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Steven LaBerge

COPYRIGHT CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION

MAN ALIVE

"DREAMS"

PART 8

REEL #036 - STEVEN LaBERGE, PT. 1:

WHY DON'T YOU DEFINE WHAT A LUCID DREAM IS.

Lucid dream simply means dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming at the time. So knowing that you're dreaming -

WE'LL START AGAIN.

Lucid dreaming means while knowing that you're dreaming. So that means while the dream is happening, you're fully aware of the fact that you are in a dream and therefore it's all in your mind and that you're independent of the world around you and that you can do anything that you can imagine essentially.

CHARACTERISTICALLY HOW DOES THIS DIFFER FROM A NORMAL DREAM?

Well in most dreams, we don't know that we're dreaming. We think we're awake. We don't think anything about it. We explicitly just assume we're awake just as right at this moment you assume you're awake, right? You make the same assumption while you're in a dream, until something strange happens perhaps and also if you know what your dreams are like enough, you're likely to naturally notice from time to time, oh yes, this is one of my dreams and realize it that way.

THIS IDEA OF BEING ABLE TO BE AWARE THAT YOU'RE DREAMING IN WHICH WAY DOES THIS GIVE YOU CONTROL?

Well, once you know that you are dreaming then you're able to make use of the unique opportunities of the dream state. You see, in the waking state, for example, there are various constraints on my behaviour such as the laws of society and the laws of physics. So I don't float into the air now because of the laws of physics and I don't float into the air now either because of the social contract of what we're doing here. But if I were to be in a dream now, I'd be doing the same thing unless I knew I was dreaming. Then I would stay awake. But there's no reason - this film isn't going to do us any good here so it wouldn't make sense to continue to follow that particular set of laws. So then I'd be free of the usual constraints that come in the dream from our assumptions that we assume that we're awake and therefore that the usual laws apply. For instance, in terms of the laws of society while we're awake and in public, we have - there are many things we cannot do. Whereas in privacy, we have much more freedom and a dream is the most private experience you might have but you have to know that it's a dream in order to make use of that opportunity.

OKAY GIVE ME CONCRETE EXAMPLES. WHAT CAN YOU DO IN A LUCID DREAM AND WHY IS THIS USEFUL? WHY IS IT HELPFUL?

There are many useful applications of lucid dreaming, different things that you could benefit. It depends upon your particular interests in life and your needs. It's to say, well what use is a lucid dream or what use is a dream is something like saying, well what's the use of life? Why live? Well, there are many answers to that question. If, for example, your answer to why live, is something like to gain wisdom or something like that, then you could use your lucid dream state to deliberately focus on finding out who you are, how you work, exploring your mind, using it in that fashion. People can also use lucid dreams to overcome nightmares. It can be part of a personal self-development project and also a means of self-integration, to put it more in say the union terminology. So because if you know you're dreaming and let's say you're in the midst of a nightmare where you're running away from some shadowy figures. Maybe it's an angry mob or some threatening characters of some kind and you realize you're dreaming then you can say, well this can't really hurt me but I'm afraid. Let me see what I'm afraid of and turn and face your fears and deal with it. And by doing so, by facingyour fears, we find that you then become more comfortable with yourself. You stop frightening yourself, as it were, with your face in the funhouse mirror. And if you think about how can we frighten ourselves with nightmares? Well, it's like being in a movie and not knowing that it's a movie and running out of the theatre because of the tiger onscreen. We can allow ourselves in sitting in the movie theatre to experience emotions but they shouldn't go that far. They shouldn't go to the point where you don't really know what your reality is. So we think it's actually a sign of good mental health to realize that you're dreaming when you're in a situation that calls for that realization.

SO THEY CAN BE USEFUL FOR WORKING WITH WHATEVER IS THE CAUSE OF THE NIGHTMARES. WHAT ABOUT PHOBIAS? ANY USE FOR THEM?

Yes we have a number of anecdotes describing for example in Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming in which people describe overcoming phobias. For instance, fear of heights or fear of tidal waves or fear of spiders by in a lucid dream facing each one of these things. In the case of the tidal wave, diving into that wave and saying, let's see what happens. And what happens is the wave passes by. Oh that's all there was to that. And the idea of using lucid dreaming as a means of rehearsal for practising new behaviours but also to overcome fears. People describe overcoming performance anxiety for example by playing their musical instrument in front of the dream audience. We think that in general as the use of imagery for improving performance, athletes will do this. The lucid dream state provides the most vivid kind of mental imagery that any of us would ordinarily experience and so we think that these mental rehearsal type applications might be more effective in the lucid dream state. There are actually a number of different applications that you could see for lucid dreaming. One would be something at the very beginning the lowest common denominator, something like recreation fun, lucid dreaming is a delightful experience. People enjoy it very much. They enjoy flying, dream sex, various exhilarating adventures. But it goes deeper than that because once you're in a lucid dream and you look around and say, this world I see around me is all so vivid and apparently real, yet I know it's all in my mind. It cannot be out there because I'm asleep in bed and I know I can't feel my body. So that gives one a sense of the wonder of the power of the mind that is a very opening experience.

And lucid dreaming is also perhaps useful for enhancing creativity in some ways. Dreaming has a long history of being a source of creative inspiration. And we have anecdotes to suggest that people can deliberately use this creativity of the dream state in a lucid dream to seek new ideas and answers ranging from ah scientific notions to ideas for art. Also believe that the mental rehearsal idea of being able to practice new behaviours is a very viable one because our scientific research has demonstrated that in the lucid dream state when the brain and the mind are working together to create a dream, it's doing the same thing as it's doing while we're awake. So if you practice some skill in the dream state, you're getting the same ah neuronal pathways activated as you would in the waking state, the difference being that you don't have to worry about the inertia of the body, let's say, if you're trying a new dance step. You find out sort of how it feels, what it's like and then once you've got the mental model of it then when you wake up and practice it you can then put that into practice.

One of the most important applications is overcoming nightmares is we think lucid dreaming is really the most direct way to deal with nightmares. We think of them as essentially we are frightening ourselves with our own images. We don't know what we're doing in our dreams. We've forgotten what's going on and we do things that might make sense in the waking state but don't make sense in the dream. For instance, if you see a tiger in the jungle, you should run. That is the most sensible approach. But if you see a tiger in your dream, it doesn't make sense to run from the dream tiger. It can't hurt you. What it makes sense to do is to encounter the tiger and say, who are you? What do you mean for me? Why am I afraid of you? Something like that, you see, because now you can have a symbolic encounter with a tiger that will benefit you in terms of your getting to know yourself better and understanding your fears and overcoming them. The idea of lucid dreaming as a means of overcoming nightmares comes spontaneously to children, for example. That is often a way that children first learn lucid dreaming is that they are suffering from night mares and either somebody tells them or they just get the idea, well you know, if I just knew it was a dream, while it was happening I could say, well you can't hurt me or go ahead, it doesn't bother me.

And one additional application I think is worth considering, it's a rather speculative one, is the idea of using lucid dreaming for more than the mental healing that we've spoken of but there is the possibility that lucid dreaming could facilitate physical healing processes as well. There's an entire field ..... immunology that suggests the relationship between mental states and the condition of the healing process and we have anecdotes to back up the idea that people could use their lucid dream states to optimize the functioning of their healing systems somehow. I must emphasize the speculation of what might develop in the future.

But finally, one of the most important applications of lucid dreaming is to the broadening of the mind. It's that when a person has a lucid dream and reflects on it, say, all right a moment ago I thought I knew what was going on. I thought I knew what my world was and now I realize that everything I thought about it was wrong. There is a dimension missing that made all the difference. The fact that all this is happening while I'm asleep in bed, that this is all in my mind, and when I wake up to that realization then the rules of the game change tremendously. The significance of what I do in that life changes tremendously. And this can be a metaphor for a similar process of awakening that could take place in what we call the waking state which is, after all, a state of partial sleep really where much of what we do is relatively unconscious and we go through life in a trance state. But it shows us what it would be like to wake up. And so given a mental model of a possible goal, it gives us a means of travelling down that path.

EXCELLENT. IN EXERTING CONTROL OF OUR DREAMS IS THERE ANY PITFALL TO THAT? SOME PEOPLE WOULD ARGUE IF YOU CONTROL YOUR DREAMS TOO MUCH THEN THAT'S UNHEALTHY. I'M SURE YOU'VE COME ACROSS CASES WHERE PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY USING CONTROL IN A DESTRUCTIVE WAY.

Well beginning, lucid dreamers often fall in the pitfall of exerting an excess and unwise form of control. For instance, in my early lucid dreams I would be running away from some angry mob or the police or something I was trying to avoid. I would become lucid and so I would fly away. And ah that was better because I could fly, I could escape better and that's what I'm doing with my lucidity at this point. But after a while, after maybe 40 lucid dreams, I had a dream in which I was runnig away trying to escape from them and realized I was dreaming so flew away. And then I had a false awakening in which I dreamt I woke up in an audience listening to a lecture by Adrias Shaw about Steven's dream. And he was saying it was good that Steven realized he was dreaming and therefore could fly but unfortunate that he didn't realize that since it was a dream there was nothing to flee. I realized at that point the pitfall of inappropriate action in the lucid dream which was basically doing what I was doing before I became lucid only better. Instead of changing my context sufficiently to say, what really makes sense to do in this new state. So although it is a pitfall it is something that is readily ovecome and it's descrbibed in my books, for example, exactly what to do about that and the wisdom of taking a more flexible, adaptive look at what you're doing and what really makes the most sense.

GOOD. PEOPLE WILL WANT TO KNOW WHY IS IT ONLY SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE LUCID DREAMS AND IN FACT WHAT PROPORTION OF THE POPULATION WOULD HAVE LUCID DREAMS. AND ARE LUCID DREAMS REALLY - CAN ANYBODY DO IT?

Well if you give - if you ask people have they ever realized they were dreaming while they were dreaming, most people will say, yeah that's happened now and then but it's not a frequent event. It's more something that happens by accident, as it were, and most people don't realize that it would be a state that could be cultivated, that could be practised, that could be learned. And I believe that it's a capacity that everyone has, just as we all have the ability, for example, to learn a complex language. Yet if nobody had taught us to speak, very few of us would speak, right. And the fact is that nobody teaches us to dream in a society. And so it's very few individuals that spontaneously develop much lucid dreaming skill. But I believe that if we were to teach children, for exmaple, that they could have this wonderful power of the mind available to them where they could do anything they wanted, they had complete freedom, they could be the masters in one sphere of their world, I think that we would grow up then having this resource available to us to much greater extent than we do now. Now obviously like any other learnable skill there would be some people that have a greater talent for it. It will be easier for them to learn. But I think anyone that is sufficiently interested and motivated and follows the techniques that are well described will be able to succeed to some extent, at least experiencing the state enough to understand what this is all about.

GOOD. I WANT YOU TO GET BACK INTO THE ENJOYMENT ISSUE BECAUSE I THINK THIS SEEMS TO BE CRUCIAL. THERE'S ANOTHER ISSUE THAT WE HAVE TO REALLY RETURN TO AND THAT IS THE ISSUE OF GROWTH AND HOW IMPORTANT - I'M SORRY I LOST MY TRAIN OF THOUGHT. WHAT I WANTED TO GET TO NEXT SINCE YOU BROUGHT IT UP WAS DO OTHER CULTURES, ABORIGINAL CULTURES FOR INSTANCE OR SPIRITUAL CULTURES, DO THEY NATURALLY LUCID DREAM AS A MATTER OF COURSE?

Well, we don't really know of any cultures that definitely do it. Of course most cultures in the world that do value dreams often do so in the form that they are expert dreamers in the society, the shamans, who do the dreaming for the common man. And so it is specialization and other than the myth of the senoi, I'm unaware of any cultures that are supposed to actually practice lucid dreaming on a widespread basis. Obviously the Tibetan Buddhists are an exception in terms of making use of it but it's not all Buddhists or all Tibetans that become Buddhists and practice these relatively advanced techniques. So I don't know that there are really any examples in the world today of who that would be. It seems that most in the so-called civilized cultures don't value dreams much at all. The more primitive cultures value dreams tremendously but often in a somewhat different way than for example I would value dreams in terms of viewing dreams as indication of what must be. The precursors of physical reality showing direction. I see dreaming as certainly a state in which we can explore our possibilities to help us decide more effectively what be would like to do with our lives but I don't see them as being compelling in any sense. That because you dreamt something, that must be.

AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH, THE USE OF LUCID DREAMING TO FACILITATE SPIRITUAL GROWTH. I THINK YOU TOUCHED UPON IT SPECIFICALLY BUT HOW ABOUT SOME GENERAL COMMENTS.

I believe that lucid dreaming has a significance for spirituality in the following terms. That if we start off with the sort of New Age tendency to wish to transcend the condition or get away from it, to escape somehow, that doesn't really work very well in a lucid dream. The case of Frederick Von Aden, the person who coined the term, lucid dreaming, illustrates that clearly. He would describe beatific lucid dreams where he'd float around the heavens singing angelic songs and feeling very pious and holy in general. And he complained that the problem was after those angelic, beatific lucid dreams, he always had demon dreams where devils with pitchforks and horns would chase him around, follow him around mocking his pretended holiness and he would then whip them away. Get away from me, you damned beings. And you could see the problem was that he wasn't integrating his lower side, the part of himself, his shadow side that he had rejected and that that path to holiness or wholeness involves accepting these other parts of ourselves first. Once we've accepted everything that we find on the level of the unconscious mind, then we're free to say, all right, here if I look around the dream so let's say I'm in a lucid dream now and I'm reflecting on my experience, I say, all right, the room around me is the dream world and you are a dream figure, a dream character and with a little bit of lucidity I think I'm dreaming this, but with a little more lucidity I think, but what is this? This must be a dream jacket and what is this, a dream hand. This is a dream Steven. A moment ago I thought this was me and now I realize that what I thought was me is only an idea of me, a mental model of me. And so a new idea arises which is: what am I? What is my deepest identity? It's not this any more. So now in a lucid dream I can say let this lucid dream be an expression of my deepest being. And now I'm open to a guidance instead of a more direct control where I don't know what's going to happen. I want to see what happens. I want to be opened to a new -

(end tape)

REEL #037 - STEVEN LaBERGE, PT. 2:

LET'S BACK UP AND JUST FINISH THE TOPIC.

So that was just at the point where I was saying that ah -

YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT RECOGNITION OF THE SELF. SO WHAT IS THE REAL SELF?

I could start from the point where I had just described that this is just an idea, okay.

So once we realize that what we think we are, what I call the dream ego, is only an idea of ourselves and that automatically opens the question, well what else are we or whate are we really or what are we on the deepest level. Then in a lucid dream you can deliberately seek an answer to that question, so I did in one of my most significant lucid dreams to me personally in which I asked for this dream to be an expression of the highest potential. And as I did that, I flew to the heavens, to the clouds passing symbols of traditional religion and entered into a vast emptiness and open space that was filled with love strangely enough. And I started singing the overwhelming feeling of joy and praise that this was how the world was somehow. And I woke up and thought about that sense of this was - I was asking for my highest identity and what I got was no specific image. Every particular disappeared and I was left with an emptiness, with a potentiality of something that could be anything somehow. And it seemed to me that this is what a deepest sense of being was, something that always was and always would be, that had been forgotten by looking at this stuff that was right in front of me.

YOU HANDLED THAT ONE PRETTY GOOD.

Now as to the question of do dreams have meaning, there are really two very extreme viewpoints on this. There is the classical one in which you hear proverbs like an uninterpreted dream is like an unopened letter which is that dreams are intended as communications and the meaning is what the message in that dream is trying to say to you. And that's what meaning is. There are other people that therefore believe that these dreams are - all dreams are very meaningful as messages. And the opposite end of the spectrum are people who say that dreams have no meaning in them at all. They're no more meaningful than an ink blot that you can interpet but you interpret it by projecting yourself on to it at the stage of interpretation but there's no more meaning in it than there is in an ink blot. Now my belief is that there is much more meaning in dreams than that in both senses. I don't believe that dreams are messages trying to communicate something to us. But I believe they are mental models of the worlds that we think we're in at the time and therefore we see ourselves. We see our attitudes, we see what we have brought to our world making independent of what's actually out there. IT's what we fear might be there, what we wish might be there and so on. All of our selves are shown in it. So it's meaningful in the sense that in a work of art it tells us something about the creator, something about the artist and so in that sense our dreams certainly can be interpreted but not because they're intended as messages. Now meaning also indicates not just the significance of a statement in which I'm saying dreams don't intend to communicate but they have greater meaning than that which is how it relates to the possibilities of other parts of your life, for example and what you can do with the state. I think one of the deepest values of lucid dreaming might be to be a kind of a virtual reality, a world simulator where we could experience any imaginable reality, anything we can conceive of that we can experience, what would that be like to being in that state, in that world to do those things and to be that way.

PERFECT. WE'RE DONE.