What if we told you that one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of physics found its culmination in a dream? Too good to be true, you might say. Danish physicist Niels Henrik David Bohr known for his contributions to the world of physics–especially to the quantum theory and the study of atom–often spoke of a dream that led him to discover the structure of the atom.
Bohr was known for his problem-solving capacities. He could solve problems that baffled his counterparts. But when it came to deciphering the structure of the atom, Bohr had tried all possible configurations and failed to reach a conclusion. One night during the course of his study, Bohr dreamt about the structure of the atom with a vivid image of electrons spinning around the nucleus of the atom. It was just like the planets revolving around the sun. On waking up, he knew what he saw in his dream was the right configuration. But science seeks validation. He studied the configuration in the lab and found valid points to prove his point. He later received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in quantum theory.
Dreams can change outcomes, resolve conflicts, help us overcome fear and make lives better. Sometimes, the greatest adventures of our lives happen when we are fast asleep.
Isn’t it overwhelming to know that dreams have the power to transform our world? We don’t need a bigger testimony than Bohr’s to elucidate the power of dreams. Dreams can change outcomes, resolve conflicts, help us overcome fear and make lives better. Sometimes, the greatest adventures of our lives happen when we are fast asleep.
Author Neil Gaiman in his graphic novel The Sandman says: “People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.” It may take you by surprise if we told you that through lucid dreaming you could consciously alter the content of your dreams–viewpoints, images, memories and lost hopes.
Relatively an ancient concept that found its due in modern times, lucid dreaming in the simplest way can be defined as a dream you know you are dreaming. American psychophysiologist and lucid dreaming expert Stephen LaBerge writes in his book Lucid Dreaming: A Concise Guide to Awakening in Your Dreams and in Your Life: “Our dreams seem so real that it is usually only when we wake up that we recognise them as the mental experiences they are. Although this is how we generally experience dreams, there is a significant exception: Sometimes while dreaming, we consciously notice that we are dreaming. This clear-sighted state of consciousness is referred to as lucid dreaming.”
So when and where did lucid dreaming originate? The term lucid dream was coined by Dutch writer and psychiatrist Frederik Willem van Eeden in 1913. But not many studies were taken up on lucid dreaming until the 70s. Studies reveal lucid dreaming was first documented in the Upanishads as early as 1000 CE. This phenomenon was popular in the east. Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, the key text of Trika School of Kashmir Shaivism, makes a mention of lucid dreaming as a way to direct consciousness within the dream.
This practice soon spread to Tibet and became an integral part of Buddhism. It is also said that the Buddhists consider it a tool to attain enlightenment. A Buddhist legend has it that Milarepa, a Tibetan yogi, who meditated for eight long years in a cave remained lucid while sleeping and dreaming. Aristotle in his book On Dreams made a mention of lucid dreaming. “Often when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream.”
So, what are the ways to master the phenomenon that has the potential to address issues like phobia and post stress traumatic disorder? LaBerge, who has extensively studied lucid dreaming, introduced the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams popularly known as the MILD technique. This technique helps increase your self-awareness quotient–to know that you are dreaming through affirmations and cues. It includes four simple steps: dream recall, reality checks, lucid affirmations and visualisations of a dream.
Studies over the years have proved that there is science behind lucid dreaming. Other studies suggest learning to lucid dream has a positive impact on every waking day.
Often considered esoteric, lucid dreaming has encouraged researchers to understand the phenomenon better. Studies over the years have proved that there is science behind lucid dreaming. Other studies suggest learning to lucid dream has a positive impact on every waking day.
The benefits range from increasing creativity to achieving greater self-confidence. Best known to be an antidote for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, lucid dreaming also helps in solving problems, overcoming nightmares and phobias. For instance, if you have a fear of heights and when you lucid dream, you have the power to control your fear and jump off the cliff. When you wake up, your outlook towards that fear gradually changes.
Lucid dreaming emphasises the fact that the world around us is a construct of the mind. It allows us to look beyond our imagination. Moreover, the experience is fascinating. You could travel to a faraway Norway or to the picturesque beaches of Croatia–all in a dream. Lucid dreaming is the unique opportunity to communicate with your subconscious mind consciously. LaBerge rightly says: “By waking in your dreams, you can waken to life.”