Lucid Dreaming:Part III, The Medicine
Lucid Dreaming: The Muse, the Mentor and the Medicine
Part III: The Medicine
I suppose I have a lot more to say on the Medicine of dreaming than the other “principles” and that’s probably because this is where the heart is most concerned. It’s not about getting anything or anywhere. It’s truly about coming into our wholeness. Integrating all the pieces of who we really are into a coherent, fully functioning Being.
“The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends.”- Carl Jung
Lucid dreaming is a way we can step through that door in full-bodied openness to the innermost self. Our lucidity is a tool for healing the kind of trauma that every single one of us has endured at some point in our lives. The incoherence in our world is a reflection of the incoherence in our Inner life. We all compartmentalize our consciousness. So to be lucid is to bring consciousness to the doorstep of the unconscious, and then to fly right through it. It is to bring the Unknown to us as a Lover, a Warrior and a Sorcerer. It is a paradox of the mind, a visionary initiation and maybe even a catalyst for the Big Enlightenment.
Although it’s only been scientifically validated as a true state of consciousness within the last few decades, lucid dreaming is an ancient spiritual art that has been practiced by Tibetan Buddhists, ancient Egyptians, Hindus and Sufis for thousands of years. It is considered by the Tibetan Buddhists to be one of the six paths to enlightenment. The Tibetan dream yogis wield their awareness in dreams as “a vehicle for exploring reality,” explains Tibetan teacher Tarthang Tulku. Jayne Gackenbach, lucid dream researcher argues, “although Western psychology views lucid dreaming as an interesting anomaly of sleep, with implications for the nature of consciousness in sleep, Eastern thought places considerably more importance upon [it] but within a broad context of various practices designed to develop consciousness.” In order to unravel the complexity of the psyche into one wholly functioning system, we need to first become lucid within it. The lucid dream can be incited as a Medicine giver, in the shamanic sense of the word–a magical influence.
Nightmares arise naturally when there is a shadow, or discarded aspect of the Self, in need of being integrated. Lucid dreaming is perhaps the most powerful form of shadow integration. Most of the lucid nightmare dreamers report that their lucidity actually permanently transforms their ailing lifelong reoccurring nightmares. Lucid nightmare integration is often a curious experience, rarely a scary one. Lucidity allows the dreamer to loosen the grip of their fear and maneuver around it.
One dreamer I met said he used to have a reoccurring nightmare his entire life of being chased by a clown. In his early twenties, he developed the ability to lucid dream. One night as he was running from the clown down a dark, wet alley, he realized he was dreaming. He stopped and turned back, to find the clown had stopped as well and was sitting down on a bench. He walked back to the clown, who was now sobbing, and the dreamer asked, “What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” He said the clown responded, “I’ve been chasing this little boy for so long and I’m just so tired… I just have something to give him.” The dreamer asked, “Well, what did you want to give him?” The clown looks up into the dreamer’s eyes and holds up his hand for a high-five. The dreamer high-fived the clown and immediately woke up. He never had the nightmare again. From the many nightmare stories I have read over the years, it appears to me that lucid nightmare integration often appears in dreams to be as simple as a gesture, a deep genuine hug, a question and acknowledgement or… a high-five.
A nightmare a few months ago actually caused me to become lucid, which is actually a common lucid trigger. I was running away, terrified, from a hundred foot anaconda that intended to swallow me whole. Upon the realization I was dreaming, I remembered that Jungian dream analysis sees death in dreams as transformation and I decided to stop and allow it to kill me. I felt every muscle in the anaconda’s mouth encompass me, head first, as it slowly swallowed me up. Paradoxically, I was grateful to allow it. Later that morning, I had a series of positively empowering dreams and the next day I remember being incredibly creative and energized.
In another dream, I became lucid in my bedroom. I noticed there was a white statue of a man in the corner. The statue was standing still, but his hand was tossing a ball up and catching it over and over. I approached the statue and shook him by the shoulders, at first pretty aggressively. “Who are you?! What are you doing in my dream?!” I realized how aggressive my reaction to his presence was and calmed myself. I felt bad and shifted my demeanor. I said “What I really mean to say is… I love you….” I then hugged the statue man and felt acceptance and forgave myself for my outburst. Suddenly, I started to hear a heartbeat, rising and booming, and in my embrace, in my arms the statue fleshed out into a living breathing man! My heart exploded with love for him and I woke up from the ecstasy of the union.
From another angle, lets say hypothetically that I am in a job I really do not love. I know I would be much more fulfilled if I did the things that I love to do but I stay in the current job. What keeps me there, knowing that I am unhappy? Perhaps at the core of my choice to stay is a deeper, largely unconscious fear of the Unknown. This fear may be so rooted and powerful as to have me believe that moving out of what I currently know, and into what is unknown is far too painful and unsafe. So I might stay, unaware of my unconscious belief that rules my behavior, and feel miserable for it. As a lucid dreamer, I could choose take my issue up to the awareness behind the dream, the inner Mentor. I could be proactive and inquire directly about the unconscious beliefs underlying my undesired experience, similar to the way I asked the dreamscape to show me a piece of artwork at the beginning of this series of blogs; or I could choose a softer but equally useful approach, to allow the issue to arise naturally by simply intending upon self-integration from within the dream state. “Please, show me what I most need to see.” (self-integration can be defined as the inclusion of the compartmentalized personality elements into one harmonious whole.)
There is a form of shamanic healing called “soul retrieval” that for our purpose could be called a form of trauma therapy. In psychological terms, “soul retrieval” is a remedy for dissociation, which is the “capacity of human beings to split off parts of their psyche in response to trauma and/or adverse circumstances. Dissociation is a device the brain uses to survive potentially destructive traumatic events. It minimizes perception and, later, if the event isn’t processed adaptively, it can block access to cognitive, sensory and affective memory or to parts of the memory.” (Mackinnon) My friend Helena engages in shamanic “soul retrieval” by way of her lucidity:
“Waking into the dream as my high school aged self in my old house, living with my parents. Revisiting traumatic moments very truly as if turning the time dial to the exact coordinates. This time I have the aid and kinship of all the beings I know today, all the knowledge and experience I have participated in. Now, instead of feeling abused, stranded, abandoned, and helpless as my teenage self did in very intense moments of trauma, I am empowered and endowed with many tools. I call on these tools and friends to come help. My teenage self is now glowing with knowingness and courage and is elevated beyond the impact of misguided energy, the situation completely anew in my memory banks.”
We have the ability then to face our deepest fears and transform them forever, experience with our five+ senses our greatest ecstasies and fully integrate our gifts that lie dormant or hidden (the archetypal “shadow”) of our essential Self.
In conclusion to this lucid dreaming series, where I have named three principles (and there are many more) of lucid dreaming that we can wield to enrich our lives, I leave you with this: The lucid dream acts upon request as a Mentor, a Muse and a Medicine, wherein the state of lucidity is the hallmark of integration and understanding of the Inner world and who we really are. The Inner world essentially sources what we experience in the outer world, waking physical reality. Lucidity dynamically promotes a healthy inner ecosystem of psyche and when we walk as fully integrated Beings, we are healing and we are whole. I cannot think of more sophisticated way to nurture this deep connection to the Inner life; this wellspring of creativity, this tool for trauma resolution, this uncovering of our most essential gifts and ultimately the furthering of collective understanding of consciousness and the very nature of reality itself. Thank you for journeying with me.
Erlacher, Daniel. “Applications of Lucid Dreams: An Online Study.” Academia.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.
Erlacher, Daniel. “Practicing In Dreams Can Improve Your Performance.” Harvard Business Review 90.4 (2012): 30-31. Business Source Complete. Web. 15 Nov. 2014
Gackenbach, Jayne. “Video Game Play and Meditation, Spirituality and Dreams.” Audio blog post. Webtalk Radio. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
Jung, C. G., and Meredith Sabini. The Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology & Modern Life. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2008. Print.
Mackinnon, Christa. Shamanism And Spirituality In Therapeutic Practice : An Introduction. London: Singing Dragon, 2012. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 29 Nov. 2014.
LaBerge, Stephen, and Howard Rheingold. Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming / Stephen Laberge And Howard Rheingold. n.p.: New York : Ballantine Books, 1991, c1990., 1991. eBook. 15 Nov. 2014.
Tholey, Paul. “Lucidity Letter – December 1990 – Vol. 9, No. 2.” Lucidity Letter – December 1990 – Vol. 9, No. 2. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.
Waggoner, Robert. Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self. Needham, MA: Moment Point, 2009. Print.
Originally posted on Aluna’s Dreambender blog
Feature art credit to Polina Yakovleva