Geo Bell 5/4/2017
I received a question not long ago, for which, through fear of sparking an unnecessary debate among my personal friends, I was hesitant to commit a definitive response. The question was whether lucid dreaming is a spiritual practice, the short answer to which I give, is "if you like".
While a study by Stumbrys et al (2014) suggests that the majority of oneironauts prefer to spend their conscious dream time flying and fornicating, a great many dreamers swear by lucidity as a powerful tool for spiritual exploration. However, despite what many practitioners will have you believe, lucid dreaming itself isn't inherently spiritual.
A parallel with which I find it useful to draw, is the near-ubiquitous association between spirituality and meditation. For many, simply hearing the word 'meditation' elicits the mental image of a bald headed monk, sat cross-legged and detached from worldly distractions. This is a rather stereotypical and out-dated schema. In reality, many who meditate do not consider themselves to be spiritual individuals. In much the same way, the practice of lucid dreaming can, and most often is, detached from any kind of spiritual endeavour.
Let's imagine the 'typical' aspiring oneironaut. Most of the time this person has, by chance, stumbled across lucid dreaming (usually on the internet), Google'd it, and thought "You know what? I'd like to fly around and go on adventures. I want to control my dreams!"
For a lucky few, lucid dreaming rapidly becomes an integral part of daily life. A much greater majority of prospective oneironauts are met with initial frustration, which many face with patience and perseverance. These motivated individuals earn their sweet dream nectar, while for those who lose interest, this is usually where the journey ends.
Of those fortunate enough to enjoy lucidity, few choose to seek much else but fun and entertainment. Some, as stated previously, steer towards spiritual exploration. Others still, seek to use this opportunity for self-improvement, skill development or to overcome nightmares. Who of these dreamers has the right idea? The answer is, in my view, all of them.
Sara would love to experience life as a Na'vi on the jungle moon of Pandora. Wouldn't we all?
Thomas can't wait to explore the mysteries of Dream Yoga. That sounds wonderful!
Ellen's just witnessed the perfect ending to her newest novel. Way to go, Ellen!
Josef has lost count of the celebrities he's dated. Whatever makes you happy, my friend.
The point which I'm getting at here, is that lucid dreaming doesn't have to be spiritual. It doesn't have to be adventurous, liberating or practical. Lucid dreaming can be none of these things, or it can be all of them. Most importantly, it can be what you want it to be, what you choose make of it.
As individuals, each with our own unique drives and ambitions, nobody should feel like they have to follow a certain path, or that there's a right or wrong way to enjoy our precious dream time. At the end of the day, much like life, lucid dreaming really is what you make of it.
If you're eager to explore spirituality and lucid dreaming, the following websites offer a great place to learn more:
Stumbrys, T., Erlacher D., Schädlich, M., Schredl, M. (2014) The phenomenology of lucid dreaming: an online survey. Conscious Cogn. Vol, 21. No. 3. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2012.07.003