As a lucid dreaming teacher, I hear from a lot of people who wish they could go lucid more frequently. When I ask what is the plan being using to stir up more lucid dreams, they usually list off a dozen different induction practices. At this point, I already know the problem: they are mistaking lucid dreaming tactics for strategy.
Tactics are specific behaviors you enact to reach a goal. On the other hand, strategy is your overarching plan of operation: how and when and under which circumstances to employ certain tactics. Strategy is the big picture; tactics are the nuts and bolts.
In short, a lot of trouble with lucid dreaming induction as it is usually discussed today is that few people have a real plan. I’m convinced this is why so many beginner lucid dreamers lose heart, and so many others burn out trying too many lucid induction practices all at once.
This is a major motivational issue that has hampered the lucid dreaming education movement for a long, long time. We’re just not wired to pick up a dozen new habits when there’s no guarantee of any discernible result within a defined period of time.
I made this mistake myself for years, and it all came to head when I stupidly staked my graduate school career on the ability to have lucid dreams.
In 2006, I decided to write my Masters thesis on lucid dreaming–not just studying lucid dream research, but studying my own lucid dreams– dreams I hadn’t had yet.
After my proposal was accepted, I thought I would be excited, but I actually broke out in a cold sweat.
What have I done? I thought.
Not only had I committed to writing about lucid dreams I hadn’t had yet, but I had proposed a very specific and difficult protocol in the dreams when I became lucid.
What if I couldn’t pull it off?
My fears turned out to be justified.
In the first month, I had only two lucid dreams in which I remembered the task I intended to perform in the dream. At this rate, I’d never reach my goal. I began to panic, as I was doing all the usual induction techniques we all know so well: reality checks, journaling before bed, MILD, et cetera.
Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself, I thought.
After all, I had seen the lucidity dampening effect before, especially in classes and workshops when there is social pressure to perform. Instead of having more dreams, people just freeze up and their dream-lives go silent.
In despair and frustration, I collapsed when the winter holidays arrived, ceasing all lucid induction practices. I was burned out.
And of course, you know what happened next: while I was on vacation, I had lucid dream after lucid dream. It was almost comical. I felt like my dreaming was playing a joke on me.
After the holidays, I started up with the practices again, but this time, I was more exacting about when I was trying to induce lucid dreams. I built a strategy based on what I had discovered spontaneously.
Rather than always trying, I followed a week or so of focused intent with some time off.
The combination of a structured induction time followed by relaxation quickly gave me enough lucid dreams to use for my research project. Whereas the first five lucid dreams took place over a span of two months, the next five took place in half that time. In other words, I doubled my lucid rate.
I learned from this process that doing lucid practices is not enough.
The lucid incubation must be focused, having strong boundaries and—just as importantly—a time for resting built in. I named this strategy lucid immersion. Just like learning a language, the fastest and most sustainable path to lucid dreaming is immersing yourself in the culture of lucidity.
Interested in taking your lucid dreaming practice to the next level? Check out my digital kit the Lucid Immersion Blueprint. This article is adapted from the Lucid Immersion Guidebook.
First Image: Empire the board game, Reed College, CC 1963.