I’d like to share an advanced lucid dreaming technique taught by Scott Sparrow, a psychotherapist who played a major role in the beginning of the modern lucid dreaming movement. Dreams often give us gifts, but sometimes as lucid dreamers we ironically lose our lucidity about the value of the dream’s spontaneous gift. This technique is a powerful way to re-enter a lucid dream that you feel you made a “bad choice,” and wish to have another opportunity to meet the dream as it comes.
By meeting the dream halfway, you can regain a lost opportunity for information, self-knowledge or healing.
But first, a little bit about Sparrow, who took part in the first wave of serious lucid dreaming research in the 1980s. In fact, his book Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light was published in 1976, making it the first book on lucid dreaming published in the United States.
Unlike most of the voices in the 1980s, Sparrow was not interested in lucid dreaming induction methods (how to “wake everyone up”) but rather how to work with the lucid dreams that do show up, including those that don’t go as well as we had hoped.
As the culture moved increasingly towards a focus on spreading the good news of lucid dreaming, without addressing its depths and its possible dangers, Sparrow withdrew from the community and quietly continued his own explorations, sharing them with only a few. In recent years, he has emerged again, publically sharing the wisdom of his last 30 years of working with lucid dreams therapeutically.
Facing Unfinished Business
In a nutshell, Sparrow’s approach towards working with lucid dreams involves a focus on “unfinished business” as a springboard to greater lucidity. Many lucid dreamers know that sometimes the dreams end poorly, or have nightmarish elements that are difficult or impossible to control. Sometimes, the more you try to control the dream, the more nightmarish your dreams become. This is a fact of the powerful psychodynamic forces that we, sometimes unwittingly, come into contact with in our lucid dreams.
Sparrow contends that when it comes to unpleasant lucid dreams, there are no BAD dreams per se, only unfortunate responses that perpetuate the roadblock to greater self-knowledge. Lucidity comes with a flux of resistance and openness to growth. We always have a choice presented to us: to move towards the unknown, or to resist that unknown. In lucid dreams, this awkward dance is often embarrassingly clear – personally I can’t tell you how many dreams I’ve said “No way!” and walked away.Hundreds of missed opportunities, no doubt.
But it is only a delayed opportunity. By practicing dream re-entry, we have the opportunity to change our attitude or response to past dreams. The result, as Sparrow has seen in his own dreams as well his clients’, is often a dream that ushers in greater life courage, psychologically healing, and even ecstatic union.
Lucid Dream Reliving: Change Your Attitude, Not the Dream Content
Without further ado, here is Scott Sparrow’s lucid dream re-entry technique that he calls “Dream Reliving.”
- Recall a dream or nightmare, could be a chronic or repetitive dream, in which a changed action or attitude on the part of the dream ego (you) can be changed.
- Relive the dream in a closed eyed meditation and focus on changing your responses to the dream.The point is not to control the dream better, but to practice self-control and courage.
- Go to sleep and wake up in the middle of the night.This resembles the WBTB method of lucid dreaming induction, but again you have a specific focus here.Recall the dream you want to work with, and focus your intention on being brought to that world.
- Go to sleep with the strong intention to become lucid.When the dream emerges (and you may find its easier to incubate these dreams because they WANT to come), participate with openness, courage, and a willingness to be present to whatever emerges.
Sparrow recommends combining this practice with middle of the night meditation. This increases the chance of self-reflection in the dream. The way to integrate these two practices is to do some breathwork, prayer, or concentrative meditation after you wake up, and then recall the dream you want to work with as you settle back down to sleep.
The transformations of imagery Sparrow has seen from this advanced lucid dreaming practice includes heightened awareness, deep emotional cartharsis, and more refined and luminous archetypal imagery.
To learn more about Scott Sparrow, and to download a copy of his presentation on this method of dream re-entry, visit www.spiritualmentoring.com.
Scott Sparrow says
Ryan, I appreciate your sensitive and wholly accurate rendering of my own thoughts on the matter. When I heard you speak at IASD, I was immediately aware of our parallel lines of thought; that is, respecting the tremendous opportunity of lucidity without overlooking the power and the integrity of the dream’s autonomous and deeply rooted agenda. It’s about a relationship, isn’t it? Embracing the challenge will make us better lovers, spouses and human beings in a world where the “other” is always our teacher, even though there are times when we must firmly say no, or walk away––at least for a season. I look forward to more dialogue with you about these ideas, which are neither old, nor new, nor mine.
Ryan Hurd says
thanks Scott for coming by. yes – it’s about relationship! and i’d go so far as to say it’s about communion. lucid dreams – like waking life – are moments when we have the opportunity to listen and to be heard. it’s a true meeting, of self/other, of me/you, and when we break through our blinders … it’s about us.
Tanya B says
I really could use some help… To make this as brief as possible- I dream about violent murders and death- the frequency of these dreams is not consistent. These dreams are not due to any influences. They choose when to enter my mind and when not to. I see and feel the deaths from the victim’s point of view. I can tell you so many details: what the weather was like, the ground, my clothes, everything about the death, on and on… I see rapes, murders, and deaths of all kinds. My husband wakes me up because I am crying, moaning, talking, etc. I am soaking wet in sweat from heat to toe. I will be going about my day and all of a sudden remember a dream from years ago. I have remembered dreams from 10- 15 years ago, 5 years ago, whatever… they just pop into my head. Sometime I have to really work hard at telling myself that what happened in my dream did not just happen to me. I see these dreams very vividly and I feel the emotions of these victims. I have no mental problems, take no medications that could cause this, consume no foods or drugs that could stimulate my mind. These dreams are very real and I pray that this is not happening somewhere. I am not sure what to do with what I am seeing. Any suggestions?
Ryan Hurd says
Tanya, I’m not sure how your comment got by me! I recommend reading my series about nightmares and lucid nightmares, which provides some ways to frame the experiences and finally how to protect yourself. Often nightmares sufferers are more open to the suffering of the world than others, so it’s important to know how to draw boundaries. Start here.
This is really interesting to read! What do you think about lucid dreams working the other way? For example, In my lucid dream I realize that I’ve already had this dream (a repetitive dream) except the ending never works out the way it has every normal repetition of it that I’ve had.
Ryan Hurd says
sounds pretty lucid to me, Suzanne. that’s exactly how clinicians are working with PTSD nightmare sufferers: realize you’re dreaming, and the dream can move away form the repetitive narrative into fresh (and healing) possibilities.
Hello. My name is Ian and i am a young adult from a small town in Colorado. I don’t really know how but throughout my life i have always had the ability to have lucid dreams. A lot of the techniques mentioned in these articles i have taught myself through the years. Many coming with great ease. I just started to look into the whole thing now that i have gotten older and it had raised some questions. I would really like to know how to become involved in some studies. That is if they still have studies on lucid dreams.
Ryan Hurd says
Hey Ian, nice to meet a natural lucid dreamer.
I don’t know about any studies going on right now about lucid dreaming, but you may want to keep tabs on this website for the International Assoc. for the Study of Dreams, which lists research volunteer info:
Thanks for the link, Ryan – I do get frustrated when I awaken from a dream that didn’t go the way I wanted, or finished too soon. And I could never seem to get back to that same dream….
Ian Rasmussen says
I find lucid dreaming often a big anxious. Are other people having this also ?
Hi Ryan, I like your first mention on the % statistic on how many read their ebooks. I felt relief from judgment of myself. And because of that I feel motivated to begin and finish your work. I realize a concern i have in pursuing lucid practice with others is this seems to be a dominated pursuit with the masculine of our species and I have unresolved trust with my brothers. What is the percentage of men compared to women in the lucid pursuit?
Ryan Hurd says
interestingly, Blu, men seem most vocal about learning lucid dreaming (and men dominate the lucid dreaming forums) but recent demographic research suggests that women by and large have more lucid dreams than men. really not too surprising, as women are more likely to be interested in dream studies in general. I wrote a little about this here, about the “yang” temperament that lucid dreaming often encourages.
Also, you may want to check out the work of Fariba Bogzaran and Mary Ziemer, who both approach lucid dreaming from a “surrender” perspective (as do I).
Hey i just have a question
what is the meaning if a lady approuch you in your dream and keeping you tide shaying she need help because she is living in sin?