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Lucid dreams and intentions

"Never go to bed without a request to your unconscious." -Thomas Edison

A lucid dream is one in which you know you’re dreaming—it’s that simple. Training your brain to achieve that kid of awareness is a bit less simple, but most people can get there with practice. One component of that practice involves setting an intention before you go to sleep.


If you practice yoga, meditation, or another form of mindfulness, you may be familiar with intention setting. In those contexts, intention connotes a direction or goal to which you devote mental resources to (e.g., gratitude), giving the practice added purpose. Intention setting for dreams has a similar function. By directing your mind toward a topic before bed, you may nudge your brain to further explore that topic as you sleep.


An intention can be something fun (e.g., “I want to fly in my dream!”) or something with psychological depth (e.g., I want to revisit an upsetting event from my childhood). Of course, simply asking your mind to take a particular journey overnight doesn’t guarantee it’s going to happen, or that you’ll become lucid if it does. To maximize your chances of success try the following:


  • Make remembering part of the intention. If you’re new to lucid dreaming, consider starting with the following intention: “Tonight, I want to remember my dreams.” Like any intention, you can set this one by mentally repeating it in you head and/or by writing it down in a dream journal next to your bed.

  • Perform reality checks. One shortcut to becoming lucid at night is to complete reality checks throughout the day. This involves performing some cognitive task that tends to unfold differently in dreams versus reality. For example, you might try to count your fingers every few hours during the day; then, when you try the same task during your dream, you might come up with a different number, prompting the realization that it’s a dream.

  • Visualize the dream you want to have. Before bed, take time to rehearse the dream you want to have. If it is conversing with a loved one (living or deceased) imagine yourself having the conversation. What are you wearing? Where is the conversation taking place? What’s the weather like? How do you feel? Etc.The more emotion you can conjure, the more likely you are to dream in the direction of the intention.



Remember, lucid dreaming takes practice. So if your intentions don’t immediately translate into lucid experiences, be patient—it’s worth the wait.


 


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