And bringing awareness to our sleep may not only give us access to our dreams, but even allow us to experience an altered state of consciousness known as the out-of-body experience, a state where we experience ourselves fully consciously aware with the sense of being separate from our physical body.
Although it is generally agreed among researchers of the out-of-body experience that we can all potentially have such experiences consciously, in practice there is significant variation in people’s success rate. That said, it may be largely a matter of persistence. There are certainly plenty of accounts of people who applied themselves for some months and eventually succeeded to experience the freedom of out-of-body travel.
We can definitely all become conscious of our dreams, and that is itself enriching and a great first step towards expanding our consciousness further. Recalling and reflecting on our dreams can give us access to our subconscious processes, and especially at times of crisis which 2020 is for most of us, our dreams may give us access to anxieties, concerns or hopes we have not allowed to surface in our waking consciousness. Dreams, and the more elusive out-of-body experience, can also be a source of deep joy, and memories of some dreams can bring smiles to our face even days after the event. Especially when we are cooped up at home, experiencing freedom of “movement” in our sleep state can offer great psychological relief.
The following 4 steps will help you to bring more awareness to your night life:
- Developing an intention throughout the day
- Bringing consciousness to the process of falling asleep
- Generating opportunities during the night to increase memory of your experiences
- Recording your experiences when you wake
One of the things we discover when we start paying more attention to our dreams is that all stages of our life are connected. What happens during our day colours our dreams, and how we wake up in the morning can influence how we show up for the rest of the day. If we are not naturally aware of our dreams, such awareness won’t arise just by us wishing it to before we fall asleep. Instead we want to start conditioning our mind during the waking stage to notice its circumstances and check whether it is in a waking or sleeping body. This conditioning will eventually carry over to the sleep state and help us become aware in our dreams. The following are some simple techniques you can use to condition your mind. Throughout the day, from time to time:
- pay close attention to your body and its sensations, for example as you are typing on a keyboard feel the touch of your fingertips, as you are picking up a cup of tea feel the warmth on your hand and the sensations of the cup touching your lips. Really focus on things around you, the person you are speaking with or your environment. Take in minutia you would not otherwise pay attention to. And as you are increasing your awareness ask yourself: am I awake or am I asleep?
- do a little jump with the honest intention of seeing if you can fly.
- go over your day to remember how you got to the present moment. What was the sequence of events? In particular, do you recall getting out of bed in the morning?
- check in with yourself whether you are sure you are in your body, or whether your body is in bed sleeping.
Finally, another good way to prime your mind is to read over your own dream journal or to read descriptions by others who have had lucid out-of-body experiences or lucid dreams. There are also numerous Facebook groups where people share their dreams and other nightly altered states of consciousness. Saturating your mind with this reality will prime you to also enjoy such experiences.
Intention is key when working with the subtle dimensions of life. Holding the intention of maintaining awareness and possibly leave the body when we lie in bed and are falling asleep is simple and powerful. We can also combine this with deliberate techniques to fall asleep with intention, such as the following breathing technique:
- Lie down in a position most comfortable for you to fall asleep and close your eyes.
- Breathe in slowly to the count of five.
- Breathe out slowly and relaxed to the count of ten.
- Stay without inhaling to the count of five.
- Repeat this six times.
- After the sixth exhalation hold the breath out for as long as you comfortably can, and focus on the idea of staying awake while your body falls asleep.
- When you feel the urge to inhale do so and then repeat the cycle. Do this until you fall asleep.
There is a proven method to increase dream recall and nocturnal awareness, but it requires altering your regular sleeping routine. It is totally worth it though! Set your alarm for 5 hours after going to bed. For me this is usually around 4am. When you wake up, get up briefly to make sure you are properly awake. I like to go to the bathroom and do a little stretch. Then spend between 15–30 minutes either meditating or reading something related to lucid dreaming or out-of-body travel. Of course if you already remember anything from your previous sleep phase this is a good time to make some notes. Then lie back down with the intention of staying lucid in your sleep and recalling your experiences. If you have any trouble settling down you can apply the breathing technique again.
When you wake from your next sleep, take your time recalling your experiences. Ideally don’t move until you’ve gone over them in your mind, then roll over and write them down on a notepad (or tablet) you have handy at the side of the bed for that purpose. As already suggested, you can use your own notes to prime your mind for dream recall by reading them again later in the day. This can also help you understand meanings in your dreams you did not see at first.
For most of us it takes making some practical adjustments to bring greater awareness to our sleep, but the benefits to psychological integration, creativity and an overall sense of richness in our life are great pay offs.