The Top 3 Barriers To Lucid Dreaming + How To Overcome Them
Regular dreams are dreams in which you have no idea you are dreaming. It's only when you wake up in the morning that you realize that you were, in fact, in a dream. In stark contrast, lucid dreams are dreams in which you are actively aware that you are dreaming while you are actually in the dream!
In other words, lucid dreaming is what happens when you find yourself "awake" in a dream even though physiologically, your body is still asleep. If you become a lucid dreamer, you can then go on to explore your dream world with conscious awareness and intent of will. Sounds pretty cool, huh?
But alas, lucid dreaming is easier said than done. Here are three of the most common barriers to it that I see in my work as a dream teacher:
- Not being able to recognize the dreamscape for a dream
- Thinking that lucid dreaming is hard
- Not dream journaling frequently enough
Here's my advice for how to get over each barrier and dip your toes into the realm of lucid dreaming:
Practice mindfulness in your waking life.
Deepening your mindfulness practice in your waking life can help you recognize a dream for a dream. Simple practices like coming back to the present moment as often as you can, focusing on one thing fully at a time, eating more mindfully, and actually paying attention to your surroundings can all help.
The more mindful that you are, the easier it will then become to recognize anomalies in dreams, which in turn can trigger lucidity. For example, if you find yourself at your office desk, you may notice that in your dream, the table is made of mahogany wood. But in your waking life, the desk is actually made of plastic. That simple recognition of something being "out of place" can then help you recognize that you are dreaming. You can then begin the process of asking yourself: Am I dreaming right now?
Trust that it's possible.
Many beginners have an underlying belief that it is difficult to lucid dream, which then turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy in many cases. Yes, maintaining a practice of mindfulness, perseverance, and spiritual focus is tough. But lucid dreaming, like meditation, is something I believe we all can do—even if we may struggle to make it a habit.
Equally, in the West, lucid dreaming is something many people try to do just for the fun of it (which is great!), but if that's your only motivator, it's easy to give up on lucid dreaming if you're not successful on the first few attempts. Lucid dreaming offers so much more than just a fun experiment: Almost all ancient wisdom traditions speak to lucid dreaming as a pathway to holistic well-being and even enlightenment.
Keep a dream journal — and use it often.
When you take the time to journal your dreams, you create a bi-directional line of communication with your psyche (and the dream world), which is incredibly beneficial for spiritual and psychological depth insight (something I speak a lot about in my book, The Alchemy of Your Dreams). Through dream journaling, you become more aware of the common dream themes and signs that continue to appear for you. This is highly helpful information because if you focus on making one of these dream signs a "reality check" in a dream, it can help to trigger lucidity.
The bottom line.
Becoming a consistent lucid dreamer doesn't happen overnight—no pun intended—but with these three tips, you can start to overcome some of the barriers keeping you from this potentially enlightening practice.
Athena Laz is a leading voice on modern spirituality, specializing in the intersection of psychology and mysticism. She is the author of The Alchemy of Your Dreams: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of Lucid Dreaming and The Deliberate Dreamer’s Journal.
Originally hailing from South Africa, Laz has degrees through the University of Witwatersrand and is a licensed psychologist through HPCSA. Her work has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine and the South African Journal of Psychology.