamed. However, as discussed in Chapter 5, dreams arise
out of your own knowledge, biases and expectations, whether or not
you are conscious of them.
If you consciously alter the elements in
your dream, this is not artificial; it is just the ordinary
mechanism of dream production operating at a higher level of mental
processing. Dreams can be sources of inspiration and self-knowledge,
but you can also use them to consciously seek answers to problems
and fulfill your waking desires.
Changing dream scenes at will can also help you to get acquainted
with the full illusion-creating power at your disposal. Seeing that
the world around you can switch from a Manhattan cocktail party to
Martian canals at your command will be much more effective than the
words in this book for teaching you that the dream world is a mental
model of your own creation.
The increased sense of mastery over the dream gained by knowing that
you can manipulate it if you wish will give you the confidence to
fearlessly travel wherever the dream should take you. Your power
here is precisely as large as you imagine it to be. You can change
the color of your socks, request a replay of the sunset, or segue to
another planet or the Garden of Eden, simply by wishing. Here a few
exercises you can experiment with in trying to direct your dreams.
Not much is known about the best way to achieve scene changes in
dreams, so take these exercises as hints and then work out your own
SPINNING A NEW DREAM SCENE
In my dream-spinning experiment, I wanted to go to the setting of a
book I’m reading. I wanted to solve the mystery in the book. I
reached my target. I started at the point the book began, met the
characters in proper sequence, and when I went to the point in the
book where I was with another character in the book who is a wizard,
he took a running start, leaped off a mountain fortress wall, and
turned into a hawk, thereby escaping his enemies, I also jumped off
the wall and changed into a hawk. I dressed and spoke in the manner
of the characters and took an active part in solving the mysteries
in the book.
[S.B., Salt Lake City, Utah]
Spinning during the course of a lucid dream may do more for you than
merely prevent premature awakening. It may also help you visit any
dream scene you like.
Here’s how to do it.
EXERCISE: SPINNING A NEW DREAM SCENE
1. Select a target
Before going to sleep, decide on a person, time, and place you would
like to “visit” in your lucid dream. The target person and place can
be either real or imaginary, past, present, or future. For example,
“Padmasambhava, Tibet, 850”, or “Stephen LaBerge, Stanford,
California, the present”, or “my granddaughter at home, the year
2. Resolve to visit your target
Write down and memorize your target phrase, then vividly visualize
yourself visiting your target, and firmly resolve to do so in a
3. Spin to your target in your lucid dream
It’s possible that just by the intention you might find yourself in
a non-lucid dream at your target. However, a more reliable way to
reach your target is to become lucid first and then seek your goal.
When you are in a lucid dream at the point where the imagery is
beginning to fade and you feel you are about to wake up, then spin,
repeating your target phrase until you find yourself in a vivid
dream scene—hopefully your target person, time, and place.
EXERCISE: STRIKE THE SET, CHANGE THE CHANNEL
Think of this as the opposite of the kind of magical transportation
involved in spinning and flying. Instead of moving your dream-self
to a new, exotic locale, simply change the environment of your dream
to suit your fancy. Start with a small detail and work up to greater
changes. Change the scene slowly, then abruptly, subtly, then
Think of everything you see as infinitely malleable
“modeling clay for the mind.” Some oneironauts have elaborated on
Alan Worsley’s example of the dream television.
When they want to
change the scenery, they imagine that the dream is taking place on a
huge, three-dimensional television screen, and they have the remote
control in their hand.
DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE
“I dreamed that I was at a party recently and having a boring time
when I stood back from the dream and knew it was a dream and then
had a great time projecting myself into being whoever was having
fun. At first I just tried being women, but then I said, it’s a
dream, why not be a man and see what that feels like? So I did.”
[B.S., Albuquerque, New Mexico]
In waking life we are used to restrictions. For almost everything we
do, there are rules about how to act, how not to act, and what it is
reasonable to try. One of the most commonly quoted delightful
features of lucid dreaming is great, unparalleled freedom. When
people realize they are dreaming, they suddenly feel completely
unrestricted, often for the first time in their life. They can do
In dreams you can experience sensations or live out fantasies that
are not probable in the waking state. You can get intimately
acquainted with a fantasy figure. But you could also become that
figure. Dreamers are not limited to their accustomed bodies You can
appreciate a beautiful garden. Or you can be a flower. Alan Worsley
has experimented with bizarre things like splitting himself in half,
and putting his hands through his head.
 Many oneironauts pass
through walls, breathe water, fly, and travel in outer space.
Forget your normal criteria, seek for the kinds of things you
can only do or be in dreams.
 L. Magallon, "Awake in the Dark: Imageless Lucid
Dreaming," LUCIDITY LETTER 6 (1987): 86-90.
 H. von Moers-Messmer, "Traume mit der gleichzeitigen
Erkenntnis des Traumzustandes," ARCHIV FUR PSYCHOLOGIE 102
 G. S. Sparrow, LUCID DREAMING, DAWNING OF THE CLEAR LIGHT
(Virginia Beach: A.R.E. Press, 1976).
 C. Castaneda,
JOURNEY TO IXTLAN (New York: Simon &
 Sparrow, op. cit., 43.
 A. Hobson, THE DREAMING BRAIN (New York: Basic Books,
 K. M. T. Hearne, LUCID DREAMS: AN ELECTROPHYSIOLOGICAL
AND PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY (unpublished Ph.D. diss., Liverpool
 A. Worsley, Personal communication, 1982.
 Sparrow, op. cit., 41.
 S. LaBerge, LUCID DREAMING: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY OF
CONSCIOUSNESS DURING SLEEP (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University,
1980). (University Microfilms International No. 80-24,691).
 A. Worsley, "Personal Experiences in Lucid Dreaming," in
CONSCIOUS MIND, SLEEPING BRAIN eds. J. Gackenbach and S.
LaBerge (New York: Plenum, 1988), 321-342.
 P. Tholey, "Techniques for Inducing and Maintaining
Lucid Dreams," PERCEPTUAL AND MOTOR SKILLS 57 (1983): 87.
 F. Bogzaran, "Dream Marbling," INK & GALL: MARBLING
JOURNAL 2 (1988): 22.
 Worsley, "Personal Experiences," op. cit.
 Tholey, op. cit., 79-90.
 Ibid., 87.
 Ibid., 88.
 Worsley, "Personal Experiences" op. cit.