There is something analogous about lucid dreaming to certain aspects of spiritual awakening.
Lucid dreaming is simply being aware that one is dreaming. This may have happened spontaneously to you, or it can be learned. I highly recommend the book Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge, if you are interested in learning how to induce lucid dreams.
My own experiments with lucid dreaming were perhaps twenty years ago now but they remain clear in my memory.
The technique I was using was to ask myself “Am I dreaming” several times a day (I even had a note with those works stuck to the fridge). When I asked myself the question, I would then perform a “dream test”.
There are several dream tests, such as turning off/on a light-switch (apparently the dreaming mind can’t replicate this occurrence) but the one I like was to read a piece of writing, look away, then read the piece again. The sleeping mind cannot retain the same words twice (as you will see, I can attest to this!).
So one day I asked myself if I was dreaming (interestingly, just as sure I wasn’t as any other time I had performed the test) and I looked at the cover of a text book. I can’t remember what it said, but I can at least remember it was in English.
When I looked back the words had changed to hieroglyphics! The hairs stood up on the back of my neck! Could I really be dreaming? I looked away again, and when I looked back the writing was still hieroglyphs, but now had changed into something more alien than Egyptian.
Now I looked around at my surroundings. I was in a classroom which appeared to be a cave, part natural, and partly carved into a cliff face. It is a remarkable feature of dream logic that this location had in no way twigged my mind to the fact I was dreaming!
Looking around the room I saw fellow students and wooden desks. The environment was so clear, so real, that although convinced this was a dream, I decided to perform another experiment.
Telling myself that if this was indeed a dream, my hand would be able to pass straight through the wooden desk in front of me, I held up my right hand and steadily lowered it toward the surface, which it struck firmly with an audible thud and the natural feeling of striking wood with your hand.
Strange. I picked up the textbook and performed the reading test again. Same result, more hieroglyphics. So, telling myself in my mind that I was indeed dreaming I lowered my hand a little more slowly toward the desk and this time… it passed right through! Even raising my hand back up it passed through! A feeling of excitement and exhilaration passed through me.
I reminded myself to stay calm, so as not to wake up. Then I shouted to my classmates “Hey guys! This is not real! This is a dream!”. Stunned silence.
“This is a dream” I said again, and I passed my hand through the desk to prove it. There was a bit of rumbling in the room and then one of my classmate asked “If this is a dream, then who’s dream is it?”.
This question struck me like a bolt out of the blue. It spoke to our very existence. I knew it was my dream, so these apparently real and living people had just had the foundation of their existence taken away. There was something of a commotion and the scene began shaking and swirling and breaking up and…
I was awake in bed. My heart was pounding, I was elated and shocked and confused and dumbfounded all at the same time.
I had more experiences of controlled lucid dreaming after that, including flying and asking questions about the universe, but this one struck me as absolutely extraordinary. The clarity and uniqueness of all the faces in the room, yet all of them strangers (in my waking life) made me marvel at the creativity of the dreaming mind.
And the philosophical question “Who’s dream is this?” posed by a dreamed character, wouldn’t be answered until it was realised many, many years later; we are all dreamed characters and we are all the dreamer because there is only one dreamer.
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I haven’t yet mentioned one of the most analogues aspects of lucid dreaming to awakening. I found repeatedly in other lucid dreams that even after I became completely aware that I was dreaming, the drama of the dream could pull me in again and I would forget it was a dream.
This could happen more than once within a single dream. Become lucid, get swept up in the drama, become lucid again, get swept away again. This is exactly how the process of awakening was to me. Exactly the same. We could call it “lucid living”.
Now days the lack of a center, of a person who the sensations and thoughts of life are appearing to mean merging back into the dream of life is more of voluntary decision. An effortless flow, like dropping into a river to be swept by it’s current. A swim in which the sunny banks are usually easily attainable (and if not, the rapids never last long anyway).