Lucid dreaming is defined as dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. The term was coined by Frederik van Eeden using the word "lucid" in the sense of mental clarity. Lucidity usually begins in the middle of dreams when the dreamer realizes that the experiences that are occurring are not that of the physical reality, but rather the creation of a dream.
While the basic definition of lucid dreaming is merely the ability to be aware that one is dreaming, this definition can be broken down into two types of lucid dreaming. These two types are "high level lucidity" and "low level lucidity." A lucid dreamer that is dreaming with a high level of lucidity knows that everything being experienced is the creation of the mind. This dreamer is aware that he or she is actually in bed and asleep and can suffer no physical damage as a result of the dream.
Dreaming at the lower level of lucidity, the dreamer is not fully aware that his or her environment is a sole creation of the mind. This would then allow for the dreamer to do activities such as flying, or participating in what is most interesting to him or her at the time. However, the dreamer may still see physical threats and other dream characters as being completely real. While dreaming at this lower level, the dreamer is usually unaware that his or her physical body is actually asleep and in bed.
Being able to control a dream and being lucid in a dream do not always go hand in hand. You can have great control over a dream without the full knowledge that you are dreaming. It is also possible for to be completely aware that you are dreaming with very little control of the dream it self. However, a higher level lucid dreamer has the choice to be the participant or creator of the dream.
Perhaps those who might benefit most from any lucid dreaming program would be those who are physically disabled in some manner or are bedridden. For anyone who is restricted in their ability to move around their environment, is infirm, blind, or has any other sense impaired, lucid dreaming can give an extraordinary sense of freedom. Within the conscious dream realms sight can be restored, youth regained, and the delight of renewed energy allow the waking disabled to once again run across the fields, feeling the power of their limbs. By offering such transformations, which appear so real and which can embrace all the senses, lucid dreaming can heal both the spirit and the body.
Anyone undergoing a biofeedback program, in which, for instance, they are visualizing healthy cells replacing cancerous growths, can gain immeasurably by lucidly dreaming such a process. Just as a meditator can slip into the deepest of states while consciously dreaming, in ways which are very difficult while awake, so the patient who is trying to visualize healing often finds too many outward distractions which prevent entering the visualization deeply enough. Lucid dreaming avoids all distractions, for once the direction of the dream is established through an inner intention then the episode unfolds with an intensity which precludes any diversions.
One method which could prove of help to anyone physically disabled is to choose some activity which you regret you can no longer do. This might be anything from running fast under a warm sun across the beach into the sea, to making love. Choose something which will engage all your senses to the full, and at regular intervals during the day close your eyes and visualize whatever scenario you wish to enact. If you can find a postcard, a photograph or some object like a pebble which brings the whole beach alive in your mind, have it by you. Before going to sleep hold the image as clearly as you can and intend to consciously dream about it that night. If you give it your undivided and single-minded attention it will eventually happen. The neural connections need to be strengthened by repetition and persistence in order to build a pathway to lucidity.
Once the dream appears and you have enjoyed the sense of physical freedom and a new found health, you might take time to consciously examine your waking body to see if there is anything which you can do to help it heal in some way.
One way of doing this is to wait on the beach, feeling overflowing with energy which you would like to share. You walk towards someone on a bed which looks somewhat odd as it sits by the sea. You recognize yourself lying there and feel that you can, by running your hands across the body, diagnose the deepest physical malady. You gently stroke the part of the body which needs your overflowing energy, knowing as you do so that there is healing in the touch. Continue until the figure responds, but do not interfere with the process by willing the figure to rise or sprout an amputated limb. Allow your disabled doppleganger, or physical self, to act on his or her own. You might find that the other "you" springs out of bed and rushes into the sea, or just stirs a little and smiles at you. Allow whatever happens and wait. If you can repeat this procedure through regular dreams of this nature you will have acquired the most powerful healing method possible, for you will have intended your own recovery, which cannot but enter the waking state. Although the preparation and persistence might be difficult, the rewards are truly overwhelming.
~ by Clint Thurman, excerpted from his "Lucid Dreaming Tutorial"
With the ability to prolong lucidity, the dreamer has gained a tool which will help in his or her experiences and adventures within the dream world. Novice lucid dreamers tend to use this newfound ability to indulge themselves in wish fulfillment within their dream worlds. Therefore, novice lucid dreamers tend to pursue things that are only possible in the dream world. Such possibilities are, taking a trip to mars or any other part of the galaxy, or finding comfort in the arms of a movie star lover. It seems that one of the most popular of these is flying. By taking advantage of this, novice lucid dreamers tend to reap the rewards of enjoyment, while increasing their proficiency at lucid dreaming.
Exploring the world of lucid dreaming can be breathtaking. Dream worlds are filled with ever changing beauties. While traveling in a lucid dream there is no waiting in lines. Dream travel is cheaper and the experiences can be ever more profound than any waking life traveling could ever be.
Exploring your fears is also better to do within a lucid dream. You can conquer your fears without any physical damage in the process. One such example of this would be someone who is afraid of heights. Such a person could jump off a cliff over and over until the fear has subsided, without suffering the obvious waking life trauma of the actual event.
One of the other benefits of being a lucid dreamer is the ability to rehearse for waking life activities. The dream world is so convincing the average dreamer often mistakes it for the real or waking world. With such realism, you could use this median as a place to sharpen skills. Someone for example who the following day has planed to give an oral presentation, could practice that presentation within the dream. It would then be possible to analyze the weak and strong points of his or her presentation. Other obvious applications include the dream practicing and rehearsal of physical activities such as sports. This allows for the creation and/or development of a mental model, from which can be drawn from when in the waking participation of the actual activity. Lucid dreaming can be extremely powerful for motor skill enhancement. This is not only true because of the vividness of the imagery, but also because the "physiological nature of REM sleep is ideal for establishing neural patterns without actual movement."
Possibly one of the most beneficial aspects of a lucid dream is the exploration of one's self. Since a dream is the creation of your mind, it is an excellent playground for getting to truly know yourself. You can use a lucid dream to explore a nightmare for example. And since no actual physical trauma can result from dreaming, a lucid dreamer may seek to explore anything that is frightening. There are no limitations to the terror of the mind, therefore this can be an easy goal to reach.
Exploring nightmares and the other dreadfully frightening creations of the dream worlds has its benefits. For example, you could analyze a frightening experience from within a lucid dream itself. This would then allow you to find out what you find frightening. The understanding of what and why you finds things frightening in the dream world, has obvious ties to disturbing and frightening things in waking life. This understanding could unchain your waking mind from previous restraints which you were unaware of, leading possibly to a more active and broader participation in your waking life.
Another extremely beneficial aspect which a lucid dreamer could explore is the process of healing. From within a lucid ream you could see and converse with deceased loved ones. This would than allow you to say or do the things you never had the chance to say or do during the life of the deceased. Most people believe that these experiences from within lucid dreams are only a creation of their own mind, however they still feel a great sense of closure and healing afterwards.
In dealing with such aspects as death, lucid dreamers may wish to find the deeper meanings behind the spiritual aspects of their life. This may lead them to search out their representation of a higher form. God, The Divine, and many others, are examples of one's higher form. The journey and eventual encounter with one's higher form can then lead to a sense of wholeness and feeling of great peace and balance upon awakening. These feelings have been said to last several days, being matched by no other experience.
~from Maat's Book of Shadows