Never had I felt so absolutely well, so clear-brained, so divinely powerful, so inexpressibly free! The sensation was exquisite beyond words; but it lasted only a few moments, and I awoke. (Oliver Fox’s first lucid dream.)
Why, after finally getting lucid in a dream, are we sometimes unable to stay lucid?
It’s a question of mental focus: if we get too sucked into the dream action we forget that we’re dreaming. And if we get too excited by the fact of being lucid in a dream, that can wake us up in a shot. Lucidity is about striking the right balance between alert detachment and engagement with the dream. Losing lucidity in a dream can feel like a gentle slipping away, or a sudden blackness. It can also feel like being in an earthquake – the dream walls shudder and disintegrate. The warning signs are often colour fading from the dream, or visual shakiness. Sometimes we’ll notice that we’re losing awareness because we feel mentally fuzzy and start thinking irrational, dreamlike thoughts rather than lucid ones.
When the warning signs come, it’s time to react fast to regain the alert attention we need so that the lucid dream can continue. The next time you get too caught up in the dream action and feel lucidity slipping, take a mental step back and remind yourself aloud: ‘This is a dream. I am dreaming this.’ Use the tips on this page to re-engage with the dream with lucid awareness.
If you feel you’re about to wake up, stay focused but relaxed. Don’t fight. You may well go into a false awakening, where you feel you have woken up in your bedroom but in fact are still asleep and what you are seeing is your dream bedroom. Do a reality check such as trying to push your finger through the palm of your other hand, or holding your nose and seeing if you can still breathe through it. Hold up a hand and focus on it, then glance at the dream scene, then at your hand again, until things stabilise. If you are still dreaming, just wait for a new dream scene to materialise or create one yourself through visualisation and intent. Sometimes trying too hard to control the lucid dream can wake the dreamer up, as in this example in Celia Green’s classic book Lucid Dreams, where a lucid dreamer travelling on the Underground decides to make the carriage turn into a glass-house: “Gradually the roof of the carriage began to assume a dome-like appearance and become semi-transparent. The hands of the unfortunate passengers began to sprout twigs and leaves and the legs of some of them to resemble stems. However, I woke up before the dream could develop further.” (p. 103)
Whenever you lose lucidity in a dream, re-run the dream in your mind, only change it so that you remember in the nick of time that you are dreaming and perform a reality check or a lucidity stabilising technique. Allow the dream to continue lucidly in your imagination. This sets a pattern for your dreaming mind to follow.
Dr. Clare Johnson will guide you through how to become lucid in your dreams, how to stabilize the dream in order to stay lucid longer, how to guide the dream if you so wish, and she’ll share her best practices for experiencing profound interactions with the people and animals we meet in dreams. Enjoy Clare Johnson’s course Lucid Dreaming.
Dr. Clare Johnson, PhD, was the first person in the world to write a PhD on lucid dreaming as a creative tool. A life-long lucid dreamer, she is the most recent past President of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.More Posts by Clare Johnson